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Adulting responsibly.

One of my greatest areas of weakness the last few forevers or so has been discipline. No, I've not been a naughty boy. (Well, maybe a bit.) Rather, I've been struggling with things like setting limits and follow through. But all is not hopeless.

Although for some reason I'm loathe to admit it, I have made progress over the last few...weeks or months, depending how you gauge it.

Last week, for example, I was powerfully tempted to stay out all night partying for Halloween, but instead I went home because it was a work night and because doing so would save me $40. It was tough, and I felt powerful stupid and lame on my walk back to the station, but I set a limit and stuck to it.

This week, I similarly wanted to go out with friends but instead stayed in and started investigating health and dental insurance for next year. (Nothing conclusive, but progress was made.) I prioritized something important and responsible, and did my best to follow through.

This all sounds childish, and I'm hesitant to even post it, but I think it's important I acknowledge my weaknesses and recognize progress outloud as a positive instead of dwelling in "failures" as negatives.

Because jokes!
Because I realized sometime this past weekend that I, by habit or negativity or both, do precisely the opposite, and, moreover, that's as much the problem with my moving forward as an adult as any weakness of will or whatever. By failing to acknowledge and reward good behavior, I deny any incentive to avoid and discourage bad behavior.

If this sounds like classical conditioning, that's because it is. Valence is arguably one of the most fundamental emotions (or components of it) and among the most important, too, especially for behavior.

In short, one can't hope to simply force oneself into adulthood and adulting; one has to want it--and like it. And I think that requires training oneself to want it and like it, silly as it may feel along the way.

This isn't to say one should or should expect to enjoy doing one's taxes, but rather that one should train oneself to feel accomplished having done them and looking forward to that sense of accomplishment. I don't think it's enough to just "get them out of the way;" I think something like pride or satisfaction is necessary to encourage, rather than discourage, doing necessary, and sometimes odious, things like taking care of responsibilities.

Looking forward to satisfaction is certainly more attractive than merely dreading the grind. But, for me at least, that's not intuitive. Furthermore, I all but mock myself for failing to follow through or set limits and refuse to acknowledge the progress I make and successes I have. It's little wonder, then, that I put off responsibility and adulting.

But I want to change, and looking at it like this--as a process of rewarding and training rather than as requiring some tedious brute force of will--gives me hope.

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