Category Archives: Happiness Project

21 for 2021: week 9

Week 09/2021: week of 1 March

21 for 2021 update

Last year, one of my 20 for 2020 things was to have a month without alcohol. I started that on 2 March 20202 and I haven’t had a drink since then. So this week marked the one-year anniversary of my last drink. We went to Dunalley for lunch at the pub and stopped at Barilla Bay to get oysters on the way. I bought a can of their Oyster Stout, which I was going to drink at home that evening. I didn’t and it‘s still in the fridge where I left it on 1 March 2020. 

I still haven’t decided whether the alcohol-free thing is a permanent change. I quite like saying “I don’t drink” but I still have some rather delicious beverages in my beer cellar that I would very much like to try. So I need to work out a way to drink them but not make drinking a mindless habit like it used to be for me.

I had some interesting work to do this week, which made the week go faster. That was nice and I actually enjoyed being at work. Well you know, apart from the noise. On the recommendation of my audiologist, I got some noise-cancelling earbuds, which are a lot more portable than the headphones I’ve been using and they’ve been making a big difference in my capacity to function and not get overwhelmed in noisy situations both inside and outside. 

I’ve also been working through a couple of non-work courses in my spare time, which are on two topics that are totally unrelated and I’m finding great joy in discovering the connections between two topics that I would have thought were completely different areas. It has been an interesting week of discovery for me. 

I’m still working through the habits chapter of the Change Journal (thing 7) with my yoga stretches, the pre-work ritual (thing 20) and now the post-work ritual. Now that I have my exercise program from the exercise physiologist (thing 1), I need to build that into my routine as well. I’ve decided there are a couple of the exercises that I will try and do every day and track them in the Change Journal, and then the rest of the program I’m going to do four days a week instead of my afternoon walk.

I had to get out of the house on Saturday afternoon, so I decided to take my SLR camera for a walk (thing 16). I picked up this camera, a Pentax Z70 with a 28-80mm lens, from a second-hand camera shop in Canberra many years ago. I went to a class to learn how to use it but found everything too overwhelming, and ended up staying in green mode most of the time. Around that time I moved to the country and, having been inspired by the work of a local landscape photographer, spent some time photographing rural scenes with it. I didn’t use it much after I got my first digital camera. I remember going through a roll or two of film when Kramstable was a baby but, apart from that, it’s been sitting in a drawer for the past 13 years or more. I still had a battery for it and there was a roll of film in it with about seven exposures left on it. I have absolutely no idea what is on the rest of the film, so I figured what better way to find out than to finish it off. The film is very expired so this could be very interesting when I take it into the camera shop to get processed.

After having gotten used to a digital SLR, I found the controls on this camera to be very minimal, and the instruction book that came with it even more so. I eventually worked out how to put it into manual mode and how to adjust the exposure and shutter speed. Before now, I’d only used it in manual mode for the class, when all of this was very new to me. At least now, having had the experience of using a digital SLR in manual, I had some idea what I was doing, even if I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it.

For my first photo, the camera wouldn’t focus. This was not going well. Then I remembered that the lens gets stuck at the extreme end of its focus range and needs a little jiggle to get “unstuck”. Right. It was so weird to hear the buzz of the film advancing as I pressed the shutter instead of the digital click, and even more odd that I couldn’t look down at the non-existent LCD screen to see what the photo looked like. That’s a habit that’s very hard to get out of.

I used up the film, it rewound itself and I’m going to take it into the shop next week to see what’s on it. I’m not calling this thing done yet. I want to go out somewhere and make photos with it for a few hours and use at least one roll of film.

Vegetable of the week

Thing 2 is to choose a different vegetable every week from the book In Praise of Veg and make a recipe from the book using that vegetable. 

This week I chose bok choy and I cooked Alice’s Grilled Bok Choy with Peanut Sauce (page 434) on Tuesday. I have to say the amount of peanut butter I’m going through to cook the recipes in this book is pretty phenomenal, but peanut butter, yum! I’m not complaining. 

