A lot of people, maybe most people, try to make a big self-improvement push in their lives sooner or later.
They start eating better, or change how they spend and invest money, or whatever.
It keeps going for a while. There's progress. There's success. And then, the person falls off a cliff.
I'm now thinking it usually happens due to a convergence of bad events. That would be when a lot of little things hit you all at once, or a big thing hits when you're not in the best place to absorb the blow.
I don't have a grand unified theory on how to deal with it - actually, just recognizing and naming the phenomenon is new to me. I found that I often I succeed in my initiatives and improvement goals, but sometimes I fall off and they don't happen.
Convergence of bad events.
I set a bunch of new health goals recently. Most are going well and I'll write some posts on them. But I also tweaked my back at some point. I don't know when - martial arts? Carrying heavy stuff around? Otherwise being active?
So, I had to abandon some new stretches I was implementing, which was going to lead to a new strengthening program. If I was less busy, maybe I could modify and research more on how to improve the program. But I'm busy, my back isn't quite cooperating, and so I'm putting it off. If the next month goes very smoothly and nothing comes up, maybe I'll pick up the stretches and strengthening again. But maybe I won't, and in a year my physical regime won't be modified.
So, okay. People frequently get off track due to a convergence of bad events.
The solution, once you realize you've been off-track, is to just get back on as soon as you can.
But there's probably a deeper point somewhere about preparing and being ready for it. Like, set your goals and instead of having a smooth upward line to success, plan for a bunch of bad things to converge randomly at some unknown time.
It'll probably happen. That's not being pessimistic or fatalistic - of course, we should aim for the best, improve things, and fight against bad things happening. But occasionally, you'll get hit with a bunch of bad things that would have been manageable individually, but are a really tricky at the same time.
Hmm. I wonder if it would be possible to have presence of mind in the first day or two of a converge hitting you, and to write down everything you working on, how it was going, and what it was like? Maybe it'd be possible to use that like a manual for getting back on track things clear up.
Interesting stuff. Okay, convergence of bad events often gets people off track. Plan for it. Get back on track as soon as you realize you've been off track is the only remedy I know. But maybe there's some way to recognize when it's happening and take some precautions against totally falling off in the goals.
Thoughts and input very welcome.
My friends and I would refer to that phenomenon as a 'ShitStorm', and yeah,
'When Bad things happen to Good People' might be worth a read.
>>I wonder if it would be possible to have presence of mind in the first day or two of a converge hitting you, and to write down everything you working on, how it was going, and what it was like? Maybe it’d be possible to use that like a manual for getting back on track things clear up.<<
Just like you (hopefully) backup your digital data on a regular basis, it's far easier, and more realistic to continually backup your life data than it is to hope to remember to do so when an actual crisis or convergence of bad events hits.
In a law firm, you get half a dozen or more different projects, each containing a multitude of discreet tasks, thrown at you at any one time. It's impossible to keep track of all the ideas floating around your head if you don't write things down. It's very helpful to write a quick note at the end of the day about what you were working on/thinking about last, steps you were thinking about taking next, etc. Takes a minute, but can save hours in duplicated effort the next day.
I wouldn't call the events "bad." To the extent word choice matters, calling an event bad blames things outside oneself and allows a person desiring change to give up responsibility. I might call them unforeseen events, which implies more preparation would help or, in my experience more effective, finding a resource with more experience, like a mentor, book, or friend, who can help get you back on track.
More importantly, successful people use any type of event to help improve their lives. If they want to lose weight but five events happen within a week to take them off track, the most successful people realize larger issues of how they have to change more about their lives than they thought, or something like that. Then they change more and become more successful.
Such a person wouldn't see an event as bad, just another opportunity for growth.
If your tweaked back leads you to sit on the couch for the rest of your life living on government disability checks, you'd probably call the tweak bad. If it leads you to reevaluate your priorities and revise your fitness goals to accommodate the occasional tweak and achieve goals that are better for you, you might refer to your tweak as lucky.
I'm with Nathan. In addition, I can't stick with a routine to save my life. That part of my brain, the part that does things the same way because that's how we've done them before--- seems to be completely missing.
