Today I will start a daily journaling for how to take the concepts from the book Principles by Ray Dalio and apply them to my every day life. I will listen to a chapter and then write about it for 30 minutes. My goal is to improve my life and just generally feel happier. While I have a good life often times I feel like I stagnate and stop growing at predictable intervals. Some life goals come easier than others and the others that don’t come easy I find don’t happen at all which frustrates me. Although this exercise is unlikely to result in a completely transformative change my hope is that I see incremental self improvement by listening to, contemplating, and implementing Ray’s Principles in my own life. My journaling will be stream of conscious and it will be unlikely that I will go back and proofread this. So, if reading this helps you great, if not that’s ok too.
I am out of shape and have been for a while. Although I’ve been fairly active I don’t manage my stress very well and overwork myself. I spent most of my life ignoring this reality which created self destructive patterns that ultimately blocked my goals. In my excitement sometimes I over do something for one day which means that there can be little to no activity for the next day or several days after which produces stress as I feel I must act but cannot. A far better approach is to develop a routine and Have consistent daily activity. From there increase marginally each week when I have satisfied my daily goal. Take running as an example. I hate running but I know that I must run to lose the weight I need to be healthy. Although running is difficult it is pretty easy for me to walk. While walking in my daily routine run for two minutes which can achieve comfortably. If I am able to run for two minutes every day then next week increase that to three minutes and so on. While I recognize that is pretty poor time comparative to most it is better than zero minutes. Further I want to focus on continual personal evolution. I just need to focus on getting better and eventually it should be pretty easy to comfortably run for thirty minutes or even an hour. Sometimes focusing on the activity and just making that a little better overtime allows the outcomes to take care of themselves.
I eat too much and food that is not very healthy. I do this in waves though. I tend to go through periods where I eat really unhealthy food and drink too much then wake up one day and realize I need to change. Then I overcompensate by trying to be too healthy which doesn’t last very long and then I lose focus and go back to what was previously comfortable (I.e. comfort food). I have a tendency to stress eat which generally means over eating; a behavior that produces guilt and more stress. This is a negatively reinforcing loop which has led me to my current situation of being overweight. Since I have a high stress job that requires me to work long hours I stress eat and drink probably once or twice a week. While it is much better than I used to do, I’ve dug myself in such a hole that it still offsets the incremental progress I make. Imagine instead if I stress exercised instead of stress ate. Although anything in excess is not desirable it would be a far better stress management tool and ultimately would propel me to achieve my weight loss goals and be much healthier.
Pain plus reflection equals progress.
Making the wrong choices over and over again is frustrating. Further seeing incremental progress and then regressing is almost worse. However it is part of the personal evolution process. Take a step back and assess if your composite average for a goal is improving compared to the past. If the trend is in the correct direction then while it may not seem like it in the moment there is probably improvement. It is important therefore to keep metrics over time and compare them to the past. Ideally metrics should be automated. It is too easy to deceive yourself into believing your doing better than you actually are by self recording. Although regression from goals shouldn’t be tolerated don’t get emotional about losing focus. Instead guide action by instructing in the present tense (I.e at ten am drive to the gym and lift weights for thirty minutes). Remove all distractions and mental noise from achieving goals. Most of my focus lately has been on getting in shape and I’m writing this now from the treadmill so I’m on the right track today. When making the wrong choice reflect after what led up to making that decision and how could I have done it differently. Detach from the emotion of the thing and just write down whatever comes to mind. Ask myself if this isthmus outcome I ultimately want and the answer is probably no. Remind myself next time I am in a particular situation where I feel pain anxiety or stress when it was a result of my own action or inaction and remember how it feels. Eventually if I continue my process described above I will form a habit to make the right choice.
Second and third order consequences
This brings me to the next concept that I’ve liked about this material. Some of the time I make choices in first order consequences or what is gratifying or most of expedient in the moment. While sometimes acceptable often times this approach moves me away from my goals. One day if instant gratification may be reconcilable but forming a habit of this ultimately leads to goal failure. Thinking of first order consequences only means that I don’t achieve my goals as a result of the second order consequences and ultimately maybe even the third if there is not corse correction. For instance if I go out and party too much on a Saturday night and drink too much then I will get home late and not sleep well most likely. If I sleep in and don’t feel well the next day (Second order consequences). As a result I may not go to the gym that day because I am hung over and eat pizza that may be unhealthy which also costs more than going to the grocery store. Because I stayed out too late and slept in my sleeping rhythm is off and I have trouble falling asleep that night. Since I start work at five am I may not get enough sleep that night. As a third order consequence I will have difficulty focusing that day and may need to take a nap which could mean my work doesn’t get done according to plan and must be done in the evening which could also mean I skip the gym that day again. If this pattern follows too many days in a row I might gain weight and feel stress which is self reinforcing in the direction I don’t want. While the timeframe in focus can vary the concept is the same – an impulsive action with only a first order consequence in mind leads to long term goal failure and ultimately unhappiness
This is the first day I am journaling about this self reflection and it is not really things I don’t already know. However hopefully if I remain mindful and focus on personal evolution in the areas in my life that I want to improve ultimately other aspects of my life will improve as well. I’ll continue with thins tomorrow and see where it leads in the long run.