The Chain Method
The Daily Stoic for May 16th, “The Chain Method”.
“If you don’t wish to be a hot-head, don’t feed your habit. Try as a first step to remain calm and count the days you haven’t been angry. I used to be angry every day, now every other day, then every third or fourth . . . if you make it as far as 30 days, thank God! For habit is first weakened and then obliterated. When you can say ‘I didn’t lose my temper today, or the next day, or for three or four months, but kept my cool under provocation,’ you will know you are in better health.”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.18.11b–14
I was not sure how to start writing this post, but here it is: I think most self-help stuff -especially the one related with habits- is bullshit.
There are a plethora of self-help books asking you to build habits by doing X, Y, and Z and keeping a calendar or pillow-book to monitor your progress. I’ve always found that kind of stuff disgusting. We, human beings, are not like that.
Maybe, being from the south of Spain, I have a strong cultural bias. The idea of keeping a calendar to monitor my progress in anything seems too robotic to me.
The Chain Method… Or Just Chains?
I think there’s nothing wrong with being constant and keeping after your goals. However, in my opinion, there are very few things in life that deserve that kind of tracking. I don’t even think that’s stoic at all.
As an example, I’ve been lifting weights at different gyms for 15 years now. In the beginning, I used to check my weight, the reps, diet… And -yes!- keep a calendar with all that info. But soon I realized that my goal was not having a perfect body or making a living as a professional bodybuilder.
I just wanted to do some exercise, be healthier and be happier with my body.
Now, when I see a young boy at the gym carefully writing down every rep achieved for every exercise… I can’t help but smile. I actually think it’s a brave effort, and that boy deserves all my respect… But that’s not something I can do. I consider myself a -somewhat- organized person, but I want a simpler, more natural life.
However, that’s just a personal opinion, and I suspect that’s heavily influenced by my education, cultural heritage, and background. Yours may be different, so glad to hear your opinion!
Today’s Daily Stoic, “The Chain Method”, asks us to try to avoid bad habits by applying the typical chain method: Writing our progress down or keeping a calendar to track the days we’ve managed to eliminate negative habits. My opinion? I am a human, not a robot, and I want to remain so. Chains are not for me.