Pretending I Already Have Better Habits

Recorded on April 6th, 2016

When I write about stuff here, it’s usually because I’m trying to remind later-me about something present-me just figured out. It isn’t because I’ve come down from the mountain to announce The One True Way (except when it comes to my method for logging the music I find daily, which everyone should adopt). So it’s funny for me to write about anything approaching the topic of good habits. I have the attention span of… someone with a short attention span, and it’s a constant struggle to keep doing the right things to make life nicer/easier.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a thing I do when I want to get better at some virtuous habit, but I feel too overwhelmed by a long streak of sucking at it to start. The virtuous habit could be keeping up with email, journaling, eating salad at lunch, going one day without pizza, etc. I’ll think, “Self, you are terrible at Habit X, but it’s ok, because today you’re going to pretend that Habit X is something that you’ve been great at for weeks. All you have to do is keep it up one more day. Act like this is a good habit you’ve already mastered.”

A surprising amount of the time, this is the mental trick I need to take one small step in the right direction. It can short-circuit the feelings of not knowing where to start, by revealing that the starting, or re-starting, or re-re-starting, is the important thing. And when you’re going through the physical motions of carrying out a good habit, it looks the same whether you’re doing it on Day 1 or Day 365. It doesn’t matter whether being good at it or pretending to be good at it is what got you moving.

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