Productivity

Bad is the prequel to the good

Nick Saraev English

As I grow older, I’ve started to notice a peculiar pattern in my capacity for work and my ability to remain productive.

Case in point: some days I feel like shit. I don’t even want to get out of bed, let alone make breakfast, go to work, or write an article. Other times, I wake up feeling energized and unstoppable.

On those days, I feel on — like there’s some cerebral switch that has been flicked that allows me to temporarily surpass my limits. Things are simple, I am resolute, and I accomplish a great deal.

It’s as if life has a secret difficulty setting, and I change it from Extreme to Very Easy. I gracefully dance across a heap of tasks in a few hours that otherwise would have taken me days, and my mood (during that high) is consistent and incredible.

Naturally, I’ve tried isolating for the likely variables to precede this feeling, like sleep, hydration, the number of successes I had in the previous day, my romantic relationships, and so on. Unfortunately these attempts have largely met with failure. To date, I am unable to conclusively determine the cause.


Last week I had one of those ‘bad’ days, and during an very long shower (the kind that turns you into a dignified raisin) I had a thought:

Perhaps good and bad days are caused by simple, normal fluctuations over time.

Rather than looking at mood and motivation from a causative standpoint — as in, perhaps there’s something that I do the previous day or week that leads to these heightened, great experiences— the answer may simply be that feeling bad is a product of how long it’s been since the last time you felt good.

The body is always vying for homeostasis. It accomplishes this through the use of a number of tricky feedback loops, but one thing about feedback loops is that they’re natural resonators; a prerequisite of their ability to control a system is actually a certain amount of deviation in that system.

Your A/C doesn’t kick in until it’s hot enough to push the switch. The same thing is true in many cases throughout the body and the brain. Perhaps you can model the relationship between effectiveness and ineffectiveness in a similar manner. The times that you feel ineffective are necessary to kickstart the homeostatic mechanism that ends up making you feel effective later.

Whether it’s true or not, this concept has allowed me to feel more ‘good’ on ‘bad’ days, since it implies that the bad is temporary, and that feeling like crap is a necessary prequel to feeling like a goddamn rockstar.

You’re the protagonist of your story. No story would be enjoyable unless it involved plenty of highs and lows. Learn to appreciate the bad—it's one of the clearest signals out there that good is on the way

© Nick Saraev 2021