Grilled bok choy

I probably could have served this with another veggie dish but I poached some chicken breasts, shred them and serve with rice noodles. It was a simple dish overall, excellent for mid-week. 

On Saturday it was time for a fully vegetarian dish, Seven-Spice Butternut Tagine (page 160). This had a lovely combination of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and pepper. As well as butternut pumpkin (squash), it had tomatoes, chickpeas and red capsicum. It was really nice with lots of leftovers. I’d definitely make this again.

Butternut squash tagine

Regular projects

There are several things on my list that I have made a regular commitment to doing in the hope that this will be more likely to make me do them. I worked on these ones this week.

  • Thing 5: Spend an hour a week working through my annoying undone things list. One hour on Saturday morning. I didn’t do this. In lieu of this, Kramstable and I spent at least an hour trying to catch one small chicken and lock her away with the others after we’d seen a hawk in the yard. Four of the others were appropriately terrified and huddled in the chook house. One so much so that she let me pick her up and hold her for basically as long as I wanted. I had managed to lure one of the other two, who are now candidates for the most stupid birds in the flock, into the cage with food, and had almost got the last one in when the first one got back out again and refused to be caught. It was a very traumatic time as we imagined what her fate might be if the hawk returned and she was still running around the yard, but catching her seemed like an impossible task. In frustration, I decided to get some water to fill up the bowls and while I was out of the yard, Kramstable, by some miracle, had finally managed to grab the elusive chicken and we got her into the cage with the others.
The elusive chicken refusing to be caught
  • Thing 9: Write my mother’s life story. I went to see my mum on Thursday as usual. She showed me a photo of her grandfather’s house in Scotland that he had built in 1918. I managed to locate it on Google streetview, so it was cool to see where it was. I doubt the oil rigs would have been the bay in 1918 but it was cool to see the town where his family had lived for a time. 
  • Thing 11: Complete the Compelling Frame course. I worked some more on lesson 5. I need to do the practical exercise. It’s been hard to photograph something in full sun when the days have been overcast and rainy though! I watched the video for lesson 6 as well.
  • Thing 17: Brainsparker gym*. I worked on lesson 3 of the third module, which explained the “empathy map”. I missed this month’s live workout on Thursday because my alarm didn’t go off, which I’m very annoyed about because I really enjoyed the last one.

21 for 2021 summary

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 1 (1)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 17, 20)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (5, 6, 8, 13, 18)
  • Things not started: 8 (3, 7, 10, 12, 14, 15, 19, 21)

Blast from the past

Following on from my 10-year review of my blog, here’s another one of my favourite 2011 posts. This one is from 9 May 2011: Happiness what.

I think the point I wrote then is still true today:

. . . while I’m waiting for my life to be perfect, my life goes on. I’m wishing some things were different but I’m not doing anything about them, and at the same time I’m not really appreciating the things I do have

9 May 2011

What I’m reading this week

  • Personality Hacker by Joel Mark Witt & Antonia Dodge
  • Me by Elton John
  • The Summer Island Festival by Rachel Burton
I totally enjoyed this. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Recommended.

Habit tracker

  • Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 4): 4
  • Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 3
  • Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7 
  • Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): 5
  • Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 7): 7
  • Days I shut my computer down before 10.15 (Goal = 7): 6

Back to the future part 2

Continued from part 1, in which I write about the origins of this blog in 2011.

After blogging every day in 2011 and then limping through 2012, I tried to reignite the blog in 2013 because I did enjoy blogging and interacting with the people who read it and took the time to leave comments. So I was keen to get back into blogging more regularly. I realised that daily blogging wasn’t for me so I set myself a goal to blog at least three times a week in 2013. I intended to set some regular things to blog about to make it a bit easier. For example, Monday was going to be the day I was going to write about my journey to quitting sugar, and as the year went on, to improving my diet in general. Sunday was going to be scrapbooking/memory keeping post day.

