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2023: The Annual Ghost Town Paradox

Phew, I look up for the nth+1 time to see if I can spot the mountaintop through the fog. Next, I am fixated on my shoes, taking one step at a time. This dance continues till I reach the top and enjoy the fresh air for the first time, with a beautiful view as I exhale. In some sense, it felt like that was all there was. On my way down, I retraced the path, this time looking at the distinct stones, the shrubs that spread like a web, and the butterflies that came to greet me. I struggled to manage the discomfort and impatience gracefully, failing to embrace the distinctive feeling that accompanied the experience. Throughout our lives, we encounter stories and examples, ranging from the fable of the clever crow using stones to fetch water to the significance of consistent, gradual study for academic achievement. Yet, despite this exposure, why do we continue to grapple with being consistent? Well, most childhood lessons and tales are dismissed as mere stories once we reach adulthood. Moreover, the educational framework often fails to foster self-reliance in cultivating consistency. So, as adults, we have to relearn that skill and make it a part of our lives for the better.

Photo Credit : Google

Easier said than done. So, let’s round up the troublemakers.

The one immediate deterrent to consistency, as any adult who spends an unhealthy amount of their pay check on a gym subscription would tell you, is that failure is inevitable. I bet that’s the reason gyms will get richer in the next two weeks and not even see their members for the whole year. As we approach the New Year, we're flooded with hype about lofty goals as if a Genie out there is granting us wishes. This results in an unhealthy inner dialogue that implies an all-or-nothing approach, leading us to quit. Subsequently, throughout the year, we are at the mercy of triggers that may spur brief attempts at consistency, followed by subsequent setbacks. What we eventually remember is that it's an uphill battle to stay consistent, and we quit as a result. The second obstacle is the monotony of repetitive tasks. Most of our daily tasks are mundane and fail to excite us. There are ways around this, however, staying motivated requires creativity, which diminishes when bored. At this point, one might assume that necessity would drive completion of the task; however, that still doesn't ensure consistency. Instead, it too leads to disengagement as a byproduct.

So, you might ask why I am bringing the gym debate to this already questionable time of year? Well, to guide your money to your local gym? Haha, no. It’s to draw your attention to something that I have realised.

Let’s not leave distraction behind. And let’s face it—we are easily the most distracted generation to have lived on earth. Luckily this year, I found I could get bored in my free time while sitting amidst a pile of unread books. Instead of grabbing books, I would switch to social media, scrolling mindlessly and gaining nothing really. So as an experiment I do each year, I decided to go on a social media sabbatical for two weeks with the added goal of finishing a book in that time. Unbelievable goal, I know. The first day was tough. Despite wanting to read, my mind kept drifting without focus, making excuses to reach for my phone. I found myself reaching out every five minutes, having to refrain. It would have been excruciating if I were being watched. Yet, after a few days, I could read without distraction and refrain from reaching for my phone when idle or bored. It was quite a transformation. Four months on, I've completely forgotten why I would spend my time any other way. This example isn't about quitting social media, although I'm an advocate of taking a break. It's more about consistency being rewarding, if we detach failure and boredom from it. I now relish the feeling of engaging in something and considering my actions in my free time. This is what draws me back to reading, solving puzzles, watching TV, or even using social media. This shift in perspective keeps me going back, allowing myself imperfection along the way. I'm still learning, especially as the perfectionist in me strives for a lot. Take this blog, for instance. While I created it for public viewing in 2021, there are over six drafts of this website with entirely different aesthetics and content dating back to 2018. What started as a Medium blog took time to evolve into Mined & Milled, the website. I was consistent, but fixated on making it flawless. Over time, I've moved away from that mindset, knowing it's an ongoing process. Knowing now that every little step matters. 

As we still break the habit of writing ‘2023’, I want to remind you that this year did not bring me 100% consistency. It brought me a little bit of everything and a flavour of those things I want to continue. It wasn’t an all-or-nothing year. It was a 'bit of something’ year. A year of sowing of the right habits, to find years with a bit of reaping. After all, that’s what Spotify has created Wrapped playlists for. This personalised recap allows us to reflect on our musical journey, discover new artists or songs we might have missed, and share our music preferences with friends and on social media platforms. The feature is designed not only to celebrate our unique music tastes but to engage and encourage them to explore more music on the platform. Like on Spotify, we shed tears on the treadmill or smile while solving a math problem with music playing in the background; we prioritise the experience over the struggle of consistency. Essentially, by focusing on experiences, we return to gain more insight and learn to slowly enjoy the process. Always remember to extend this kindness to yourself when embracing consistency.

Welcome to Mined & Milled this 2024! Here's to reading more, writing with abandon, and experiencing life with intention. 


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