Category Archives: personality

2020 in review

Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year 2021 workbook asks you to describe the year just gone by in three words. It’s left open to you how you interpret this: you could, I imagine, choose three words that describe the year from a global perspective, from a personal perspective or anywhere in between. There’s one word I’ve heard more often than I care to remember that has been used to describe 2020 that I never want to hear again and I have no intention of using it. It starts with unp . . . .

And that is the last I will say about that word.

I’ve chosen three words to describe the year from my own isolated perspective from the bottom of an island at the bottom of the world. They are:

  • Unexpected
  • Inconsistent
  • Introspective

Unexpected because I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine that the world would be thrust into a pandemic that shut everything down, took so many lives, and shook everything up, leaving people jobless and causing so much worldwide despair, uncertainty and confusion. On a personal note, I didn’t expect the issues I was having in my workplace with noise to be (temporarily) resolved by having to work from home. There were other unexpected things too, not all good, and not all for this blog.

Inconsistent because, while I made a lot of progress in some areas I wanted to work on and I achieved a lot, I didn’t do as much as I’d hoped in other areas. I completed my uni course, and I had some good results at work but, there were other areas I was less successful in developing (no judgement here, just stating a fact) and they continue to haunt me. A lot of that is connected to me not being able to stop procrastinating and giving into distractions. And not getting into an exercise routine that works for me.

I struggled to find a third word but I chose Introspective because I started to work on some long standing personal issues in my head that are preventing me from being the person I want to be. It was hard work but rewarding, and I think I am starting to discover small chinks in the façade I’m trying to break down.

I would also add interesting to the mix . . .

I started the year with beautiful sunny Sunday morning photo expeditions, a couple of times with a good friend and other days by myself. It seems like so long ago now . . .

Sunday morning explorations with my camera

A major focus of my year was my uni program, of which I had three units to complete. The first one was intense, involving a lot of self examination and analysis, which left me feeling drained but also with some very clear ideas of what areas of my life I specifically needed to work on. I finished the course in October and received my qualification in December and am very glad that’s over but also grateful for the opportunity to have done it and learned so much.

I managed to keep reasonably healthy in 2020, not least because I have now gone for nine months without drinking alcohol and, as a formerly very regular moderate drinker, I’m particularly proud of my efforts to do this. I read the book The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, and it totally changed the way I looked at alcohol. I’m not saying I will never drink again but for now I’m very comfortable with my decision not to.

This book changed my life

I had a potential issue with my eyesight that I had to have checked out a couple of times during the year but it all seems to be okay for now and the professionals are monitoring it. I got a hearing test at the start of the year, which revealed I have a low noise tolerance, which makes sense of all the issues I’ve been having at work and in other situations. I’m not sure what we do about this but a retest later in the year showed that my sensitivity had increased and I still don’t really know how to manage it. I kept up with my dental checks and my physio visits to resolve long-standing neck, back and posture issues.

I’m grateful there was never a time during the lockdown that I wasn’t able to go out on my regular morning walks. That would have made it a lot more unbearable.

Morning beach walks, muwinina Country

I started riding my bike to work, which became a whole lot easier when everyone had to stay home because of the pandemic and, as I said at the time, while I didn’t love riding in the traffic, I didn’t necessarily want the roads to be clear because no one was allowed outside. I stopped doing it as much (at all) as the weather got colder, the buses stopped charging fares and, eventually, when I was working from home full-time. It’s something I will start to pick up again when I go back to work after the holidays.

Bike riding to work

Another habit that I actually stuck with was reading, and there were a couple of things that made this possible. First, my goal was to develop the habit, rather than to set a number of books I wanted to read, which the pressure to read a certain amount off and allowed me to just focus on doing it. Second, keeping my no alcohol month going the whole of the year led to me going to bed earlier, which meant I could read in bed before I went to sleep. As of today, I have finished 34 books, which is 13 more than in 2019 when I set myself a target of only 12 books to read and never really stuck with it after I’d finished the 12th book.

The most powerful book I read in 2020, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

I didn’t do as much work on learning Photoshop as I had intended at the start of the year when I signed up for a bunch of courses. Even though my uni work took up a lot of time, I still had a lot of free time that I could have done this work and I’m not sure what was stopping me. It’s not like I have to do the courses all at once or that there’s a time limit. I can do them in my own time, and maybe that’s the problem. I’ve worked well to deadlines where there is a clear assignment to complete but with these courses there are no assignments, just instruction and it’s up to you to play around with what you’re shown and see what you come up with. This is one of the areas I’m disappointed that I didn’t achieve very much in, and I want to do more in 2021.

I completed the major photography project I wanted to do this year, which was to spend 50 days making a photo a day with my 50mm lens. I’m really pleased with that project and it’s made me appreciate and understand that lens a lot better. I certainly won’t be keeping that one stashed in the bag again!