And I had this list of 100 things to do in 2013 that I was going to review at the end of each month.

I also thought it would be fun to participate in weekly blog linkups like “Wordless Wednesday”, “Thankful Thursday” and “FFS Friday” that I’d seen on various blogs around the place. I don’t recall that lasting very long either.

Later in 2013, I started a 12 of 12 project, which was to take 12 photos of your life on the 12th day of every month.

A random 12 of 12 photo from 12 August 2013

I blogged about trips away, unusual things and challenges I was doing, more scrapbook layouts and random issues like dealing with imperfection (that was a good one). I ran a semi-regular feature for a while called Find Me Friday, where I would post a photo of part of a building in Hobart that I would challenge my readers to identify. I also did a 30 days of lists challenge, which foreshadowed a much bigger project I’d take on a few years later. The blog was still alive, but it wasn’t a regular part of my life any more. And I never did those 100 things in 2013. Or in 2014. Or in 2015 . . .

You can read about where my thinking was around this time, my initial idea for the blog and then the revamped one, here, which is on Blogger, the original platform I used. I moved over to WordPress in September 2013, which is why the formatting of the early posts on here is all over the shop.

In 2016, after having read the book Do Share Inspire: The year I changed my life through TED talks by Kylie Dunn (my post here), in which she pent a year applying the ideas from some of the TED talks she had listened to over recent years through a series of 30-day activities, I decided to start my own series of 30-day challenges that I’d blog about. These included going alcohol-free for 30 days, drawing every day, doing something that scared me every day, and doing cryptic crosswords every day for 30 days.

This was around the time I renamed the blog to stepping on the cracks. As I explained in this post.

“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 – and seeing what happens when I step on the cracks and colour outside the lines.

This project kind of worked and kind of didn’t.

Some of the challenges were ideally suited to a 30-day format: 30 days of no alcohol, for example. This was because I had a clear idea in my head of what I’d be doing (or not doing in this case) over the 30 days, and my progress was easy to track. I either had 30 days free of alcohol or I didn’t.

Some of the other challenges were more vague and I didn’t have much of an idea what I needed to do over the 30 days. 30 days of clarity, for example. WTF?! I didn’t have a plan or anything to measure my progress by in those ones. And I think I took way too much on for the time I actually had to work on these things. As a result, things were very stop-start over this time and I didn’t stick with several of the challenges I had initially intended to do. So that part of the project was less successful.

After that project ground to a halt, I tried a few other things over the next year or two, including using the blog as accountability for making healthy habit changes by making commitments to a healthier lifestyle and posting weekly updates, but even that didn’t last very long. I also wrote about taking part in Care Australia’s Walk In Her Shoes challenge for a couple of years.

Walk in Her Shoes 2016

Finally, at the end of 2018, I decided to take on the 19 for 2019 challenge, which was a list of 19 things I wanted to accomplish in 2019. (Not 100, which I’d aimed for in 2013). I got the idea from Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft’s Happier podcast, as they were doing 18 for 2018. Finally, some success! I had an achievable list of 19 things to do, of which I did 14 and I updated the blog a lot more consistently, which kept me on track with the list. I carried it over into 20 for 2020 (and now 21 for 2021) and over time have gradually expanded it to include keeping up to date on habits I want to develop and little things I want to improve.

I’m feeling comfortable with where it’s at now and I have a nice little routine for writing the posts each week and keeping track of everything I’ve done.

It’s been an interesting process to look back on where I was ten years ago and to see how, in relation to some things, not much has changed at all. I thought I’d share my favourite post from each month over the next few weeks, to commemorate the tenth anniversary, beginning with this one

  • 8 January 2011: Tweetup, in which I overcome my fear of meeting people and bravely turn up to a BBQ with People From Twitter Who I Don’t Actually Know In Real Life.

