Patience and Permanence
“No matter how many times I’ve cut my hair, even if it looks good for a while, I end up with messy hair again! Maybe haircuts aren’t going to help me.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? How about these:
“No matter how many times I’ve meditated, even if my mental state improves for a little while, I just end up anxious again! Maybe meditation isn’t going to help me.”
“No matter how many times I’ve exercised, even if I am stronger and healthier for a little while, I just end up losing my progress. Maybe exercise isn’t going to help me.”
Still sounds ridiculous? They use the same logic, the key difference is expectations.
With a haircut, I don’t expect permanent results, and I have realistic expectations for how often I have to go. That’s why I don’t get feelings of frustration or hopelessness when I look in the mirror a month later and see the results of my last haircut have faded. There’s no inner struggle. I don’t wonder if I’m doing something wrong, or if I’m somehow incapable of keeping neat hair.
But with something like exercise, I might think:
“Look at all these times in my life that I started a fitness routine. Often times it was going well. I got stronger and felt/looked better. But then I got sick/injured/traveled and lost everything I gained. I could start again, but I’ll get interrupted just like before, so what’s the point. Maybe later, when things are more certain.”
Ridiculous expectations leads to demoralization
So with something simple and mundane like a haircut, I have patience and realistic expectations for myself. But with something a bit more complicated but far more important, like exercise, it all goes haywire.
On an intellectual level, of course I understand that exercise takes time to show results, and that if I do it it’s a biological certainty that I will reap its benefits.
But on an emotional level, I am demoralized when progress is slow, or when I revert back after stopping the exercise.
Isn’t that reaction just ridiculous? It’s as if I actually expect a few weeks or months of exercise to deliver quick results that last forever. Where did I get that crazy idea from?
What happens if I fix these broken expectations?
If I replace impatience with patience, then I’ll give processes the time they need to play out in full. Worthwhile things usually take time, or have a delay between cause/effect, and setting realistic expectations lets me stick it out long enough to see the fruits of my efforts.
If I replace the expectation of permanence with the expectation of transience, then I will have a more accurate view of the world, since permanence is rare in life, and never guaranteed. I’ll be less afraid of starting uncertain things, which means I will end up doing a whole lot more; being more proactive. Sure I’ll have more false starts too, but it would be worth it.
Now, I’ll just have to remind myself regularly to fix these expectations, and be patient with that transition.