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Writing the Middle
A Promise to Yourself
Quite frankly, it’s a fucking joke — laughable even — the amount of times I’ve set some big, grandiose goal at the header of my journal entry.
“I’m gonna learn Italian in 2 weeks.”
“Gonna learn how to shoot a bow & arrow whilst bareback horse-riding a horse across the Mongolian steppe this trip.”
“Learn the secret to eternal happiness by reading a couple of self-help books.”
All quite specific. All pretty nice sounding. But all a little bit embarrassing when you look back on that list of broken promises strewn across each year.
(This usually manifests itself in a big way on January 1st as we — feeling sorry from ourself whilst nursing a hangover — decide that today is the day we are gonna change).
It’s like a fucking soap opera.
Our dreams walking out the door one more time as we lie there on the floor — sobbing — saying, “I promise I’ll change. I promise this time it’ll be different.”
And the problem is that dreaming is easy. Taking steps to make that dream happen, on the other hand, is not.
We are masters at writing the start, but are hopelessly lost when it comes to writing the middle.
Because the middle is the work. It’s the hard part. It’s the repetition. The persistence. The patience.
It’s the relentless pursuit of that dream every time we drag ourselves out of bed in the morning.
It’s the getting up & doing the work even when we don’t really feel like it.
When we feel the opposite of feeling like it.
And so, there we find ourselves, every January 1st (and a few other occasions scattered throughout our year), enacting Episode 27 in our sorry, sad personal soap operas, as we are left wandering why nothing ever seems to change.
But a few times — a few rare, fleeting times — it seems to happen.
I find myself in the middle, persisting. In the middle, progressing.
And it all comes from habit.
Forgot About Goals
To cement whatever I am hoping to achieve so strongly in my day-to-day that it would take a big old crowbar to dig it out.
Waking up early. Cold showers. Meditation. Journaling. All of the elements that make up a productive, fulfilling day for me. All of them have stuck only because of my relentless pursuit of habitualisation.
They become the middle.
A continuous, relentless stream of micro-changes that drag us over the finish line to whatever goal we set ourselves at the outset.
And yet, ironically, it is exactly these habits we worked so hard to build that, after a while, we don’t even notice them.
“Why did I start journaling for again? To find greater calm & clarity each day? Did I set something a little more specific? Sounds pretty vague to me…” And, even more ironically, as you start moving towards your goal, most of the time it becomes completely fucking irrelevant.””
You meditate daily to feel calm.
You journal daily to clarify your thoughts & to priortise.
You wake up early to work on that passion project.
What you do not do is wake up saying, “I’m going to be the calmer, most clear-headed person in the world.”
Because you start to realise, all those goals? They are the reason you’re set up for failure. They are the reason you shoot so high and fall so low. They are the barrier getting in your way.
So focus on process. Focus on starting one small thing tomorrow. Repeat it daily. Nurture it. Let it grow over time. And don’t wake up on January 1st promising yourself the world.
Just start running. Don’t worry about reaching a summit.