Now on my blog’s tenth anniversary, I’ve been starting to wonder whether its format and title is really what it’s all about or if it needs a bit of a reboot, given the last reboot was in 2016. In particular, acknowledging that there’s nothing stopping me drawing curves or swirls or colouring outside the lines or making a mess but that, when I think about it, I don’t actually want to make that type of art.

There’s a lot going on in my head at the moment!

100 things in 2018

In 2013, inspired by another blogger, I made a list of 100 things I wanted to do that year. I posted the list on a page on my blog and periodically updated it and crossed things off I’d achieved. By the end of 2013, there were a lot of things I’d got nowhere near doing, so I left the list there for 2014. And 2015 . . . And 2016 . . . And never mind . . .

I eventually took it down because, instead of making plans to go out and do those things, it just reminded me of all the things I hadn’t done. (It still exists on my old blogging platform, however.)

This year, with renewed enthusiasm, I made a new list of 100 things to do. Some of them, like book a skin check, were still hanging round from the 2013 list. Some were quite simple. Make a donation, get yellow sunglasses and update my phone’s software. Some were books I wanted to read (I made a list of those on the blog and have been updating it here). Some were long-term. Finish a couple of courses I had signed up for, walk to the top of kunanyi. Some were daily habits. Walk 12,000 steps. Make a black and white photo every day and post it on Instagram.

Rather than announce this to the world and put it back on my blog, I made a spreadsheet to keep track of everything (this shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me) and started checking things off the list. That lasted a while until life got in the way and I kind of forgot about the list. I mean, 12 months later, the bag of coins I wanted to put in the bank is still sitting on top of my dresser and I have not made an appointment for a skin check. However, while the book on fermenting has sat on my bookshelf untouched all year and my sewing machine is still in its cupboard unrepaired, I do have a new computer, a camera bag and a tripod, and I joined a yoga class, have regular lunches with my mum and my sister, and went to a mixed media class.

20180324 Mixed media 2 IG

I did the class . . . I may not have finished the project

Overall, excluding the daily habits I had included on the list, which I can’t check off until I have completed the final task on 31 December, I finished 37 of the 100 things.

In hindsight, 100 things is too many things to keep track of. There are way too many big projects on the list for me to reasonably have had a chance of completing within 12 months and some of them are ongoing things that don’t really have a point at which I can say I’ve completed it. So I’m not surprised at the low number.

On the other hand, I did 37 things I might not have done if I hadn’t thought about them and written them down. So it’s not a complete disaster!

It was around about this time last year I heard Gretchen Rubin and Liz Craft talk about their 18 for 2018 lists in the Happier podcast.  This is a much shorter, snappier list. Eighteen things they wanted to get done in 2018. I’ve pretty much stopped listening to podcasts now so I don’t know how they went with their lists (a quick search of Gretchen’s website tells me she did, indeed complete her list), but I’ve decided to adopt this idea for 2019 for myself. I don’t know if Gretchen and Liz are revisiting the idea for 2019, but I’m going to make a list of 19 things I absolutely want to complete next year. Nineteen seems like a realistic target (especially since I completed 37 things this year) because some of those will be projects that will require a large commitment.

I will put this list somewhere I can see it and review it regularly.

I’ll think about what I want to put on the list over the next few days. I have some ideas already but I want to make sure I only include things I definitely want to do in 2019 and that I can commit to doing, so it will take a while to get that right. I don’t want to include anything that’s a daily habit I want to adopt or anything that might start to look like a new year’s resolution. I want actual things I want to do and that have a definite point at which they are completed. Definitely nothing like “get more sleep” or “drink less beer” (ha). Perhaps I’ll share it on here when I’m done as another way of staying accountable.

So, while I’m doing that, I’d love you tell me whether you have ever done a list like this and, if so, how you went?

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 . . .

Right?

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.

