Aug 03, 2023
Why do I want to quit coffee?
I’ve noticed that my sleep quality hasn’t been great lately. I feel like coffee might be contributing to that.
I drink pretty much every day, one cup of instant coffee in the morning and another one at noon for maybe 10-12 years. Even though money is not that much, it adds up, it’s not a small amount.
But lately, I’ve realized that every time I drink coffee, it doesn’t give me the same feeling of freshness it used to. It’s like I’ve lost that initial excitement about it. Sometimes, it feels no different than drinking water, and it’s not even making me more alert or focused anymore. So, what’s the point of continuing to drink it?
I decided to set a goal for myself: to change my coffee-drinking habit and eventually quit it altogether. I know it might be tough to completely stop right away, so I thought of starting with a short-term goal: going from having it every day to just once a week. That way, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming, and I can gradually reduce my coffee intake.
At the beginning, I started drinking coffee for the purpose of staying alert, as caffeine can accelerate heart rate and bring a sense of pleasure, making the brain more awake. However, when I began the first day of quitting coffee, I experienced feelings completely opposite to my initial encounter: it wasn’t pain, anxiety and depression, but rather boredom and emptiness. I couldn’t lift my spirits, and my brain was kinda foggy. I felt like a lifeless body, completely unable to concentrate. I looked up some information online and found out that these were typical addiction withdrawal symptoms during the early stages of quitting.
After the second and third day, the discomfort had slightly eased, and the concentration got improved a bit. However, I almost couldn’t resist the urge to drink coffee, so I opted for a cup of tea instead, which helped to alleviate the itchiness. Finally, the weekend arrived, and I couldn’t wait any longer; I had a cup of coffee.That taste indeed brought back that freshness of the first time I drank coffee, and after finishing it, I could feel my heartbeat accelerate, my body and mind become invigorated.
In the following second and third weeks, the quitting process became relatively smooth. The craving for coffee was no longer as strong, and my attention gradually returned to the level before quitting. Overall, I started feeling more comfortable and at ease.
habit tracking calendar
When I began my coffee quitting journey, following online recommendations, I bought a calendar paper of habit tracker. If I successfully abstained from drinking coffee on a given day, I would mark a check on it with a pen. This simple ritual made me feel satisfied because each check represented accomplishing a small goal. (one step closer)
As time went by, about one or two months later, I no longer felt the need to drink coffee purely for its stimulating effects. However, I still maintained the habit of drinking it once a week, as completely giving it up would take away some pleasures. But now, I don’t stick to a specific time for drinking; instead, I randomly choose a day within the week to drink. Additionally, I’ve been trying different styles of coffee such as latte, Americano, cappuccino, hot, and iced, to bring some novelty. Well, I could still enjoy the freshness of coffee without indulging.
Reflections on Quitting
During this process, I noticed the addictive aspect of coffee. It started with just having it occasionally, but slowly, I found myself needing it every day. As I continued with the same amount, the stimulating effects and pleasure gradually diminished. Drinking coffee just turned into a habitual behavior, and I felt subconsciously compelled to drink it. Not having it made me feel like something was missing, but drinking it didn’t provide the same effect as before, and I even felt less alert. To keep up that effect as before, I need add up the amount of coffe intake. If I skipped one day, I would feel extremely low, bored, and a sense of emptiness, which would drive me to seek more coffee to alleviate those negative feelings.
This addiction felt similar to the gaming addiction I experienced during my student days, as well as the addictions some relatives and friends had to somking and alcohol. I became curious about how coffee affects the brain and body, so I looked into the mechanisms of addiction, and one word stood out: dopamine.
Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter—a chemical that ferries information between neurons. The brain releases it when we eat food that we crave or while we have sex - all those behaviors would lead to a higher chance of survior(complete to get more resources and higher chance to reproduce etc ), contributing to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as part of the reward system. This important neurochemical boosts mood, motivation, and attention, and helps regulate movement, learning, and emotional responses.
