Tag Archives: 30 days

Challenge 5: Overview

This challenge (30 Days of Fixing What Bugs You) hasn’t really been great in terms of things I’ve actually been able to write about. I haven’t kept much of a record of what I’ve done. I feel like maybe it was a bit abstract to take this on for 30 days, because doing something depended on something happening that I had to react to. So, with some notable exceptions, most things that have annoyed me have been little blips that I struggled to remember at the end of the day.

Having said that, I think “fix what bugs you” is a really great philosophy to subscribe to. It’s certainly better than complaining about something that either I can fix or I can’t do anything about (or I could fix with a bit of effort but can’t be bothered, so I’ll just sit here and whinge about it thank you very much).

I have taken some small proactive steps in one area of my life that I’m pleased with, and some of that has spilled a bit over into Challenge 6 (Clarity), so I might say more about that later on.

30 Days of No Complaining should have ended on about 14 September, so I could start challenge 7 on the 15th, but last week was a big week and I had other things that were more important. Challenge 7 will start tomorrow, and this will be something practical that I can do every day and measure.

Tonight we had our final yoga class for the term, and won’t be restarting until mid-October. Last term I had good intentions to do some yoga over the holidays, but we went away and it didn’t happen. When we went back to class this term, I really felt like I hadn’t done any yoga for three weeks. It wasn’t good. I want to keep it up this time, so I’ve decided to exchange my morning walks for morning yoga (and reduce my daily step goal to 12,000 during this time). This is something I’ll be much more able to keep track of, and it shouldn’t add any extra time requirement into my day, which means (in theory) I should be able to incorporate it into my morning routine fairly easily.

And finally, here’s something I learned last week. Remember when I wore the bright pink lacy leggings to work as “something I wouldn’t normally wear” as past of the #yearoffear challenge and no one noticed?20160912-yellow-leggings-attract-more-comments-ig Change “bright pink” for “yellow” and everyone notices!

Challenge 6: 30 days of clarity

I’m a few days late with posting about the beginning of Challenge 6 of #steppingonthecracks. I had a vague idea about what this challenge was going to be about, but wasn’t sure how to articulate it. Then I realised that figuring out what the challenge is is actually a big part of the challenge.

I mentioned in Challenge 5 that I’d been reading Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and that his first habit is about being proactive and working within your circle of influence. 30 days of doing this was hard to define, but I’m trying to at least keep this idea in mind as I go through the day. And not complain about things I can’t do anything about.

Dr Covey’s second habit is “to 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. This is a common theme through many of the books and posts I’ve been reading lately – that you need to know where you’re going so that you can do things that will get you there, not things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of your life.

Some of the ideas that I’ve come across in this sphere include writing a personal mission statement, identifying your personal values and, of course, goal setting. The thing about goal setting is that you have to figure out what’s important to you before you can go in and set your goals. For example, I consider learning to be very important, so one of my goals for this year was for me to read 24 books. The step I was going to put into place to achieve this was to set aside a dedicated time to read every day.

But that’s getting ahead of myself.

I’ve been feeling a bit scattered lately, and have this overwhelming urge to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. So the next 30 days (or 26 days now) will be about working through some exercises to help me sort out everything that’s going round in my head and get some clarity about what’s really important to me. I have a long list of resources, tests and exercises, including a couple of work-related activities that I’ve been spending a bit of time on in the last couple of weeks. I don’t imagine I’ll end up doing all of the exercises because there will probably be a lot of repetition once I start to get some clarity and begin to sort my thoughts out.

I’m not sure what this challenge is going to look like, but what I’d like at the end of the month is to know myself a bit better and to have some written evidence of this!

20160904 Sunrise rainbow

Challenge 4: Year of Fear wrapup

The 30 days of doing something that scares me (or makes me uncomfortable) challenge is over.

Activity 28 (Sunday): I bought an adult sized hula hoop because apparently this is a good activity to develop core strength. It’s been on my to-do list for over 12 months, and I finally did it. My next challenge was to find somewhere with enough room to use it. I didn’t want to use the back yard because I don’t think I’d find a big enough space uncontaminated by chook shit. The front yard is too small, so it had to be open space in public (ish) view. I felt very awkward about this because I knew i’d be no good at this (which proved to be correct) so I imagined people driving or walking past laughing at me. To make it easier I took Kramstable with me. I know. Use the kid as an excuse for your kid-like behaviour. He thought it was hilarious. I don’t mind being laughed at by him.

