12 commandments

I got a bit lost on Challenge 6, 30 days clarity.

The idea for this challenge came from Stephen Covey’s Second Habit: Begin with the end in mind. That is, to start with a clear understanding of your destination; to know where you’re going so that the steps you take are steps in the right direction.

I imagined that I might do some activities in this sphere that appealed to me including writing a personal mission statement, identifying my personal values and setting some goals.

I made some progress on the values idea, which actually came about through another exercise rather than this challenge, and I’ve been tinkering with this document for quite a while.

At the same time I’ve been re-familiarising myself with Gretchen Rubin’s work. One of the things she did in her Happiness Project, which I really liked, was to develop her 12 Personal Commandments. These are overarching principles on how she wants to live her life

She describes it as “a creative way to distill core values”.

While I love the idea of having this sort of list, it also terrifies me a little to think about setting down my own rules for my own life. You know, because once you have rules set down like this you can never ever ever change them because they are set in stone . . .


I know this isn’t true, but it’s one of the mental barriers that I think was preventing me from taking action on this challenge: the mistaken belief that once I’ve written down my life goals, I’m wedded to them FOREVER.

It’s why I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up because I didn’t want to make a decision that would bind me to a career path for my entire working life. (So I’ve ended up in a career I chose because there was nothing else going at the time. I’ve been here for 20 years. And on reflection, I seem to have decided my fate by not deciding. Wrap your head around that. Ha.)

I’m thinking about getting back into the clarity exercise and, to kick it off, a few days ago I decided to make my own list of 12 commandments – not for my life forever, but for the way I want to live my life this year. That seems a whole lot less daunting than committing myself to something forever (even though, as we know, it wouldn’t have necessarily been a forever commitment).

Here’s my work-in-progress list. I wanted to put something together now and see how it sits, and make adjustments as I work my way through the other exercises I’m going to do. I think something to start with will be better than nothing.

My 12 (draft) Personal Commandments for 2017

  1. Be kind to everyone I meet.
  2. Nourish myself. (Take care of myself.)
  3. Express gratitude.
  4. Pause before responding, rather than reacting instantly.
  5. Be the change I want to see in the world.
  6. Focus on cultivating positive habits rather than eliminating negative ones.
  7. Be present. Feel my feelings. Fully immerse myself in my experiences.
  8. Fix what bugs me if I can change it. Don’t complain about it if I can’t influence it.
  9. Start where I am; Use what I have; Do what I can. (Know that I am enough.)
  10. I am what I am.
  11. Know what’s important and focus on that.
  12. Simplify. (Don’t take on anything new unless I have identified something to give up. One in, one out.)
  13. Consolidate. (Reflect on what I’ve learned and put it into practice instead of collecting more shiny new objects.)

Yeah, I know. There are 13. The Arthur Ashe quote (number 9) wasn’t in the draft list of 12, but it came into my head while I was writing this post. I love this quote and it needs to be there, but I don’t know which one has to go to make way for it. Maybe none of them do. Who says it has to be 12 anyway? Make your own rules.

I think I want to re-read The Happiness Project now, but I already have three books on the go, so in the spirit of “one in, one out”, I’ll wait.

The three words in bold are the three words I picked out at the end of last year to try to guide me through this year. This is a thing. Three words or one word. It sounded like a good idea, but I’m not really sure what to do with them, so I incorporated them into my commandments. Now I’m not sure if I need big ticket ones and subordinate ones, or if they all belong together . . .

See! This is why I never get anything done. I overthink things.

Just put the damn list out there, refer to it regularly and do it.

I’m going to print this list out and stick it up where I can see it, so I don’t forget. I hope that this will be the restart I need to get me back into the #steppingonthecracks project.

30 days of undone things

In December 2011, Amy wrote a blog post about making a 2011 mix tape of what she was listening to (right here). She said:

In 2009 I made a Mix Tape (CD) of my favourite songs from that year. Not songs that were necessarily released that year, but my favourite songs for the year. I burned a copy for a friend and he vowed to send me his… I’m still waiting. Sad face.

I sat down last night and went through my iTunes and found my favourite songs for 2011 and I’ve compiled a 2011 Mix Tape (CD). And I thought we might like to swap. What do you think? If you think this is an ace idea, and I really hope you do, leave a comment here and I’ll contact you for your postal address. Then we can swap our 2011 Mix Tapes (CD) and all enjoy some new music.

And I said: Me me me please!

And so it was agreed.

And I sat down and I compiled a 2011 Mix Tape on iTunes.

And I wrote out some liner notes for it because I wanted to explain my choices.