50mm photo of the Aurora Australis, the day before she left Hobart for the finial time

I had a couple of exciting moments in my photography in 2020 too. In January, one of my photos was published in Australian Photography magazine.

My first photo published in a national publication

I was equally chuffed when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court asked if the court could use one of my photos of the court in their Christmas cards this year.

Supreme Court 2019

And just before Christmas, I found out that one of the photos I had taken of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Open House Hobart weekend had been chosen as a winner of their photo competition, which was a lovely way to end the year. I’ve really enjoyed my photography this year.

Hobart Magistrates Court 2020

I was lucky to be able to get away for a couple of short breaks during the year. We had a trip to Bridport in the July school holidays. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and couldn’t remember it at all, so it was great to be able to explore a part of Tasmania I wasn’t familiar with.

Old pier at Bridport on pyemmairrener Country

In October we had a night at Port Arthur, a place I am always somewhat reluctant to visit because of the many sad layers of history held by the area. And then, as a reward for finishing my uni course, I took myself off to Launceston for a photography retreat and I had a wonderful time photographing some of my favourite buildings and walking all day.

Tessellated Pavement near Eaglehawk Neck on paredareme Country

Kramstable adapted really well to online school and I was impressed with his commitment to his work, his ability to self-direct and to manage his workload. The schools did a huge amount of work to ensure that kids could continue learning during the lockdown and I have nothing but admiration for them for what they achieved. Thank you seems like such a lame things to say to convey how grateful I am for what they did. It has been wonderful watching Kramstable learn and grow this year, and for it to start to become more obvious what his strengths are and where his passions lie. The high point of his film work was his nomination as a finalist in one of the categories of this year’s My State Film Festival. It’s also exciting to watch his work and interests develop outside of school. Seeing his dedication sometimes makes me wonder how my life might have been different if I’d had such a passion as a teenager and had been supported to pursue it in the same way I hope I’m supporting him.

Sadly, Bethany the Australorp chicken and Rex the rabbit died earlier in the year. Two new chickens joined the flock in November, Dorothy and Shirley, who are black copper Marans and are very cute. After a month in a cage in the chook yard, they are now finding their feet with the big girls, some of whom are none too pleased to have them there.

The new chickens

Aside from the working from home, covid didn’t have a massive impact on my life. I don’t like going out much, I detest shopping, I don’t play or attend sport and I don’t enjoy being around large gatherings of people. I spend a lot of time at home anyway, and I love it. So I pretty much did what I always did, it’s just that I didn’t have a choice any more. Regular Friday night dinners at the bowls club were replaced with trying out various takeaway and home delivery options from local restaurants and pubs. I actually reversed my no caffeine strategy and started getting takeaway coffees from my local cafe (I am sorry for the plastic, but they weren’t allowed to use keep cups). I’m not sure why. One day I felt like a coffee and it was a valid reason to get out of the house and one day tuned into a couple of times a week, turned into every day. And when they were allowed to reopen, it because my go-to place to write. And a place to work when I needed a change of scenery.

Monthly review at the coffee shop

I realise that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience when so many others suffered greatly and many continue to do so. I am so grateful for having the job I have and that the Tasmanian Government did what it needed to do to keep our state safe. I haven’t stopped being grateful for being in the position that I’m in this year.

It was, indeed, an unexpected year.

A weed is just a plant growing in a place someone doesn’t want it to grow in

Unravel Your Year asks you to consider what the gifts of 2020 were. I know for many, this would be difficult. I offer the following.

2020 brought me the gift of afternoon walks. Instead of being at work all afternoon, packing up and catching the bus home, I packed up my home office and went for a walk every day. I watched the afternoon light dance on trees, rocks, water and the opposite shore, and I made photos of what I saw. I would never have been able to do this if I hadn’t been working at home.

2020 brought me intense self reflection and the deep inner work that I need to do to start to heal myself.

2020 brought me a confidence boost that tells me maybe I do have an artistic side.

2020 brought me a brain that is no longer befuddled by alcohol, and the clarity and health benefits that go along with this.

2020 brought me respite from a work environment that was becoming increasingly stressful and difficult for me to cope with. My stress and anxiety levels are lower than they have been for a long time as a result.

A friend recently posted that we all need a little more yellow in our lives. I agree. You can never have too much yellow!

Goodbye, 2020.

You were not the year I expected you to be. I know the challenges you have presented, both on a global level and to me personally, are not going to disappear when the clock ticks over to 2021. In reality, the date on the calendar is just an arbitrary thing anyway. The sun is going to come up tomorrow, covid is still going to be here and I’m going to have the same struggles I have today. The climate emergency hasn’t gone away and there’s a lot of work to do. However, the end of the year is a good time to have a bit of a reset, to re-examine my priorities and goals, and make sure the course I’m on is still the one I need to be on.

