Fragmented thoughts of a fragmented mind

25 Feb 2013

Creating sustainable change for myself

Being an introvert my natural tendency is to stay at home as much as I can. It is at odds with my curious personality, because ironically I thrive on having new experiences. It is difficult after a week of work, all I want to do is to recover at home, but I forget I am at my most inspired self when I acquire new experiences.

I drove over to Berkeley for the first time today. It was a day of firsts for me, first time driving over the bay bridge, first time visiting Berkeley. I was very intrigued by the vibe at Berkeley and I made myself a promise that I will be back to explore it further. Driving back to the bay bridge, I was awed by the sight of the bay while cruising along the highway. The bay area is truly very beautiful and I wonder how much beauty is there for me to see within the rest of California.

And I only drove over because there is some zipcar credit leftover for this month and I didn’t know what to do with it. I almost cancelled it last minute, because it is that time of the month and all I want to do is to lie on the bed and not move.

I was very glad that I made myself go out anyway because I caught myself smiling a lot while being out exploring today. It just reminded me that sometimes I just have to trick myself into doing things I think I don’t want to do. The battle between the inspired self and the lizard brain.

My new thing these days is to constantly learn how to set myself up for optimization. I don’t want to waste my time any further, so I want to know how I can maximize my time and my body. I take one step forward and two step backwards, and I can only tell myself that I have to keep the kaizen spirit alive. I have to be careful of trying to implement change into my life, because I tend to go towards the extreme and it ends up backfiring.

I wanted to lose some weight I gained over the festive season, so I made myself very conscious over what I ate. Which is fine, except in the end I felt so deprived and stressed out over thinking my food choices all the time, that I ended up pig-feasting for a week. It is not only the weight I am concerned about, I just wanted my body to be nourished and not stressed out with all that process food. But I ended up stressing my mind instead of my body because I kept stressing over what to eat.

It is hard to create sustainable change when I go from one extreme end to the other. I have to treat myself like a lean startup. Continuously experimenting what can be sustainable and what is only for the short term. I used to hate raw vegetables and I am not kidding when I say ‘hate’. It used to make me nauseous. But one day I ended up craving it. Instead of forcing myself to eat something I don’t like eating because it is nutritious, somehow a switch flipped in me and I ended up enjoying it.

The trick question is, how do I accumulate enough cue, response and reward such that I automatically crave good food or exercise without making myself feel like I am forcing myself to do it?

A few years ago when I first came into contact with a green smoothie, I would feel nauseous simply by looking at the greenish color of the smoothie. Despite friends telling me it is actually quite delicious, I didn’t want to touch it, much less drink an entire glass of it. I started making myself a green smoothie everyday a couple of weeks ago because I decided since I can’t make myself stop eating unhealthy food entirely, I’ll pile on the nutrition instead. It started of as something I chose to do because I thought I had to do it, but now I actually desire to have it every single day.

That is sustainable change for me. By not forcing it out of sheer brute will.

Plenty of times it happened almost like magic. I have no idea when along the way my mind starts associating pleasure with something I used to dislike. All I know is, I need to start tricking myself into starting it first and have very low expectations from it. I have to find some middle ground and start from there. For my green smoothies, I started with tons of sweet fruit just to offset the taste of greens, but I increasingly find myself liking the taste of raw greens more now, without the aid of too much sweet fruit.

For the other things I want to do, that’s how I need to approach it I guess. With a curious, experimental approach rather than being my own worst critic. What I’ve learned is that everyone is different with how triggers and responses work. Something that worked for a friend doesn’t mean it would work for me. We all have to find our own sweet spot.

There are tons of new things I would like to try out. I would like to create my own opportunities to meet more people, have more new experiences, learn new things. Spend a little more time on my side projects, learn new code frameworks, experiment a lot more with my work.

So much to do, so little time. Even so, I am continuously learning how to incorporate these into my life without overwhelming myself so much that I turn out so drained that I end up wanting to do nothing.

My new favorite word, sustainability.

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