So after my last post, I decided to declare Wednesday evening (see, this is where having a buffer gets weird) a “Mental Health Night,” meaning that I didn’t go to fighter practice. After writing about the number of things I had to do and the relative lack of time to do them, I decided that my energy would be better spent cleaning up my office than hitting my friends with sticks.
This also got me thinking about the mad rush to productivity I often feel. For years, I have always been needing to do something, usually in the form of schoolwork. True, I took a few years off between college and grad school, but the majority of my life has been spent in some form of learning environment that required me to contribute personal time in order to progress. As such, I feel weird when I don’t have anything I need to do.
It almost feels like I’m spinning my wheels. Especially in grad school, when I found myself with downtime it was generally because I had forgotten to do something or was putting off what I had to do until later. So free time has largely always carried an undercurrent of guilt and apprehension with it. Sure, I could take the evening off, but it’s going to make the weekend that much more hellish. Deadlines don’t care about anything except getting met.
But things are different when you’re out of school and trying to lead an “adult” life. There is no outside motivator, no looming consequence of a bad grade. Things either get done, or they… don’t. What projects there are to do are generally ones you make for yourself, and thus you are completely in charge of assignment, completion, and critique. And apparently I don’t deal well with that.
You’d think, given my heavy martial arts background, that I’d be a bastion of self-discipline and drive, but I’m not. I don’t seem to be very good at follow-through, beyond the inevitable motivation of last minute panic. I just can’t get the discipline in place to just sit down and do something.
But maybe that’s not a bad thing. For someone with ADD, “sit down and do it” is a very loaded phrase. As in, one of the most insulting things one can say. Our brains don’t work that way, and I would do well to remember to not feel bad for basic ways my body and mind work. Easier said than done, of course.
I also need to remember that since there is no outside motivator, I shouldn’t feel bad cutting myself some slack every now and then. I make the rules, so why can’t I be okay with taking time off to play video games? And if I make the rules, I can just as easily change them.
But like I said, this is easier said than done. Internalized models are often the hardest to break, as their reinforcement methods are installed at the same time they are (otherwise they wouldn’t be internalized). It often takes a conscious effort to break them, and as we’ve seen, self-motivation can be dodgy. Either way, I’m going to try my best, even if that involves lowering my expectations and being happy with it.