08 Jun A Noob’s POV On Habits And The Effects of An Undiscerning Mind
Time check: 11:54 pm.
I’ve been seated in front of my table for over 20 minutes, thinking hard about what to write for today’s post. I’m stressed because I want to make this post serious and valuable for anybody reading it. I recall this nagging voice in my head – write what matters to your readers, not yourself! – and proceed to write garb that I have no particular interest in. Meh. Delete, delete, delete. I have no interest in any of that.
So to kickstart my writing journey on a less excruciating note, let’s talk about something that actually interests me — habits. (Fun fact: I was actually a little obsessed about the sociopolitical implications of habit regurgitated and repeatedly reinforced by humans that I actually spent a semester developing a paper on it in my third year of uni!)
In my own words, habits are things and actions that we repeatedly do. Many times, the habits we form become part of our subconscious state. Like brushing your teeth before breakfast or only drinking water after a meal. Or choosing to only pee until you’ve completed all tasks at hand. These are things that we reinforce to ourselves, whether we know it or not, and practice it every other day, no questions asked. These actions are so innate to us that not doing them makes us feel awfully weird. I remember the times I got mad at my boyfriend for walking on my left simply because I was so used to being on the left. There’s no rationale behind this but I’ve just always accepted the fact that I will walk on the left, and not doing that somehow feels outrageous.
BTW, I didn’t read Atomic Habits, aka the severely popularised go-to self-help book which I believe has its merits for being this esteemed among the productivity-based YouTubers. I’m obviously a noob on this topic with nothing substantial to add since most of that serious stuff has already been covered. What I do have, however, is proof of the compound effects that one will inevitably experience from submitting to their habits without any proper discernment. And to prove my case, I’ll be drawing evidence from none other than myself.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
This used to be a quote that my former principal loved. I’m not sure if this is still her favorite quote today, but I’m pretty sure she was obsessed with it because banners advocating these ideas were hung all around the school back in those days. It’s supposed to drill in us the importance of nurturing good habits from a young age, but unfortunately for me, I’ve never really understood the gravity of this statement until early this year, when I started realizing the effects of the bad habits I’ve accumulated over time. My reaction to this discovery can be likened to that time when I dug out this particular potato forgotten at the back of my fridge. Roots have sprouted and engulfed the potato, marking the official end of the potato’s journey of becoming fries, mashed potato, or rosti. It was a really nasty sight. Go google it if you require any substantiation.
I started this year just like any other year — drunk and hungover. It’s just for today la, I said to myself, 2021 will be better… I’ll start tomorrow. I replayed this statement over and over in my head for the next couple of weeks as I continued practicing the same routine I’ve had since forever. I’d sleep at 5 am, wake past noon, and work into the night. I’d cook occasionally and rely on GrabFood or other sources of fast food for sustenance. I’d work out once in a while, only when I felt like it, and treated those moments like I was in the works of preparing for a revamped me. When I’m home for a full day, I’d only shower once – at night – and live in my pajamas for the rest of the day. Asides from living habits, I’d also forget to reply to friends, to show up for agreed-upon plans, or arrive late most of the time. I’d start new habits, like reading or going for jogs, and forego them as soon as I discovered new, exciting habits. I was living in my own little bubble of ~do what makes you happy uWuuu~, but I wasn’t tracking the consequences of these habits.
I would say I became something like a soulless sloth. To clarify, I wasn’t slacking off; on the contrary, I was grinding my ass off all the time. But I did become a bum when work wasn’t involved. I grew lazy and disinterested. And I liked easy. I liked it when my weekends involved sleeping in and ordering in, and when I didn’t have to move an inch to live. I’d always choose Grab/Gojek over public transport and argue that I was in it only to save time. Blegh, bullshit. I was just lazy.
So then came this overwhelming feeling in April – I felt like I had stagnated as a human being. I was living by the weeks and nothing from my job or life excited me anymore. I didn’t have any interests asides from binging. Binging on shows, on chips, on sleep. Binge-sleeping is a legitimate issue, ok. Don’t fight me on this.
So I decided to change bit by bit. I first changed my job, which I felt was disrupting the structure I wanted for my life, followed by my lifestyle habits. I cooked a lot more and started doing weekly grocery runs which lasted only an hour each week. In that hour, I was able to purchase all the food I required for the week, making it easier for me to plan my dishes each day. Oh, and it was affordable too. I would spend twice or thrice that amount to feed myself had I chosen to eat out. I then realize that I could actually maximize time and money if I had acted faster and waited around lesser.
Which makes sense to me. I needed my life to make sense in order for me to actualize change. So then began my life of optimization. Optimizing time was easy when I was free because I could focus on just doing it well. Optimizing money, on the other hand, required some effort. I started tracking my expenses more diligently using this iPhone app called Money Manager to lay out how much I was spending per category. I discovered I needed better habits to keep up with my desired lifestyle. I started out a week at a time, with the intention of keeping things simple and affordable. I didn’t even try doing challenges that forcibly instill habits in you, as the age-old question of what next? will soon arrive. I just did it at a pace that I was comfortable with.
I haven’t been tracking, but I would say it’s been about a month since I started making meals for myself consistently. And this is a habit that I actually really like because it cuts down the time needed for me to make decisions each day. I don’t think about what I want to eat for the next meal; I just head to the fridge and try to whip anything up.
I would say I’m excited to start on better habits. Like sleeping earlier, working out frequently, things like that. But for now, baby steps.
Time check: 1:50 am. I’m obviously still trying to sleep earlier.