Ten years ago, I had a list of things that I believed if I just did them each day, would make me happier. It included clean my teeth, which was easy; have a tidy bedroom, which I haven’t discovered ticked in any of the tiny Hello Kitty notebook pages; and do my homework, this one normally came with exclamation marks stating that my attitude here really needed to change.
I must have known it then, but not really understood it. Habits are everything.
By which I mean, if you have good habits, happiness will undoubtedly come following. If you have bad habits, you’ll climb into a small box and sit there until you start doing something good again.
Habits are patterns so routine you do them because that’s what you do.
You don’t want a friend who was kind once, you want a friend who’s habitually kind. For whom kindness has gone from a series of small actions to the reason why you now trust them and will be there for them when they need you.
Again, I have created a list of things I must do each day. This happens whenever I find myself feeling a little lost and confused about what I’m supposed to be doing with myself and wallowing. Wallowing doesn’t make me a nice person to hang around with. It’s marked by an internalisation of all my thoughts. Everything I do and think is based on an abundance of feelings of inadequacy. The ‘wicked’ problem of being me saturates my mind.
Wicked problems are those like life, the universe and everything, where the answer, 42, does nothing to help, and isn’t really an answer at all. You can lose a lot of time tangled in such problems.
Anyway, out of this mud. Because whilst occasional wallowing is inevitable, there are ways of turning that internal mooch into creativity. I must assure the worry that whilst I’m listening, and I care, it’s got to share my attention with other people, paper and pens. I need a clear head so that I’m able to sit and listen to others without projecting my own frustrations.
A simple but important habit for me is to draw something every day. I must draw, because if I don’t draw, I don’t make any money. Drawing yesterday and today makes drawing tomorrow easier. This is partly because drawing is something that happens best without words passing through my mind. It’s instinctual, but it requires that little voice in my head to be sweetly dozing. It’s agitating to have my own voice narrate stories in which I am both protagonist and antagonist whilst I’m working.
In a way, drawing is like meditation. In both you feel better about the outcome if the voice is still, but you can’t silence the voice by force. Meditation doesn’t necessarily get easier, like drawing doesn’t get easier. But with practice and persistence you reap greater and greater rewards.
I need to be able to step from a place of negative, or numbed thinking, and into a serene productivity that’s outward looking as well as inwardly aware. My list is a set of habits I want to have that mirror my dreams. My focus now is not on the end goal. It’s to practice those habits that I know, in the long run, will get me to who I want to be.