Simply Begin Again

I did not feel well when I woke up on Wednesday. I felt physically fatigued, mentally foggy, and had a slightly sore throat. I did not know if I was sick or simply worn out from running 15 miles on Sunday, lifting on Monday, and moving out of my New York City apartment on Tuesday. The apartment was a 5th floor walk-up and my brother and I must have made at least 30 round-trips up and down the stairs from the apartment to our rented U-Haul. We wore masks and gloves all day from the moment we picked up the truck to when we got home after returning it. I ran 3 miles after that as well.

Wednesday is usually the one day of the week that I lift weights and run, but this Wednesday I was not feeling up for either. I decided soon after waking up that I would give myself a sick day and take the day off from both. Some people think they are so tough by not taking sick days when they are not feeling well. They fail to realize that nine times out of ten their boss will get over it and everything will be fine. They pretend they are persevering because they are tough but really they lack confidence in themselves and their value. They fear the blow to their reputation they envision enduring if they show what they believe will be perceived as a sign of weakness. They want to feel needed, but no one is going to die if they miss a day. I might make an exception for a surgeon.

Anyway, I am my own boss right now, and though I may be less forgiving to myself than most bosses are to their employees, I knew I needed to give myself the day. I spent all day Wednesday resting, relaxing, hydrating, and eating. I gave myself the day off of my usual weekday diet as well. I had oatmeal and toast, a can of Italian wedding soup, pasta and chicken fingers.

Taking care of myself on Wednesday proved to be the move on Thursday when I woke up feeling much better and back to my normal self. It is rare that I go from feeling so poor to so fine in 24 hours but I am hopeful that it might have been a result of all of the things I have been doing this year to improve my health. Still, feeling fine I was now faced with the challenge of resuming my exercise habit as well as my weekday diet. I knew it was important after missing a day to pick it back up as soon as I could. I knew if I did not, I ran the risk of letting myself sink into a new habit of missing. If that went on for long enough, I would potentially have to build back my habits from scratch. I did not want to have to do that. It is much easier to keep doing than to start doing.

Habits are always on my mind but even more than usual lately as I have been reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which is excellent by the way. To avoid losing a habit and having to start from scratch, James suggests the simple rule of never missing twice in a row. I think this is a fine rule most of the time but if you have the flu or something else that is fairly debilitating, not missing twice can counterproductive to recovery. That is why I consider the generally good advice of not missing twice to be more useful only in combination with another piece of habit-building advice which ensures that if you do have to miss twice, it is not over. Simply begin again.

I learned the phrase “simply begin again” from a venture capitalist and a teacher of meditation. Thursday, I remembered it and put it to good use. I woke up, ran 5 miles, and resumed my weekday diet with a smoothie around noon. Just like that, I was back. This time, I did not need to miss twice. One day, I will. As soon as I am reasonably able, I will simply begin again.