But I had too many songs for a CD and it was too hard to figure out which one (one!!) to leave out.

So it sat there.

And sat there.

And every now and then I’d see the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy in iTunes and feel terribly bad about not having finished it. I even added it to my list of 100 Things to do in 2013 (it was #40).  And we all know what happened to that list.

And it was November 2016 and the 2011 Mix Tape for Amy playlist was still sitting in my iTunes. And every time I saw it I thought that I really had to finish it and send it to her.

Two weeks ago I was inspired to make a Paul Kelly mix tape, and knowing how much Amy loves Paul Kelly, this reminded me I had to finish her mix tape too.

And so I completed the liner notes and made the Mix Tape CD. I contacted Amy, got her address and sent her the CD. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Yes, it took me five years to do something that I got done in 20 minutes. And I crossed another item off my “100 things to do in 2013” list.

I’ve gone in and updated the list, and I looked at all the little things that I could do fairly easily if I just went in and did them. So, I thought, why not make my next 30-day challenge “do 30 annoying undone things”? That is, do 30 things that won’t take long to do but that I’m putting off because even though they’re niggling things that irritate me for not having done, they require just a little effort to complete.

Sew on a button. Throw something out. Clear off a table top. Book in a skin check. And a blood donation while I’m at it. Burn a CD.

The first challenge is coming up with the list, so that will be item number 1.

If you want to play along, that would be great – let’s see how much unresolved stuff we can clear off the decks in 30 days. I’m going to start my 30 days on 1 December, because there’s nothing like the start of the festive season to make me want to take on a new project.


I will post my list of 30 things on Thursday. (There, I said it on the Internet, so I have to do it.) I’m trying to think of a catchy hashtag. I think #30undonethings will be fine.

Join me!

Make your list. Share it with me and we can be accountability buddies! Tweet me (@straitlinesgirl) or Instagram me (@straightlinesgirl) and let’s get those annoying undone things done and off our to-do lists.

Time to take stock

When I started this project back in June, I imagined that I’d be able to have two challenges on the go at the same time – one would be a small habit change that I would try our for 30 days and the second one would be something more substantial that I would think about over 30 days and see how I could incorporate some new ideas into my life. I imagined that at the end of each challenge I’d launch into the next one the next day.

It’s not working out this way and I’ve been feeling very frustrated about it.

The 30 day habit changes are working well – I was pleased with how the 30 days of no alcohol, the 30 days of facing fear and the 30 days of evening routines panned out. But the less defined challenges have been, well, a challenge. Not a complete failure, but not progressing in the way I thought they might.

I think there are at least two reasons for this. First, I haven’t really been clear on what I want to achieve out of the challenge and what I’m actually going to do and second I haven’t set aside time to do the undefined things I’m going to do, so I’m fumbling round in the dark a bit (a lot) and not making much progress. What I need to be doing is setting myself a SMART goal (we all know about them right? – Specific/Measurable/Actionable/Realistic/Time-bound – or something like that), working out that actions I need to take, and booking time in my schedule to do them, instead of thinking “oh I haven’t worked on the blog for a while, I’d better go and do something” and not knowing what I actually need to be doing, and ending up getting distracted by squirrels and other shiny things.

The second reason isn’t one that I’d thought about much, but a couple of things I read recently reminded me of a key thing I’d left out of my project plan (in so far as there is a plan) – Down time. In short, I was expecting myself to be able to swing from branch to branch to branch, encounter new things and take as much on board as I could without ever stopping to consolidate or to rest. (Thanks Kendra!)

A good analogy I came across recently was that life isn’t a marathon, it’s a series of sprints – more like interval training if you like. Google that and you’ll get many varieties of it (and people who don’t agree), but the idea is that your body and mind need periods of down time after a period of intense activity. This is true on a daily level (you can’t work flat out all day long), a weekly level (why we have weekends) and a yearly level (why we have annual leave). But it’s also true, and this is the bit I was missing, on a project level.

I can remember one particularly intense project at work a few years back that I worked flat out on over several months. I really enjoyed it, I loved the pressure and the intensity of the work and the feeling I was doing something worthwhile. It was one of the high points of my recent career history. But when it was done, I completely crashed. I went back to my normal work, but I wasn’t able to get my focus back and in some ways I wonder if I’ve really recovered from it.

It’s the same for these “undefined” projects. Trying to bounce from one 30-day project to another without stopping is completely unsustainable. What’s happened is because I haven’t factored in any down time or time to process anything for the last two challenges I’ve tried to do, I’ve basically done nothing in those challenges. First because I haven’t panned and secondly because I haven’t really processed, closed off and recovered from the previous challenges.

