On the Forming of a Habit (The Sorcery of Delayed Gratification)


The other night Caitlin brought to my attention that I had been jogging daily going on a month now. Initially that fact seemed inexplicable to me. Not because I didn’t believe I’d done it, but I couldn’t account for more than 30 days of jogging in my head. Well, also because it was hard to believe I’d established the habit. I’m no couch bum, but building routine in my life has been a nagging and sometimes debilitating struggle. I might even suggest that I’m a professional and skilled half-asser.

The concept of delayed gratification in many ways does not compute in my head. It feels like faith to me, and I possess very little faith. This might come across as depressing or color my character in some other negative light; but I do not mention this as if I am at confessional or admitting to my deepest character flaws. Whether I’ve established this bad habit of not building habits through my own volition, or if it is more a function of my predispositions is mostly irrelevant. What is important is that my brain has internalized and recognized the goodness of a new habit without me even really having thought about it. That is habituation.

I am not a reformed man, I did not wake up one morning and decide that things would be different. I just started jogging one day. Slowly, the jogs got longer. I recognized that podcasts and audiobooks weren’t enough to keep me out of my head, and when in my head I become more keenly aware of my boredom and discomfort. So I started listening to music instead, along with running different routes every few days. This seemed to keep a certain freshness to it, and the rhythm of tunes kept me in my body and out my thoughts.

I quietly noticed I was feeling better mood wise and that my days were becoming more evenly structured. Things were just sort of happening and now a month has past.To my conscious and often scattered mind, this almost feels like magic. I don’t even know how to fully describe it, but the best way I can think of would be to say that my mind works in bursts of frenetic thoughts and observations, what most people seem to possess in the way of “motivation” and sustained commitment has at times in my life felt utterly foreign and otherwise fleeting. I’m aware that this may be some narrative I’ve constructed to excuse the manner in which I’ve skillfully half-assed my way through life. Either way, it is what it is. I have a relative non-judgement in recognizing this about myself. But the unassuming way in which I tricked myself into jogging daily while hardly even thinking about it is a significant breakthrough. It might be good for me to accept it as some sort of sorcery so that I might put faith in the doctrine of habit and delayed gratification. It’s a small thing, but I’ve been encouraging myself to celebrate “wins” when they come along.

As I said earlier, however, this is not a rebirth or reformation. Too many times in my life I had it in my head that I had turned some kind of corner. I prefer to think of this right now as a revision of a script that I had been playing out in repeat for much of my life. A very minor revision, as I will reexamine some of this progress months down the line and see if further magic has been cast upon my person.

Let’s see if I can trick myself into writing that book I always talk about. But I’ve been told it’s kind of insulting to writers to just nonchalantly talk as though you want to write a book. It is no easy task, and is certainly more involved than forming a month long jogging habit. But, I REALLY don’t consider myself a dreamer, so I’ll allow myself to have this ambition even if that irks a more seasoned and accomplished writer out there somewhere. The next task is to use the mysticism of habit forming in an effort to build a daily routine of writing.

<<<<Quick Hits>>>>

Habit I encourage others to form in full recognition of the hypocrisy I posses in asking others to do what I am bad at:

Read daily and begin saying of art (music, film, etc) that it is more than merely GOOD or BAD.

Albums that must be listened to:

-Alt-J ‘This is All Yours’

-Sylvan Esso ‘self titled’

-Kate Tempest ‘Everybody Down’

-FKA twige ‘LP1’

-Sharon Van Etten ‘Are We There’

-Killer be Killed ‘self titled’ <<<<<side project supergroup w/ Max Cavalera and dudes from Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan…nuff said

Deep thinking books that can be read on the crapper:

-The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman

-You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

-Straw Dogs by John N Gray

Pseudo-events that serve to distract and not to enlighten:

-IPhone 6 bendgate

-Whether or not Roger Goodell gets fired

-Underpants that make your flatulence smell like mint <<<<like seriously, #DYSTOPIA, stop this nonsense

Words and concepts to know for maintaining your status as a quasi-intellectual:



-Concern troll

-Difference between correlation and causation

-Loss aversion and sunk cost (you don’t even have to understand these completely, just throw it in your comment and you’ll sound smart)



Thoughts on Personal Narratives (The self truths found in our little life fictions)


Lately I have been fixating on the idea of personal narratives; the necessary psychological mechanisms that keep our sense of self apart of some overarching life story. Most of us hope this story is one of success, contentment, and perhaps doing some good in the world. Our minds do not deal well with seeing life as the isolated and disjointed moments and events that it is. We crave, or rather, literally have as part of our machinery of thought the need to make all these dots connect into a bigger picture.

A contemplative might say that getting to a place of non-narrative interaction with life is where the things we are seeking actually are; that we are essentially looking in the wrong places. A certain presence and fulfillment is attainable when narratives are shed. It’s probably impossible to achieve such an inner nakedness completely.

I told myself some sort of story to be alive, still breathing, and at this keyboard, today, in this moment. No matter how uneventful the story was, it still led me here and I told it to myself without even knowing it. This seems almost inescapable. But taking the time for existing just to exist can be immensely rewarding. I’ve been sometimes good at it, and at others times woefully misguided. I’m not suggesting I’m any sort of monk or guru on this topic but it interests me greatly

I do not necessarily think the goal of life should be to rid oneself of all personal narratives. This is impossible. Thus, it would seem prudent to find ways of making our narratives work together or at least coexist without chaos. And this might be exactly where my obsessing on this topic comes from. I’ve been making an attempt at comprehending the tangled web of narratives and considering how these become the forces that shape history. From the micro to the macro, butterfly wings flap, etc.

Are we reaching a critical mass amount of narratives? Is the world ultimately too small for all of our stories? Are there any pragmatic ways for our narratives to interact and not lead to devastating conflicts? Has there ever been? Narratives quickly solidify and become the rigid and reckless ideologies of bureaucrats, businessmen, the disaffected mobs, and tyrants. And here I go with visions of dystopia…par for the course.

A bunch of bottomless deep queries and thoughts have been entertained in this blogging exercise, and not much has been provided in the way of answers. The existential gravity surrounding these thoughts are often too uncomfortable for most people to bare and with good reason. But as I’ve over thought issues about society, people and their narratives, I’ve started recognizing and pulling apart the stories that I’ve told and still tell myself. There are many slight and grand fictions that I have persisted in throughout my life; both profound and mundane, yet fabricated nonetheless.

What are some of the things that I tell myself that allow me to feel at ease being me, doing whatever it is I’m doing, right now? At ease being me? That’s a silly notion. Maybe this is where a contemplative might chime in again and say that it is okay to be me right now and I don’t need to justify that with a narrative.

I’ve caught myself following conflicting narratives in the same day; even in the same moment. Which is the voice of reason? Likely neither. But I think one seems to have more sense than the other. So without providing a moral to this story I will go on being my skeptical self about all the narratives human beings weave to give themselves meaning, with the understanding that my self proclaimed “wise skepticism” is also..just a narrative.