Yes, I think too much

Archive for the ‘goals’ Category

Doing What You’re Good At

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Since getting the food and exercise thing largely in hand, I’ve been pushing ahead on other goals using a similar method to try to accomplish other goals. This may sound like a doddle, but it’s actually quite difficult for a variety of reasons, and I think it is related to why many people who have mastered their weight loss processes continue to focus solely on them rather than move on to developing a more balanced life.

The primary issue, as most people are aware, is that losing weight or maintaining losses takes extra effort. For me, the time I spend shopping and preparing food has greatly increased, but there is also the time spent on exercise. I’m no gym bunny, and tend to only walk and do weight lifting and various stretching and calisthenics at home. It’s very modest by most people’s standards, and I tend to space out these activities and do a few repetitions of one activity here and there. However, the aggregate time that these things eats up in the day is not insubstantial especially when necessary activities (work, house cleaning, personal hygiene, etc.) are added into the mix.

That being said, while time is certainly factor, there is also the fact that I find myself burned out mentally and in the evenings I just want to stare at the computer screen. While I have developed a habit of getting up and doing a little exercise between sessions on the computer, I haven’t carved out a habit of doing other things, especially mentally engaging activities like reading the non-fiction books I’ve bought, writing, studying languages, etc. And, incidentally, I exercise here and there not because I’m obsessive about it, but becuse studies show that sitting for long periods of time is quite bad for you. I also tend to feel sleepy if I stare at the computer for too long without a break.

While I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with allowing my mind to “rest” by watching DVDs, reading unimportant things on the computer, there are things I want to do and am not doing. In general, I think that people tend to be far too hard on themselves when it comes to how they spend their free time and tend to think they should be productive and efficient every minute. They view time spent doing things like watching T.V. as “wasted” and think they should be doing something else. I think humans were not meant to be occupied in highly productive work frequently. Our minds are meant to wander. Our jaws are meant to be slack for certain periods of time.

Getting back to my initial point though about how this situation causes people to focus on diet ad weight control exclusively. One of the things I have noticed about many people including myself is that becoming good at something breeds a desire to focus more on that thing. Some time back, I studied professional graphics software including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. I became quite proficient in all of them and their intricacies. Many people dabble with these applications, but only work with them superficially. I learned the deeper workings and how to take advantage of the power they have to work more efficiently. In fact, I became a certified expert in Photoshop.

Once I became so good at these programs, I became rather stuck on and in them. I would use them even for things which they weren’t really intended for, like word processing or web page content. I did this because I was already good at them and would prefer to work with what I knew well than learn other types of software. I not only identified myself as a power user of these applications, but I felt like a “fan”. The truth was that I was staying within the bounds of where I had become successful. I was good at these things so using them made me feel good about my abilities. Stepping outside and doing something else was not only more difficult and time-consuming, but less rewarding. That meant I rapidly became frustrated with feeling like a beginner who wasn’t accomplishing much of anything.

In regards to weight loss, once you “master” the process to a certain extent, and you have spent time immersed in the diet culture, you may feel you are “good at” it. Being comfortable talking about it, practicing it, and deriving a sense of satisfaction and esteem from it is natural, much as my sticking to my Adobe apps was comfortable. There were far easier applications that I didn’t learn how to do basic tasks in (like Microsoft Word) because I’d rather stick with what I knew. There may indeed be easier things than diet and weight control that people could put time and effort into, but they will choose to remain deeply immersed in the area in which they feel they have mastery.

Mastery is a sort of trap in this way and I think it factors just as much into people not expanding their identity or spending their time on other aspects of their lives as the oft-stated “time” issue. Yes, dealing with weight control takes time, but the truth is that people make it take more time because they’re already good at it and expanding their interests will be much less rewarding than playing in the weight loss sandbox. While I knew that I never wanted to end up as one of those people who lost weight and then made it the center of her existence because I didn’t want my body and the related issues to become my identity, I hadn’t considered this particular aspect before. In essence, we don’t do it to become good at it, but rather are good at it so we do it.

Regarding my goals, I used to be good at certain things but they have fallen by the wayside in the past decade or so. I used to be great at studying things, but am so out of the habit that my skills have rusted. I also used to read a lot of books, but have become so bound up in briefer articles that it has become nearly impossible for me to finish a book even if I am interested in it. These are important things for which I will need to refresh my old capabilities, but I’m finding it difficult to get rolling. I decided that I’m going to take the same “small steps” approach to these as I did to my changes in lifestyle (both mentally and physically). I don’t have to sit down and read a book for a half hour or an hour. I just have to read 10 pages a day. I don’t have to study for a long time, I just have to learn one new thing and remember it. I don’t have to speak a language well in a certain time frame, but I do need to learn and have good recall of a few phrases or words per week.

The bar is low so I have a very good chance of clearing it. When I’m good at clearing those low hurdles, it’ll be easier to move on because the increased pleasure and esteem I receive from dealing in things in which I have mastery will continue to push me forward. Mastery can be a potent motivator as well as something which can hold you back from moving on.


Written by yesithinktoomuch

January 20, 2011 at 2:51 am

Posted in goals, psychology