Falling Off the Wagon, “To cease or fail at a regimen of self-improvement or reform; to lapse back into an old habit…”

Falling off the wagon isn’t fun. It isn’t satisfying to fail at a goal or revert to old ways. And falling comes with shame.

I’ve been trying to build a few challenging daily habits in my life. Daily writing is one of them. So far, I have written and published something every day for nearly four months. I’ll admit it – I feel good about that. But a day will come when I fail to write, and my “record” will come to an end.

What will I tell myself then? Hopefully I’ll look back at this post. In the midst of every loss is a potential victory, and it’s no different with habit-building.

If you’ve built your habits by holding yourself to a daily practice and keeping track of your days-in-a-row self-improvement, you might be missing something important about self-improvement. Self-improvement is not about records or numbers. It’s about, well, improving yourself.

Am I writing every day just for the arbitrary goal of maintaining a record? If so, I am a slave to the habit instead of its master. I’ve let record-keeping become the goal, instead of actual self and life-improvement. I might lash myself to the work and keep going, but my heart won’t be in it.

When that day comes that I let record-keeping become my main reason for writing, I kind of hope I fail.

When you fail after a long string of success in a habit, you learn your real choices. You can either abandon the habit, or you can take it up on its own merits for self-improvement, with no pats on the back or impressed onlookers.

When I fail to write one day, I will have to wake up the next and decide if writing is really worth it to me. I won’t have the promise of a growing record to tempt me. I’ll have only the facts. Will writing today make my life better? If I can answer yes to that, I will be unstoppable. I will try again – and again and again, for as many times as I break my record and fall off a wagon.

And I’ll have learned how to get back on the wagon and start over from defeat – surely the hardest habit to build.

Thanks for reading! Want more? Get my best new essays delivered to your door (well, email inbox) in one nice, tidy package twice monthly.

 

Leave a Reply