Breaking the Chain

If you read any self-improvement, time management. or productivity literature in recent years you’re likely to come across the Jerry Seinfeld story.

I was thinking about it just yesterday, and lo and behold, it pops up in The Daily Stoic as today’s entry.

Once again it seems that the universe is trying to tell me something.

The story, to quote The Daily Stoic for May 16th:

The comedian Jerry Seinfeld once gave a young comic named Brad Isaac some advice about how to write and create material. Keep a calendar, he told him, and each day that you write jokes, put an X. Soon enough, you get a chain going— and then your job is to simply not break the chain. Success becomes a matter of momentum. Once you get a little, it’s easier to keep it going.

It’s interesting because I’ve seen this in action in my own world. The program I use to count calories, and which was instrumental in my weight loss a few years ago, is most effective if you use it every day. As a result they keep a simple count of how many days in a row that you’ve logged in. I think I managed to get it up to something like 400 or 500 days in a row before life interfered and I “broke the chain”.

But it was motivating.

Sadly, there’s a down-side as well. Once a chain is broken — particularly if it’s a long one, as in the example above — it can be very difficult to re-establish that motivation. Starting the chain over can be daunting.

The reason this is topical for me today is simply this: I’ve been lax about a couple of things in the last couple of weeks: my meditation practice and my exercise regime. Heck, even my so-called daily writing exercise hasn’t been living up to that description for weeks. Given the message that the universe seems to have sent me (and of course it could be complete coincidence, or serendipity, or whatever — I’m not going all “woo woo”, I’m simply choosing to use the idea, however it came to be) it seems like it’s time to establish a new chain or two.

Exercise will begin when I return from a trip this weekend.

Link one in meditation happened this morning.

I don’t know if there’ll be a calendar involved, or what form I might use to record my progress — those are “implementation details”, as we used to say in the software business — what’s more important is that a design decision has been made.

What messages has the universe (or coincidence, or serendipity, or …) sent you lately?

What chains remain unbroken in your life?

Perhaps as interestingly, what chains might serve you?