For those out of the loop – in 2016 I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. 2,189 miles. It took 205 days. Amazing adventure. Also extremely taxing physically.
I gave myself card blanche the first month home(December). Figured I’d earned it. I ate whatever I wanted. I stayed up as late as I wished and slept in way past noon. I also gave myself passes to skip my workouts because I figured I’d earned the rest.
With January I decided it was time to become a productive member of society again. However my mind and my body had a different opinion.
My body had gotten used to sleeping in. It had gotten used to skipping workouts when I felt tired. It had gotten used to eating sugar whenever the urge arose.
My mind had gotten used to giving in to every random impulse. It had gotten used to seeking short-term pleasure and disregarding long-term consequences.
a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder
I believe that by observing nature we can learn deep fundamental truths that apply to our own day-to-day lives. For example take gravity. What goes up must come down. That applies to human emotions and energy. A cup of coffee will give you a buzz now at the expense of a down-swing in energy later.
We can observe entropy at work in nature all around us. The natural tendency of anything is to degrade and break down. It seems that one of the purposes of life is to balance entropy. Life grows and brings order out of disorder.
We can apply this idea of entropy to our own lives in that if we are not growing(improving) we are experiencing entropy(decay). By giving myself card blanche to do whatever I liked was really giving myself an excuse to go into an entropy. I was giving myself permission to stop growing and to start decaying.
That’s exactly what I got. My life devolved extremely quickly to the point that I felt like I was 20 years old again – depressed, addicted to video games, and hopeless. I found it immensely difficult to start even the simplest of tasks.
strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events
Another law of nature. We see it in action everyday. Like entropy I think this law of nature applies just as much to our lives as it does to an 18 wheeler careening out of control on an icy highway.
I saw the law of momentum at work on my hike. Most hikers start out by hiking 6-8 miles a day and build up that number to 20+ miles per day. In the beginning it may take you two hours to leave camp in the morning – but as you get used to the daily routine of packing up you find it easier and easier to get started and move out.
On the trail towns were often called referred to as vortexes by hikers. It wasn’t uncommon to read a shelter log entry that read “I got stuck in the X town vortex for a week, I’m glad I finally escaped!” I remember getting stuck at the Yellow Deli in Rutland, Vermont for four days. The previous week I’d made big miles and was on track to be home before Thanksgiving. Then I came across the Yellow Deli and it completely killed my momentum. It was comfortable, my friends were there, it was cheap, and it was surrounded by all the luxuries I could want(a movie theater, cheap bars, and two grocery stores). I only planned to stay for a day but the inertia held me there for four!
I think the main reason I’ve had so much difficulty in getting back into productive habits is that I am violating the law of momentum. I keep allowing myself to have off-days. Days where I’ll skip workouts, eat junk, stay up late, and play too many video games simply because I’m feeling a little tired or am not in the mood to be productive. Without fail these days will snow-ball for two to three days until I get in another day with some exercise and a small amount of work.
What I’ve found is that if I can start my days with meditation and exercise the rest of the day flows well. So that’s my plan for the next 30 days. Meditate and exercise every morning. No off days. no excuses. If I’m tired I’ll workout with less intensity but I’ll still go. This, I think, will prove to be vital to build momentum and get back into a growth pattern.