High dopamine levels in the brain are associated with feelings of excitement, motivation, and even euphoria. On the other hand, low dopamine levels can lead to feelings of low mood, depressed.
(A simple description is that dopamine fluctuates around its baseline level, oscillating between peak and valley values, much like a sine wave.)
Dopamine plays a crucial role in the reward system of our brain. As humans, our brains are hard-wired to seek out behaviors that release dopamine in our reward system. Dopamine is released when the brain is expecting a reward.
Just imagine the first time you eat some delicious food at a restaurant or experience other pleasurable stimuli like video games or intimacy. The moment you taste the food or engage in the activity, a flood of dopamine is released in your brain. It makes you feel high and possibly euphoric, which reinforces the desire to repeat that experience with the same stimulus - a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement. So, while dopamine itself doesn’t directly produce pleasure, it does strengthen the feelings of pleasure and reward associated with specific behaviors or substances.
Next time, when you think of the food you ate last time, you already start to feel high because of dopamine release, even with just mere anticipation.
Unexpected rewards increase the activity of dopamine neurons, acting as positive feedback signals for the brain regions associated with the preceding behavior. As learning takes place, the timing of activity will shift until it occurs upon the cue alone, with the expected reward having no additional effect. And should the expected reward not be received, dopamine activity drops, sending a negative feedback signal to the relevant parts of the brain, weakening the positive association. Source： Dopamine, Smartphones & You: A battle for your time
When dopamine is released, it needs to activate dopamine receptors to generate an excitatory response in the brain. Once the receptor gets activated, dopamine gets recycled back to our body with the help of transporters. The dopaminergic system maintains a delicate and subtly dynamic balance. It is like a seesaw; when one end (pleasure) goes up, the other (pain) goes down. However, it slowly comes back to normal, just taking some time. The body will rebalance, and the baseline level will return to normal. That’s the natural state of the dopaminergic system - dopamine is generated by the body and recycled by the body.
However, in this digital era, the stimuli have increased exponentially compared to what our ancestors experienced not that long ago, around 100 years ago. We now have access to TV, computers, and phones, and the internet has become dominant worldwide. Additionally, there are drugs and highly processed chemicals, such as sugars, that cannot be obtained from nature simply by chewing on coca plant leaves like Andean peoples did. These chemicals are highly purified and isolated from plants. They deceive and manipulate the dopaminergic system by either delaying recycling, prompting the body to release more dopamine, or increasing the level of activation on dopamine receptors.
Those are totally unseen before. Like Nietzsche says, ‘God is dead.’ Ever since then, those natural limits forced upon us to keep us in well-being are gone. The dopamine system was welcomed to a Brave New World. Now, you have so many choices, and of course, we’d like to give a try to Amusing Ourselves to Death. But why?
Those chemical stimuli lead to a very high dose of dopamine release (the peak is higher) compared to natural stimuli, so much so that anyone who tries those stimuli would immediately lose interest in the natural ones our ancestors had. However, you won’t stay that happy forever; even though external chemicals can easily overpower the native ‘inferior’ and ‘inefficient’ primitive dopamine system, much like an elephant stamping on ants. The balance is broken, and the primitive dopamine system fights back by reducing the number of receptors or, in extreme cases, sacrificing some cells or organs to protect itself and try to regain balance. These protections could possibly cause irreversible damage to the body. So, your dopamine baseline level also gets lifted up along with your peak dopamine levels.
Again, remember that the pleasure you feel is equal to the Peak - Baseline level. It makes sense now that I take the same amount of coffee every day, but the pleasure I get is weaker and weaker, just like the law of diminishing returns in economics.
source: How do drugs affect the brain?
So, they need to get more chemical stimulus to maintain the same level of pleasure they feel. Quite ironically, when dopamine peaks for some time, the dopamine baseline also adjusts itself to a higher level.
