Memories fade fast. In my brain, positive memories generally fade faster than negative ones.
It’s been three weeks since I read a book of fiction. Whenever this happens, whenever more than just a few days pass between books, I start to forget how good it feels to read. Starting on the next book, even choosing a book to read, begins to seem not worth the effort. I have to remind myself that I like reading, and tell myself to just read a teensy little bit. Once I do that, the joy comes flooding back and I keep reading the book and finish it and pick up the next one and the next. And then I am baffled as to how I could possibly have forgotten that warm feeling.
The same happens with working out. It is so easy to think about what a bother it would be to find my clothes… and to pack… and to go to the gym or sports club… and how tired I will be afterwards… and forget just how good the activity itself makes me feel. But I know from experience that once I am there, I always enjoy the activity. Whenever I have forced myself to go despite this lazy reluctance, I have never regretted it. I have never ever come home afterwards, thinking “I was right about that… I should just have stayed home.”
Even with activities I really enjoy, like reading books or doing yoga, that first step can be really hard. I have to consciously fight the inertia. The initial effort almost manages to outweigh the more distant pleasure. (The discount rate for that pleasure must be massive!)
The one thing that helps most is habit and scheduling. It is a lot easier to go to the yoga class when it is a fixture in my calendar. It is a lot easier to cycle to work when I have done it daily for… five years? or is it six?
Another trick that works is taking a tiny first step. Pick up a book and open it, without committing to actually read it. Just look at the first page. Once I get that far, the momentum is usually enough to carry me along.
Yesterday I finally picked up a book again and I finished it today. I’m now going to start on the next one straight away so I don’t waste another three weeks without books!