So, I posted this method back in April. It recieved a ton of positive feedback, questions and useable criticism. Here’s an updated version. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or you experience a sticking point. There’s also a link to a PDF in my bio. ㋛
Part 1: The problem
Bad habits. Compulsive behaviors. Out of control bingeing.
Apathy and lethargy. A lack of drive, motivation and consistency.
These issues we all face, almost always come down to two things :
(1) Runaway positive feedback loops causing regrettable time wasting.
(2) Experiences that sends messaging to our antiquated brains to suppress motivation.
Let's first unpack (1) as it explains what
is happening when you procrastinate. Then we'll move on to (2) as it explains more of why
this process starts in the first place. From there we can proceed to a fix; to a solution.
So, imagine you’re at your desk, doing some work on a project. It's going fine, when, of course, you get the idea to take a break. You tell yourself: two minutes. Two minutes to check what’s new on Reddit, and then it's right back to work.
Two minutes soon turns to 15.
Fine. It happens.
Let's pause the tape right there.
If that was the end of it; if you thought, hey it’s ok, that was an interesting post, it was worth the extended time, but now it’s back to work
, it wouldn’t be a big deal.
But, that's not what happens. Instead you give in to an impulse to check Instagram, just for a second
, which leads to a full hour wasted.
Why did that happen? Why does that sort of thing pretty much always
To answer, we’ll need to rewind this mental movie and take a closer look in slo-mo.
So, there you are browsing Reddit when, ok
, it hits you that you're wasting time and so you surface to the present moment. You look up and away from the laptop. There. Pause the tape.
It's subtle as heck and easy to miss, but in that crucial moment… you felt bad
. You felt…what? Maybe it was a little prick of, well, guilt
maybe? Could have been the guilt you'd get from realizing you just broke the promise you made to yourself to have a distraction free work session. Or maybe you felt irked and irritated because, well, fun time was now over, and you had to get back to tedious work. Hard to tell, but whatever it was, it was simply unpleasant.
Now, you'd think that this negative emotion would compel you to get the heck back to work. Like how the pain of a burn would cause you to avoid touching a hot stovetop again, the pain of wasting time should compel you to, well, stop wasting time.
But that's not what happens. In fact, the opposite happens.
And it makes perfect sense.
You see, for you, browsing the internet is your vice
. The thing about vice is that—sure they entertain and sure they can feel good—but more than anything else, your vices are amazing at providing relief from bad feelings
Maybe that’s an odd thing to contemplate and accept, so let’s fast-forward another hour or so and see it in action again.
Here you are flicking through Instagram, when, ok, you surface again. This time you throw your phone at the couch in anger. With the deadline looming, you think that now you're legit behind and probably even screwed.
With the swelling pressure, cortisol will flood your brain resulting in stress and anxiety, all of which is extremely unpleasant—and with that a natural and intense urge and compulsion to do something, anything,
to make this legit death threat go away quickly will take over.
This isn’t because you’re bad or broken or somehow deficient. On the contrary. This is your survival instinct kicking in. Stress and anxiety can only mean your life is at risk—the long way to relieve it simply won’t do. Too risky; you could die. It’s gotta be quickest path to relief.
And guess what? The stuff that can deliver just the right kind of relief
, happens to be right there lying on the couch.
It's entirely messed up, right? What’s causing
the bad feelings; what's behind the guilt, the stress, the anxiety; what's maybe even behind some of the shame, depression, and regret that weaves in and out of your live… is also the thing that's unbelievably effective at instantly relieving all those bad feelings.
This is what’s programmed in your brain.
Naturally it becomes a vicious cycle. A runaway positive feedback loop. You feel bad, your vice relieves the bad feeling, but it eventually makes you feel worse, then more vice for relief, which stresses you even more, so more cravings and so on. As is the case with all addictions, the drug both cures and causes the disease. …
Onto (2): about motivation and the stuff that kills it.
In the above narrative, I had you first imagine yourself sitting there, actually being productive with some work. But maybe even that
requires a stretch of the imagination, as being productive and motivated in any measure is hard to come by these days.
So what’s going on?
Why do we often (always?) lack energy, drive, enthusiasm, motivation—not just for our tedious school or job obligations—but also (and often especially) for the things we care deeply about, like a creative project or a business idea?