Fearometer: 6/10. I have no idea how to hula hoop. I’m doing this in public. People will see me!
How I felt before doing it: Nervous
How I felt while I was doing it: More concerned with trying to keep the thing moving than with whether people were watching me (they weren’t)
Would I do it again: Once my muscles recover, yes.

Activity 29 (Monday): I did nothing that made me uncomfortable.

Activity 30 (Tuesday): Follow up on Activity 22 (get an outstanding medical check) – so I am still waiting to hear if I have the all clear. It had been a week, so I was starting to worry if I’d been rejected. They are still assessing it and I should know by the end of the week. That’s tomorrow.

And the 30 days is over. I feel like I haven’t done it justice because several of the things I did weren’t super scary. but also they were things that had been on my wanna-do list for ages – sometimes years –  and something was holding me back from doing them. Whether it was out and out fear, or more of a low-level “I’m not sure if this will work out so I’ll leave it for a bit” is an interesting question. I guess in one sense it doesn’t matter, because this challenge kicked me into doing them, where otherwise they might have been on my wanna do list for three or four more years (or forever). So I’m grateful for having started this challenge because even little steps are better than no steps.

I read a blog post during the week from Kylie Dunn, who is the author of one of the books that helped inspire my project (Do Share Inspire), where she talks about the “experimental mindset”. She says experimenting, rather than wanting to make specific changes, was the key to her “Year of TED” project and that “the experimental mindset is an openness to try new things, without a fear of failure”. So with that in mind, even if I didn’t do 30 activities that terrified me, I succeeded in completing the experiment.

Yay me!

In her post, Kylie outlines a five step process for applying an experimental mindset:

  1. Consider the tip, advice, lifehack etc. that you want to apply to your life – what does it look like as a daily or weekly action?
  2. Define what you are going to do to experiment with that idea – including how you are going to evaluate it.
  3. Do that for 30 days – and on days that you forget, gently remind yourself that this is an area of focus for a short period.
  4. Evaluate the contribution of those actions in your life – what will you keep? what will you reject? what might you try again?
  5. Apply the lessons and start your next experiment.

I think this is a good process to follow and one that might give my project a bit more structure.

So for the purpose of wrapping up 30 days of fear, I think that it’s been a great way to get me doing things that I’ve been avoiding for a long time, no matter what the reason. I don’t think that “doing something that scares me” has to be a big scary thing every day. It can be as simple as calling someone who I could have emailed, asking someone in a shop to explain something to me (that’s their job!), or going into a shop I’ve never been to before. I believe that if I start to get used to feeling uncomfortable in these type of situations, it will make it easier when I want to do things that are a bit more scary, because I’ll recognise the feeling and I’ll know that I’m not going to die when I feel like that.

I think I can continue to learn from this challenge by looking for things that I’m putting off because I’m scared or nervous, acknowledging the fear, and doing them anyway. And every so often picking something off the “wild and crazy” list to shake things up a bit, because I’ve really enjoyed this challenge and I don’t want to let being scared stop me from doing things that sound like they’d be fun or interesting.

Challenge 4: Activities 21-27

I think I missed a few days after Day 18 (Thursday) when I did three activities (18-20) and learned about the Edamame Threat.

Day 19: I was home with a sick boy, so the thing I had booked to do that day didn’t happen. I had to reschedule.

Day 20: That was Saturday. I can’t remember what I did on Saturday.

Activity 21: Approach someone I met once a few years ago and reintroduce myself.

This was an opportunity activity, because I hadn’t planned to do it, but the chance came up so I went with it. I was at an event and saw someone who I follow on Twitter and who I’d met several years ago, but I wasn’t totally sure it was her. I kept staring at her to try and figure it out, and felt really awkward. Finally she and I were in each other’s vicinity so I took a deep breath and said hi. Turns out it was her and we have a brief chat.

Fearometer: 5/10. I was pretty nervous.
How I felt before doing it: Nervous and that only built up the more I thought about doing it.
How I felt while I was doing it: Awkward at first, but we had common interests so it was fine.
Would I do it again: I have introduced myself to random Twitter people in the street if I’ve interacted with them a bit, so probably. Depends on the person.

Activity 22: Get an outstanding medical check
Won’t go into details here, but in 2013 I was asked to get medical clearance so that I could do something I’d wanted to do. It has taken me this long to make the appointment.

