Day Twenty-Eight: Off Switches vs. Dimmer Switches

“Off switch and dimmer switch” has been a metaphor on my mind lately.

It has to do with drinking, or at least that’s where it started.

But now I suspect it connects to a lot of things in my life.

Essentially, my off switch is pretty good. If I know something’s not good for me, or that I shouldn’t do it to excess, not starting isn’t that hard.

Some times are harder than others, but on balance, it’s pretty easy for me to, say, not drink. I just don’t drink.

My dimmer switch is kind of messed up

If I hit the ‘on’ switch, though, it’s not easy for me to use the dimmer switch appropriately.

Again, this started as a booze thought. But it also applies to snacking, to video games, to Netflix binges, to not exercising.

“Not exercising” may not exactly fit in that category, but let’s see where this goes.

When I open a bag of chips, I’m not a one-chip person, I’m a whole-bag person. Ditto with candy, or cookies, or… well, let’s just broaden this category to ‘snacks’ and be done with it. I used to have co-workers who had Costco bags of nut mixes on their desk and would eat like a quarter-cup a day. This, to me, was alien behaviour. Like the people who run 50 km a day or, I don’t know, astronaut training. I just can’t conceive of that.

If I start playing a game and get intrigued by it, it’s nearly impossible to set a 30-minute timer, then walk away. It’s “one more turn” or “one more mission”.

I don’t think I need to extend the metaphor to Netflix; you see where this is going. I’m not sure that “not exercising” is an off switch or dimmer switch situation, but if I put myself in a position where I don’t exercise for 2-3 days, I sure don’t start feeling like I need to do it. Not exercising, for me, doesn’t build up an accrual of “exercise vibes” until I just gotta hit the gym. Not exercising just leads to torpor and more not exercising.

I think the horse has left the dimmer switch barn

One approach to this is to say “I gotta fix that dimmer switch.” To be honest, I think at this stage of my life I just need to accept some things about myself.

I have a great, well-functioning off switch.

I have a pretty crappy dimmer switch.

It’s not hard to pick which one I should be using.