Since January 2018 I’ve used a fitness tracker to count my daily steps.
I’m not much interested in miles, calories, heart rate and so on, just the steps, so just bought a simple one – A Misfit Ray – that lives on my ankle with me barely realising it’s there.
In the early days I wanted to walk 10,000 steps a day, no matter what.
As you might have realised, I love habits and discipline.
Their outline structure helps me get through the day to day, which I can then build on and feel like I’m doing better in other areas of life.
My daily walking comes from three main areas –
- General walking around the house and office.
- Walking the children to school three days a week.
- A lunchtime stroll.
If I did all of these, I was comfortably hitting 10k steps in a day.
What I found though was a rainy day meant the second and third source of steps didn’t happen.
I took the car to school and stayed in the office at lunchtime.
Which meant I might reach the evening having only done 6 or 7k, and to make 10k steps I needed more.
So I ended up walking up and down the stairs or running on the spot until I reached the target. Not much fun, plus it ate into the time I wanted to do other evening activities.
The healthy aim of walking 10k steps a day for my wellbeing was starting to become an obsession, based purely on a somewhat arbitrary number.
I love walking, but these indoor attempts to rack up extra steps just for the sake of that number was akin to going to a sterile gym and pounding out empty exercises, something I’ve never done and don’t plan to anytime soon.
So I decided that because some days the weather was awful, I likely wouldn’t make 10k steps. But the next day, or the day after that, I might walk 12 or 14 or 16k steps.
I started looking at a longer view, and aiming for enough steps per month to average out at least 10k a day.
Which I’ve done pretty much every month since.
Letting go of the obsession of the daily target – whilst keeping it as a more relaxed longer term aim – meant I was enjoy the tracking again.
When I got my e-bike last August, I was able to average more.
Whilst not steps, I figured that a pedal rotation counted at least as much, and riding to and from work most days adding exercise to time that previously was just spent sitting in a car.
There are still wet days when I might only do 5 or 6k. But most I hit 10k, and a fair few closer to 15k, so the average per month I’m happy with.
With photography a similar obsessive behaviour has reared its head multiple times in the past.
Buying a ridiculous amount of film cameras, lenses, and film, was the major one.
Again, a day comes when you realise you’re more obsessed about finding the next new camera, lens or film bargain, instead of just enjoying what you have. The fun has long gone and it becomes mindless behaviour.
This pattern saw a minor revival earlier this year, ironically when I’d decided to shoot just one camera per month.
I started hitting eBay again, looking for potential camera candidates for the next month, and the month after that, even though I already had at least half a year’s worth of cameras to use for the project.
Before I’d bought 50 cameras again, I noticed what was happening and nipped it in the bud.
Longer ago in my life, I could easily fall into these patterns with food – eating way too much then regretting it and feeling awful the next day.
I honestly think too many years of this has partly ruined my digestive system and made it far more sensitive to sugar and dairy today.
So what’s the answer to avoiding obsession?
How do we use the unquestionably powerful and beneficial aspects of focused obsession, without going over the edge into behaviours that start to harm us, and where we lose sight of our original aims and enjoyment?
I think for me a few approaches work.
To try to be more relaxed about the details (like 300k steps a month rather than 10k every single day).
To appreciate where I already am and what I already have.
And to try to increase awareness and notice when I do start to become locked in a pattern of behaviour that’s lost its original pleasure and purpose.
How about you? Do you have obsessive behaviour traits? How do you keep them in check?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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