One of the things I find true the more I experiment with sleep, diets, and exercise is the importance of positive and negative trends with my willpower. If I stay up late with friends and have a few too many drinks I get worse sleep. After a night of bad sleep I’m significantly more likely to break my diet, skip exercising, or completely blow off my todo list and the things I wanted to accomplish that day.
Can you guess what happens after a day where I skip exercising, eat horribly and don’t finish anything I wanted to? I sleep worse and wake up the next day even more tired and lazy. I then look at my ever growing todo list and feel even less motivated to clear it all up. I call this a death spiral. This trend will continue until one of two things happen.
- Someone else nudges me towards better behavior. Suggesting I go for a hike with them, or we cook a healthy meal together.
- I notice the behavior, review my goals, realign todos, and course correct.
Number one is interesting because it shows how a positive trend can be initiated by an outside force. When I exercise I sleep better. If someone else prompts me to move I’ll sleep better that night. I’ll wake up the next day feeling energized and refreshed and I’ll want to accomplish more and feel that way again. So one solution that I’ve seen recommended towards improving yourself is surrounding yourself with people that represent your ideal you.
Number two is more interesting to me though because you can’t always rely on others to pick you up. When you start noticing these positive or negative trends in your life you can course correct yourself sooner. About six months ago I determined that bad sleep was the number one trigger for my death spirals. Now I try to wake up the same time everyday, if I’m tired I go to bed immediately, and I consciously make decisions to keep my sleep schedule intact such as avoiding caffeine after 1pm. Because I’ve realized a few bad days can start a negative trend for months I’m much more reluctant to skip days exercising or eat badly than I was in the past.
Overall becoming aware of these trends has helped me course correct much more quickly. Rather than free falling down a month long death spiral I stumble a little bit and go straight back to work. This has reduced the length of time I’m on a bad kick from 1-3 months down to 3-6 days.