Thank you, 2020, for the gifts and the opportunities you have offered me. I ticked 18 things off my 20 for 2020 list. I haven’t made the most of everything, but I think I’ve made some progress and I have learned a lot. I intend to continue to learn in 2021.

One thing I know, 2020, is that I won’t forget you in a hurry.

20 for 2020: week 8

Week of 17 February 

I finally posted my 20 for 2020 list here. It’s only taken eight weeks!

20200222 After sunrise Taroona 4

Wistful Saturday morning walk

This week was all about uni (thing 8). I went to a three-day workshop to go through the material for this unit, which, after all the self-analysis I did for the assignment, was very intense. I was glad to discover I wasn’t the only person who had struggled with the word limit for the assignment though.

One of the most challenging exercise was engaging in “coaching conversations” where we had to taken the roles of coach, coachee, and observer, who would provide feedback to the coach. I felt incredibly awkward and anxious about speaking one on one to a “coach” about areas I wanted to work on in my development. I was just as nervous being the coach who had to draw out issues from what a “coachee” was saying. Modelling reflective listening and actually responding to what they were saying was intensely stressful. However, the people who had acted as observers during these conversations told me that they hadn’t picked up on my anxiety and that I had presented myself very well. This is completely at odds with what I think I’m like when I have to speak up in meetings. I am a bundle of nerves, I hate doing it and I’m sure I mangle my words and fail to get my point across effectively. I flagged it as an area that I need to work on, to gain more confidence to speak up and to stand my ground.

One of my fellow students very wisely said, when we were discussing it later, that I need to focus more on what I’m doing rather than how I’m feeling and that what I think people are thinking, they probably aren’t because they’re so worried about their own shit they aren’t noticing the nuances of how I present myself. Easy said after the fact, not so easy in the heat of battle . . .

20200222 Dodgy kombucha 2 edit

Excellent kombucha. Only possibly dodgy. I didn’t die.

I decided to use my “just 15 minutes” this week in the mornings to work on the creative abundance course (thing 6) so that I could get that finished. On Monday morning I worked on the day 16 and 17 journalling, which, coincidentally, relates to the uni self assessments I’ve been doing, so I’m liking the overlap and consistency there. It makes me think I’m on the right track. I went to my favourite coffee shop on Monday morning to work on it some more. I worked on day 18 and 19 on Monday night, which was about finding ways to overcome procrastination, and then watched the last two videos. In days 20 and 21, there’s a five-step plan that’s a summary of the key actions from the course so I’m looking at how to put that into place, and then the course will be done as far as I’m concerned.

I did some more work on my photo project (thing 1) later in the week in my 15 minutes and spend a lot of the weekend working on it. I feel like I’m making progress. I probably should have been doing uni work, but I felt like I needed a break after the intense week; to put my head into a totally different space.

I watched the two introductory videos for the Photoshop course (thing 7) on Tuesday so I’ve now started that! It will be a steep learning curve as my Photoshop knowledge is limited to how to clone out No Parking signs from the front of buildings. I’m also getting good at getting rid of fluoro lights behind blinds.

I finished reading the book Grit by Angela Duckworth  on the bus. It’s a great book, along the lines of Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which I read a few years ago. It looks at Angela’s findings that talent in an area doesn’t mean someone will be successful but rather that grit, which she says is a combination of passion and perseverance, is the characteristic that produces high achievement.

20200219 Grit

Grit. Bus reading is good.

Bus reading is definitely a good idea that I want to stick with to develop the reading habit (thing 14). Much more productive than going on social media.

It was a full-on week but I feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Summary for the week
• Things completed this week: 0
• Things completed to date: 3 (10, 16, 18)
• Things I progressed: 5 (1, 6, 7, 8, 14)
• Things in progress I didn’t progress: 5 (3, 4, 11, 13, 22)
• Things not started: 9 (2, 5, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21)

20 for 2020: week 4

Week of 20 January

20200122 Sunrise Taroona Beach edit

Wednesday morning walk on the beach

There’s not a lot to report on this week. I went to work and had two days off that were largely taken up with family matters, a big event on Saturday and a long bike ride and some study on Sunday. It means I didn’t get as much done on my 20 for 2020 list as I would have hoped but I managed to keep some of the things ticking along.

This is the first official week of my second uni unit (thing 8). I was very relieved that there are a lot fewer readings in this module than there were in the last one, some of which I didn’t manage to read and are still sitting in a pile waiting for me. (Yes, I know. Go paperless. I can’t read on screen. I have to have the paper so I can scribble on it and get out the highlighter pen). There is a lot of reflection to do in this unit and the first module is about understanding yourself, your style, preferences, strengths, values and identity. It’s something we’ve been looking at at work, as well as tying in with some other work I’ve been doing recently, including Indistractable (thing 13) and the wellbeing course (thing 3), neither of which I progressed this week. I’m interested to see where this is going to take me.

I made some more photo collages (thing 4). I have four weeks left to do plus the first four weeks of this year.

