Earlier this week I wrote about possible difficulties with a 'cause and effect' approach to experiences of 'failure'. Today I want to offer a different idea:
Values and Practices
I'll go back to my story of 'failure'- when I lost my record of 168 days of writing in a row.
At first I lectured myself about 'consistency' and 'focus'- and that was quite unpleasant.
So then I thought about my purpose in pursuing the goal...
Was it just about the Pteradactyl badge? (the answer to that is: Yes! partly... I really, really like that badge... and just so you know- that's for 200 days of writing in a row!)
But were there other values at stake? What was I actually trying to do?
I decided that 168 days in a row had demonstrated to me that I could, indeed, form a habit and stick to it. So, although my initial purpose may have been about developing a habit, something about that wasn't enough.
Was it about the content of the writing itself? No, not really. A lot of what I was writing was pretty useless rambling, just to meet the goal of the three pages. (Things like: "I'm really tired, and just want to go to bed; this is stupid why am I doing it...)
And this got me thinking- if the content isn't useful to me what is the point of the habit?
In the end, I came to a different intention with 750words.com.
It needed to be less about the badges, and more about the content.
Although I still use it to ramble and complain at times, I more often use it to:
- develop ideas for teaching and training
- draft blog posts
- generate plans for the year and to
- reflect on my work with people
- practice gratitude
Now, these things seem useful.
And I still don't have my Pteradactl Badge.
I decided not to write in December- life was busy, and I had other priorities. I paid attention to what it was like to not have this habit, though.
And it made a difference. I really noticed that my worries about upcoming projects increased!
So I decided to go back to it, in January. (I'm on an unbroken streak at the moment.)
But this time, I am more purposeful. The value of the habit is connected to keeping my mind clear, generating ideas, building skills. The practice isn't about developing a habit anymore- it's about what the habit is developing in me.
And this continues to contribute to my growing identity as 'a person who writes'...
So, how does this relate to 'self-esteem'?
A focus on values means I am less vulnerable to stories of 'failure'.
This is because I am 'practicing' a value. "Practice" is a verb; it is a thing we 'do', not a thing we 'are'.
When we talk about 'practices' related to what we value, we are making space for the idea of 'becoming'. This, in turn, means that 'self-esteem' is something in continual flux, a state of being that ebbs and flows in connection with what we 'do', rather than what we 'are'...
When we review actions relative to our own purposes and values, we make room for change that is energized, hopeful, and generative. We make room for the possibility of 'practice'.