I’m still amusingly shocked by what I actually said to my wife last week.
You might find it silly. A Freudian slip, possibly. But it’s true. And definitely music to Mark Zuckerberg’s ears.
We had a heated argument over what I considered trivial – the kind that loving empty nesters do when they don’t fret over their children.
In the heat of the moment, as she interrogated (or curiously asked) me on the motivations for my weekly posting on Facebook, I answered with gusto, “Because I AM an active Facebook user!”
Yes. That’s who I am, and that’s what I do.
We both burst into laughter. It’s absolutely hilarious.
What a nutcase narcissistic social media maniac I’ve become!
Or maybe, not.
At the start of 2017, I began an experiment on gratitude. Rather than reflecting once a year as part of our annual family yearend gratitude-cum-visioning ritual, I started to count my blessings daily. The initial idea was to keep a daily gratitude journal. It didn’t take long for me to realise that sitting down to reflect and write proved to be more difficult than jumping into the pool and swim 20 laps every day.
“There’s got to be another way to do this,” I pondered.
The last time I successfully picked up a new daily habit was when a colleague nominated me to take up a 22 Days Push-up Challenge (#22PushUp) – a campaign to raise awareness on war veterans suicides due to post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD). The rule of the game was simple. Over 22 days, each day, I was to do 22 push-ups, capture it on video, post it on Facebook, and nominate another to the challenge.
What started with a tinge of regret (I shouldn’t have liked her FB post) turned out absolutely amazing! I never knew I could pull it off, especially on days when I was flat out exhausted after work. But the drive to honour my word, the encouragement from friends, to fun of roping in my boys and brother, and the inspiration from watching those I subsequently nominated kept me going.
It was the first time I managed to keep up with doing something new every day for about month. Reluctant to give up a habit that took much determination and sweat to develop, I carried on with daily push-ups beyond the 22 days. I felt strong and fit, but eventually had to stop due to a wrist injury.
But not all went to waste. I learnt a valuable lesson on habit formation. And it’s not the usual motivational BS like will power, perseverance, or determination. It’s not the “It takes 21 days to rewire the brain” kind of pop-psychology. And there’s no need to get overly philosophical – although I’m a huge fan of Friedrich Nietzsche who famously said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
What I’ve learnt, is simply … the power of structure. Having an enabling structure can make the performance of the habit easier. 22 push-ups isn’t easy, at least for me. But the entire act of pressing record on the phone, get down and just do it, and then post it on FB is relatively simple.
So, I applied that learning to my attempt at cultivating a habit of gratefulness. I started posting my reflections at the end of each week on Facebook (#CountYourBlessings). After four weeks of sharing photos of significant moments and people, receiving a few hundred likes, and exchange of comments with friends with whom I hadn’t been in touch for years, I hit the first snag.
My wife wasn’t too pleased.
She’s concerned with the risk of chronicling our family life online, and preferred a little more privacy. Whilst I think her concerns are valid, I have a higher risk appetite, and lower need for privacy. There all kinds of FB users. I’m just not that type that post picture of cats or share videos of Trump parodies. So, we have our differences. Not totally irreconcilable.
I promised to be more discrete, but I’ll carry on, at least till Week 52. Why?
Because I AM an active Facebook user. It’s that simple, and more …
The second lesson, and possibly a more significant thing I’ve learnt about human change and habit formation, is identity. Co-incidentally, I chanced upon a chapter in The Impact Code (a book I’m currently reading) in which author Simon Tyler wrote:
There are few phrases as powerful, as evocative as: “I am …”
“I am …” reflects, or sets the tone for, the activity of your life. When you say and feel “I am …”, you release unstoppable springs from within.
The release of unstoppable springs from within – that totally resonated with how I felt.
I am adventurous … someone who loves challenges and new experiences.
I am curious … someone who loves experimenting with new concepts, behaviours, ways of seeing and being.
I am a man of integrity … someone who keeps his words.
I am grateful … someone who counts his blessings regularly (and not shy to share it online).
I am unstoppable (at least on this weekly #CountYourBlessings experiment on FB)
Honestly, I am not sure how well this will impact my marriage. But I am open to whatever lessons that Life sprinkles into our lives.
I am a huge fan of Nietzsche (as you know by now) – who also famously said: “That which does not kill you us makes us stronger.” I remain hopeful that if Facebook doesn’t completely ruin our marriage, it will strengthen it.