Now, think about what happens if you suddenly remove the stimulus? peak - baseline level will give you a negative number, leading to pain, boredom, and depression, along with physical suffering. Since the baseline level has become so high and they are used to high dopamine stimuli, they just can’t stay satisfied with natural stimuli. Even eating delicious food would hold zero interest for them; the little enjoyment from that is barely recognizable. At this low dopamine level, time passes more slowly in psychology, making the pain even more pronounced, leading to negative reinforcement (Davis double-killing effect – does anyone remember the death spiral of the stable coin Luna?). It is easy to understand why they could fall back and relapse as it is the most convenient way to get rid of that uncomfortable feeling.”
My daily commute routine goes like this: In the morning, after waking up, I first check my phone. While riding my bike to the subway station on my way to work, I play videos in the background from platforms like Bilibili or YouTube to listen to.
During the subway ride, I use the time to learn Duolingo in 5-minute units to improve my Spanish. After that, I watch short videos on various platforms like Tiktok, Bilibili, and YouTube Shorts. Once I arrive at the office, I turn on my laptop and do some warm-up activities, first checking V2ex and YouTube, before getting into work mode. Throughout the workday, I occasionally check my phone, including during restroom breaks. Sometimes, I do the same during lunch with my colleagues. On the subway ride home, feeling tired, I take out my phone and watch short videos to learn about carp fishing.
Yeah, I pretty much stick my face on the phone.
The problem is that I’ve started feeling like I’m caught in a negative cycle. I feel less energized, find it hard to focus, and have less patience when my two and half years old son asks me to play with him. One weekend, when I took him out to the kids’ area of a mall, I looked around and realized that most parents were just playing with their phones - the majority of them using short video apps.
This feels like a black hole just sucking in most parts of my life. I feel lost and trapped.
It turns out, for instance, TikTok and those super-short clips are like heroin for our dopamine system, just like the above-mentioned chemical stimuli. TikTok’s algorithm is specifically tailored to keep our dopamine levels at a concerning high. The random, intermittent, unexpected rewarding path tricks our brain, much like hitting a jackpot, causing it to release dopamine. We become lost in endless, mindless scrolling because our brains crave new, random videos to get a new shot of dopamine.
Andrew Huberman nailed it:
Addiction is a progressive narrowing of the things that bring you pleasure. A good life is the progressive expansion of the things that bring you pleasure”.
Bertrand Russell once said well:
“The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”
don’t think I’m friendly to those stimuli that interest me. Certainly, I won’t ask them for permission; I just take them commandingly :) Well, Russell probably didn’t know that things and persons that interest you are probably the devil pretending like a nice guy.
Comparing to learning or working, immediate-gratification activities could easily get us hooked. That’s why it is so hard for me to get into a working state. The beforehead immediate-gratification activities raise my dopamine baseline level, but at the same time, they exhaust me mentally and physically. Once the stimulus gets pulled out, the dopamine level drops, and the symptoms of dopamine depletion kick in.
Focus is hard to maintain, and I feel bored in front of low-and-long-dopamine-reward tasks. So it is better to arrange tasks in a dopamine-scientific way. (By the way, has anyone really done serious learning on TikTok? I did try to learn carp fishing, but after a while, it starts recommending videos of girls shaking their asses? WTF, I neither searched for that type of content nor accidentally clicked on one @_@)
Another thing is, just don’t stack dopamine activities. Avoid multitasking on high dopamine activities. Do them one by one as much as you can or engage in multiple tasks but keep it as natural as possible. When you eat, just eat; don’t eat while playing with your phone at the same time unless you have to. You might think you can kill two birds with one stone, but in reality, you might kill two stones with one bird. Essentially, you ruin two pleasurable things at the same time. When tired, sleep. When hungry, eat.
Someone asked a Zen Master, “How do you practice Zen?”
The master said, “When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep.”
“Isn’t that what everyone does anyway?”
The master replied, “No, No. Most people entertains a thousand desires when they eat and scheme over a thousand plans when they sleep.”
