Pace & Goals

I’ve always enjoyed taking walks. They help me get centered and allow my mind to wander a bit, to be stimulated by things and a sequence of environments I don’t control.

This has proven to be particularly necessary and helpful here, now, doing this thing I’m doing here in Kansas, because everything is not just unfamiliar, but somewhat incongruous with my normal way of operating. My typical rhythms are discordant in this space, within this lifestyle that I’m establishing, and that makes it more difficult for me to enjoy the unfamiliar melodies and backbeats.

For a long time now, my lifestyle has been punctuated by fits and starts. I leave one place and arrive in another. I build something, then pull it apart, and build another thing. I throw myself headfirst into a massive project with a clearly defined beginning and end — like writing a book — and fully immerse myself in that thing for the duration. Then, days or weeks or months later, book complete, I come up for air; my attention wandering, searching, looking for the next big project, the next thing to build and then pull apart. The next thing that will guide my actions, and which will act as a sort of purpose-gravity, around which the rest of my lifestyle can orbit.

That’s not the case here and now. My main struggle each day is reminding myself that I needn’t be fully subsumed by a project to be happy and productive. I needn’t spend 16 hours a day on a single task to make things I’m proud of, and to get them out into the world.

The projects that occupy my time now — my podcast, my YouTube series, short-form writing, learning to cook, picking up some new songs on my guitar, evolving my workout routine — are not priorities I can get off my mind by finishing them. These aren’t tasks you finish in that way; they’re persistent. These are undertakings you add to regularly, focusing on each for a while before shuffling it to the bottom of the deck, refocusing on something else for a time, until that card comes up again.

I’ve become a practiced focuser over the years, but this is somewhat new to me. It’s a different pace. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

And part of how I’m dealing with it is by changing the way I frame my goals.

Running a podcast, for instance, requires a decent amount of attention each week, for each episode. That means breaking the core of the work up into pieces, sequencing them in such a way that you get the work done well and on time, but it also means setting well-defined finish lines at each step along the way.

This is important so that your brain doesn’t sit on it, unmoving, refusing to move on to the next thing, something completely unrelated, because it can’t quite understand how you could shift your attention to something new while this incomplete project is within reach.

Essentially everything in my life is like this, right now. A series of processes more than projects. Verbs, not nouns.

Ensuring I have things in my apartment that add value to my life, but nothing more than that, is a process. So periodically deciding on whether to acquire bookcases (nope) and cold brew equipment (hell yes) is something that is defining my pace.

The walks I take to clear my mind, the cooking adventures I undertake, and the intentional consumption of music, books, podcasts, movies, and the like also serve this function.

Nearly a month into my time here in Kansas, I’m still experiencing frequent missteps. I still find myself struggling to remember that this process, this pace, isn’t some lifehacky trick intended up my output, or to establish a manufacturing base for purely productive reasons.

The pace itself is the point. Understanding what roll this type of routine, this flavor of goal-setting, plays for me and my rhythm long-term is why I’m doing it.

That it’s different, that it’s difficult, is a feature not a bug. It’s the purpose, not a cumbersome byproduct.

I think this experience will be valuable. It already has been in several ways, in fact. I just have to remember that there’s more than one way to upset one’s expectations and shake up one’s stride. And that any hesitancy or discomfort I feel along the way is a part of that (almost always valuable) process.

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