When "Good Habits" Become Neurotic - Weekly Review
Updated: May 18, 2020
Three things about me: I’m obsessed with optimization, moderation is not my strong suit, and I want to get the most out of life. While I consider these traits positive on the surface, there is a shadow side that gets in the way of happiness.
I want to get the most out of life. If life didn’t come with an expiration date, I’d be able to dedicate as much time as I wanted to the multitude of interests I have. Since this is not the case, I find myself constantly weighing the opportunity cost of pursuing one interest over others. Currently this shows up as tension between (1) my desire to build a strong company (just this can cause me to be pulled in a multitude of directions), (2) my pursuit of self-realization through contemplative practices, and (3) my desire to be a good partner to my fiance. On top of these main competing priorities, I have ever-increasing reading lists, hobbies, and relationships to maintain.
Moderation is not my strong suit. This frequently interacts with my desire to get the most out of life -- I want to go deep in all of my pursuits. Surface level knowledge, understanding, and skill don’t excite me, expertise does. If I only wanted to pursue a few things in life, it wouldn’t be as difficult but I find everything fascinating which leads me to want to dedicate ever-increasing amounts of time to my ever-increasing list of interests. The fact that I can’t be an expert in everything doesn’t sit well with me (how’s that for some ego?).
I’m obsessed with optimization. Here comes the darkside of metacognition. I am constantly reevaluating systems at work, routines at home, and how I allocate time generally. There is rarely a time where I just “trust my gut” or “follow my intuition” and thus I constantly experience decision fatigue. As I gain new information and experiences, I attempt to integrate them into a broad framework for how the world works and I’m not satisfied until I’ve my framework reconciles the new inputs without exceptions. My desire to optimize life is what drives my neurotic tendencies.
This week I had a conversation with a therapist friend of mine that prompted me to reflect on my self-care habits: meditation, yoga, exercise, and nutrition. During our conversation, we arrived at the consensus that self-care helps regulate you -- it should leave you feeling calm and grounded. That’s when I realized that my own routines have gone a little off the rails. Instead of providing nourishment for my soul, my self-care has become a source of stress. Looking back over the past couple months of this blog, I realized that I feel the need to add to my accomplishments, read more, provide more interesting information, etc. This project started as a fun way to reflect on the past week, now it’s just another source of anxiety. So where am I going from here?
Instead of keeping track of how long I meditate, how much I read, etc., I’m going to try and trust my instincts and "go with the flow." I want to dedicate more time to the ideas I'm contemplating and the interesting things I've learned, not tracking whether I ran and practiced yoga.
How can I embrace curiosity over urgency? Feeling stressed and anxiously bouncing from one activity or meeting to the next is no way to live. I’m slowing down and asking myself if there is any reason to rush -- I’m the master at setting ambitious (and arbitrary) timelines, so I consistently stack the deck in favor of anxiety. As I gain confidence in my decision making, I imagine this tendency to treat each project as urgent will subside.
If I’m smart (questionable), work hard, and live with integrity, should I worry about anything? Probably not.
I listened to a podcast with the author, a former self-help junkie / venture capitalist, and thought, “this is who I want to be when I grow up.”
The week ended on strong notes, both personally and professionally. At work, I had a great conversation with my partner and our COO about my role and where I needed to allocate my time. Because we're in constant beta as an organization, I find myself taking on too many projects and neglecting some of my core responsibilities, such as marketing. They helped get me back on track and alleviated some of my anxiety around the projects I am managing. Personally, I had a great weekend filled with cooking, mountain biking, dog walking, and relaxation.