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

Book 4/24 – Better Than Before

This is my final catch-up post of the books I’ve read this year. I’m currently reading book #5.

I’ve been a fan of Gretchen Rubin since I read her first book The Happiness Project in 2011. Her new book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, was released last year. I’d been following some of her posts about habits on her blog, as well as doing my own reading on habits (in particular the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which Gretchen recommends on her blog and is well worth a read if you’re interested in finding out more about habits). I was keen to see how Gretchen tackled this topic, so I finally got around to reading it last month.

2016 Book 4 - Better Than Before

I like Gretchen’s approach of testing her theories on herself and writing about what happened, and she continues to use this approach in this book. This personal experience means that things that worked for Gretchen aren’t going to work for everyone, and it’s interesting to see how this realisation dawns on her during her conversations with people she relates in the book.

The first part of the book looks at the differences between people and how these differences will impact how a person might go about forming a habit.

The conclusion that Gretchen draws at the end is that we can only build our habits on the foundation of our own nature, so a lot of the book is focused on figuring out our own preferences and how we can use them to form and stick to the habits we want to develop.

This resonates very strongly with me as I work towards accepting my own nature instead of fighting against it.

First up Gretchen considers what she calls the Four Tendencies, which go some way to explaining how people respond to expectations – both external (rules, externally imposed deadlines etc) and internal (set by ourselves). Upholders meet both inner expectations, Obligers meet outer expectations but resist inner expectations, Questioners will meet their own expectations but will question why they should meet external expectations, and Rebels resist both inner and outer expectations. Where you fit into this framework might influence how you form habits.

For example, I think I’m mostly an obliger. If something is due at work on a set date, I will make sure it’s done, but if I set myself a deadline I often struggle. If I have to be at the radio station by 8pm to start my show I will be there. If I want to get up at 5am to go for a walk, it’s hit and miss (especially on a weekend), but if I have to do it so I meet my step goal for Walk In Her Shoes that day, then I most certainly will do it.

The second part of the book looks at four strategies that help us to build and maintain habits. These are strategies that you’d find in many posts about how to form a good habit: monitoring what you do; building strong foundational habits (eating, sleeping, exercising and deluttering) that if you get right will make it easier to build other habits; scheduling time to do what you say you’ll do; and being accountable for doing it. (This is where the upholder/obliger/questioner/rebel tendencies come in.)

The next part looks at actually getting started in forming new habits, and the following (rather large) part examines ways to make it easier to stick to our desired habits. This includes a very necessary group of strategies to overcome temptation and what to do if you stumble and fall.

The final part of the book looks at how defining specifically what we want helps us to form and maintain habits, and how we see ourselves helps us behave in a certain way. For example, if I consider myself a person who doesn’t eat sugar, I don’t have to decide whether or not to have dessert. There’s no decision to be made.

While I can’t relate to everything in the book, and there are some key points about habits that I’ve picked up in other places that perhaps deserve more prominence, or aren’t covered here, I think it’s a great place to start if you’re looking for some direction around introducing habits you want to cultivate. The chapter on loopholes is particularly enlightening, because I think I found myself nodding in agreement at every single one of the loopholes Gretchen identifies.

“Begin now” is also a key point. Because future me won’t start a habit. There is no future me, only now me.

I enjoyed reading this book, and it’s added to the mountain of fascinating resources I’ve been building up about habit forming. I think it’s a really good practical guide. Recommended.

30 days of lists – days 9-12

Carrying on with the catch up theme, here are the next 4 days of 30 days of lists.

Day 9: Weird stuff that makes me cry. 

Someone asked me why the Melbourne Cup makes me cry. I know there is lots to dislike about the racing industry and most horses are not as lucky as these elite racers, but there is something that really moves me seeing these magnificent animals give their all in such a huge race. I loved watching Makybe Diva race and I think I cried every time she won.

Day 10: Meaningful gifts given or received.