I’m so fed up with this rat race. After I come back from work, I try to put everything down and empty my mind, and play with my son. This time, during my commute back from the office, I don’t play with my phone. Instead, I observe and look around at people and what they’re doing. I even close my eyes for a few minutes just to listen to the sounds of the train. That’s it.
When I play with him, I notice his expressions, reactions, and we work together to build something with Lego blocks. Sometimes, he is not patient and will tear the building down immediately. Other times, he surprises me with actions that are out of the box from an adult’s thinking in my opinion. It’s so fun to watch. And maybe just minutes later, he would start playing on his own and seems not very interested in having you around.
It is definitely a refreshing experience, and I feel a deep connection between us. I wasn’t eager to seek high dopamine release, but I did feel a sense of peace and enjoyment in that moment of being fully present.
What I have decided to try in the following weeks:
- When you eat, just eat.
- When you defecate, just defecate.
- For one random day of the week, drink only water - no tea, no coffee.
- Delete TikTok
- Spend half of the time during the week not listening to anything on your commute.
- Half of the time on the metro, try take off my glasses (I’m nearsighted) and simply observe the surroundings with everything blurred.
Dopamine traps in building habits
1. Visualize too much in the starting time of a new habit.
When we start building a new habit, we tend to think or visualize how great we would become after adopting the habit. Whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, or taking up running, we can’t help but imagine and fancy a better version of ourselves after a certain period of time. “Oh, I will lose 20kg in 3 months” or “I will run 10km in 2 months,” we think optimistically. This anticipation triggers our brain to release a high dose of dopamine, driving us to pursue our goals. However, this heightened dopamine level can also lead to risky decision-making, causing us to seek maximum rewards as quickly as possible, which might result in compulsive behaviors, gambling for instance.
The consequence of this high dopamine level can be setting inappropriate goals for each step, overestimating what can be achieved in the short term. While the initial motivation might be high, it won’t last long if those goals cannot be realized in the real world. The actual rewards often turn out to be not that good than our anticipations, making it challenging to maintain our momentum and enthusiasm for the new habit.
You need to lower your expectations upfront. After cooling for one week, then start habit planning. For instance, when I started learning Spanish on Duolingo, I set the goal for 5 minutes, the minimum of 10, 20, or 30 minutes options. Even though the first time I finished with ease and felt a strong desire to do more units, I kept it to just one for the first day. This is because doing more upfront can burn out my motivation in the long run.
High expectations can lead you to believe you’re on top of the world, but it’s better to remain humble and stick to yourself. Better stay humble like a fool.
2. Perfectionism in pursuing streaks.
In Duolingo, every day you finish a goal, you are rewarded with a nice and attractive animation to show that you win. It gives you a pleasing effect. Additionally, you can see the streaks on your calendar. Observe the line that crosses all the days on your calendar, that smooth line. It makes you feel good and increases the likelihood that you will continue doing it tomorrow.
Take a look a the check animation:
And habit track calendar:
I have a streak of 998 days pretty like 1000 days at this time of writing. I can’t imagine what would be it if I set my goal to 10 minutes or 30 minutes a day(I’m not sure they have so many units then).
I had a perfect streak, but there were a few times when I almost missed one or two days. One day, I thought I had finished a unit, but around 11:35 PM, near midnight, it sent a notification that I was going to miss the streak. Then I realized I had actually forgotten to do it. So, I rushed to open the app and finish one unit.
The problem I have noticed over time is that this beautiful streak and the check animation, which were supposed to provide motivation and pleasure to keep me going, now put some cognitive burden on me. I’m more concerned about not breaking this perfect streak and seeing the nice animation, rather than actually learning from each unit. In other words, I have become addicted to the habit-building auxiliary tools in this process. The real purpose, the original vision, is gradually fading away amidst these daily autopilot routines, pursued only for the sake of formalities.
