At ease, coder!

by Leon Stafford

Dec 4, 2020

This is the mysterious moment. The end of a productive day. I should feel elated at the deluge de jour after such a dry season. But, I know better. I’ve had good days in the past. Sometimes continuing for months. Recently though, my productive moments are but exciting palpitations between long flat lines on the machine that goes ping.

What led to this fruitful day of coding, exercise and general GSDiness?

We may look for answers in the alternative state of depression, where consecutive failures of any size can snowball into the learned helplessness feeling that regardless of what we try, we won’t succeed. I haven’t been consciously feeling that self-pity in my unproductive days, preferring just as uselessly to stare into space or sit and relax. But, the result is the same, I don’t choose to do anything towards bettering my situation, merely enough to survive. Making it to the end of a day like that results in some ease - that I can sleep safely is a great comfort. But each waking day like that triggers some more fight or flight in order to survive just a little more.

Today was different. I don’t think it was a sudden change today, but as with the learned helplessness snowballing, some small positive changes of behaviour these last few days seem to have culminated in this day of confident productivity. Thanks to this, I can be much more at ease as I reach the end of the day.

For much of the last year, I’d used the simple measuring stick of whether I’d been productively coding or not to determine my happiness. Missing days, then weeks and months of productivity made me feel broken and searching for answers. Often, we blame the environment, our working conditions, tools or anything but our conscious choices for our lack of action. Had I not been in such a funk when I started to read, then gave up on James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I may have persisted enough to see the change I’ve benefited from today and not lost all those months between then and now!

It’s not that I’m in a better environment, surrounded by better people or armed with amazing gadgetry. What helped me to have a great, productive day today, were simple actions. Actions which weren’t easy:

That’s really been the only difference this week, but which has led to the first day in a long time that I’m proud to have made progress.

How will tomorrow and the coming days, weeks and months be? We’ll see. I’ll no longer be hanging my emotions on whether I spontaneously break out a keyboard and code, but hopefully aim to consistently choose those harder actions towards where I want to be.

And, I’ll finish the Atomic Habits book! There’s a self-reliant stubbornness, that instinctively rebels against any self-improvement titles, but rebelling by mentally self-harming doesn’t sound like anything to be proud of.

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