So I’m doing a total rethink of the project to slow things down and focus on one thing for as long as I need to, and then to take some more time to process it before moving on. I hope that by doing this I’ll achieve something lasting. Some of the things I want to do will take longer than 30 days, and some might take less. (Example: my drawing lessons, which if you go by the title of the book should have taken me 30 days, but I’m still working though it – I’m up to Lesson 28 after almost four months.) And the 30-day theme will continue with ongoing 30-day habit change challenges.

This means I’m not giving up on Challenge 6 (clarity and purpose) after 30 days. I’m going to keep working on this because I think it’s important. I’m making a firmer plan for what I want to do, and I’m trialing the Happiness Planner as a record keeping tool.


I feel a bit more optimistic now that I’ve figured out what’s going on and have made some more concrete plans. And I’ve decided to reward myself with a new yoga mat if I do 30 days of yoga in a row. 13 days to go! Yay!

30 days alcohol-free: Day 16

I’ve passed the half way mark of 30 days alcohol-free, the first challenge of my #steppingonthecracks project. It’s been easier than I expected. I haven’t really felt much like having a drink, and times when I have I haven’t felt so strongly about it that I’ve had to do something to distract myself.
This surprises me, because I thought drinking alcohol was a fairly deeply ingrained habit, especially on weekends.That said, it’s been a quiet month so far, we haven’t gone out much and I haven’t had much temptation thrust at me.

The main benefits to date have been that I haven’t been wanting to stay up late, even on weekends, which had been a consequence of “just one more” glass of wine at midnight when Rage was on. And because I haven’t had “just one more” I haven’t had those days when I’ve woken up with that slightly seedy feeling, knowing that “one more” was one too many.

So it’s going well so far.

As today is the 15th, it’s the date I’m supposed to be starting my second challenge. I have a bit of preparation work to do but I’ll be posting about it in the next day or two.

Monday 30 May 2016 – The project begins

1 June is the start date for my 30 days project, where I’ll be exploring a range of new ideas and habits for 30 days to see what works for me and what doesn’t. As I explained in my last post, the challenges will be a mix of simple habits and more detailed explorations into different topics that interest me and that I’ve collected over the past few months with a vague intention of acting on. The plan is that I’ll have one easy habit and one big idea on the go at any one time, and I’ll start a new challenge every two weeks or so.

I decided to start off with an easy habit for the first month, which is 30 days without alcohol. I’m not sure that “easy” is quite the right word, but it’s something I should be able to do without having to think too much or upset my routine. (This was deliberately timed to happen when Farm Bar is closed for the winter. Say no more.)

Consider it Dry July in June. I’m actually starting today. I had my last beer for a month last night. Slabs bought it for me last week.

This was 10% alcohol. Very intense!

I don’t really know what to say about this challenge.

I do have a couple of alcohol-free nights each week, but I can’t remember the last time I went for a whole month without it. Probably when I was pregnant! Nine months in fact. About this time ten years ago come to think of it. I think the key to this challenge is to be aware of the times I do drink and have something to replace it with ready to go if I get the feeling that it’s beer o’clock.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be planning the first challenge that is based on ideas and thinking.

I think I know what I’ll be doing, but I want to let the ideas develop before I commit anything to writing.

I also decided that I needed a name for the project. “The 30-days project” doesn’t have much of a ring to it. So thinking about some activities I did and some a-ha moments I had at a retreat a couple of weeks ago, I came up with the title “stepping on the cracks”. I realised that whenever I try to draw something, it tends to be straight lines, and that I colour within within the lines and that this art could be seen as a reflection of my personality. I once, when asked to do a doodle drawing, observed the following:

The idea was to draw a shape and split it into sections and doodle or make our mark. I noticed everyone else did round shapes – spirals, circles, ovals, abstracts. I did a triangle. Perhaps that says a lot about me – straight lines and angles. Left brain rules. It also included the words “Don’t step on the cracks” and “Stay within the lines”.

I think I was very dryly reflecting on myself with those two phrases rather than seriously instructing myself to comply with those rules. Anyway, very long story short, being straightlinesgirl is all perfectly OK and isn’t something I need to “fix” BUT there’s nothing stopping me drawing curves or swirls or colouring outside the lines or making a mess. So I think what the project is all about is being who I am, but not letting that prevent me from doing anything else (which was principle number 1 that I wrote about last time) – and seeing what happens when I step on the cracks and colour outside the lines.

Walk in her shoes – a reflection on the week

So another Walk In Her Shoes week is over; my third time participating in this event for CARE Australia.