The more creative and dopamine-inducing the animations and other tools become, the more likely you are to put yourself in these shackles. The pleasure and dopamine you get from actually doing the task are probably less than what you experience from the goal-check and streak. This whole thing goes completely against its own purpose, doesn’t it? It will backfire!
As I grow older, I realize that uncertainty is probably the submerged part of the iceberg, and I understand the need to shift from a certainty mindset to an uncertainty mindset. Life throws you curveballs, and you don’t really have as much control over your life as you may think. Things don’t work in a linear way; there are ups and downs, and that’s what makes it fascinating. You have limited control over how low the downs can be.
It’s very likely that you’ll miss a step. It’s a sure thing. I know I have been keeping the streak for almost 1000 days, but I don’t know what time, but someday this streak will definitely break. I caught COVID twice, and there are days when I just don’t have the mood or energy to do things, leaving me with brain fog all day and lacking the motivation to continue.
And that slip-up will break the perfection of the streak, as if you have lost all the progress. It is a nail stuck inside your brain, causing so much distress that you feel compelled to start all over again just to get rid of those negative feelings and emotions arising from an imperfect streak formality.
It’s so harsh that it often leads people down, even causing them to question themselves. “You just can’t do anything! I told you,” a voice from the depths of their mind echoes, paying tribute to the «Notes from Underground».
The downward spiral is as destructive as Luna’s crashing. The depletion of dopamine levels you build over time can lead to feelings of pain, boredom, and even depression. In some extreme cases, it may result in a ferocious attack against oneself, as attacking yourself seems like a quick way to find relief.
Sure, you can go back to the previous day and mark a check to make it look like a perfect streak. But my friend, you can’t lie to yourself. This is the worst thing I could imagine you doing – cheating on your inner self for the sake of external satisfaction. This will only accelerate the process for you to give up that habit, and even worse, you will have done serious damage to yourself.
“You’re not only a quitter, but also a liar — not just to someone else, but to yourself. You deserve every bad thing you’ve had in your life,” a voice inside your head whispers.
Certainty mindset definitely plays a positive role and helps us progress, but it can also become an obstacle. To truly explore ourselves, we need to constantly peel off the layers of fixed pattern and habitual thinking. We should avoid framing ourselves in a confound to seek excessive security and comfort. Let’s not attach ourselves to specific styles, like streaks, but instead, focus on the essence of our actions and eventually on our own being.
Lastly, let’s be honest with ourselves, expressing our thoughts fully, being present and wholehearted in the process.
Perfectionism is the number one enemy in building long-term habits. There is nothing wrong with pursuing the perfection of styles and formalities, but let’s not forget the core and fundamentals. Otherwise, as Bruce Lee said in
It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.
Perfectionism is a fragile and ephemeral thing in the face of the force of uncertainty. In Taoism, the concepts of perfect and imperfect do not exist in isolation; much like yin yang, they are indivisible. One cannot selectively choose perfection and expect it to remain in a perpetual flawless state. It is futile to become attached and cling to it.
Feel and Being
We have a big picture of how the dopamine system and brain work. When dopamine levels reach their peaks, don’t intentionally introduce more unless naturally. And when dopamine levels crash, also avoid intentionally seeking stimuli to get rid of those uncomfortable feelings. The key is, how do you know it? How are you aware of that you’re in that kind of state? That’s the number one question.
This may look easy, but it is actually very hard to do. Knowing in a dopamine baselevel is quite different from knowing in a high or low dopamine level. The standard way of saying things may not apply to each individual because each one is different. Therefore, there is no standard and concrete answer to this. However, we could start by deliberately building our awareness.
Building awareness requires openness, where one must fully acknowledge their ignorance and empty their cup. This will naturally lead to curiosity about oneself, its authentic existing in this cosmos. Become aware of your body, emotions, thoughts, and surroundings.
Number two: How can we deal with that state and those feelings? Awareness is kind of like letting it go, observing from a distance. Feel the body, the emotions, and all those wandering thoughts before instinctively reacting to them. Experience the moment, be fully present. Those boredom and pain are interesting to watch, aren’t they? It’s just like when we go outside to a park, sometimes my son stops on the trail and watches the ants moving here and there with focus, curiosity, and patience showing in his face.
