Dear 100 Hour Board,
How can we do a little better each day at times when things get a little harder each day?
I'm particularly interested in situations such as when people have neurodegenerative diseases (but I'm open to answers that address general things, too).
I don't know if you ever did this as a kid, but I sure remember standing on a chair, or being lifted up on someone's shoulders and then proudly proclaiming myself as "taller" than another person. Of course, I wasn't actually taller because the height of my body hadn't changed, only the height of the ground I was standing on had.
I think that the things in your life that are getting harder each day is like the height of the ground you stand on. A person descending a staircase isn't getting shorter even though their position in space is getting lower. Similarly, even if your position in life is changing due to external circumstances, that doesn't mean your personal efforts are being stunted. Perhaps your total level will decrease, but you need to measure your effort independent of where you stand to gauge if you're doing better.
While you mentioned neurodegenerative diseases in your question, your question reminded me of my grandmother. My grandmother has various health problems, so walking from her apartment to the elevator takes a lot of work and seems to get harder every day. For her, she doesn’t have a specific end goal with her health because there are a lot of factors out of her control. She’s not trying to walk further than she did the day before, but she’s trying to push herself a little bit further than she thinks she can walk that day. It's not about quantitative measures of “doing better” but instead, continuing to show up and put in the same or more effort. Some days that effort may fuel multiple trips down the hallway, while other days that same effort only gets her out of bed and to the kitchen. Regardless of the distance, she’s working just as hard.
One of the myths with self-improvement is that we have to be visibly doing better than the day before, but I don’t think that’s possible. If we just focus on qualitative goals and performance then we are treating ourselves like machines. To truly become better each day we need to be honest with ourselves about what we are qualitatively capable of and focus on that.
Also, change takes time and our efforts to become “better” compound over time. You don’t need to be doing something new each day to be “better,” but if you’re consistently putting in effort each day to make positive changes, then those efforts will be added to the ones the day before and you’ll be creating lifelong habits to sustain those changes.
In my own pursuit of constant improvement, I really like this quote by the author James Clear:
“We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”
I only have something simple to say, mainly because I've always hated the phrase "getting better each day". Honestly, it's one of the phrases that made me overly hard on myself to the point to where I wasn't doing anything at all and became stagnant. If I didn't read my scriptures or pray one day, then I sucked. If I did read my scriptures and pray one day, but then next day I didn't, then I still sucked.
I prefer the phrase "getting better each week". That way it's more of a positive outlook. I only read the scriptures three times last week? Well, how about this week I try to at least read it four or five times. That way I'm a lot nicer on myself, and ever since I've had this mindset I've been able to progress. If I stumble, I just try to keep on looking forward and improve each week.