Just Tell Me

As I’ve mentioned before, over the past year, I’ve been testing out workout programming from a number of sources I respect, to see what good ideas and inspiration I can gather for Composite’s programming. After each stretch of trying someone else’s programming, I then spend a month or so doing programming I lay out for myself, incorporating what I’ve learned.

Looking back at my logs over the past year, a clear pattern emerges: when I’m following someone else’s programming, my compliance is very high, and I make it to the gym with great regularity; when I’m following my own, I start getting lax, taking days off, and routinely need ten or twelve days to cycle through what I’d laid out as workouts for a single week.

Given that I’m a compulsive self-tracker, that led me to look at other spheres of my life. And, indeed, when it comes to playing the trumpet, for example, I tend to practice more regularly and rigorously if I’m getting assignments from a teacher, rather than laying out (often very similar) sessions for myself.

In large part, I suspect the trumpet teacher effect is due to accountability: if I have to come back and play in front of someone, I don’t want to look like an idiot, so I’m more likely to get down to work. But, interestingly, that same effect holds even if the teacher is virtual, doesn’t know I exist.

When I first picked up the meditation habit, for example, I was using the great Headspace app. Over time, feeling more comfortable with things, I shifted to doing vipasana sessions on my own with a timer. And, there too, I found that my morning meditations were getting shorter, sometimes getting skipped entirely. So I went back to Headspace, and started following one of the app’s thirty-day cycles. Lo and behold, I was suddenly back to longer sessions, and hitting them almost every day.

I’m not sure entirely why that’s the case, though I do have a theory: when someone tells me what to do, I don’t have to think much about the reasoning behind what I’m told; I can simply assume that there’s method to the madness. So, when the time comes, my ‘doing self’ can just focus on the doing. Whereas when I’ve laid the work out for myself, I end up facing it as both my ‘doing self’ and my ‘assigning self.’ While the first is willing to get to it, the second can give me all kinds of reasons why I don’t need to, can rationalize a way out.

So, with that in mind, I’ve been giving new thought to other kinds of ‘bosses’ that might be useful in my life – business coach, relationship coach, financial advisor, etc. In the past, I’ve been dubious of the value that those people might provide, reasoning that I’d often be able to come to the same conclusions myself as they were likely to hand out. But now, I’m beginning to think that the value comes from that handing, rather than the conclusions themselves. I suspect there might be value in finding more people and places where I can have someone outside my own head just tell me what to do.

March 19, 2017