Why do we get that ‘ugh, I just don't feel like it’
feeling every damn time we sit down to do some work—work we know is actually
meaningful, fulfilling and could add so much amazingness to our lives?
I think it's important for you to recognize the source
of your issues with a lack of motivation and consistency; the root cause of that ‘ugh, I just don’t feel like it’
At the very least, this may help you become more compassionate, understanding and forgiving with yourself when you falter, which is pretty inevitable0F.
You see, we evolved in an environment where energy was extremely scarce.
Think of the last time you spent time out in the wilderness. Imagine being there but with no phone, no granola bar in your bag, no path leading back to civilization with it’s grocery stores, restaurants and stocked fridges. You could walk for hours without finding a gram of carbohydrate, while the effort of trapping a fidgety animal would just barely
make it worth the energy.
You probably wouldn’t survive. Not just because you’re now a doughy-soft city dweller, but because it’s ridiculously hard to survive the wild. Starvation, predation, infection to name just a few dangers. It makes sense that every squirrel you see looks pent up meth, ready to scratch your eyes out.
All that to say, needless wastes of energy would have killed off our ancestors. So we evolved to never be motivated; to never want to expend energy unless you absolutely have to
. Unless your survival was at stake.
It makes sense. A lion is not propelled to go after a herd of aggressive gazelles if he literally just ate a giant zebra steak. An elephant is not motivated to walk for hours to find a good source of water and plants if her belly is already full. These animals know it’s time to rest, to restore, to chill.
In the same way, what do you think happens when you spend the entire afternoon engaging with your bad habits: eating junk, watching TV, playing video games, watching porn, browsing Reddit and other social media sites... consuming all sorts of vices and experiencing all sorts of dopamine fueled rewards? What message is being sent to the old survival part of your brain?
The human attached to you is full. He’s well fed (high caloric junk food). He just socialized (Instagram), and mated (porn) with a ton of high status and attractive people. He also just had a thrilling adventure where he overcame obstacles and adversaries (video games), followed by a dramatic experience which resulted a new long-term mate (Netflix). He is part of a big safe unified group that share a world view (Reddit, Twitter)... This human is surviving exceptionally well—the proof is right there in the firehose of rewards we just felt. Whatever we just did this afternoon, whatever energy was used or risks were taken, it all worked out very very well. But you can stop. For now, just stop. We're good.
As a result of this messaging, the old survival part of your brain will squash any request sent from your conscious mind to use up energy for some imagined distant goal. This is especially the case when your mind makes requests to use mental energy
(i.e. to work on your thesis or do something creative), which is very
expensive from a metabolic perspective.
Think about it. Why should the survival and energy conserving part of your brain let you work? All the survival boxes are ticked, which could only mean one thing: you just expended a ton
It’s time to shut down and relax. It’s time to do nothing.
So that’s where that urge to chill, to not work comes from. That’s the source of that ‘ugh, I just don’t feel like it’
feeling that comes to haunt you right at the worst possible moment. That explains why, after say browsing Reddit for an hour, just the thought of opening a word document to write—as you promised you would—feels so grueling and unappealing.
Your antiquated brain is convinced you’re about to waste energy. And wasting energy is about as pointlessly senseless and dangerous as say walking towards the edge of a cliff.
So, just as your brain summons an insurmountable urge to back the heck away from the edge, your brain summons insurmountable resistance
to back you the heck away from the mental work.
Part 2: The Solution
The take-away lesson from the (1) narrative is to just not check your phone on that initial itch. Avoid entering that runaway feedback loop using willpower or something.
I don't know about you, but that's not entirely helpful.
As it stands, you could be lectured all day about this terrible, life-goals-eating, ‘runaway feedback loop’ monster thing living under your bed. You could stand on a table and proclaim to the world that you’ll never go on Reddit ever again—not even for a second.
But still, you will forget. You will eventually
rationalize checking your phone for a minute as a reward or break. It’s utterly inevitable.
