James Clear wrote the book Atomic Habits, and writes a weekly email that aims to be “The most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web.” Each week he asks a question, and I find many of them interesting. Here are my answers.
How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing? [2019-08-08]
While in the past I have struggled with putting things off (procrastination), more recently I have hesitated less. In doing so, I am moving outside my comfort zone to be closer to the limit of what I am “capable of doing”.
Where I fall short of that limit, it is due to balancing multiple projects (helping ONI grow, my personal writing, my fitness) rather than choosing to “continue what I am comfortable doing”. I note that as I grow, what once was at the limits of capability becomes more comfortable, and I need to be vigilant at stretching out towards the edge of my ability. (Edited 2020-08-16)
What are the most likely sources of pain in my life over the next year? How can I prepare for or prevent them? [2019-08-15]
Failing to achieve ONI’s mission.
Failing to be honest, ethical, just.
Failing to live up to my own values.
Not taking care of myself, causing myself to become physically or mentally injured or ill.
Failing to speak up or act when I should have.
Can my current habits carry me to my desired future? [2019-08-22]
Generally, yes. There is optimisation to be made, but I am maintaining my physical and mental health. I am supporting my friends, and accepting their help when I need it. I am learning, and training, and reflecting, and meditating. I could do all of these things more, and better, but in general my habits are good.
What should you do more of this decade? What should you do less of? [2019-08-29]
More: Early morning exercise, mixture of strength and endurance, eating clean, sleeping, loving, laughing, building, giving thanks.
Less: Consuming junk (food, media).
Look at each item on your to-do list and ask, “Is this truly necessary?” [2019-09-05]
No, many things are not “Truly Necessary.”
Do you really need to think more, or is it simply a matter of doing the work? [2019-09-12]
It is (usually) simply a matter of doing the work. (Answered 2020-08-16)
The people who have already walked through the fire can help you do the same. Who are you surrounding yourself with? [2019-09-19]
Incredibly talented people at ONI, my inspiring friends from around the world (mostly met through school and university). All good people who I feel lucky to be surrounded by. (Answered 2020-08-16)
How are you collaborating in your defeat? How are you contributing to your own struggle? [2019-09-26]
Putting off tasks which I can action quickly. Avoiding uncomfortable truths. Saying yes to too many things, rather than focusing on fewer things. Reading and watching trivial entertainment rather than learning from others’ experience. (Answered 2020-08-16)
How would the person I wish to be act today? [2019-10-03]
More or less how I acted today (speaking with people who are important to me, running, cooking quality food). Today was a good day. (Answered 2020-08-16)
What can you remove from your life that would improve it? [2019-10-10]
My insecurities, my need to feel liked by my peers, my distractions. More trivially: the fungal spores that spawn mould in my bathroom. (Answered 2020-08-16)
Are things truly not going well … or do I just need some food, water, and a short break? [2019-10-17]
This is a more trivial question than many others in this list. Truly, things are going well. (Answered 2020-08-16)
How can I prepare carefully, but execute quickly? [2019-10-24]
Difficult question to answer in general. Have effective frameworks and systems for analysing and problem solving. Take care of one’s physical and mental health. Look for the fundamental principles, the atomic units of an experience, that can be applied or extrapolated. Have a clear guiding principle, and follow it. (Answered 2020-08-16)
Am I happy with the tradeoffs I am making in my life right now? [2019-10-31]
I’m reflecting on this recently. “Right now” – yes, but what is optimal in 1, 5, or 10 years? Less clear. (Answered 2020-08-16)
What is the biggest opportunity I could pursue in the next 5 minutes? [2019-11-07]
Considering these questions, reflecting, and taking action to improve. More generally, detaching, changing my perspective, appreciating what is around me and where I am, and expressing gratitude to those who help me. (Answered 2020-08-16)
If you were forced to work for just one hour per day, what would you work on during that hour to be most effective? [2019-11-14]
I interpret this question as “What is your most valuable and unique contribution to your field of work”. What comes to mind now is nudging people over their activation energy for positive tasks. Finding chain reactions that I can start that lead to good outcomes. (Answered 2020-08-16)
What is the most neglected important area in my life right now? [2019-11-21]
Perhaps spirituality, though I am reasonably comfortable neglecting it. Perhaps romantic relationships, though I hope I am not being neglectful. Earlier this year it would be maintaining friendships, but I am neglecting that far less recently. (Answered 2020-08-16)
Are your obligations real or imagined? [2019-11-28]
Clearly some are real and others are “imagined”. I have a real obligation to fulfil my promises, pay my debts, support those who support me. I have imaginary obligations to my future self, to live a healthy life, to gain skills and experience. Writing here is an “imaginary” obligation, but it is a habit I cultivate happily nevertheless.