Creating Conviction

Is it possible to achieve a life of conviction?
Thursday, October 20, 2005

I explored the concept of conviction and concluded that while I do have morals, I lack conviction, because I lack the undying passion necessary for it. For instance, I believe that biking to work, thus cutting back on driving and gas usage, would be better for the world (as well as my health and proverbial pocketbook). But I am lazy enough that I have only been able to bring myself to do so a few times since actually making the decision to bike more often. If I had conviction, I would bike to work every day. Since I don’t, is there a way to create conviction in myself?

Inspired by I Could Do Anything…, I’ve constructed an experiment that might help answer the question of whether or not it is possible to drive oneself towards a life of conviction. (Ironically, I haven’t yet decided if I am actually going to perform the experiment.) There is a passage that talks about how any action toward a particular end, no matter how small or possibly misdirected, will lead to higher self-esteem, since having taken action you have succeeded in conquering a fear. Granted, this argument is applied to figuring out what your dream life is, but I think the concept of taking action is worthy and potentially applicable. It is important to raise your self-esteem in the case of conviction, because following your values can sometimes be draining (it isn’t easy to live in a tree while loggers try to cut it down).

So my theory goes like this: try something that is challenging for a short period of time, like a week. Stick with it. See how it makes you feel. To go back to my bike commuting example, I should commit myself to biking to work every day for a week. If I figure out how to do that successfully, maybe I can do it again the next week. Maybe I will feel really good about myself (having single-handedly saved our environment and solved our oil crisis, leading to a pull-out of troops in Iraq). Maybe I will try to convince others to do it. If any of these were outcomes, then I would consider the experiment successful and I could move on to other things to try for a week:

  1. Eating vegetarian
  2. Eating vegan
  3. Eating raw!
  4. Not cursing
  5. Not gossiping
  6. Not talking about people behind their backs

The list can go on and on. Or maybe, just maybe, I will feel so put out by the annoyances of biking to work five days in a row that I will decide to just forget about the whole damn thing.