I have committed to working on my photo project (thing 1) for 15 minutes every day, an activity from the creative kickstart course (thing 6). 15 minutes is better than nothing and it means I’m making progress on a project that stalled last year. This week I did that for six mornings, so I’m happy with that. I listened to another one of the course lessons this week too.

I had a bit of a revelation, which wasn’t so much a revelation than a reminder, that in all of this work, I don’t have to do everything. I need to take what is going to work for me in the place where I am right now. For example, there are going to be days especially leading up to intense periods of uni work, where I will not have the time to sit down for even one block of 50 minutes to do my creative work, let alone three or four. I’m currently looking for slots in the day where I might be able to fit some of this work it in as well as my 15 minutes in the morning.

This all relates to the Indistractable work too and the struggle I’ve been having trying to schedule everything. I’m very good at making schedules. I can timeblock forever. I love composing timetables down to the smallest detail. But ask me to actually do the things on the schedule and that’s never going to happen. If I’m doing something and the time comes do start on something else, the chances of me doing that are basically none, unless it’s “go to doctor’s appointment” (or “meet friend for lunch”).

So I’ve been scouring the internet for ideas on what to do if you can’t make yourself stick to your calendar.

I posted in one of my Facebook groups asking for help too. Someone suggested I was aiming too high trying to schedule everything and that I could try to put one regular thing in my calendar each week, commit to that and make that a solid habit before moving onto the next one. I like that.

Someone else suggested putting an alarm on my phone and putting the phone out of reach so I have to get up to turn it off, thereby stopping me doing what I was doing and giving me a better chance of actually doing the thing I want to do (in this case, go to bed on time), because the act of getting up will force me to stop what I’m doing, so I then have to take that opportunity to stop properly, not just pause.

A final person said maybe I’m just not a calendar person (I think that’s right) and maybe I need to just pick out the top three things to do each day and work on them until they’re done. That might work but I think it will require planning so I can figure out what are the most important things I need to do and I would still need to figure out when to fit them into my day. So I’m not sure if that gets me any further ahead.

But anyway, baby steps.

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 2 (10, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 4 (1, 4, 6, 8)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 4 (3, 13, 14, 16)
  • Things not started: 12 (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22)

Challenge 4: Facing Fear Days 15-22

In this challenge I’ve gradually been pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, so most of my activities have been pretty low on the fear-ometer.  A couple of times I’ve tried to do something a bit more scary and haven’t taken the opportunity presented quite as far as I would have liked to. I’m trying not to beat myself up over this. A small step is better than no step right?

So last week (week 3) I did a couple of little-bit scary things. I yelled out to someone I don’t know, other than their name because the bus driver says their name when they get on the bus, down the street that their bag had come open, risking the eyes of everyone around me staring to see why I was yelling. And wondering if this person would think I was some crazy stalker who knew her name when she didn’t know mine.

I finally made “the” phone call and spoke to the person I needed to speak to (and by the way, did you know that the little oar-shaped things on roadworks plans aren’t actually things to be constructed, they are indicators that there is a slope …).

I attended an appointment I’d been putting off for weeks.

I got the feedback I’d asked for on something I’d done at work. (It was scary to go in there, but I’m glad I did it.)

I gave a small presentation to a group of people, most of whom I know only casually.

I went into a bar by myself and had a drink. Maybe two. This was after the Book Week shopping incident. It was necessary therapy.

And this is where the story actually starts.

I was going to go to a pub, but the one I had in mind scared me a lot because (warning: judgmental) it had a lot of tradie blokes in it. So I picked a hotel bar instead.

I’m noticing that I’m feeling pretty comfortable with going into places that aren’t too far out of my norm – places where I’m confident I won’t stand out, even if it’s my first time there. I’ve been to restaurants and bars by myself when they’re places like ones that I’d normally go to with other people. It feels a bit weird at first, but I get over that pretty quickly and can settle in quite comfortably.

What I haven’t done is go to places where not-me hangs out. For example, I’m not a gamer so I’d feel very awkward going into a game shop. I’m not a tradie so I’d feel nervous going into a pub frequented mainly by tradies. I dress pretty casually, so I’d feel really uncomfortable going into an expensive jewellery store, or clothes shop or restaurant.

I’m sure I have to learn the lesson that the people in these places are people, just like me, and they aren’t going to care or judge me for going into their establishment (although Prue and Trude from Kath & Kim keep popping into my head). But let’s add pub and posh restaurant to the list of year of fear challenges to-do.

