The Deliberate #4
The one about my Victorian Dad
This newsletter was originally sent to subscribers on February 4th, 2019. Subscribe to future issues at TheDeliberate.net.
I never said this newsletter would be weekly but part of me knows that I’m shooting for a more-or-less weekly schedule. I was hoping by never putting words to that intention I could slip by it without it noticing. It has been over one week since I sent the last installment of this newsletter and unfortunately that intention was far more attentive than I thought and now I’m sitting here feeling bad for not sending something sooner.
I’m not one of those romantic writers who seems to be powered by self-loathing and poor decisions. My self-loathing and poor decisions show up as deciding that the best use of my time is definitely trying out three new email apps or, in a bygone era, updating all the metadata on my MP3 collection. It definitely doesn’t drive good writing.
On the other hand, though, a met deadline is like a burst of positive energy. In what is probably going to be the least relatable metaphor ever, it’s like when you’re playing a racing video game (for some reason the early 2000s arcade version of Cruisin’ USA is stuck in my head) and you hit a checkpoint and the timer that was counting down to your failure resets. A wave of relief, a brief moment of thinking “I have SO MUCH time now,” and then the quick reversion into “Oh shit the time is running out.” (Hey, it makes sense to me.)
All that is to say that commitments to myself (which is really all deadlines are, right?) are important. Not in an objective life-or-death sense but in more of an energetic and emotional life-or-death sense. A met commitment is a burst of identity reaffirming energy and a missed commitment is a a new piece of ammunition for the inner critic who is all too happy to chime in about my shortcomings. We all need more of the former and much, much, less of the latter.
A little while ago I learned that these commitments that are either met or missed don’t even have to be OFFICIAL commitments where I’ve consciously said to myself, “Samuel, my boy, you’re going to run every day for a week!” (My inner voice who tells me to do good things sounds like a Victorian Dad.) It’s the UNOFFICIAL commitments, the little subconscious shoulds and coulds that seem to count just as much as the official ones. It’s the Quiet Little Voice that says, “I know I should journal everyday,” or, “I told myself I wanted to make sure I at least went for a walk everyday,” but never makes itself known enough to officially register as This Is a Thing I’m Doing Now that’s the real killer.
It makes sense to not want to disappoint Victorian Dad. He/we were so clear about what I was supposed to do! It was probably written on my whiteboard or on a post-it stuck to my computer for God’s sake! It makes a lot less sense to feel bad about disappointing the Quiet Little Voice but apparently the emotional repercussions are the same. (Turns out.)
I’ve gotten better at identifying that Quiet Little Voice and telling it to either speak up and make its expectations explicit or to shut up and stop trying to run my life (hence my relatively new Anchor Habits of RunWriteSitMove).
I thought I had a pretty good handle on it until I realized I was feeling bad for not writing a new issue of my explicitly non-weekly (but apparently implicitly weekly) newsletter and couldn’t think of anything to write about because I felt too bad about not writing to get outside of my own head to figure out a good topic to write about so I just wrote about paying attention to the little voice in my head that sets deadlines and commitments without me even realizing it and I threw all respect for run-on sentences out the window.
Also, I still don’t know if this thing is going to be weekly or not. I need to go have a chat with my Victorian Dad and Quiet Little Voice.
Figure out what expectations you have for your behavior that you’ve never actually captured and written down. Capture those bastards and interrogate them. Is this a good thing that you want to do for real? Then do it for real and celebrate when you’re successful and hold yourself accountable to failure! Is this an irrational thing that you don’t want to do? Tell your Quiet Little Voice to find something else to fixate on because it ain’t gonna happen. Rinse and repeat forever.
• No links today! Look how much I just wrote! You still want links after this?! I never promised links.
• I even included a new section called Hot Tip and you went ahead and kept reading to the second bullet while probably hoping for a link. Shame.
• Fine. One link. I liked this article about being a “bifurcator” a whole lot.