Fearometer: 2/10 I was only slightly worried that maybe there would be some issue that had cropped up that I wasn’t aware of
How I felt before doing it: Just wanted it to be over. Doctor was running late. I had 30 minutes to get through. (Lesson for #fixwhatbugsyou – the doctor will always be late, even if you call to ask whether they are on time and are told they are. Take a book. Write a blog post. Don’t waste time with the trashy waiting room magazines. They will rot your brain.)
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once it became apparent there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Would I do it again: Yes

Activity 23: Have a Tarot reading
This has been something on my wanna do list for ages, but I never knew how to go about organising this or what to expect. I know a little bit about the Tarot but felt very awkward about having a reading because I’m not an expert and had no idea what I might find out.

On Twitter earlier in the week one of my friends said she had had a reading and that the person doing the readings, Jodi, was giving away 20 free readings (she still is – click the link to get in touch!) to help her make sure what she was doing all worked before she went into business. I felt a bit awkward asking someone I’d never interacted with before if I could be one of her guinea pigs, but she was happy to sign me up and, striking while the iron was hot- before I could chicken out –  I set it up for the next day and we connected over Skype.

It was amazing, and I’ll write a fuller post on this a bit later because it’s inspired an upcoming challenge. The thing that grabbed me was the insight into my situation that Jodi and I read into the cards – she calls it a ‘collaborative reading’ –  and it left me feeling like I was completely on the right track with what I was doing. There are so many things that are coming together about this situation right now, I feel like a little step I took about a month ago has started to build momentum. Ad it also manifested in an unexpected way a couple of days ago, which assures me I am doing the right things and is pushing me to keep going.

Fearometer: 6/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous about what might come out of the reading. Scared about connecting to someone online I’d never interacted with before.
How I felt while I was doing it: More and more relaxed as time passed. Jodi was very easy to talk to and I was really grateful to have had this opportunity.
Would I do it again: Absolutely

Activity 24: Go to the accountant and get my tax done
Oh the dreaded tax time. I’m not sure what I was worried about. I keep good records and most of the information gets downloaded into the ATO site anyway, so it’s really no big deal. I mainly needed to go to the accountant to get some advice on the disposal of some assets. That sounds serious. It’s not. It ended up being under $50 on a section of the tax form I never knew existed. It’s all done now and I’m expecting my snappy $80 refund any day now.

I’m almost embarrassed to put this in as a year of fear activity.

Activity 25: Ask someone for something they have no obligation to give me or expectation that I might ask for

Fearometer: 4/10. I always get a bit nervous asking this person for something
How I felt before doing it: Nervous

How I felt while I was doing it: A bit more anxious as at first they didn’t know exactly what I was asking so I had to explain myself again
Would I do it again: Probably if my desire for a thing outweighs my nerves

Activity 26: Ask to exchange a product I bought that’s the wrong one
This is a silly thing to be anxious about doing, but I always dread having to go back to a shop and ask to exchange something. It’s not as bad if the product if faulty but if I’ve stuffed up and bought the wrong thing because I didn’t check what I needed first, I feel like a bit of an idiot.
Fearometer: 2/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous that they would say no, you got it wrong, suck it up buttercup
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once they said yes
Would I do it again: I guess so.

Activity 27: Secret squirrel!
Activity completed. I am annoyed to have been put into the situation that made this activity happen, but it’s done now.

Photo of the week. Me 10 years ago. Who needs a professional when you have a self-timer and a black velvet sheet to throw over the book case right? Seriously I wish I had had some lovely pregnancy shots done, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and less than three weeks after this picture, boom, all over.

BW1 huge_retouched

 

 

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.

Fix what bugs you – week 1

It’s week 1 of my “fix what bugs you” challenge. The aim of this challenge is to work within my “circle of influence” for an entire month and not to let myself get irritated or bugged about things I have no control over. If something that I can do something about is bugging me, then either fix it right away, or put a plan into place to get it fixed if it’s not something I can do immediately.

Day 1: This was a great day. Nothing really bugged me at all. I realised that my wish to be exposed to different things at work, which I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, is actually gradually being met, only not in the way I’d thought when I asked for this to happen. So I’m learning new stuff, finding out about different processes and discovering new areas of my workplace I didn’t even know existed. Yay.