Similarly, the take-away from (2) comes down to this: ‘so you want never-ending motivation to achieve your dreams? Just stop wasting time on your vice dummy…’
This is quite patronizing as advice, even without the ‘dummy’ at the end. Obviously, we know that the solution to procrastination is to not waste time and do the work. We know the solution to addiction is to just stop. But it’s not that simple. God I wish it was. Sigh.
So then, what is the solution? How do we break bad habits? How do we stop doing all the gratifying, addictive, and accessible things we now know inevitably lead to regret, pain and a soul crushing lack of motivation—not to mention wasted dreams and a wasted life?
The answer is simple—but making this happen won’t happen overnight. It’s a non-linear process. In a nutshell, have to drive desires down
. You have to target the parts of your brain responsible for you desiring your vices and take direct concerted action to undo that ingrained mental programming.
Almost no other ‘method’ does this. In fact, they do the opposite: they drive desires up
while expecting you to keep resisting with self-control, willpower or some fancy app.
Think about it.
Think about the last time you tried to quit with a conventional method. Say you made a big pact with yourself after reading an inspiring self-help book. The first few days sucked
, right? You had to deal with urges and cravings using self-control. It was an uncomfortable, perhaps unbearable mess—like trying to bar yourself from scratching a throbbing mosquito bite because a book said c’mon man just do it
Outside the habit, life continued to be at times demanding and stressful, or uneventful and boring. But now? Relief was denied.
You were no longer allowed to grab at your phone for a little distraction. Reddit was off limits, so were video games. You had to just sit there and take it. It felt like an awful, pleasureless, annoying existence; a prison of continual self-monitoring and restraint.
And so you couldn’t help but daydream about the little innocent things that would give you a break from it all.
Your thoughts would inevitably arrive at:
Is this what my life will be like now? Is this how it's going to feel? This feeling… this... it sucks. You know, maybe don't want to quit after all.
But still, perhaps that post-it note you tacked on the bottom of your computer screen reminded you power through with grit and determination. C’mon man just do it
The misery could be endured, the cravings resisted, the thoughts ignored.
Problem is—with those thoughts endlessly pestering you, plus life delivering its usual gauntlet of bad feelings—the desire for your vices only went up with time, not down. As you might recall from Part 1, vices are amazing
at providing relief from bad feelings. It makes sense that the pain and exhaustion of resisting results in ever intensifying cravings for relief.
To make it beyond day 1, then day 2, then day 3, then day 5473... you needed to have more and more and more of an ability to resist.
Eventually... you gave in. No one has a limitless supply of willpower. All it took was a convenient little rationalization to present itself: Bah, 5 minutes on Reddit won’t kill me
. In fact, it might make me less grumpy and fidgety, thus more productive
And with that taste, the dopamine fuelled hit—the feeling of blissful relief—it felt better than ever. This further solidified in your mind (literally, through the insulation of neural pathways) that your vices are wonderful, life-saving, beneficial things, and that life without them is not worth living, and what the heck was I thinking, anyway?!?
So here’s the reality: every time you try to quit, you end up driving up
the desires you have for your bad habits. You end up deepening your addiction.
You need to do the opposite. You need to do what it takes to drive desires down
with time, not up.
Your ability to resist—your self-control, your willpower—it is what it is and there’s not much you can do. The desire side of things—what actually prompts cravings and impulses and drives addictive behavior and compulsions—that
can be manipulated to your advantage over time. And the key is to gnaw away at the mental wiring so that one day you’ll be like: Yeah, I see my phone there chiming with all it's easy titillation and gratification... but, eh, I'm good. I think I’ll pass. I’d rather just get to work.
No willpower needed.
That, my friend, is the promised land. That's the mental re-programming—the ‘habit-reframe’ if you will—that needs to happen. The problem is not your willpower or self-control, the problem is your innate desire for all these hyper addictive modern vices. You need to drive desires down—not through a bunch of theory (you can’t think-out desires), but through a focused day-to-day action plan
. That’s up next.
The Habit Reframe Method
Without further ramblings, I’ll present what I call the “Habit Reframe Method”. I find it’s most easily broken down and explained visually, using a plot of what it might look like for you over time. Check out this diagram I uploaded to Imgur: https://imgur.com/a/xHhYVam
In the graph, the x-axis is time, here we have several weeks, and the y-axis quantifies how often you indulge in your bad habit. It a subjective scale, so you could define what each of the three zones (moderation, excessive, bingeing) means for you as you see fit.
