How can we create and sustain healthy & meaningful addictions
I’ve had a few questions on my mind that have come from two activities that are on opposite sides of a spectrum.
On one side of the spectrum is working out:
I’ve been working out for more than half my life, and it’s a habit that’s not going anywhere. Rain or shine, sickness or injury, you’ll find me sweating it out in some way even if it means doing bodyweight squats in a restaurant bathroom while my friends order another round of drinks.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have my writing habit. It starts and stops, but mostly sputters out like a car on its last leg. I can’t seem to keep it going. When I realize I’ve stopped months after the fact, I kick myself and do my best to start again.
For working out, my main problem isn’t showing up, it’s figuring out the best thing to do when I show up. To workout in a sustainable and meaningful way that will allow me to show up and enjoy it for life, rather than getting injured or allowing it to be a superficial activity that doesn’t contribute to the rest of my life. It can be a mindless activity if you don’t pay attention to it, and a crutch if you lean on it too much to cover up life’s problems.
One one side I have the pain point of showing up (writing) and on the other side (working out) I have the pain point of figuruing out how to best spend my time in a meaningful and sustainable way.
The solutions to both can be worked towards by properly setting up the legs we lean on. We’ll dig into this by first breaking down how we create sustainable workout habits.
Everyone starts working out for one reason or another: To lose weight, hang out with their friends, impress someone they’ve had their eyes on, or to improve their performance for a sport. The list is endless. There is always an underlying reason for starting something new, whether we choose to figure it out or not.
After a while, though, we don’t need this initial reason: We naturally find other reasons for continuing, and because of this the habit of showing up becomes easier.
Imagine a table with no legs. If you take a long piece of wood that has a strong base of support and is flat on the top and bottom, and balance that rectangular slab of wood which we call a tabletop over it, it will stay in place but its balance will be precarious at best.
It wouldn’t take much to topple it over. If you threw a tennis ball at that sole base of support everything would almost certainly come crashing down. This is how we are then we start a habit or activity. We have one reason, one leg, that keeps us going. If it fails us, we stop showing up.
After a while, if that leg doesn’t fail us, however, the activity starts grows its own legs, and we no longer depend on the initial reason that lead us to start in the first place. Then we have more than one base of support, and we will more confidently show up no matter the conditions.
It could be that we find working out releases us from the stress of work or home life. We also might find that we look or feel better. Quite possible we made friends or notice improvments in our tennis game, even though we had no idea these benefits would come when we first started.
You can now knock out that initial leg and be just fine, which is often what happens.
The main question here now is, how do we nurture or accelerate the growth of these legs? And how do we know which legs are good to grow?
And how can I apply this to writing and working out?