We have lost that subtle sensitivity for quite a long time: sensitivity of our bodies, sensitivity to our surroundings. The illusive feelings of “secure” and “comfortable” that we build over years of habitual activities lead us to believe we hold ultimate authority, until life throws another curveball. We are becoming rigid, more like rats in a race, losing all those colorful, dynamic, vibraint and glowing individual temperaments that every authentic, honest, and unique human being possesses from birth. The light inside is off, leaving us in complete darkness.
Be open to discomfort, be curious, resist the immediate urge to place judgments, and feel and experience it as if it were a precious gift.
Psychological or spiritual development always requires a greater capacity for anxiety and ambiguity.
Then discomfort (pain/boredom, just like dopamine depletion) can be a great hint and clue to break free from our rigid thinking developed through our daily routines. We are no longer on autopilot; it’s time to step back and check, which is actually a good thing. As Bruce Lee nicely put it in 1970 when he hurt his back very badly, which could have possibly led to paralysis, in his letter to his friend:
“I mean who has the most insecure job than I have? What do I live on? My faith in my ability that I’ll make it. Sure my back injury screwed me up good for a year but with every adversity comes a blessing because a shock acts as a reminder to oneself that we must not get stale in routine. With adversity you are shocked to higher levels if you allow yourself to go beyond your current circumstances.”
”Remember,my friend,it’s not what happens that counts;it is how you react.Your mental attitude determines what you make of it,either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.“
source: Bruce Lee Podcst: #11 Walk On
He goes on to say:
… to understand your fear is the beginning of really seeing. Fear compels us to cling to tranditions and gurus. There can be no intiative if one has fear. The enemy of development is pain phobia - the unwillingness to do a tiny bit of suffering. As you feel unpleasant, you interrupt the continuum of awareness and you become phobic.
Experience the pain and pleasure as it is, but not to attach to it or try with any thoughts to blockade or avoid it. It is in this full totality, wholeness of immersive experience, we could given up all those impluses to control it, impose our will on it, hence in a natural and Wu-wei(The Art of Not Forcing) way. If my son is 2 years and half old, then I’m the new born baby to him, not as an adult. I’m learning to search myself as he is learning to grow. Maybe there are some teachings I could provide for on how this external world is running, hey, other than that, all I could do is just provide some guidences for him in his unfolding journey. Clearly it will expose me to those anexity and uncertainity of refusing to impose some social norms or conventions or dogmas from outside on my son just for sake of my comfortness and sense of security and certainty. As Carl Jung said: “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” , and Confucius said: “You should treat others the way you like to be treated.“, and as I slightly modified saying: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you PLUS what you want done unto you too.” , I don’t want to possess that easily-and-quickly-gained relief and temporary good feeling by follow those social norms or conventions without doing my homework to examine what those really are, without feeling my son’s feelings in his shoes. Of course, I dont’ want my son to conform to my authority and not be happy.
Sympathy and compassion must be granted by a total self-rupture to break those rigid patterns, layers, armours and so called “I think it is good for you” kinda authority, so we could get close to our soul in order to fully feel other’s soul in a equally way and be able to listen and echo back.
Therefore I must prepare myself in a fully peaceful state to embrace those discomforts and uncertainities. Not only it is always me, as a father, who takes the responsibility readily anf full-heartly to protect and give my kid some room of purity to let his nature blossom, but also it let me to have chance to search myself better. How about expericing and learning together in this life journey? I’m voluntarily and effortlessly putting on those shackles which seems to give up some freedom I have, but I know I’m getting a total and full freedom from the soul. To some extent, I’m, from now on, a Free Man.
German mystical Meister Eckhart once said:
Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.
