Self-judgment has played a protagonistic role in my life. The resulting force; high expectations for myself and those around me. While far from healthy, this flaw comes with an innate hunger for a deeper understanding of the world. Only satiable through routine engagements with personal growth.
Habits constitute the foundational structure required in actualising our highest expression of self. Their integration is a complex task, but mastering the art pays bountifully. A single habit can sway the odds of life in your favour. An all-powerful mediator, between a life worth living and overwhelming suffering.
From attempts at personal habit development, I have seen many patterns emerge. Through these patterns, I have been able to extrapolate a very simple, yet effective, philosophy for habit development – Extreme gradualism.
My most recurrent pattern was a glaringly obvious failure to grasp a true perspective of how much longer I have to live. My initial approaches reflected a notion that I had one or two years left in my life. I would identify all the habits I needed to establish to construct my ‘ideal self’. Then develop a rigorous routine incorporating them all. This routine was sustainable for a month at best, but time and time again I would relapse in a de-generative fashion.
I tried to make this large shift multiple times, promising myself I would be more disciplined. Some attempts, reflected 2 steps forward 1 step back, while others 1 step forward 3 steps back.
Finally, I came to my senses. I needed to approach change from a different angle. I decided to not only adopt habits one at a time, but also break each habit down into micro progressions. From this, extreme gradualism was born. Rather than trying to sit for a 1-hour meditation each day, I began with 10 minutes on alternating days. The only habits I practice religiously, have been established in this manner.
While this may seem daftly intuitive, its difficulty is abstract. It does not lie in the consistent execution. It arises from the ego. The ego is impatient, it lacks the vision to appreciate that we have decades ahead of us. Its primary function is self-preservation. This creates a certain blindness to the future and the importance of delayed gratification.
While meandering the path of micro-growth, a constant voice in your mind will shame you for moving so slow. Telling a convincing tale of a routine that will get you to your goal in 1/10 of the time. I know this because I have succumbed to this story one too many times. My ego would convince me that the expectations I have set for myself are too low. Then I would proceed to implement more rigorous standards. Soon after, the practice would collapse altogether.
The idea of a real habit is to establish it for life. This is the lens you should set your expectations from, not the lens of the ego. If we could truly perceive how much time lay ahead, we would formulate more effective strategies. From this understanding, my new ideal has been born. I aim to lead a life that does not peak at its halfway mark. Instead, I intend to follow the slope of slow growth. Hitting my peak on my last day on earth. This path isn’t for everyone. Only those intent of the expansion of consciousness and self-actualisation. This is the path of wholesome wisdom. Which like a fine wine, develops with age.