One of my favorite things was my Die Hard ventilation shaft Xmas ornament, one I made. It even had a hole in the back of the fake ‘shaft’ to illuminate John McClane’s outstretched lighter as he crawled through. Because one of my neighbors is a Die Hard fan, I walked over and gave it to him. His face lit up. Even more in the Christmas spirit, as much as he was surprised and happy, he said, “Oh man, my mom LOVES Bruce Willis.” Without hesitation, I said, “Give it to her then and pay it forward. We can’t stand between Bruce Willis and your mom’s infatuation.” My neighbor’s son celebrated his first birthday yesterday. I’d already given him the decorated and painted ornamental box I made, for when his son is old enough to put his special things inside. I love imagining some future day when someone sees something I made and thinks about the randomness of strangers. And I think all the time about much I misjudged those neighbors when I was first around them. I like to be surprised and reminded that appearances can be so deceiving.
In my personal life, I am struggling so hard with another variant of “Choose your hard.” I’m stuck at the nexus of a decision that it is intolerably emotional. My therapist told me once to imagine that if I had died instead of surviving my emergency surgery. And from that vantage point, how hard would such a decision seem from there? She’s right. Have you heard this saying: “If you’re okay with something you shouldn’t be okay with, you’re not okay.” Experience tells me that it’s true but wisdom tells me that I’m weak. Such self-knowledge is not something that warms me.
Yesterday, I gave everything I had to try to run a mile in under six minutes. I didn’t quite make it; I missed by six seconds. Though I failed and for the last half of the mile I was sure I was going to make it, I look at six seconds and know it’s a stupidly small amount. P.S. My heart was trip hammering so hard I could s-e-e it beating through my shirt like a drum.
One of the advantages of living upstairs is well… the stairs. Between sets of exercises, I can go out and do ten floors at a time. It doesn’t take any time at all to accumulate a LOT of floors and stairs. I like to watch the law of increments add up. My goal is to do at least 50 flights of stairs by 9 a.m.
One of my favorite people recently compared me to another person and described us both as obsessive-compulsive about goals. She’s not wrong at all. This Fitbit accentuates it because I can see it in real-time.
Do y’all know what “you by default” means? It’s used by some interviewers now and it helps you figure out where not only you are in your journey, but also to measure other people in your life.
You By Default
A lot of people haven’t heard this line of thinking regarding behavior, usually involving exercise and sometimes healthier eating. It was powerful the first time it was explained to me by someone who walks the walk.
If exercise takes a lot of effort – or adds procrastination or stress to your routine – it’s not you by default. It’s something you’re doing rather than what you simply do. If you miss a day or several, it isn’t important in the scheme of things. You’ll go back naturally to it and without stressing that you might not ever return. All of us have weird and surprising enthusiasm and commitment cycles in every aspect of our life. Exercise. Diet. Love. Irritability. Dark chocolate.
If you need willpower and constant self-talk to avoid eating chips at 10 p.m. or fast food twice a day, it’s not you by default.
“You by default” becomes your natural process, one that doesn’t require a lot of cognition or secondary support to maintain. You’re active because you are an active person. You eat healthier because you are a healthier eater. You behave kindly, well, because you ARE kind. You’ve internalized natural or learned behaviors. It is possible.
You show love and lovingkindness because it’s “you by default.”
Find a way to become whatever goal or attribute you want in your life. It’s now a part of you, never to be stripped away or requiring intangible willpower. It is a type of discipline turned to automatic.
Whatever it is that you want to do or become, practice. Even if you don’t know the vocabulary to describe it. If you can overcome the natural reluctance slope that allows new behavior to become permanent, you will find that you can do this in other areas of your life, too. You will have shifted your default.
It’s also interesting from an interpersonal point of view. If people haven’t shifted their internal values, their behavior isn’t their default. They’ll revert almost every time and abandon their attempts to change. It’s not impossible, but it is a rarity.