There also reminds me of one time when my son and I were walking in the countryside. He looked at something strange and seemed pretty scared. When I inched closer, I realized it was a long piece of snake skin! My son said it was a snake. I reassured him, “It is not a snake, don’t worry. It’s just the skin that the snake shed.” He looked puzzled, and a question popped into my head: “Why do snakes shed their skins?” It turns out snakes shed their skin to allow for further growth and to remove parasites that may have attached to their old skin. At this time, it is probably the vulnerable time for the snake. They shed their skins every two or four times a year. That just gives me an aha moment – we need to constantly peel off our old skin and grow the new skin, and this requires a greate capacity of anxiety, bordem, randomness, uncertainty, fear, even pain. Just keep re-centering yourself, like water, no staleness and no rigidness, flow as it is. The process of snake rubbing against a rough, hard object to peel off his skin is kinda similar to our grindings in those situations of setbacks and low moments. Maybe we can use those moments as a chance to shed our old selves and be reborn anew.
“Jeet Kune Do teaches us not to look back after the course has been decided. He treats life and death indiscriminately. “ (…) To express yourself freely, you must forget yesterday. From the “old” you get security. “New”, you gain fluidity.” — Bruce Lee.
I did learn fishing from Chinese Tiktok and that skills were pretty good. Those are some beautfiy little fishes with nice colors and scales textures. My son got really interested on those fishes.
A losing streak could server as a reminder for us to examine our actions to have self-reflection and improvement: Have we deviated from the essence? What efforts should I focus on? Should I consider making slight changes in direction? It helps us to reassess our goals, strategies, and priorities, making adjustments if necessary. Embracing the lessons from losing streaks can lead to growth and progress on our journey.
There is another question merged from this: Doing is imporant, and you need take action, but is it sufficient? I vaguely recall Martin Luther when in The Reformation, in this book «A Treatise on Good Works» , he explains that faith are not earned by good works from outside, but that good works flow from faith from inside. You dont’ do the good work just for the sake of the reward from God or the fear of Law. You do the good work just because it is naturally who you are by your faith. And in this «A Preface to Romans» he saids:
The person with a true faith will perform the works of the law because the works of the law will be what they desire to do; the works are thus an outworking and a result of the faith, in the same way that heat is an outworking and a result of the fire.
To quote from Lao Tzu:
The man of superior virtue is not [conscious of] his virtue, And in this way he really possesses virtue. The man of inferior virtue never loses [sight of] his virtue, And in this way he loses his virtue. 上德不德，是以有德；下德不失德，是以无德。
Instead of obsessing over what you need to be, focus on what you are - the Being. Doing becomes a natural extension of being; it overflows and radiates from your authentic self, akin to the concept of “The One” in Plotinus’ philosophy. Being is not in the future, nor is it in the past, instead Being is in this moment, present.
Take a step back to reflect, contemplate, as I’m growing older, is to constantly search the true self and acheive the self-actualization through the process. What you are is something only you could dig it out, no one else could do it for you. Once you get some glimpse of it, you kinda know who you are. Then try stay quiet for some time, let it emerges and unfolds, don’t be an utilitarian for moment, or you won’t heard it from the background. The thing is that it just takes no effort, put other way, those actions or habit building is in reality effortless. Being present in those actions is a way to experincing with inner oneself. No external or extra drive or movitation is really needed or placed to let you “make effort” consciously. Shifting the focus from outcome to process then is a spontaneous thing which the inner force will empower us in a tender, sustatainable, healthy manner in long term.
Yeah, building habits is a great way to gain a better understanding into oneself. Knowing oneself is a dynamic process, and it is undoubtedly challenging. Doing a deep dive into oneself’s inner world is tough and even daunting. In a world where “God is dead,” you become the light to yourself. You may feel alone at times, but you shouldn’t feel lonely — There are and there were so many comrades and the deep connection across time and space between human beings bonds us together. Walk On!
Know the principle, follow the principle, dissolve the principle, and forget the principle.
Chop Wood, Carry Water!
Dont’ think, Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel, my friend!