I think I have a completely unjustified fear of gamers/tradies/posh people/scientists/IT people/pagans/photographers/artists/anyone who is an expert in a field I know nothing about, because I feel like to go into their world, I need to be like them and know all about what they do, rather than being a newby. Of course this is stupid, because everyone is a newby at first, so as Kendra from Year of Fear puts it, they aren’t better than me, they are just further along than me in whatever it is they do.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that I’m a victim of the “reinforcing vs demystifying” phenomenon that Brené Brown describes in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t), which she refers to as the “Edamame Threat”. She describes how at a party she was offered a bowl of silver beans that she thought needed to be shucked for dinner, and offered to help. The hosts were highly amused by the fact that Dr Brown had never seen edamame before, and announced this hilarious (to them) fact to all the other guests at the party. Dr Brown says she was filled with shame and wanted to leave immediately. (I also have no idea what edamame are or how to eat them, in case you were wondering.)

Having developed a liking for edamame, a couple of weeks later, she says, she was in her office eating them and a student (who particularly irritated her) came to see her and asked what the beans were. Dr Brown says that to her great horror, that instead of explaining what they were to the student, she said “I can’t believe you haven’t tried them. They’re the superfood. They are fabulous!”

This is what she calls reinforcing – keeping answers a secret so that we can feel superior and secure. She suggests that we are most likely to do this when we feel shame around an issue – in this case she felt shame around “class” and elitism, noting that the people from the party were “food elitists”, which made her feel shame that she isn’t from the same background.

The opposite of reinforcing is demystifying – which is when, later still, she explained to a friend what the beans were and how to eat them.

Dr Brown says that seeking to demystify issues both for herself and helping other people to do it is a key to building critical awareness. She believes that if we know how something works, and others don’t, we’re obliged to share what we know. “Knowledge is power, and power is never diminished by sharing it,” she writes.

Putting all this together, I started thinking about how nervous I get when approaching people who know something I don’t because they’re an expert and I feel less-than when approaching them. Hence my reluctance to ask questions, go into particular shops or even make relatively simple phone calls.

Then it occurred to me that I’m guilty of perpetuating the Edamame Threat too. I’ve noticed that sometimes I get irritated when people ask me something they couldn’t possibly be expected to know, and I don’t want to tell them, or I grudgingly tell them or I don’t tell them everything. Classic reinforcing: keeping answers a secret so that I can feel superior and secure.

The Edamame Threat is a double edged sword! I expect myself to know everything and won’t ask for help if I don’t know something, but I apply the same standard of expecting other people to know everything that I apply to myself, and if they don’t I almost punish them for not knowing.

This a huge realisation, all because I was too scared to go into a pub. It’s clearly unfair and irrational and it has to stop!

So I went to a board game shop and asked for something. And you know what? The guy wasn’t in the slightest bit scary. He was a person, just like me. He didn’t have what I was looking for but gave me a couple of ideas of where to try. He didn’t laugh at me for thinking his shop would stock something that it doesn’t. And if he went over to his colleague and laughed at me after I’d gone because I thought games shops stocked [item x], well what he thinks about me is none of my business. Right? Right.

Who would have thought that facing a fear, or more accurately avoiding facing a fear, would have led to this? I think I need to take the rest of the day off.

30 days of evening routines – take 2/day 2

Before I launch into 30 days of trying to sort out my evening routine, I wanted to explain how I understand this is all supposed to work. The idea behind having a regular predictable routine is basically that, because you have everything lined up to do one after the other, you’ll do the first thing and go into autopilot, doing everything else in order and slide easily into bed at your pre-determined bedtime.

Obviously this takes some time to set up and get working smoothly, but the way I understand it is, if you have a fixed schedule that you repeat until it becomes ingrained, it takes having to make a decision about “what to do now” out of the picture, so that you do what you need to do rather than getting caught up in “bad” habits that keep you up too late.

There’s been a lot written about this, and some of the resources I’ve looked at include Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, James Clear’s website (jamesclear.com) and his (free) booklet Transform Your Habits, Dr BJ Fogg’s work, and Asian Efficiency’s posts, podcasts and webinars on rituals.

The first thing you need is a “trigger” or a marker that starts you off on the routine. This can be a time, something you do or something that happens.

For example, in the morning my alarm goes off, I get up, get dressed and drink water and so on through my morning routine. When my phone beeps, I pick it up and check it. When the pedestrian light goes green, I make sure the traffic has stopped and I start to cross the road. After I’ve finished a glass of water I do a shoulder stretch (this is one I’m working on) – you get the idea.

A trigger leads to an action, which can become quiet ingrained, sometimes very quickly (I walk past the bakery I go in and get a peppermint slice), sometimes very slowly (the shoulder stretch one). For some reason the habits that are quickest to become ingrained seem to be the ones I really don’t want. (Also I don’t do the bakery one any more. That was a while ago when I fell off the no-sugar bandwagon.)

I mentioned in my first post on evening routines that I have three routines I want to put in place:

1. Get home from work routine.

2. After dinner routine

3. Bedtime routine.

They’re all important for me to get right, because doing the things I want to do at the times I want to do them will make sure that I don’t have to do them later, which would stuff up the next routine. Getting my clothes out at night for the next day means I don’t have to stumble around in the dark looking for them when everyone else is asleep. Taking my contacts out early in the evening means I don’t use not wanting to do that as an excuse for not getting ready for bed.