So, if we look at your past (time to the left of ‘today’), we see you bouncing around, often hovering in and over excessive territory. We can also see your past failings. At (1) you quit for a few days, but you gradually faltered which lead to a pretty harsh binge. At (2) you tried weening off your vices, but it also failed.
Anyway, that was then. Let’s look forward and see what pattern you can expect with the Habit Reframe Method.
The first thing to notice is its overall jigsaw pattern. Each tooth, each cycle, I call an ‘iteration’.
So, off the bat, 1. The Habit Reframe Method uses an iterative approach.
This isn’t some 30-day program where you do X and Y and you get Z result. Those programs feel promising, but in reality what happens is you do X a few times, Y is too hard or just weird, then the whole thing fizzles out. If you don’t get to Z, it’s your fault; not the magical one-size-fits-all system that keeps getting recommended to you.
Instead, the iterative approach means you do something for a while, you fail, you get some lessons and you try again, with some tweaks. There’s no time limit.
Without it being the sole focus, what we want is illustrated by the arrows of (3). This is the overall goal: a gradual widening of the iterations
, with more and more time spent where you are consuming your vices in moderation territory or below.
Eventually you will even get to an iteration that spans weeks (or more) as in (4), but this may take several (dozens?) iterations and lots of time, weeks for some, months for others and that’s perfectly OK.
What’s important is the overall trend. We want—on the whole, on average—each iteration to get a bit wider than the ones before.
Ok. So, let’s look at a single iteration (5) in detail; see what it’s composed of. 2. Each iteration starts with you going Cold-Turkey* on your vices.
but with a little asterisk, which I’ll explain in a second.
First, the Cold-turkey part. It means what you think it means. You must resolve to cut out all your vices then and forever with zero exceptions.
This is black and white, and unambiguous by design. There are no baby steps, no weaning off, no cheat days, rewards or compromises. None of that.
I’m making your life easy here. There’s nothing to plan for, or measure and keep track of. There is no uncertainty in this; nothing to judge or decide as you go. The next time you’re confronted with your vice, the answer is an automatic no.
This hard rule is your guiding light as you traverse the treacherous sea of ending your deeply-ingrained habits and automatic compulsions. The asterisk adds a bit of nuance to this, but your success here is entirely contingent on you understanding, acknowledging, and accepting that you need to go Cold-turkey
to end your bad habits. Got it?
The asterisk part is the missing and crucial touch that makes going Cold-turkey work in the long run.
First, it allows for what I call R&Cs
, or Rare and Circumstantials. These are small and rare moments where you permit yourself to, say, check Instagram or watch something—but they require a predefined set of circumstances.
For example, late night Netflix with your boyfriend or girlfriend could work. That’s ‘rare’ because it happens once a day, and ‘circumstantial’ because it requires the circumstance
of you being with your girlfriend during the evening. Another example could be 15 minutes to check the news over a morning coffee. The circumstance is the morning, and you can use a screen-time blocker to keep it contained.
This is illustrated by the gap between the zero indulging line and the bottom of our curve (6).
Second, and this is more important, the asterisk recognizes and anticipates that you’re going to fail. You’re going to forget about or you’ll change your mind. You’re going to slip a little, then a lot. Or perhaps your ‘R&Cs’ will devolve into something neither rare nor circumstantial. Which brings us to: 3. A gradual uptick in indulging and the eventual unraveling is both inevitable and okay.
At the end of the day, this is just me, internet guy with an awkwardly vulgar username
, writing to you in a free Reddit post with overused
italics. I could continue to yammer away for days about why going cold-turkey* is the only way to go. I could put together amazingly engaging and inspirational quotes that get you amped up and primed to leave it all behind!!
and crush it in life!!
And on your side, you can agree wholeheartedly with everything I’m saying. You could nod and be pumped and excited, or stern and resolute. No turning back.
But that sentiment and passion will fade.
At some point you will indulge on something with a neat little excuse. You’ll tell yourself you can keep it under control… bah this little thing can qualify as a new R&C. C’mon, no need to be all anal about it
And with that, the gradual increase in how often you indulge, is inevitable (shown as (7)). It’s in your evolved biology as discussed earlier. You’re made to seek and grab at easy rewards because at one point your survival depended on it.
