Almost Timely News, 26-June-2022: Good Habits Lead to Great Change (WARNING: POLITICAL) (6/26) :: View in Browser
This week’s newsletter is going to be intensely political, very USA-centric, and leaning on the liberal side. No marketing content. Feel free to skip if that’s not your thing, or even unsubscribe. That’s totally okay.
Again, no marketing content in here, but lots of liberal political content that’s very America-centric, with apologies to you if you’re not focused on the USA.
Last chance to skip and come back next week!
Let’s talk about habits and change.
When was the last time you went to the gym once, got fit, and didn’t need to work out ever again?
When was the last time you changed what you ate for a day, lost X kilograms, and never had to do that again?
Yeah, me neither. That doesn’t happen. Big sustainable changes don’t come from one-time events. They come from applied diligence, from making a little bit of progress all the time, bit by bit, day by day.
Back at the height of the pandemic, I took up running. In the beginning, I sucked at it. REALLY sucked at it. I could barely run a kilometer, much less a mile. (1 kilometer is about 2/3 of a mile) But I kept at it, and 6 months after I started, I ran my first 5K road race – virtually, because pandemic.
6 months after that, I was able to run 5k a week.
Since the start of 2022, I’ve been running 5K or more every Sunday, 3-4K on Wednesdays. Last weekend, I managed 9K for the first time. As a guy in his mid-forties who has never, ever been athletic in my adult life, that was a big deal and a huge moment. I’m on my way to 10K, and I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my adult life.
How did I make such a big change? With habits over time. Once I figured out how to run without injuring myself (which happened all the previous times in my life I’d tried to take up running), I started running as a habit. Rain or shine, I ran on Sundays in 2020 and half of 2021. Rain or shine, I’ve run on Sundays and Wednesdays for the last year. Almost no days off – I’ve taken off 4 Sundays in 2 years, mostly due to holiday travel.
When friends ask me how I maintain such discipline, the answer is easy: it’s habit. It’s routine. It’s so regular that I don’t have to think about whether or not I should run, I just run because it’s what I do. It’s part of who I am. It feels weird when I do have to miss a run, like something’s very wrong with the day.
Good habits lead to great change.
What does this have to do with politics? I’m glad I asked.
How did the neo-conservatives in America manage to overturn a 50-year old court ruling and make abortion illegal in about half the US states?
With good habits. They had a message they repeated endlessly, true or not. They applied consistent discipline, consistent effort, consistent resources, consistent focus over a very long period of time to get local, state, and federal officials elected, until they had enough people in power to influence the highest court in the land, and they placed their candidates on it in lifetime positions.
And those habits paid off. They achieved a decades-long goal of federally de-recognizing people’s sovereignty over their own bodies, women (well, anyone with a uterus) especially. In the opinion of the court, one of the Justices, Justice Thomas, also made clear the court needs to re-examine and reverse similar decisions about same-sex relationships, same-sex marriage, and the availability of contraception. You can read that opinion on page 119 of the official ruling.
I happen to disagree with this decision in almost every possible way. I’m a big fan of freedom, of liberty, of self-determination and autonomy. So long as you’re not hurting me, you should be allowed to do whatever you want with your body. (this, by the way, is why I’m also in favor of mandating things like masks and vaccines as a last resort, because what you do with your body – or don’t do – WILL hurt me) You want a baby in it? That’s your business. You don’t want a baby in it? That’s your business too. You want to cover it in tattoos or pierce it with iron bolts? That’s your business too… and it’s not my business to tell you what to do with your body if you’re not hurting me.
For people like me, and maybe you, who vehemently oppose this decision, what should we do?
I’ll tell you what we should NOT do: Make a lot of noise for a brief time and then forget about it and move onto the next piece of news that crosses our smartphones.
That’s the equivalent of going to the gym once, working out real hard, and then never going back.
Great change requires effort and resources over a long period of time. It requires good habits.
What we should be thinking about is our own habits for creating change. We have a clear goal: to enact into law broad bodily autonomy, that the government should have no say over what we do with our bodies save when it causes harm to other people without their consent, starting with restoring the federal right to abortion. That’s the goal: more freedom and more liberty for all of us. How do we get there?
The blueprint that American neo-conservatives used to achieve their agenda isn’t unique to them. It’s not special, it’s not magic. It is eminently practical and can be used by anyone:
Work with like-minded individuals to get people with our point of view elected to local offices.
Then state offices.
Then federal offices.
Then to the highest courts in the land.
What habits do we need to enact to make these changes happen?
- Finance: There are lots of organizations that work towards changes we want. Don’t donate once. Set up a recurring donation so that you’re in the habit of providing resources. Given a choice between a 12 one time donation and a1 monthly recurring donation, almost every organization prefers the latter because it allows for budgeting and resource allocation. Make donating a habit.
- Elect: Vote. In every single election you’re eligible to vote in, even if it’s just for the dog catcher. Just as in running when there are no days off from your workout, if you want political change, there are no off-year elections to skip. Make voting a habit.
- Communicate: In the USA, every major elected representative has some way to receive feedback. Don’t give feedback once, or when a hot button issue comes up. If you want representatives to know something’s a big deal, give feedback regularly and frequently. For example, ask your Senator or Representative to introduce federal legislation legalizing abortion – but put it on your calendar and do it every single weekday. You just copy and paste, but you keep up that habit. Make communicating with your officials a habit.
- Advocate: These habits don’t mean much if you’re the only one doing them. Buddy up. Join groups. Just like having a workout buddy makes it easier to hold each other accountable, and a class at your local fitness center makes it even easier, your political habits need like minds. Ask your political workout buddies if they sent their daily messages to their elected reps, or made their monthly donations to the cause. Make building and growing your personal network a habit.
- Investigate: The reality is that the American political system runs, like so much else in the country, on money. Spend time regularly seeing who funds politicians that made this happen. Then don’t do business with those companies, let them know why publicly, and spread the word in your buddy system to do the same. Make research a habit.
Neo-conservatives won a 50-year battle because they had better habits than liberals. They weren’t smarter or better educated or wealthier or more clever. They were focused and they were zealous about their habits. If we want to win back what they took, we have to be more focused and more dedicated to our habits than them over the same period of time or longer.
Good habits lead to great changes – but only if you stick by them.
I hope you’ll join me, if it’s appropriate and relevant to you, in establishing good habits to create great, necessary change for the better.
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Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I appreciate it. As always, thank you for your support, your attention, and your kindness.
See you next week,
Christopher S. Penn