Am I Going to Wait for the Death Sentence?
I've started reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I'm only a few pages in, but I can tell this will probably be one of the most empowering and applicable books I will ever read.
Here's a paragraph from the first few pages that reminded me of something I've been doing lately:
"Have you heard this story: Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of writing Tex-Mex songs she gave up to raise a family (or starts studying classical Greek, or moves to the inner city and devotes herself to tending babies with AIDS). Woman's friends think she's crazy; she herself has never been happier. There's a postscript. Woman's cancer goes into remission.
Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we wake up to its existence?"
What did this remind me of? It reminded me of why I've started lifelogging. Another term for life-logging is the Quantified Self. Basically, it's the practice of tracking lots of different data points about your life and then using those data points to learn and grow.
I've been researching the Quantified Self movement quite a bit recently, and one thing I've noticed are the common themes undergirding the anecdotes of people within this movement. Almost all of them started life-logging and quantifying themselves after some sort of health scare.
Similar to the story Pressfield invokes, the stories of the Quantified Self-ers is one of a wake-up call. Something bad happened that put them face to face with the fact that they might not have much time left. And so, they began trying to live better. Many did so in the pursuit of trying to live longer.
I'm only 23, and there wasn't really a major health scare that pushed me to become interested in the Quantified Self. However, there were some major life changes that happened over the past year that caused me to reassess my life. I see now that I have a wonderful opportunity to start tracking areas of my life and learning from them at a relatively young age.
Am I going to wait for the death sentence?
Or, as Pressfield encourages his readers, am I going to start fighting my inner Resistance here and now when it can have the most impact?
I've always been somewhat of a lifelogger. Back in high school, I challenged myself to track how I spent all of my time for an entire week. At the end of the week, I put together visualizations of the data I had collected and posted it to my blog. It helped me become more aware of how I was using my time. It helped me change some things.
I've also been fairly good at tracking my finances over the years. When I was in college, I kept a very detailed spreadsheet of everything I spent money on. Doing this gave me awareness and helped me to use my money more wisely.
Most of us are life-loggers on some level. Many Americans track their weight on a regular basis. Most of us are at least somewhat aware of the flow of our finances. Also, the rise in wearable technology has allowed millions of people to get detailed data about their health and exercise.
Back in November of 2016, I took the plunge and invested some money in an Apple Watch. I knew from my past experiences with life-logging that data about my life had a unique power to raise my awareness and spur me on to growth and development. So, investing several hundred dollars into a wearable device seemed worthwhile to me if it could have long term effects on my well-being.
I'm a little over two months into this "experiment", and I've been adding more and more data collection tools to my arsenal. Not only am I tracking my fitness and exercise, but I'm also tracking other things like mental health, emotions, meditation, hygiene, screen time, hobbies, food, water, etc.
Sure, it takes a little bit of time each day to keep these records, but with the help of technology, it's not that time-consuming. Much of it happens automatically thanks to the Apple Watch. And, with the help of several apps, I'm able to track non-automatic things quickly and efficiently.
As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I believe awareness is one of the most powerful forces in our lives.
All of us have built up routines, assumptions, and biases that we are completely unaware of. These unseen forces dictate a huge portion of our lives and we aren't even conscious of it. In many ways, we are slaves.
The practice of awareness allows us to slowly break free of our chains. Awareness doesn't automatically change our lives of course, but it wakes us up when we've been in deep sleep. It gives us the opportunity (and often the motivation) to take action. After all, it's impossible to take action when you're asleep, so the first step is awareness.
The first step is to become aware of the fact you were asleep in the first place.
And so, the practice of lifelogging is helping me become more aware. It has also encouraged and motivated me to make many changes in my life. It's worth noting that these changes have come from simply logging data. I haven't really even started analyzing and comparing the data that I'm collecting. I will start doing that soon, and I'm hopeful that it might help me spot patterns (both good and bad) in how I live.
For now, even the regular practice of logging the data forces me to see it and be aware of it.
Perhaps I'll share some of my data and visualizations as I keep going with this experiment. If it'll help or encourage others to become more aware of things in their lives, that'll be enough reason for me to spend the time sharing.
After all, other people have helped raise my awareness thanks to their willingness to share and be transparent. I probably should continue that practice.
Pass it along, you know?
If you have any questions about my practice of lifelogging, leave me a comment and I'll write some future posts with more details.