I think (I'll be honest, I *hope*) that is is because I stay in the moment, constantly assessing what I will do/am doing. I know this is direct opposition to your philosophy of preventing decisions by way of routines and checklists. I've tried that, off and on (because a checklist is the only way I've ever found to even REMEMBER a routine) but I'm not a fan, because I cannot build enough flexibility into them to make them work for me, AND, like Nathan states, time tracking doesn't give me enough benefit for the effort it takes.
I'm not entirely happy with this, simply because I don't have the same lovely charts that you do about what I did, what was accomplished, and where I need to focus my attention. But, I do have reveries, well-springs of fascinating lines of thought, and more ideas to share than I could ever fully convey. When I'm doing all the nice time-tracking, productive things, my life feels bland and static. This way, I'm not exactly barn-storming, but I am enjoying myself, and I feel mostly content, tinged with just enough curiosity and dissatisfaction to keep testing my theories.
So, I'm not optimized, but I'm still in the top 80%, i think. :)
That happens to me all the time. Whenever I try to create a new habit, it starts well but by the time the habit is supposed to stick and enter in "auto mode" usually one of these things occur: a) I get bored/lose motivation and kick the habit or b) some new commitment/requirement appears and takes place over my new habit.
In the second case it's like my mind can juggle with a limited amount of balls and when a new ball comes into play, another ball must fall (sometimes even the rest of the balls altogether). I find this frustrating and demotivating. Feels like running in circles.
This year, for example, I've been trying to exercise regularly. Right now I'm like in my forth attempt. For the first one I went running 3 times a week for 6 months but then a "convergence of bad events", as you rightly named it, crashed my habit (if it ever became indeed a habit). The following two attemps lasted shorter, everytime something seemed to get in the way.
I'm starting to think that maybe a strict routine isn't the right choice for everyone and that perhaps I should seek for fixing the problem in the big scheme of things and not focusing so much in a particular solution.
This may be only tangentially related, but I've lately been putting a pretty big focus on making my systems require as little effort as possible to maintain, because I'm more likely to keep using them even if I'm busy. For example, I used to fill out a fairly detailed planning template for the day and then track what went well/badly at the end of it. About three weeks later, I was fairly tired at night and didn't fill out my tracking stuff. Predictably, that system never really got used again -- it demanded too much of me for what I got out of it.
Right now, the main systems that I use are Anki and GTD. Anki's super easy to maintain -- all I have to do is click the 'Review' button and answer the cards, and I don't have to be creative at all. Having an in-basket, a few Next Actions lists, and a Reference folder doesn't exert much of a toll on me effort-wise but enormously reduces the hassle of finding lists and particular bits of information when I need them.
Conclusion: I try to stick with systems that don't take much effort to maintain, but are incredibly useful. I don't think that I'm as likely to keep up with more-effortful systems, even if they're very useful.
Navigating yourself when in a down state is one of the most valuable possible skills. And, extremely difficult.
One of the things that leads to snakebitten days is a convergence of negative events. Most people who develop healthy work habits and lifestyles can shrug off one or two things wrong. But when a mix of successes, accidents, and failures hits at the same time, you can lose time to the snakebitten day.
Navigating those days into being successful is really key.
Here's what happened yesterday:
*Wake up at 4:30AM (normal) after going to bed at 6:50PM (slightly early, 9.5 hours sleep).
Ah, you there, my Type-A friend. I'm glad you came today. Come in. What would you like? We've got coffees, teas, or clear still water perhaps? No juices at the moment, I'm afraid, I'm not having carbohydrates and it'd be fiddling with the devil to buy juice and then attempt not to drink it. The coffee is good, though, yes?
One moment. I'd like to light the fireplace. Maybe it's technically Spring, but this "Spring" in West Germany is chilly and cold and damp and grey, right down into the bones. But pardon me, I'm near veering into complaint, which is the exact opposite of the place I want to go. I'd much rather pull up by the warm fire's glow with non-carbohydrate beverage-of-choice and muse a little about philosophy and psychology with you -- and maybe it'll even be productive for us?
Ah, the warmth is nice.