The fact is, having a taste of pleasure leads to wanting more of it, not less (remember, this whole thing is all
about desire). Before long, it will snowball out of control and you’ll windup back in the familiar land of excessive indulging—if not flat out bingeing.
I used to get mad at that.
I used to berate myself for being so inconsistent with my beliefs and convictions. Everything changed when I realized there is nothing to get upset about. It’s human nature, and utterly inevitable. Faltering is, and forever will be, as sure as clockwork and understandable as, say, mindlessly scratching a mosquito bite.
So it’s baked right into the method.
What’s important though, is, well, two things. The first is to leverage what you can from those failings using the practice you’ll discover in the next section. The second is to learn and adapt, which brings us to: 4. Your R&Cs must decrease with each iteration.
“Don’t get mad, get data
This is a mantra I like to repeat when I falter.
I suggest you say it 10 times to help burn it into your memory, because it’s the key to everything.
Rather than getting all upset when you fail, get the data
. Learn what were the conditions that lead to things getting out of control.
What rationalizations did you use?
What life experiences, circumstances or emotions prompted the excuses? (remember, we use our vices to relieve bad feelings)
What were the R&Cs that perhaps just can’t be maintained as rare and circumstantial?
Adapt with each iteration based on what you’ve observed and learned. This will result in you gradually decreasing the initial set point, as illustrated with (8).
For some of you and your vices, dwindling towards zero is the only way it can go (9). That’s were I’ve landed and I’ve made my peace with it. But don’t establish that because I said so; establish it because your experience leads you there. Establish it with cold, hard, undeniable data.
Then, after taking note of the lessons learned, start over with a fresh iteration. Go Cold-Turkey* once again.
Repeat the whole cycle as necessary.
The art of “Pinning”
Now, though the above framework is patently better than anything you’ve tried—mostly because it insists on you becoming kinder, more compassionate with yourself when you falter, plus patient with a process that simply isn’t linear—it’s still incomplete. Think of the graph as a skeleton. It needs meat to connect everything together and bring it to life. It needs a deliberate practice that can be applied through all phases of the model; starting with your first iteration, through to when things derail and you transition onto the next iteration.
And this practice must of course serve but one function: to manipulate desires, as in to erode away the desires you have for your bad habits, plus slowly cultivate desires for good habits and behaviors.
I call the practice “pinning”. To explain how it works, I need to first ask you a few questions:
What happens when you waste several hours screwing around on the internet instead of working on an assignment? What happens after you binge watch an entire season of Brooklyn 99? What happens when you realize that you broke, yet again, the promises you made to yourself?
You feel bad
On the other hand, what happens when you have a productive day and you wind up crossing out several tasks off a to-do list? What happens when you plan for an intense workout and you manage to follow through?
Of course, you feel good
The key to the “pinning” practice of the Habit Reframe Method is to never allow those feelings, good or bad, go to waste
To explain what that means and how its done, we need to talk a little about the brain.
When it comes to making decisions, your brain likes to use shortcuts. Rather than using a great deal of computation energy every time it is confronted with a decision (as in, is this particular action a good thing worth doing… or a bad thing to avoid?
), the brain will search in its memory for past emotions associated with the action. It will then make a quick snap decision.
For example, you may have touched a hot stovetop when you were a child. That specific action resulted an intense, painful sensation. That experience and its resulting emotions were then hardwired in the memory part of your brain. So, now when you see a hot stovetop, you reflexively avoid it without thinking. I like to say that the action of touching a hot stove is “pinned” with a very bad sensation. That “pin” is so thoroughly lodged—touching a stove is so utterly associated with pain—that you no longer desire
touching it at all. In fact, you reflexively avoid it.
Consider your media vices. They’ve made you feel good right? They’ve had you laugh, entertained, or gratified. They’ve also relaxed and distracted you from stress and other bad feelings. So, after years of these pleasurable sensations and experiences, these vices are now “pinned” somewhere in your mind with a metric ton of positive emotions. Your desire for them is thus extremely high, hence:
· The urges can be extremely intense.