If you read James Clear’s booklet, or BJ Fogg’s work (which James quotes in his book), you’ll find that the best way to “stack” a new habit onto the trigger is to make the habit so easy that you can’t say no to doing it. The classic example is BJ Fogg’s advice on if you want to build a habit of flossing your teeth. What you do first is commit to flossing just one tooth. As James explains it, what you do doesn’t matter. What actually matters is becoming the type of person who always sticks to the habit – and you “build up to the level of performance you want once the behaviour becomes consistent”.

Gretchen Rubin says a similar thing in her book Better than Before. You need to start as small as you need to, in order to actually start. “By doing so, [you] gain the habit of the habit and the feeling of mastery,” she says. But the key is to start.

The other important thing here is that the action must be specific. That is, I need to set out exactly what I’m going to do. At least at the start, when it’s all new. Right now, I know when I say “I will go for a walk” on a weekday morning means that I’ll go for a 20 minute/2 km walk over the same route I always go. But if I just said “I will exercise” that could mean anything. “Pack up” isn’t specific. “Back up my computer, put all loose papers away or in the bin, close all browser windows and shut the computer down” is. (That might be the end goal; it’s probably too big a habit to start with when it’s not something I’m currently doing consistently now.)

So putting these three things together, my plan is first to loosely sketch out what I need to do in the evening (not necessarily specific actions at this stage) and then to work out which of the routines each task would work best in. I don’t want to be washing the dishes right before I go to bed, so that’s probably best suited to the after dinner routine.

A lot of it I already do, but I want to use this month to make sure each action is part of the best routine, refine the action so I know exactly what I need to do (some of the things I try to do are fairly vague so I tend not to do them, or not finish them) and then put them into an order that works for me.

As I work my way through the plans, the second step will be for me to start to define actual actions I need to take, if I haven’t already done this. Because I already do a lot of this stuff, I don’t think I necessarily have to start small. In some cases that would be going backwards. “Wash one cup” would be silly, as I’m already in the habit of washing up after dinner. I’ll be using that strategy more for anything new that I want to introduce.

And the next step will be to identify the trigger.

I’m laughing at all this right now, because I used to resist planning and scheduling and routines of any sort. If you know anything about Myers Briggs, I was a very strong P-preference (the appearance to the outside world of having a preference for a more flexible and adaptable lifestyle). I don’t know if my transformation into someone with a J-preference (the appearance to the outside world of preferring a structured and ordered lifestyle) is my true self surfacing as I’ve got older, whether years of working in the public service has eliminated my spontaneity, or whether I truly am my father’s daughter.

Anyway I’m going to give this a go, to see if it will help me (a) get more sleep, (b) feel more in control of what I do during the evening and (c) give me a balance between relaxing and getting things that I have to do done.

I don’t know if it will work, or if my stomped-upon spontaneity will resist the control freak that has emerged. It’s all a big experiment!

Here’s another holiday photo while I’m thinking.

20160706-51 12 Apostles

30 days growth mindset: Day 1


Day 1 of challenge 2 arrived (yesterday). I wasn’t really sure what 30 days of growth mindset would look like, so I went back to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and her website, where there’s a quiz you can take to determine whether you have a mostly fixed or mostly growth mindset. I already knew the answer, but I decided to formalise it.

The questions in the online quiz are pretty much variations on these two questions:

1. Can you change your basic level of intelligence?

2. Can you change how talented you are?

The book has another question, about whether you can change your basic nature – the type of person you are.

Not surprisingly, I ended up demonstrating quite a fixed mindset in response to these questions. However, having read Dr Dweck’s book, I think this is a very blunt assessment. I think it might be fair to say that your basic intelligence, personality and talents might have limits, but that you can achieve better results than you might have otherwise achieved by putting in more effort, learning new skills, making mistakes and committing yourself to improving. I don’t know if this is the same thing as increasing your talent or your intelligence. I’m not even really sure how to define “intelligence”.  

Perhaps I’m splitting hairs here, and it really doesn’t matter whether your “talent” or “intelligence” has actually increased as a result of what you do, but that what really matters is that your results have improved. Fixed mindset is “I’m stupid and I can’t do this and I’m not even going to try” or “I’m smart and I can do this and I’m not going to try any harder than I have to”. Growth mindset is “I can’t do this right now, but I can learn and I’m going to sit down and figure out how to do it”.

The point of this challenge  for me is to explore ways of convincing myself I can do things that I don’t believe I can. I can’t draw/do calculus/put a flat pack together for example.

I’m also being very cautious about adopting Dr Dweck’s position that we can change basic things about the kind of people we are. Having recently decided that I’m going to accept some of the basic traits of my personality as part of who I am, I’m not prepared to challenge what I see as my very core. I accept that some traits we can change. We can learn to become more empathetic, we can become kinder, more reflective, more organised (I know because I’ve done it to some degree or another).

