Capacity To Keep Doing the Right Things

There's a limit to internalizing habits.

Hey friends,

As I'm wrapping up my year in review I keep thinking about how the biggest reason for me abandoning good habits and useful practices isn't that they're difficult or unpleasant, but that I run out of capacity to keep paying enough attention to the necessity to keep doing them.

Here are just a few of the activities I came across during my annual review that 1) I enjoy doing 2) are beneficial to me and 3) I inevitably stop doing after a few weeks or months of enjoying them:

  • Not touching my phone first thing in the morning.
  • Morning exercise routine (even a short 5-minute one).
  • Taking time to read mindfully (not skimming mindlessly).
  • Spending Sunday evenings mindfully (to look back at the week gone by and plan for the week ahead without a hurry).
  • Deliberately practicing certain things I want to get better at.
  • Generally taking time to be proactive, not reactive, and to think, not just act.
  • Professionally, coaching, not just doing things myself or managing others.

No matter how much I enjoy them, and no matter how much I've automated them, there always comes a time when I feel like I have something more important to do for a few days or weeks in a row, and then they're gone.

Interestingly enough, a few habits or activities seem to have gotten so much integrated into my life and identity that I stick to them no matter what:

  • Brushing teeth (this one's really absolutely non-negotiable).
  • Keeping a daily journal (even if just to check the box).
  • Reconciling my weekly expenses (even if I don't budget properly).
  • Eating healthy breakfasts and lunches (even if the rest of my diet is basically coffee and energy drinks).
  • Weightlifting (I've had periods when I abandoned it for more than a few months, but I inevitably keep getting back to it because it feels so much better).
  • It's been almost a year since I started this weekly newsletter and over 6 months since I've been tracking my moods at least daily. These have stuck pretty well.

So there seems to be a limit to how many beneficial activities I can make part of my identity to prevent them from falling off in busier times. Not sure what that limit is, but feels like it makes sense to keep pushing it as long as it keeps giving?

Have a limitless week,


A few thoughts

Graphics vs gameplay. Neither Heroes of Might and Magic 5 nor 7 come close to being as playable and enjoyable as 3 (and even 4). When it comes to strategies, better visuals don't necessarily mean better gameplay, and I'd argue can easily lead to worse gameplay if they're too distracting.

Maintaining friendships is hard work. Back in my early 20s I learned that being proactive and taking the initiative in social interactions leads to more social interactions. The opposite is also true: stop reaching out to people and they'll stop reaching out to you. Life's a busy thing.

Enjoyed this

Good conversations have lots of doorknobs "There’s some recent evidence that what makes conversations pop off is indeed the social equivalent of doorknobs. You might think that the best conversationalists wait patiently for their partners to finish talking before they start concocting a response in their head. It turns out that we like people the best when they respond to us the fastest––so fast (mere milliseconds!) that they must be formulating their reply long before we finish our turn. Abundant affordances allow for this rapid-fire rapport, each utterance offering an obvious opportunity to respond."

Parrots learn to make video calls to chat with other parrots, then develop friendships, Northeastern University researchers say "The researchers then observed how the birds used that newfound ability over a three-month period. They wondered: If given the choice, would the birds call each other? The answer, relayed in delighted squawks and head bobs, was a resounding yes. “Some strong social dynamics started appearing,” Kleinberger says. Not only did the birds initiate calls freely and seem to understand that a real fellow parrot was on the other end, but caretakers overwhelmingly reported the calls as positive experiences for their parrots. Some caregivers watched their birds learn skills from their video friends, including foraging, new vocalizations and even flying. “She came alive during the calls,” reported one."

Photo finish

HoMM 7 looks so much better than 5, and yet it's still not as enjoyable (as a strategy game) as 3 or 4 due to the visuals being the main focus of the game, not the gameplay. When I can't disable a bunch of combat animations that add extra minutes to each combat and the game conveniently offers me autocombat every time then why would I care about managing each combat personally?