Where parallels cross

Interesting bits of life

Life is a cycle: why periodic behaviour is good for your health

Do you find your life monotonous? Does it seem every day looks similar to the one before? Are you somehow striving to break the routine?

Congratulations for having created a monotonous life! You are using your energy well and surely you are in a lucky minority on this planet.

I have written earlier about our energy limits and how we can do something about it. I have recently finished Fritjof Capra's book, 'The Web of Life', and now I see how life itself deals with this scarcity issue. In a nutshell, alive systems have a single requirement: staying alive.

This requirement translates into keeping out the bad stuff and getting in the good stuff. For example, you would avoid eating glass, while you would gladly eat a sandwich.

The problem is that sandwiches are scarce in our natural environment. So we organized our environment (making shops for example) to provide sandwiches between times most people would be hungry. Similarly any alive system reorganizes itself to create/exploit a periodicity of resources. An extreme example is how bears go into hibernation waiting for better times to hunt.

Any periodic behavior in any system is a chance to create a sustainable cycle.

Something is sustainable when you can keep doing it indefinitely: rain is sustainable, pulling oil/minerals/gas from soil is unsustainable.

You may be a visual person, so





In general, long-lived alive things go for the sustainable alternatives, about-to-be-dead alive things go for the unsustainable one.

Let's get back to our monotonous lives. A routine is essentially a series of habits that you developed over time. Waking up at a certain hour every day, shopping once a week on the weekend, exercising every other day are all examples of habits that we can repeat indefinitely. These spare us the decision energy to schedule them and the setup required to perform them.

Again, this is good and valuable stuff.

Misbehavior can become a routine too. The trick for that is to create a good habit that replaces the bad one (I am not claiming that is easy, but definitely that is easier with a good strategy: you can do it!).

The main point is: be a smart alive system and create sustainable habits!

If you feel your life is monotonous, the solution is NOT to abandon what you are doing, but patiently migrate to a better routine over time. You can break things suddenly and is likely you will get back to where you started because that is what is sustainable for you at the moment.

What I like to do for myself is to keep the structure of my day similar (meal times, exercise, etc...) and variate the content of my activities (reading certain topics, studying and working on things I am unfamiliar with, etc...).

I sort of learn from Gustave Flaubert: "Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work".

The fundamental trick is to learn how to find rewards in what you spend time on, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book Flow. You can find complexity in any banal or boring activity, and challenging that complexity makes you expand your horizons. For example, baking bread can quickly become a routine, while a continuous refinement of your technique of working the dough via quick experiments can become a journey overflowing of discoveries that may easily spill in other fields you work on.

If building habits is something you struggle with, give a read to Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg, because he has some good advice about that. One trick that I feel will be particularly useful to you is to use negative experiences at your advantage. Sometimes you know what behavior you want to adopt, but you miss the right moment to act: use negative experiences as a trigger! For example, if after reading this post you want to override your "finish-dinner-and-get-in-front-of-the-tv" behavior with the "finish-dinner-and-finally-learn-to-paint" behavior and then, once again, you discover yourself in front of the tv after dinner: just when you are up to think something bad about yourself, take the brush and start wetting it! Get used to do that, and you will become a painter (or anything you want) at a surprising pace.

Negativity, depression and the rest can become your gateway to the better version of yourself that you are keeping in a cage, if only you deploy them correctly.

In summary, life relies on periodic behavior to live sustainably and routine is your ally. If you find your routine unbearable, transform it over time and patiently. In forming habits any little win is an enormous success over time, so get going already!

Happy periodicity!