  • Photo shoot and photos (coordinated by Lil Sis) for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary.
  • Engraved cake knife for Juniordwarf’s first bithday
  • 40 years album for Slabs’ birthday
  • Brooch Slabs gave me for our 10th anniversary
  • Everything Juniordwarf makes for me

Day 11: This was meant to to be “things my family taught me” but I decided to make it more relevant to me now, and included my (work in progress) list of 12 commandments, as inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.

Day 12: Favourite things about this month – which could be this month to date, or this month in general. I guess I included a bit of both

Happiness is not a destination

When walking past a shop recently, I glanced into the window and saw a poster with this quote on it:

Happiness is not a destination.
It is a way of life.

It sums up the attitude I’ve been trying to instil in myself.
Last year I blogged several times (here, here and here, for example) about my realisation that ‘life is now’. That means that I can’t wait until I’ve ‘fixed’ the things I think I need to fix and until everything is perfectly in place before I start living my life (my life is now) or before I can acknowledge that I’m happy.
And as I walked, I contemplated the quote (for which I have tried to track down a source, but I’ve been unable to do so) and it occurred to me that this was not just a quote about happiness. It could actually be applied to any number of things that I’m trying to address in my life.
Try replacing the word ‘happiness’ with ‘health’. 
Health is not a destination; it is a way of life. 
Of course it is. For a long time I’ve focused on an attempt to ‘get healthy’, which implies that there is some point at which the unhealthy me will suddenly be the healthy me, after which everything will be easy, I will never crave chocolate again and I will only drink two glasses of alcohol two nights a week.
I know that’s not going to happen. There’s not going to be a flick of the switch moment, when I suddenly become healthy.
So if I see health as, instead of an end point that I have to reach, a way of life, then the challenge is no longer to get to ‘the end’ (to get healthy), but to live a healthy lifestyle (to be healthy).
Instead of complaining that I’m overweight, unfit and unhealthy and telling myself I have to lose weight, get fit and get healthy, I choose to be healthy today. And every time I have a choice, if I choose the healthier option (herbal tea instead of beer; going for a walk instead of watching TV; fruit instead of cake) then I’m reinforcing being healthy. (OK, not every time. I think that’s unrealistic. But most of the time.)
Sure I might have some specific goals*, like I want to be able to run 5 km or I want to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans**, but those goals are not the end point. They are milestones. Am I unhealthy because I can only run 4 km***? Do I suddenly become healthy once I can run 5km? Of course not. There is no end point. You don’t just achieve your health goals and then stop and go back to your old ways once you’ve done it. Health is not a destination; it is a way of life.
I feel much better for starting to live this way of life.
Something else that has been a big focus of my life and that I’ve blogged about several times could also slot right into this quote, and I’m sure there are many others too. But that’s a story for another night.
* Not my actual goals.
**That would be the immediately pre-pregnancy size 8-10s, not the 12 months pre-pregnancy size 14-16s, because fitting into those would require a certain level of relaxation of my lifestyle; and besides, I got rid of them and have no intention of ever buying a pair of jeans that size again.
*** I can’t.


the star chart (and weekly check-in #2)

Let’s talk about resolutions.

Well, actually, since this is my blog (and my weekly check-in) I’m going to talk about my resolutions.

Or, more accurately, my commitments. I decided to call my resolutions ‘commitments’, because to me ‘resolution’ conjures up something you come up with for New Year and, more often than not, fail to keep. I know – the two words are most likely interchangeable and I’m just playing with semantics here, but if I’m going to be more likely to stick to a commitment than a resolution, then I’m using that word.

But first, a recap of what I’m talking about.

In January I wrote about resolutions in the context of The Happiness Project. Basically what Gretchen Rubin did in an attempt to make progress towards reaching her goals was to make resolutions related to those goals that were ‘concrete and measurable’. She then made up a chart to record those resolutions and included space for each day, where she would tick the box if she’d fulfilled the resolution and cross it if she hadn’t. (The Happiness Project, page 8.)

