Forcing Self Improvement

Tuesday Weigh In: I am down 1.4 pounds since i quit drinking wine. Yes, this is up from the last time I weighed myself. I don’t seem to care very much. Which is probably why the number is not changing even when i claim that i want to lose weight. I clearly want to eat chocolate cream roll MORE than i want to lose weight.  And in these early days of no-booze, I know that sugar is a darn good replacement strategy.  Clearly it’s not a permanent option. i will eventually blimp out and my long-sleeved shirt will become a billowing sail in a strong wind.

Otherwise, all is well. nothing new over here.

except this.

Over at Abstaining in August, there’s a thoughtful post about what else we could do for 30 days, if we were to extend this sobriety thing into other self-help-y topics in our lives.

I commented with a lovely list of things I’d like to try to do for 30 days. Some typical stuff (run more, lose weight, read more) and some minor but important bits (very clean house, empty inbox every day).

So since it’s nearly September 1 and that seems like a good day to start a 30 day trial, this morning I opened up MS Word, turned on the auto number feature, and put in my list of things i’d like to do for 30 days:

  1. run 5 days a week including one long run
  2. lose 1-2 pounds a week
  3. make 30 new recipes in 30 days day
  4. write 30 minutes a day (for work) for 30 days
  5. read an hour a day (or read at least one book per week)
  6. empty inbox every night before bed
  7. run + read in the mornings before checking my email
  8. Set email checking to download new messages every 60 minutes (instead of every 1 minute).

And then I used the magic random number generator to make my selection for me.

It came up with #4.

Now let’s clarify a few things. Firstly, I don’t like this choice. I even considered pressing random again, to see what else it gave me.  Which is kind of silly since i’m the one who put #4 on my list in the first place.

Also, to be super clear here, i’ve been writing on this blog at least 30 minutes a day for almost two months, and i have more than 60 posts, cuz some days i’ve written more than once.  So we can argue that i have the time and the ability. I have a degree in writing.

I’m mad at this random number generator thing, even though i picked the 8 items myself, knowing that each one would improve my life and stretch me in some way.

and before we say “just don’t write,” i should say that I really do have to do it, because i’m behind on a deadline that i’ve already been paid for, and i still cannot seem to make myself do it.

i think the biggest difference between blog writing and professional writing is … audience. I get no feedback when i do the professional writing.  the client hardly ever says anything, ever, though they continue to pay the invoices. The topics i have to write about are self-generated, so i get to pick how interesting they are — and they are interesting in a technical kind of way — but i just hate it.  Really hate it.  Cannot make myself do it. Which is why i put it on the list in the first place.

All the normal resistance voices start up, just like with giving up booze:  “how can i start September 1st? i’m going to be on vacation.  How can I write every day while i’m on vacation?”

Sound familiar?  Not long ago i was thinking “i can’t quit drinking now, i’m going to be on vacation in X days.” Or I can’t quit now because of this wedding coming up, or until I move, or whatever.  There’s always some imaginary better time to do the thing that we’re avoiding.

and if writing every day for 30 days is like early sobriety, then i’ll hate mostly every minute of it in the beginning, and then it’ll get easier. i’ll reward myself, and then i’ll forget the rewards.  I’ll count days, and then i’ll lose track.

Fuck, i can hear myself talking myself into this 30 day trial, even as i’m writing this post.  Which i didn’t want to do.  Honestly i thought i was going to write something about quitting the professional writing gig and just refunding their money.

I wish i had this sober community support for the rest of my life, and i could post my stoopid professional writing and get thoughtful feedback from you-all.

i wish that there were easier ways towards self-improvement that didn’t feel like forcing myself to do something i don’t want to do.

anyone got a genius idea about forcing self-improvement? blech. double blech.


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • That’s so interesting because I was thinking about the same 30 Day thing again today. Today I was looking at it like layers, you don’t take away what you accomplished in the last 30 days, you just add on a new 30 day layer and keep doing what you started from the first 30 days, the second 30 days, etc. Easier said that done tho, because there is a part of me that feels so accomplished at the end of 30 days – almost like I’m entitled to stop and move on to the next 30 day accomplishment. But then, that doesn’t create real and lasting change. …so still working on what my rules might be for myself!

    I agree with others tho…number 4 came up for a reason. Do it.

  • Well Belle. You did it again. Wrote a great post and gave me some insight to my life. I really needed to hear this stuff today. Been a tough one!


    I need to do something for 30 days in September. I think it will help me focus on something else besides drinking damn booze! Fudge. (insert swear)

  • Oh gosh, that sounds like the “Magic 8 Ball” I had as a kid. If I didn’t like the answer, I would shake and shake it some more…

    And you know me. I always have ideas, but I’m not sure I ever have any new genius ideas. Most of mine are just around changing mind-sets and attitudes. You put all those 8 things on a list for a reason. You *want* to accomplish them all. You were mote than likely going to do all 8 at some point anyway, does it matter which one you begin with? (“Begin anywhere.” -John Cage) And this way, you get your “least desirable?” option done first. The first step is always the hardest, breaking the powerful force of inertia is harder than keeping the momentum going once you begin. And just like a Sunday long run, the “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and by the time get started and into your groove, you’re usually more than half-way there. So write on, writer. 🙂

    Hope that helps? And I hope we’re okay. xx

    • “does it matter which one you begin with?” – what a clever question. Even though i get a lot done in my professional life, and i’m successful, blah blah blah, i always choose the easy tasks first and then torture myself by leaving the harder ones half-finished, until the end. good wake-up call.

  • Is anything really random? Or do all things happen for a reason?

    You make such good points why getting started on this particular item on your list is like giving up drinking. And then you speak so well to the process and the benefits. My advice: reread your own words. The answer and motivation is there.

    Think how much easier/fun all the other items on the list will be if you tackle the hardest and the one you least want to do first…….in other words, get the shit out of the way first.

    • is anything really random? god, now there’s a question! your idea that i take my own advice would be even more hilarious if you knew what i do for a living! Yes, Belle, shut up and listen to yourself…. good advice indeed.