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seriousjay

Over one year later - what I've learned

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Hey guys, I think it's time I do my one year anniversary post.

First of all, I want to say a big thank you and shout out to the people on Game Quitters that have stuck with me through this journey so far. @AlexTheGrape (you still alive bro??? haha), @fawn_xoxo, @JustTom and everyone else who lent a helping hand in my journal and other areas of the forum. And of course to @Cam Adair for making this all possible in the first place. You guys all rock! Never let anyone tell you otherwise, including yourselves. 🙂

Now I'm not one for much small talk so I'll get right to the insights that I've gleaned from my journey so far:

1. I have a hard time pinpointing the most important or vital thing that has helped me get to where I am so I'll just say this: every little thing you do in the right direction helps, no matter how minuscule. Journaling, helping others out on the forum, that one time you chose a banana over a cookie, etc. It may not seem like it in the moment, but keep in mind that your life today is the cumulative effect of every single decision you've made in your entire life.

Think of your life as a scale with two sides. On one side, you have all the "bad" choices and attitudes you've made in your life that have led you to drown out your sorrows in video games. On the other side, there are all the "good" choices you've made that work to counter the "bad" ones. You might look at your own personal scale and wonder how on earth you'll ever make enough good choices to completely negate the effects of the bad ones.

Here's the good news: my experience suggests that good choices, applied consistently over time, start to have a compounding effect (the meta-physical phenomenon called momentum, Newton's first law of physics, what have you). Put another way, the good choices make it much easier to make that good choice the next time, and so on.

ACTION STEP: I would encourage everyone to identify an area where it's really easy for you to make good choices instead of bad ones, and plan to do that for at least a week. What you may find is that by making those good choices in that area, it's easier to make good choices in totally unrelated areas, and after a week you may actually find that you'd rather make the good choices than the bad ones!

2. Plan to fail, especially if you're early in your journey. I started this entire thing long before I made my initial journal entry on October 30th, 2015. I don't remember the exact date but it was some time in 2012 or 2013 that I realized I needed to change the way my life was headed. Long story short, I quit and went back to video games maybe 5 or 6 times before everything finally clicked in August of last year.

My biggest issue, and something I still struggle with today is that I was really bad at planning and scheduling. Most often I would just wing most days. When I did try to plan out my weeks, I would either be completely unmotivated to actually do anything I planned, or I'd only go half way, or I'd do it for a week and then burn out and end up where I started.

I don't know if there's an easy answer to this issue, but I do believe planning is a skill that can be developed, and I've recently discovered a way that has worked for me for a few weeks now. Additionally, the more you work at planning, the easier it'll be and the better at it you'll get. You'll eventually find a way that works for you that you will stick with.

It's so important to plan out how you're going to spend your time because if you don't, it's just way too easy to fall back into old habits. Additionally, especially if you're new, have a plan to get yourself back on track after a relapse. I cannot stress this enough. The vast majority of the time that was "wasted" for me during my journey was mired in relapse, and I didn't have a plan to get myself back on track. I would just wait until something happened or things got bad enough that I decided to attempt to quit video games again.

ACTION STEP: If you're struggling with relapse, plan out a way to get back on track. I unfortunately don't have good insights into how to do this so I'm hoping others can offer some good advice.

Additionally, plan out how you're going to spend your time. Make it as easy as you need to make it. It's much better to say you'll go for a walk for two minutes a day, and then actually do it every day, instead of saying you'll walk for 30 minutes a day and sit at home. You might need to start out with something as simple as I'll read a book for 5 minutes every day, and that's it. Be honest with yourself and what you can accomplish. You might need to swallow some pride here but at least you'll get started on the right path.

3. As a bit of an extension of the above, make things that you want to do or try as easy as you need to make them so that you'll actually go out and do them. If you want to become a writer, you may need to settle for just writing 100 words a day, or a week. Slowly you'll build up that habit over time and you'll be able to do more and more as you go on.

ACTION STEP: Figure out some things that you'd like to try and plan out a way to get started on them. Make it as easy as you need to make them, even if you have to make it so easy that the only way to fail is to do nothing at all. This is honestly really important because you need to fill that void video games has left with other hobbies and activities to keep you occupied, and more importantly, to begin living your life with purpose.

4. If you fail, don't be hard on yourself. There is research to prove that being hard on yourself when you fail actually makes it more likely that you'll fail again the next time. Practice self-compassion during times of weakness. If you choose that cookie instead of the banana, say to yourself "It's OK, everyone stumbles from time to time, I'll do better next time".

ACTION STEP: Really short section but I cannot stress the critical importance of self-compassion. Think about things that you are likely to fail at, especially if you tend to be hard on yourself after that failure. Reframe the failure in a compassionate way and see if that helps you to make a better decision next time.

5. Practice gratitude and self-love. Every morning after my routine I lay in my bed and say out loud 3 things I'm grateful for and 3 things about myself that are awesome. This doesn't seem like much but it goes hand in hand with point 1. Even if you think you're the worst person in the world, you should be able to find some things about yourself that are good and that you're grateful for. Even if it's as basic as the fact that you're a living, breathing human. You can also google things to be grateful for if you're struggling to think of something. Hint: it can be something completely innocuous like the tree growing in your lawn.

The point of this isn't the thing that's awesome or that you're grateful for, but sitting down and actually doing it. It forces your brain to think in different, more compassionate, self-loving terms. Slowly over time you should find it gets easier and easier to think of things to be grateful for.

ACTION STEP: Find a time of day to practice gratitude and use the "law of least effort" principle. If you can only manage to spend 10 seconds to say you're grateful for the roof over your head, that's fine. Make it as easy as you need to make it so that you'll actually do it.

Additionally, and this is really important, when you have negative thoughts you feel you have no control over, reframe those thoughts in a positive way. "I'm not good enough" can become "I'm taking steps to improve the aspects of my life that need work". When you do this, it softens your inner critic and creates space for compassion and self-love. Everything begins with the way you think about yourself and the world. This is another one of those things where you'll need to be really consistent about it to see results but it does work.

6. Read The Willpower Instinct and The Power of Habit. Seriously, these books should be required reading in school as soon as students understand what willpower and habits are.

7. Last but not least - know that you are capable of gaining control of what's going on in your head. That you have the responsibility of taking control of what's going on in your head. If you look for things to blame outside of yourself then it lets you off the hook. Even if it's true that everything bad in your life is someone else's fault, that doesn't change the fact that it's up to YOU and nobody else to fix it. Nobody is going to do it for you and you have to start taking the steps to make the changes that you want to see happen.

-----

Your mindset is such a huge part of your success in life. Everything begins in your head. If you think you can do something, then you'll figure out ways to make it happen. If you don't think you can do something, then you'll find every excuse as to why. This principle applies to just about every area of life. It's a tough journey to change the way you think but it's the most important thing you can do for yourself in my opinion.

Hope this helps you guys. 🙂

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