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How I Got Started in Habits, part 3 (The Great Problem)

...continued from part 2

Going back to that porch at the beach, I knew about two problems. But there was a 3rd bubbling somewhere in the back of my mind -- The Great Problem of Habit Change.

The littlest problem was the specific skill I wanted to adopt as a new habit. In this case I was trying to add a conversational skill. What should I do? With a little reading about conversational skills, it was easy to discover that I needed to get used to asking more questions about things that interested me. Great. I knew what I needed to do.

The next problem was about how to actually make change happen. What action could I take while I was making good decisions, that would help "future me" to actually cash in on those good decisions? This problem is the one that began to fascinate me over the coming years. It is strategy. It is tactics. It is what I spend most of my time trying to help other people with. And I would call it the second biggest problem in Habit Change.

The second biggest? How can a person actually change their habits? This is only second biggest problem in Habit Change? Well... yeah.

So what was that 3rd problem I was barely aware of?

A while later, I was camping in Shenandoah with my family, and I bumped into that Great Problem... (Aren't vacations a fertile place for good thinking?)

When our family is camping, worries melt away. Much of the day is devoted to the simplicities of food, campfire, and talk (not talk about anxieties, distasteful interactions, or busyness -- just about life). The kids are free to explore all the little nooks and crannies of nature. The mind is free to relax.

Going to the woods is one of the surest ways for me to feel something close to contentment. I noticed how different I felt in comparison to my normal days.

A normal day was one spent chasing some aspiration. Then the constant judging based on the degree to which I was achieving or failing that goal. And then I would use the pain of that judgement to drive change. It wouldn't feel good, but sometimes it was effective for squeaking out a bit of progress.

A camping day, on the other hand, was one spent with no worries greater than staying dry, cooking food, and finding a nice place to take a walk in the woods.

Notable difference.

So I was sitting by the fire with my wife and the philosophical talk got started. How can you enjoy contentment while staying motivated to keep growing and changing for the better? I mean, if someone doesn't like the way things are, he obviously has a motivation to change. But what about that person who likes himself and feels at peace with the world? Does he keep growing?

And if I could only be a person at peace or a person in growth, which person would I choose to be? Discontent but growing? Or content but stagnant? What would you choose?


Here's the crux of the Great Problem: How can you like the person you are now, and keep alive the flame for change?

I'd love to hear about your own experience with this.

I'll continue writing about it in part 4.

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