I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gold stars

I think I must have grasped the kindergarden version of motivational tracking and never managed to progress past it, because I am tickled pink by my new personal chore chart. I check off whether or not I brushed my teeth after each meal, whether or not I drink water with each meal (a new addition, since I forget for lunch and supper), whether I wash my face before I go to bed (I know, I know), and my bedtime. I added another two columns this morning, to track thank-you cards written (zero, so far) and minutes spent working on my I-have-to-write-this-someday novel every evening. My goal for the day: 1 thank-you card, 5 minutes of writing. Baby steps, ya know.

Tonight I'm going to further motivate myself by building in some totals, so that I can watch the numbers go up. I'm a firm believer in the idea that while intensity varies from day to day, every day that passes is a victory because it's one more day as This Girl. I track that number, actually-- you may notice I've moved my tracker up to the top of the page. It's my big number. It's the one that counts more than anything else. It's the one that always goes up as long as I get back up in the morning and try. Hey, time is on my side. There's my gold star, right where I can see it: 74 weeks, 4 days.

So I'll build in some totals for my new goals. Totals remind me that it's not about what I did yesterday, or what I did this week-- it's about the grand scheme of things. It's about how much I've done that I wouldn't have otherwise done, about what I've accomplished, one day after another, inch by inch, step by step.
Fuck the weight. I know those numbers; I know where I'm trying to keep them. I can't focus on keeping at 125, though, because a lack of motion fails to interest my brain. My brain wants action, motion, momentum. My brain aches to see numbers move. I suspect that half the reason that I habitually fall off the wagon at 125 (and take days to get back on... well, at least it's not weeks anymore) is because once the numbers stop moving, they cease to interest me. My focus needs to be elsewhere.

The reason that gauging success by cumulative totals works for me, I think, is because there's no down side. There's no failure, only days in which less happened than normal. I'm not punished by seeing numbers change in a "bad" direction, so I never have to overcome some kind of shame. Every scrap of work is still progress. I never have to feel like I've lost ground. As methods go for ways to get yourself in a "lifestyle" mindset, this one rules.

I'm going to have to figure out some kind of graph to measure my progress on how fast I run, because I tend to try to improve the numbers entirely too quickly. This means that I go through three or four runs where I'm busting ass, pushing the speed a little further every time because I want to see improvment-- and then, of course, the wheels fall off my wagon because I will have pushed my expectations past what I'm capable of keeping up over the long run. I inevitably end up with a morning where I wake up and it's hell just to get myself on that treadmill, because I can't face working that hard, and so it's back to basics, just get on and walk. I always have to build myself back up to a decent level again.

Anyone wondering why I have such an obsession with the concept of baby steps? Yeah. It's because I am a raving lunatic who takes an idea and runs it into the ground, over and over and over again. I lack an innate concept of moderation: I have to learn it anew on every single damn subject. This sucks. I've concluded that it's just the way my brain works (at least for now... if I ever track down the control panel for that section of my brain, y'all will be the first to know), and until any fix comes in for it, I'll just have to take that into account and build habits and tweak my life and whatnot to hold these runaway tendencies in check.

The hardest part is holding it to baby steps. It's so very, very hard to give myself a gold star for doing five minutes of writing when I have this idea in my head that I should be doing HOURS of writing. (At least an hour. I'd be willing to go down to ten minutes, come on, that's at least double digits!) But since right now I'm doing nothing at all, and since my brain's "but I'm too tiiiiiired!" response kicks in at the 10-minute level, the goal has to be five minutes. If that doesn't work tonight, the new goal will be two minutes. Hell, if going down to the "tonight, you will get a gold star for merely opening up the Word file and staring at it" level is what it takes to get me inching up, then that is what it takes. And I will content myself with that, because I don't want to have to gear myself up every night to do this huge thing, I want to have a habit that will give me results over time. Accumulation will outdo bursts of activity every time, and habit will get me there.

I know it'll work. I just have to do it tonight. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.

3 Comments:

  • How in the world did you track it down to seconds?

    By Blogger ms ralph, at 3:36 PM  

  • I stole the code from Quitmeter.com, since a friend who quit smoking used it. I just kind of adjusted the HTML so that it said what I wanted it to. Basically all I'd need to make you one would be your Start Day (and time, if you know it) and what time zone you're in... then you could paste the code into your site.

    If I knew how to make one of these darn tracker things myself, believe me, I would. I don't know why there isn't something for healthy eating/exericise folks like there is for smokers.

    By Blogger Meg, at 4:07 PM  

  • this is an awesome way to get some momentum on your writing. a friend of mine makes herself write a minimum of 100 words a day, and has been doing that everyday since the beginning of the year. she usually gets in a lot more than that, but having a small goal you can easily achieve is totally the way to go, esp when you're starting up again.

    By Blogger lisa, at 5:42 PM  

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