But I think there are some other, even more fundamental, traits that trying to change would be an attempt alter who I am at my core. I’m not entirely sure which ones these are, and I suspect that part of my journey over the next 12 months will be to find out. I’m pretty sure one of them is being introverted. I’m sure there are others. And even if I could learn to be more outgoing (superficially), my core essence isn’t this – I get my energy from within, and being around people drains my energy. I can’t imagine this ever changing, no matter what I do, and I believe that I will always return to who I am in respect of the fundamental aspects of my personality. I’ll always feel much more comfortable working in harmony with my ingrained traits. I don’t want or need to fight them.

I was questioning all of this when something Gretchen Rubin wrote in her book Happier at Home (my current reading project) came to mind. She writes:

Current research shows . . .that some people are temperamentally more cheerful or gloomy than others, and people’s ideas and behaviour affect their happiness. About 30 to 50 per cent of happiness is genetically determined; about 10 to 20 per cent reflects life circumstances; and the rest is very much influenced by the way we think and act. We posses considerable power to push ourselves to the top or bottom of our natural range through our conscious actions and thoughts.

This idea of a natural range of temperaments makes more sense to me than thinking I could change my entire personality. I suspect this is also true of intelligence and talents. If I don’t have the right combination of fast and slow twitch muscles I’m not going to make the Olympic sprint race, no matter how much work I put in. But that needen’t stop me improving my sprint times and competing in athletics events if I wanted to. 

I don’t think it matters though and I’m not going to argue this point, because I do want to make changes. I want to learn and I want to grow. I want to seek opportunities to learn from mistakes and from being wrong, rather than feeling like I’ve failed and that people are judging me as a result, and then quitting. That’s how I interpret the growth mindset. I want to push my boundaries a bit further than I think I can, step on a few cracks and even maybe colour outside the lines once in a while.

What I want to do over the next 30 days for challenge #1 is three things.

First to use the process to develop a growth mindset that Dr Dweck sets out on her website. It has four steps, which are:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice” – the one that says “Are you sure you can do it? Maybe you don’t have the talent.” “I told you it was a risk. Now you’ve gone and shown the world what a failure you are.” It’s not my fault. It was something or someone else’s fault.”
  2. Recognise that you have a choice of how to interpret challenges, setbacks, and criticism. You can interpret them in a fixed mindset as signs that your fixed talents or abilities are lacking. Or you can interpret them in a growth mindset as signs that you need to ramp up your strategies and effort, stretch yourself, and expand your abilities.
  3. Talk back to that voice with a growth mindset voice – one that says “I’m not sure I can do it now, but I think I can learn to with time and effort.” “Most successful people have had failures.” “If I don’t try, I automatically fail. Where’s the dignity in that?” “If I don’t take responsibility, I can’t fix it. Let me listen—however painful it is– and learn whatever I can.”
  4. Take growth mindset action – hear both voices, and practice acting on the growth mindset. See how you can make it work for you.

Second, I want to start each day by identifying opportunities for learning and growth in the activities I have planned for that day, and how I will take up these opportunities. At the end of the day, I will expand on my journalling practice of asking myself to identify one thing I’ve learned today by asking what I have to do to maintain and continue this growth.

And my final activity for the 30 days is to learn to do something that I can’t do yet. I expect to make a lot of mistakes.

I’ll post on my progress maybe two or three times a week – it depends what actually happens. I might have to ease into it, because I’ll have to make a few changes to things I do as part of my morning and evening routines to include these new tasks.

And that’s the plan. Deep breath . . .

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.

Living and Loving as an Introvert

Dorkymum | Stories from Tasmania

good advice

*stands up*

*shuffles nervously*

*clears throat*

Hello. My name’s Ruth and I am an introvert.

Would you believe that it has taken me 31 years to say that?

Most of those years have been taken up with saying other things. No, I’m not anti-social. No, I’m not shy. No, it’s not that I hate people, or that I hate you, or that I’m a badly brought up Awkward Annie.

I’m just an introvert.

View original post 1,490 more words

P365 – Day 83 feeling kinda arty* (aka ‘on art & writing’ part 2) 24/03/2011

Part 1.