· It can be far too easy to rationalize.
· You’ll often find yourself just doing it out of a mindless compulsion.
· It's become seemingly impossible to keep the resolutions and promises to moderate your consumption.
What can we do about that? Logically, we need to start pinning bad emotions or sensations to your vices.
The good thing is—and “good” is a relative term here—after we've indulged in our vices, and especially after we’ve taken it too far, there’s often a moment or two when we feel less than pleasant.
You know what I mean, right? It can be this weird emptiness or ill feeling. Perhaps it's the anxiety, panic, or stress that crops up after procrastinating on something important. Or maybe it’s the guilt, regret and pain from wasting the time you carved out to pursue a creative dream. I’d even count the bloated and queasy feeling you get after eating junk food.
When unpleasant stuff like that happens, what gets pinned on your brain’s circuitry as associated with those bad feelings? It’s the vice, isn’t it? Wasting time on the internet led to a bad feeling; therefore, ‘the internet’ gets pinned with that a bad feeling, right?
Actually, no it doesn't. The vice doesn't get the blame. The junk food and their chemicals don’t get the blame. You
get blamed for the apparent failure and its consequences.
The ‘you’ I’m talking about is your self-image.
Just think of your mental chatter that accompanies the bad feelings:
I faltered. I lack discipline. I am pathetic. I am a slob. I am wasting time and wasting away my life. I am to blame...
As a result, the bad feelings gets pinned to your self-image. That could explain (at least in part) your worn-down self-esteem and maybe even some of your depression, self-dislike or apathy.
Meanwhile, because the vice has been so damn reliable at providing gratuitous distraction and pleasure, and because it can even relieve the aforementioned bad feelings, the vice continues to get pinned with nothing but lovely and flowery positive emotions in your brain’s circuitry.
This whole process obviously needs to end. If you’re going to feel bad, and if it’s going to hurt, then you may as well leverage those bad feelings to your advantage.
You might as well not waste them.
You need to reprocess those feelings so they get pinned, not to your self-image, but to the vice itself.
To do that, you need to start by observing and being mindful
of the bad feelings. When they occur, you need to stop and really take it in. You need to look at it dispassionately like it's an object separate from you.
Next, you need to consciously or mindfully
associate, or “pin” those feelings with what caused it, as in the vice.
There’s no direct or easy way to do this; every person will do something different.
For example, if I waste an entire evening on Reddit and get a pang of regret, I will physical get up, focus my attention on the sinking feeling for a few seconds, then I’ll allow myself to get heated while physically pointing directly at the screen and list of links. Then I’ll say This damn thing… this website… this is what’s causing this pain right here.
I’ll use whatever mental faculty I can control to make sure that I remember the moment and the association I just observed.
What’s important here is that you’re actually being honest. I’m not asking you to play any mind games or recite affirmations that are clear fabrications. There is a direct cause and effect phenomenon occurring: you indulge in your vice, and then you feel bad
. It’s time to program your brain with the truth about exactly what causes
your failings and suffering.
Never let a bad feeling go to waste.
Pinning in Practice
Ok. Let’s wrap this up by going back to the Habit Reframe Method and seeing where else you can do some solid "pinning" with the dual goals of reducing desires for your vices and increasing desires for good habits and behaviors. 1) Pin during your first Cold-Turkey* period.
With a fresh start on the road to freedom, you’re bound to have small wins, to feel proud of yourself, or optimistic about the future.
Prove it to yourself using real emotions, that you absolutely can and will enjoy life without your little “pleasures”.
Life without them doesn’t have to be a grind as it was before. Grab the proof of good feelings and pin it!
Honestly, it’s amazing (and quite unexpected, really) how much wonder and joy percolates into your life once you give your brain a break from incessant loops of wanting and getting and wanting and getting. It might not happen right at first, and if it does if might go away or wax and wane, but either way, just be there for the experience. It goes beyond the scope of this piece, but I suggest learning the basics of mindfulness if you really have trouble getting past this phase. But let me say it once again, the grass is so damn greener on the other side, it’s worth whatever discomfort you experience the first few weeks x100.
So yeah, any small wins, any benefits you get, anything you can point to, it can all be pinned to living a life without your vices.