I love the idea behind the challenge: to walk 100km (or the distance of your choice) to raise funds for CARE’s work in countries where women and girls miss out on opportunities to attend school and work because they have to walk for several hours a day to get basics for their families like water, food and medical supplies.

Having to walk six kilometres carrying 20 litres of water on the way back isn’t something that sounds like much fun. I’m often guilty of forgetting that it’s nothing but my good luck that I was born in a country where I have access to plentiful water, food, education and opportunities for work. Walking for pleasure is a luxury that I am grateful for because it symbolises many other things I have.

Even so, I found this year’s challenge a struggle. I didn’t build-up to the week through the structured training and gradual increase of my daily goals that I’d done the past two years. And there wasn’t the excitement of being in the local papers like I was last year. (Yeah I did kind of like the attention for a couple of days!) I was distracted by other things going on at the same time, and just as the challenge started I came down with a miserable cold.

I think it’s the equivalent of the “difficult second album” syndrome that bands get afflicted with after a successful debut album, only for me, this was the difficult third album.

Not such a good analogy then. It sounded better in my head.

Anyway, as you know, I struggled through, and I ended up with a total of 150,400 steps for the week. A long way short of the almost 200,000 I did last year, but I’m OK with that. I can have a go at cracking 200,000 next year (maybe!). I’m pleased with what I achieved this year. I’m also thrilled to have raised $610 for CARE Australia – thank you to everyone who donated.

20160320 WIHS Steps

The main difference between this year and the previous two years is that after the challenge in the past I’ve stopped walking. I’m not sure why – maybe because there didn’t seem to be much point to be getting up at a time that Slabs mutters “it’s still the middle of the night” and going for a walk when I didn’t have to be accountable to anyone about it. (I told you already, if you believe Gretchen Rubin’s “four tendencies” I’m an obliger, so I tend to meet obligations to other people but not to myself. This is a really interesting framework – go check it out here if you’re interested.)

I want to keep walking, and so far I’ve continued the routine for almost a week after the challenge finished. I dropped my goal back to 15,000 steps. It’s that high because walking is the only exercise I do, apart from a weekly yoga class, so I wanted to make sure I had to do more than my everyday walking to and from school and work. One week in and it’s going well.

Ask me in the middle of winter if I still think this is a good idea . . .

So – a successful challenge that has given me a foundation on which I can build a regular exercise routine. Now to keep it going.

I also intend to wear bright leggings to work more often because I can!

And in case you missed my leggings pictures, here they are for the whole week.

20160314 WIHS Combo

Walk in her shoes – Day 1

Day 1 of Walk In Her Shoes. It’s finally here!

I got up at an hour that most people would be fast asleep (this is becoming my new normal anyway so I can get things done in the morning that I’d never do if I slept later, but that’s for another time).

I started doing a form of meditation about three months ago, which is where you focus on your breath. I do that first thing after I get up. I’m really good at it. True. I can get to three breaths before I’m distracted with thoughts that I get carried away with for several minutes until I realise I’ve lost focus and go back to the breathing. For three more breaths, until the thoughts creep back in again.

I’m so good at sitting still sometimes my Fitbit doesn’t register that I’m awake and records my meditation time as sleep.

I know right!

I digress. I’m talking about walking.

I went for a 30 minute walk this morning in the cold and dark. Woohoo. It was really cold this morning. Like thick leggings, two jumpers and woolly socks cold. It had warmed up by lunch time, which was when I decided to go for a walk. I had to change into something more suitable and realised that, as it was my work at home day, I could have reshuffled my hours and walked earlier in the morning. But no, I had to pick the hottest part of the day.

I walked to the Esplanade and walked the walking track past Tynwald Park and back to The Avenue, which is the opposite way I usually do that track. I remembered the reason why as I climbed the eleven million steps to the top of the hill.

20160308 WIHS Combo 1

I made a couple of Periscope videos as well. I thought I might do that for a few of my walks this week. Not sure if I can post any of them on here. I will if I can work out how to do it. Otherwise I’ll post them on my very active and well-known Facebook page.

20160308 WIHS Combo 2

The other end of the walking track – open space to be sold off for development; the nearby community food garden; and Willow Court Barracks

I was still about 5,000 steps short when I got home, which I eventually knocked off this evening when, thankfully, it was cooler.

So Day 1 is down and I’ve met my step goal on what was always going to be one of the most challenging days, so I’m happy with that.

Like I did last year, I’m going to wear different leggings each day for a bit of fun. Here’s what I wore today.

20160308 WIHS 04 Leggings IG

I have a couple of new pairs to try out over the week. I’m spoiled for choice.

Looking forward to tomorrow.