Change is Like Sailing

Sailing seems so relaxing, if you’ve never done it. It looks like you just lean back, let the wind do the work, and enjoy the view, right?

Anyone who has actually done any sailing will laugh hysterically at that idea. Sailing is exhausting, outside your daydreams of nautical bliss. You have to be constantly on alert. “Am I about to hit the shore? Am I about to hit that other boat? Am I about to get hit in the head by the beam?”

(FYI: When the answer to that last question is “Yes,” you’re asking too late to avoid it. )

Changing your habits is hard because it’s like sailing. There’s no autopilot. You have to think so. darned. much. Where you used to just do things, now you have to think about doing it.

Let me ask you this: the last time you went on a diet, what did you miss more? A particular food you couldn’t have, or the convenience of not having to think about food before eating? The same thing goes with a new family budget. It’s never so much the stuff you aren’t buying that you miss. It’s the freedom to buy without thinking that sucks.

Whenever we move away from mindlessness and towards intention, there’s a cognitive cost. It increases the strain on our overtaxed little mental CPUs. You know another thing that taxes our mental CPUs and creates a cognitive burden? Too much media consumption. Those little distractions we fill our lives with take up a certain amount of mental RAM. When we make a major life change, the amount of processing power we need to get through our day increases dramatically.

I don’t know if I’ve ever noticed this before quite so specifically, but whenever I change jobs, or start a new diet and exercise program, or commit to writing daily, my social media activity drops dramatically. Chris noticed it this week: “You must be busy at the new job. I don’t see you online nearly as much as usual.” And yes, it’s been busy, but it’s more about my brain being at capacity than it is about the number of tasks on my to-do lists.

I’m probably unconsciously reacting to the reality that I don’t have the mental RAM capacity to handle ….

  • Onboarding in a challenging new job
  • Change my diet and exercise habits, and
  • Starting a long-form fiction project

… all while maintaining a constant presence online. It’s probably helpful that we’re in the summer hiatus, and I don’t watch a lot of television to start with, (Castle and ONCE excepted).

Lots of people make big changes this time of year. The start of a new school year often feels like a good time to try something new. Which is probably true. But between your current media consumption and Fall Premiere season jumping into full swing, you might want to consider scaling something back a bit, and conserving some cognitive juice for managing the change till it becomes automatic.  Sure, you might have to put off the resolution to that insane Grey’s Anatomy cliffhanger for a few weeks, but that’s a small price to pay if it means you achieve a significant goal.

After all, that’s why the Good Lord made DVRs.  😉

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