Gone Focusing: Day 20*

Day 20 of 40 abstaining from Facebook.

In which your host recognizes why he majored in arts, not mathematics; muses on the nexus between discipline and faith; then ponders what matters.

Day 20 gets an asterisk, as I somehow missed 18 and 19.  No matter how bad I was at math, even I can answer this story problem: If your first post, and first day off of FB, was on January 2nd, what number post must you be making on January 21?

Clearly “20.”  How the hell did I lose days 18 & 19? I expected blackouts early on, during the “shakes” and “tweaking” phases, not 3 weeks in to successful recovery!

But is it successful? Yes, I’ve been writing and reading more, both of which are priorities in my writing life. But I’ve also been reading WaPo, playing more online Scrabble, and opening Twitter much more frequently.

I am not where I want to be, and moving there requires establishing a belief and acting on it with discipline. I fear I have not improved discipline, yet, in this Facebook fast.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

— Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

Yes, Max, I hear you, but substituting one distraction for another is not a good sign. Succumbing to distractions that I KNOW are distractions does not move me closer to where I want to be.

There is no substitute for discipline. Discipline is the act of adopting a belief and continuing to act as if it is true, even when the evidence is not immediately available. Write everyday. Workout. Put money away for retirement.  Discipline is the humanistic analog to “faith.”  Sticking with an action, in the belief that it will take you where you want to be.  Discipline does not guarantee success. It enhances probabilities, though.

How do I distinguish good habits from distractions?  Passionate initiative from addiction? I must ask if the activity is getting me where I want to be. That requires goal setting, and prognostication: not only about what I “should” be doing to reach the goal, but prediction that the goal is right — that the “there” there is worthy.  Will I still “want” to be there when I arrive?

What matters? 

The things that matter are not ends, results. Results happen as a consequence of doing the things that matter with discipline. Or not. An athlete cannot control his opponent, and games will be lost, but with diligent preparation the chances of winning are higher.

I cannot throw out intention completely, or persistence, or simply acting to attempt to achieve whatever goal I aspire to.  I also can’t focus on one activity to the exclusion of all others, lest I risk losing the others.


“One thing!”

  1. I need to focus on what matters.
  2. More than one thing can truly matter. (Not according to Curly!)
  3. If I want to do what I want to do, I had better work hard to improve at doing well the things that I decide matter.


What matters to me?

  1. Doing what it takes to meet my family obligations.
    1. I like my wife and kids; I’d like to stay in their good graces.
  2. Writing better — through disciplined, regular practice, reading, and collaboration.
    1. Finish the book, as well as I possibly can.  Keep running!
    2. Working harder to learn (and do) the things that lead to publication. (New industry training/research, essentially.)
  3. Staying healthy; exercise.

I might need to shuffle — or, god-forbid —multi-task, but this has got to be my list. I need to assess every action, including blogging, against that list. (Conveniently, blogging fits under items 2 and 3:  blogging improves writing, and according to many publishing sites, maintaining an audience “platform,”  in the form of a blog or social media, contributes to a publisher’s willingness to take risk that you have a potentially profitable reach.)

I don’t see “Access social media every time you feel bored, distracted, or anxious that you’re not getting where you need to be” anywhere on that list.

Showing up here and staying off Facebook for 40 days (and beyond?) is.





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