Sunday, August 2, 2009

Are you a better person today than you were yesterday?

Decay happens gradually.

I hit 200lbs a few months ago, but I got there an ounce (or less) at a time.

My wife and I had at one point almost stopped talking to each other despite our love for one another.

I barely remember how to calculate an integral. (ok, sorry, I admit it, I don’t remember at all despite 2.5 yrs of Calculus – it was something easy though, I’ll have to look it up)

It seems obvious that without deliberate care and feeding our Body, Soul, and Mind decay.

Body - An artery can close from tiny bits of plaque accumulating over-time.
Soul - A heart hardens gradually as real or perceived slights, disappointments, broken promises mount up over-time.
Mind - what was I writing about?

I think we all recognize this on a intellectual level but following through day in and day out can be tough. If it isn't tough for you (and I know there are some of you mutants out there) then this is probably all part of your daily regimen already. If that's the case, I'm happy for you - really! (Now leave).

Here’s what I’m going to do:

I’m going to setup a simple spreadsheet here:

Within this spreadsheet I’m going to keep a simple log of whether or not I’ve done something that day that improves my Body, Soul or Mind. The rules will be fairly simple, each day that I do something that benefits Body, Soul or Mind I give myself a point for that day. Examples might include:

Body: Working out, Eating less, Deferring dessert, etc…
Soul: Praying, Doing something positive for relationships, Volunteering etc…
Mind: Reading a book, Practicing a new skill, Learning a new skill, etc…

Here’s my thinking behind this:

Building the inertia to keep things going is hard (e.g. that first workout after not having done any exercise in 3 months). It’s easy to get discouraged and it’s easy to give yourself excuses (“I woke up too late”, “No time”, “American Idol is on” etc…)

In order to build that inertia it seems to make sense to apply concepts that are effective in the workplace to myself. They are:

Accountability: A daily log is important. Lapses happen. The intent is to make sure that a single lapse doesn’t gain inertia in the wrong direction and quickly become two lapses, then three, then four, etc…There is relatively little value in me cheating (that would be a little sad frankly), so the point here is to provide some history to my progress.

Transparency: It really doesn’t matter a whit if no one ever looks at the log that I post. The important thing is that its out there with a clear goal, metrics, and a history so that if anyone ever does want to hold me accountable they can at any time.

Goal-orientation: My goal 100 points. Weight goals are tough (Lose 5 lbs in 2 weeks!) in that our individual bodies react so differently and the actual day-to-day progress is so difficult to perceive. My point system seems pretty straightforward and simple and gives the person (in this case me) constant positive feedback that I am getting closer and closer to my goal (as arbitrary as that goal may be). Regardless of how long it takes, I’m reasonably assured that at the end of 100 points I’ll at least be a better person at the end than when I started.

The pastor of my church mentioned today how, “some people age like fine wine and others age like milk.” I probably don’t need to explain this as the analogy seems pretty clear – as folks get older some get wiser, more caring, and more open, whereas others become more entrenched, close-minded, and mean-spirited. I doubt anyone ever expects or plans on becoming the crotchety old man (or woman), the unhealthy guy, or the could-be-smarter guy, but I can certainly see how it happens. I’ve certainly seen how it can happen to me. This is my plan for trying to age a little bit more like wine and a little bit less like milk.

What do you think?