Day 49: On the flip of the switch.

Writing earlier about how I became a person who flosses (riveting!), I recognized a familiar element: the lightbulb, the eureka, the click. The flip of the switch.

When I wrote about the flip of the switch before, I didn't think much of it, except, "Thank God that happened," and then went about my merry way.

A lot of changes have flooded through my life over the past few years, and I don't just mean moving cross-country. I became someone who flosses, who budgets, who doesn't own too many clothes, who gets rid of belongings, who doesn't cringe when eating the last piece of candy.

I recalled how those changes happened, and most of the stories involved repeated attempts, failures, learning, etc. until one day, with no input from yours truly, the switch flips and here we are. I did not think this was how "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again," looked. I assumed it was all sweating and struggling, but really it seems to be a lot of struggling and sweating that is unrelated to the success part.

There are books and books about habit formation, getting things done, etc. There is probably at least one free e-book on becoming a good flosser if you're willing to turn over your email to some entrepreneurial soul. I've read some of them and mostly at the end I thought, "Well, that sure does make sense" and resumed not making a whole lot of changes.

And to be fair, a few things help:

Hooking the new thing to something beside itself--either scheduling it with another habit, or bundling it with a whole BUNCH of reasons. Don't budget because you're supposed to--budget because it solves 10 problems in your life.

Believing I can actually become better than I was, which I always thought but did not always believe. You know? I didn't believe it because I spent a long time living to the standards of other people while failing my own--so I felt like a failure. So I failed at all the stuff I wanted to do. (It's weird that you need self-confidence to become a person who throws things away or budgets or cleans the house, but...)

Figuring out when I don't like something. I hate wrapping floss around my finger. Now I use a child's flossing device and could not be happier.

Being gentle on myself when I fail. The less I lose my mind over something, the better it goes. If I step back and say, "Well, you're trying and you'll get there", somehow I get much farther than the times when I spend several hours berating myself. WEIRD, right. How could being mean to myself possibly make life harder.

I'm sure there's more to it, but it seems like I basically have to be patient, and eventually we're good. Keep trying. It sucks until it doesn't suck. There's something reassuring about it. If I keep banging my head against a problem, eventually my brain will just acquiesce and say, "Sure, let's be a diligent flosser." I'll take it.


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