Something I’m learning is that whatever I do, even once, trains myself to do that.
When I hit the snooze button the first time, I’m training myself to not get up when the alarm goes off. When I buy a large Coke and guzzle it down in the car, I’m training myself to drink junk.
Now, I’ve known for a while how important the first step can be in moving toward positive skills or completing tasks. The first step, taking that first step, is often the hardest hurdle to clear. From there, all other things equal, the process becomes easier and easier.
If I want to write, for instance, starting is the hard part. Starting enough times, though, makes it easier to start next time. That’s why it’s fairly easy for me now to write on Marshallogue, even though I was scared of it when I first began publishing online. This side of the equation – the positive (good) side – I’ve known (even if I don’t always remember it or follow through with it all the time).
The side I’m just now learning is the negative side. I’m just now learning how important it is to avoid doing the negative things even once, like hitting the snooze button or buying that Coke or whatever. In the past, I guess I’d assumed that as long as my primary habits stayed positive, the one off slips – hitting the snooze once, buying the Coke – wouldn’t matter so much. In reality, though, the one off slips train me, each time, to do those things.
Every action reinforces that action for later. Every action trains me to repeat it. So next time, it’s a little harder not to do it again.
Well, Meagan’s finally pushed me over the edge. I’m going to start my reading lists again. Hers reminded me how fun they can be.
I used to enjoy making a list of books to read and then following up with the books I’ve read. It got pretty long too. Both lists did. It helped to be able to look at the kinds of books I’d read and remember what I’d gotten from each of them. It helped to know what I would read next too, a never-ending flow of reading material.
The problem was that I ended up reading just to get books on my “have read” list. And I was reading books I might not care about otherwise, just because I thought I was supposed to read them. I’m hoping that abandoning the reading lists for a few years has helped me read more purposely and become aware of my tendencies to read for the sake of the lists alone instead of for the stories and information.
I’ve set up a dedicated page for the reading lists. At the top, you’ll see a list of books I’d like to read or am curious about (I reserve the right to quit any book no matter how much I’m invested in it already). Underneath that list, you’ll see (coming soon) the list of books I’ve read.
I’m not going back in time to recall the books I’ve read in the past. I’m starting as of my birthday this week, May 6, 2014. The “have read” list will include all the books over, say, 50 pages or so that I’ve finished after that date.
The lists are more for my own benefit than anything else. If you’re curious about the types of books I enjoy, though, or want to see where I’ve been, the lists might be something you’ll want to check out. Happy reading!
Zach, who’s eight years old now, is a strong reader. We’re sitting at the table, and he’s reading to himself.
“Why don’t you read out loud?” I said.
He didn’t answer.
“What happens when you get to a word you don’t know?”
He finished his paragraph in his head and then answered. “Then I’ll ask you.”
He hadn’t asked me for any help yet. He’s a strong reader but not that strong.
“What happens when you get to a word you don’t know, but you don’t know that you don’t know it?”
I don’t think he processed that. He kept reading on his own.
But that’s the trouble with going it alone. He won’t know when he doesn’t know, won’t know when he mispronounces a word in his head. Isn’t that usually the trouble for any of us, not knowing when we don’t know, not knowing when we’re mispronouncing the world in our head?
Read “No one knows what they’re doing” (but watch the language) for more on this.