Much of the focus of this method has been on ending bad habits. But I’ll say a few words on starting up on good habits and behaviors. The goal is simple: to cultivate motivation; to cultivate desire
for those good actions. The general idea is the same as with bad habits, but in reverse. You want to come to a place where you just feel like doing these things naturally, so the use of willpower or self-control (or tricks and hacks) isn’t particularly necessary.
So, where with bad habits you want to 'pin' bad feelings, with good habits you want to 'pin' good feelings.
Say you have a productive work session and you feel pleased at the end; well, be mindful of that goodness and 'pin' it to the act of working. Say you crush it with a workout and you feel boosted and satisfied. Maybe you get that “runner’s high” or the “lifter’s confidence”. Great. Again, pin that goodness to the actions or activity that caused it.
As a general rule, what I learned works best is this: instant Cold-Turkey style cutting for bad habits, but graaadual and easy
with good habits and behaviours. You never want to force yourself to do something. If it takes a week after you go Cold-Turkey to feel like doing a single push-up... so be it. If it takes another day or 2 or 10 to pick-up the dusty guitar or work on a long-neglected project, that's ok too. Never force it.
Forcing it means you might inadvertently 'pin' a bad feeling to the action. Just be patient and the desire will come. If you think back to part 1 (‘The Problem’), my argument was that our vices kill our desires to do meaningful work. Well... if you end your vices—and that’s really should be your single and sacred priority here—and if you allow enough time to pass, your brain will slowly open to the idea of work. Motivation will trickle in, in patches at first, here and there, but this process will accelerate as you do the work in small doses and you 'pin' the resulting good emotions.
Going Cold-Turkey* will for sure leave you with a lot of spare time, especially at first. I often fill that time with benign activities—what I call “neutrals”. For me, these are going for walks, reading, cooking, doodling, cleaning, listening to music and podcasts, socializing.
I also do a lot of just sitting, thinking or, well, nothing. Doing nothing is quite underrated. Especially when I sit down to do work (say for my job, but for you it could be for school) and the motivation just isn’t there, I just sit and do nothing. I look at the resistance and the temptation to dick around, and I give it a familial nod. Hello old friend. Thanks for stopping by, but today I don’t need you.
And I wait.
The key is to just be patient, and as much as you can, be present to the moment and your emotions. Time will go by, and who knows, out of sheer boredom you might find yourself starting to tap at the keyboard. 2) Pin during the hard times
All this stuff—talk of addiction, bad habits and compulsions—comes down to one thing: bad feeling management. At a young age, simply because it’s accessible, we learn that we can distract away bad feelings with stuff like food and electronics. Some people eventually turn to drugs or alcohol, but in this day and age of instant gratification in your pocket, it’s hardly necessary.
So, if you cut out your vices, whatever they are, you are going to have to confront some bad feelings.
The good thing is, much of the bad feelings such as the guilt, stress and the regret of time wasting, are caused by the vice themselves, so that goes away on its own pretty quickly.
But still, there may be underlying trauma, stress, pressure, fear, sadness, regret, etc. that you’ll have to face without being able to distract it away with vice. It goes without saying that therapy could be essential for you to work through these, especially if there’s trauma or persistent depression. Either way, even with the best therapist, there just won’t be a way around getting familiar with your bad feelings using some form of present moment awareness.
And here’s what I’ve found: learn to manage your bad feelings properly, and, with a little time and luck, a little happiness just might come to greet you. 3) Pin during the uptick period.
As the days (or maybe even hours) go on, there will be plenty of bad feelings to be had and felt as you rationalize a little vice here and a little vice there and you come to regret it after the party’s over. Just be mindful as best you can and compassionate with yourself
when things get out of hand. It’s fully expected and okay. 4) Pin during the binge phase.
You will feel bad emotions after over-indulging in your vices. Again, do what you can to be mindful of whatever you feel and pin these emotions to your vices. 5) Pin as you reset into the next iteration and you go Cold-Turkey* once more.
Like explained earlier, take stock of what happened. Collect the data. Adjust and reduce your R&Cs as needed. Then, take in a deep breath, exhale out any inner resentment and gently and mindfully start back up at step 1.
Thank you for reading my post. It means a lot.
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