The idea behind this is that if you put the chart somewhere you can see it, you’ll be reminded of what you’ve set out to do, and if you record your progress, this provides a degree of accountability and encourages you to keep going.

For her Happiness Project, Ms Rubin selected a different subject for each month (such as ‘work’, ‘money’, ‘friendships’) and then set herself specific, realistic tasks related to those subjects, which at the end of each day she could assess whether or not she had done.

Each month she added the new month’s resolution’s to the previous ones, so that by the 12th month, her intention was to be keeping all of her resolutions every day.

So, having explained all that, it’s back to me.

A couple of weeks ago I posted how my first commitment was going to be to make sure my kitchen benchtop was clean every evening and that all the washing up was done and put away. 

It’s a fairly simple task, but it’s something that, by the time we’d done everything else we had to do once we got home – especially on the days when we pretty much got home and went straight into dinner – I was often in a state where I couldn’t be bothered to finish. I’d do the washing up and leave it in the drainer, I’d leave things on the bench that I wasn’t sure when I’d be needing next and I’d leave the stove to be cleaned until I next needed to use it.

The result was being greeted by an untidy kitchen first thing in the morning, which set me up for being in, well, an untidy mood for the rest of the day.

So I decided to start to make a bit more of an effort, and to make sure that I did, I made my own version of Ms Rubin’s resolution chart. It looks a lot like Juniordwarf’s star chart for the little tasks we were having trouble getting him to do, and is going to need some resizing pretty soon, once the number of commitments gets much bigger.

Yep it’s probably a little bit childish, but there is a certain satisfaction in doing something I said I’d do, and seeing my chart fill up with stamps. Juniordwarf is quite amused by it all too. But if it works, then I’m not complaining.
Last week was my first full week trying to fulfil this commitment, and this week was my second. My first weekly check-in was here, and I committed to coming back every Sunday night and reporting on my progress, in an attempt to hold myself accountable. By that I mean I hope I’m less likely to give up if I’ve made a public commitment to doing this stuff (even if only one person reads it).

Ok, I can’t put it off any longer . . . time to report.

Kitchen bench: 7/7 stars.
Bed by 11pm: 3/6 stars (I can’t count tonight, since I haven’t gone to bed yet).
Drink enough water: 7/7 stars.

Next week’s new commitments

This is going to be tough. The commitment is to get up and dressed by 7 am every day.

Not difficult on a work day because I get up well before then. But on weekends and on my day with Juniordwarf, I tend to lounge around for a long time before I get dressed, I don’t actually do anything during that time and I waste a lot of the day. I’m hoping that the act of getting myself ready for the day will move my mind into an action frame of mind, rather than a sloth one.

Also, if I have to get up earlier, this might help me stick to the 11 pm bed time, which I did well at the start of the week, but lost it at the end of the week.

Maybe I should make it 8 am on a Sunday though.

Weekly Check-in #1

Remember my post a couple of weeks ago in which I made a commitment to myself to wash up and clear off my kitchen bench every night?

Well, it’s not much good making that sort of commitment unless I have a way to keep myself honest, so I made myself a version of a star chart to keep track of whether I’ve actually been doing what I said I would.

And to keep myself more honest, because I made a public commitment to doing this, I’ve decided to have a weekly check-in post every Sunday night so I can celebrate my success (or admit my not-quite-success).

So, where am I up to?

Week 1: 5/5 possible stars. A good start.
Week 2: 4/7 possible stars. I didn’t quite get there.

Next week’s commitments
1. The kitchen task remains.
2. I will be in bed by 11.00 every night.

The reason for making this commitment is that I simply am not getting enough sleep. I’m run down and sick all the time and I need to rest. So I’ll see if this makes a difference.

I’ll be back next Sunday night to report on my progress.