Practice makes—as the saying goes—perfect, and it goes without saying that the things we prioritize on a daily basis also happen to be the things we end up mastering the most. The things that define us.
No one has ever become a virtuoso without spending numerous hours in the rehearsal room and few would dispute that the path to good craft is via daily practice and repetition.
I usually swear that even if the West Coast floods or the Earth goes up in smoke, I have to write a few lines every single day—a mantra I repeat to myself without being able to further quantify it in terms of time, equally unable to set any qualitative goals.
In short, you have to have the tool in your hand to be able to train your motor skills, your precision and your timing; practice well into the wee hours, even if it often feels like you've lost your grip, and have absolutely no control over your shit.
Write every day!—yes, yes—but is 10 minutes every morning enough? Do I have to write a whole half hour before it makes sense? Can a handwritten page in the notebook do it? Or do I need to provide a minimum of 1,000 full, error-free words?
The days I manage to get up early enough in the morning everything's fine. But pressed for time, suddenly and out of nowhere I can come up with a hundred and seventeen excuses to reduce the effort to a minimum.
A few days into a streak, I therefore usually have to note that both the quality and the quantity—(or is it the other way around, and does the order of the factors matter the least?)—are greatly decreasing. Soon, a pleasant, inner voice tells me that the dogma is not worth the paper it is not written on.
And yet. Just as I'm about to lose heart again, a nugget of gold sneaks onto the paper; without my fully understanding how or from where:
Not worth the paper it's not written on.
Point taken. Even 2 minutes. Always. Pays off.
The good sentences are rarely created by lying in the hammock, staring dreamily into the air, but have much more in common with good old-fashioned craftsmanship. In short, you have to have the tool in your hand to be able to train your motor skills, your precision and your timing; practice well into the wee hours, even if it often feels like you've lost your grip, and have absolutely no control over your shit.
When the best writing advice is to write every single day, it has less to do with the quality or quantity of what you actually get to write—the end product itself—and everything to do with the process: to make writing a daily habit that is simply non-negotiable, thus eliminating all the sick excuses, skipping actions and procrastination up front.
Exactly the same with running.
I have been running consistently for more than 12 years and have probably promised myself 1.000 times that from now on I will run every single day.
(Actually, the most surprising thing is probably that 2 out of 3 days I don't consider setting myself that goal).
I often ask myself why I have such a hard time accepting and embracing my own imperfect self? Why not just be happy about the many, long runs I actually get in, and then stop caring whether I log my running days continuously or not? I have long since stopped tracking my runs and measuring distance and speed, so why not just relax and stop chasing this idea of the perfect streak?
The simple answer is that the goal is not the perfect streak at all, but rather getting to the point where I don't even have to think about whether I should go for a run or not; where running every day has just become a habit, and I only have to wrestle with the practicalities: what time of day?—with or without shoes?—ungefähr what route?
If we give our own complacency a lifeline, we always manage to come up with countless good, inventive reasons to postpone the less comfortable actions—we know that only too well. We humans perform the most incredible skipping actions when it comes to avoiding or postponing something demanding, and that is exactly why daily repetition is so important. Only in this way can we rein in our inner resistance.
Sometimes the hammock is the right choice and of course there are limits to how many productive habits we can squeeze in during the 24 hours of the day; not least when you also need time to sleep, work and cultivate your family, your meals and your social life. On the other hand, there is also something to take away: A typical Western everyday life includes oceans of passive screen time; a resource that we can easily allocate to other and better purposes. The practice of incorporating new and better habits on a daily basis is far from impossible, but again; not necessarily easy either.
Although we may not reach the finish line either the first or the twentieth time, there is still every good reason to keep trying. For the same reason, I keep promising myself that from today on—
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