Writing is a major part of my work, and has been in pretty much all of the positions that I’ve held during public service jobs in various departments, both federal and state government.
But it’s not the type of writing I enjoyed as a child, so even though I get job satisfaction from finishing a report or discussion paper, writing for work doesn’t fulfil my desire to create.
I often joke that [ahem, cough] years in the public service has completely stifled my creativity and my ability to write anything other than bureaucratese. It also seems to have changed me from someone who prefers spontaneity to someone who kind of prefers routine. (If you are a Myers-Briggs aficionado, what I mean is I’ve moved along the Perception-Judgment spectrum from a strong P preference to a much weaker P preference, or even a weak J preference.) Although maybe that’s just something that would have happened anyway as I got older and gained more responsibility. It’s more fun to blame work though. People blame the government for everything else, so why not that?
So in a roundabout way, I am making my living from writing, just as I imagined I’d do when I was a child. An open plan office in a CBD office block is not the environment I’d imagined and certainly not the environment I prefer.
(Speaking of the environment I’d prefer, there is a tiny town in country NSW called Majors Creek.  When we lived in NSW, we used to love calling in to the pub any time we were in the area.
Every time we went there I imagined that it would be the perfect place to set up a creative writing hideaway. I imagined a small cottage, with polished wooden floors, floor to ceiling bookshelves to house my library, a window seat with a lift-up lid for reading in the sun (inside the window seat would be the entrance to a secret passageway, a la the Famous Five), a big cosy chair to curl up in when it got cold, a big old desk, a rather impressive computer with a mega screen so I could edit my photos. 
Outside would be the garden of my dreams (where oxalis never grows and snails are atomised as soon as they hit the border of my property), with a random interplanting of vegetables and flowers and a magnificent herb garden.)
But I digress . . .
Sitting in an open plan office at a grey formica desk up against a garish red partition that clashes stunningly with the orange speckled carpet, snippets of overheard conversations and phone calls . . . it’s definitely not my preferred environment.
I once heard someone say ‘a grey formica desk inspires grey formica ideas’. That quote always comes into my mind whenever I’m confronted with a grey formica desk (which, let’s face it, when you work for the government is pretty often).
So where does that leave me?
On the one hand I could say that I’m stuck in an uninspiring environment doing uninspiring work, wishing I was in my little dream cottage.
The problem with that is that I need a day job. The ‘starving artist’ stereotype might seem romantic and initially quite attractive, but if I really think about it, I quite like my lifestyle and there’s not much I’m really prepared to give up to pursue a vague dream of working (doing I know not what) in my little cottage.
(And to be fair to work, I have done some interesting things, been involved in some great projects and am always appreciative of them letting me design my own work hours to suit my family responsibilities. A lot of people don’t get to do that, so this is not a complaint about my work.)
But sleepydwarf, I hear you say, surely you have spare time? You don’t work 24/7. You seem to have enough time to write your blog. You take photos, you scrapbook. If you wanted to write or draw or something like that without giving up your day job, what’s stopping you?
If you really wanted to do this, you’d find a way. So why don’t you stop moaning about how much you wish you could do this stuff and go out and do it? Seriously! Get over yourself!
Um, yes. And you, my glorious inner voice, have just reminded me of yet another quote I picked up from somewhere – maybe a movie – where one character laments that he can’t play the piano (or whatever it was that the other character did brilliantly), and says to the character who can, ‘I wish I could do that’. To which the artist replies, ‘no you don’t. If you wanted to do it, you’d be doing it.’
Simple words, but so powerful. ‘If you really wanted to, you would.’
So does the fact that I don’t draw mean I don’t want to draw? Because I don’t sit down and write a story, does this mean I don’t really want to write? Is kidding myself that I have a creative block just another way of saying I really don’t want to do this?
Possibly.
I look at sketches that other people do, or paintings, or even doodles or beautiful handwriting, and I wish I could be as artistic as them.
‘I wish I could draw’. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that. Yet I never pick up a pen or a pencil.
So the other way of interpreting that quote is if I really want to draw (or write), I should just do it. Here and now. Who cares what it looks like? The very act of making marks on a piece of paper is drawing (or writing, if that’s what I want to do). Sure, I might not like the result. It might be terrible. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will be. But I don’t have to show it to anyone. It might be full of ‘mistakes’, but that’s how you learn – by doing it, making mistakes and learning from them.
But then if I don’t want to draw (or write) – if I’m only saying I want to because I think I should want to, or I wanted to a long time ago but I don’t any more – then I need to give myself permission to let go of the idea that I want to draw (or write, or both). If I don’t want to, I don’t want to – simple. And then I can stop wanting to.**
(You may need to read that paragraph again. I know I did.)
So with that in mind, I’ve been wondering which way I’ll go.
Well today I did draw something. (No I’m not going to put it on here.)
I was at my mother’s place and she has a rather large collection of pencils that belonged to my father, who, we have already established, did have some pretty good artistic skills. She also has – and I never knew this until today – an old wooden drawing board that belonged to her mother. She dates it at 1915 or thereabouts. When Juniordwarf wants to draw at my mum’s place he uses the drawing board.
It’s a thing of great beauty and history with pen marks and ink stains as testament to my grandmother’s work.
So I couldn’t help but line up a few old pencils on the board and take a photo, to remind me that there is talent in my family, and that yes, maybe I can do this.
* with apologies to Dave Graney.
** Gretchen Rubin came to a similar conclusion in The Happiness Project. Somewhere.