Day 2: Today started out tough. Normally Tuesdays I work at home in the morning, and I have the afternoon off to do my own thing, cook a massive curry, work on my blog and catch up on niggling little jobs that would otherwise get missed, as well as prepare for my radio show. I had my (scary #yearoffear) appointment at the accountant booked, and I spent last night pulling out all my receipts and documents. I was as ready for this as I was going to be.

Then Slabs woke up feeling terribly ill and wasn’t able to go to work, so I had to take Kramstable to school. This means leaving earlier than normal, no time to set up the slow cooker, and, after picking him up from school, not enough time when we get home to cook something than is normally his and my lunch for the rest of the week. Not to mention having to reschedule my accountant appointment and not do any of the other activities I’d planned to do today.

In the morning I thought that it would have been very easy to complain, because Tuesday afternoon is *my* time, and I’m always disappointed when I lose it. But. There’s nothing I can do about it. People get sick and it’s more important that Slabs get some rest and see the doctor, so I just have to suck it up. I’d had a lovely day the day before, and nothing can take that away. And, I thought, maybe I’d get an opportunity that I wouldn’t have got if I’d been at home, so I decided to keep an open mind.

By the end of the day I felt rather differently. My shoulders were aching fiercely after 90 minutes of carrying what I didn’t think was such a heavy backpack and bag but turns out it was. One shoulder looks swollen and is really tight. I need to rethink what I carry on days like this. Fix what bugs you.

Kramstable and I caught the early bus home, which I never like, but today seemed to be worse than normal for conversations that it was impossible to tune out. I was trying not to complain about it, and telling myself I was grateful for there being a bus so I didn’t have to drive; I was grateful there were meals in the freezer so I didn’t have to stress about cooking, telling myself to breathe, focus on the breath, but still the voices got into my head, and I got home feeling thoroughly miserable, sore and headachy, and behind on everything I’d hoped to get done.

I know. First world problems. Fix what bugs you. Headphones next time.

Tomorrow will be better.

Day 3: It was. Nothing to complain about. Nothing to fix.

Day 4: Oh my god. Kramstable was sick and Slabs stayed home with him. There was a good chance he’d be sick the next day too, and it would be my turn to stay home, so everything I’d planned to do then had to be done today. Specifically go to [redacted] to get materials for Kramstable’s Book Week costume.

You know the place I mean. The place where there is no such thing as ducking* in to pick up a couple of things. Because you wait in line for hours. No matter what time of day it is. Today was no exception. As the line built up behind me, the sole person on the counter was in a huge discussion with a customer about this very expensive fabric they wanted to buy, without a pattern, and what were they going to do, and no there wouldn’t be enough to do that . . . And all the while, several other staff members kept walking past the growing line, putting stuff on shelves, and doing god knows what.

It was all too much for me. I was quietly fuming. And complaining on Twitter. And fuming some more. Was this situation within my control? No. Could I do anything to fix it? Not unless I got my supplies from somewhere else, which isn’t really doable. They had me captive.

It only occurred to me much later that Arianna Huffington had written exactly of this situation in her book Thrive, which I’ve just read. She quoted a book called Mindful London by Tessa Watt, who recommends that you use this type of situation as a chance to slow down and practice mindfulness. To pause, to take in what’s around you (in this case a line of annoyed customers), to breathe. Next time I go in there I’m taking a book to read in line. So there. While I didn’t fix it this time, I have a plan to fix it next time.

Day 5: Kramstable was still sick so I was at home with him. I didn’t do much. Nothing really jumped out at me as bugging me. Other than my overflowing freezer. I added “do a freezer clean out” to my to-do list.

Day 6: Today. I noticed myself getting irritated by a couple of things but I didn’t do anything about them. Maybe I should.

I think after (almost) a week of doing this challenge, I’m noticing the times I’m complaining more than I used to, and at least trying to think of ways to make the situation better, even if it’s just a learning for next time. That seems like a good result for now.

So cheers!

20160819 Original Soured Ale IG

* Kudos to my Mac for autocorrecting “ducking” in this post to “fucking”. It’s usually the other way around. It’s learning.

Challenge 4: Facing Fear – Days 8-14

I’m not going to write about everything I do this month, but I have done something outside my comfort zone every day this week. Some weren’t very far out, baby steps, so I think maybe i need to start ramping it up a bit in the second half of the challenge.

Activity 8: Introduce myself and talk to someone new at school

Following on from saying hello to new people at school last week, on Monday I had an opportunity to introduce myself to one of Kramstable’s classmate’s grandmother. We were waiting in the classroom to go with the class on a walk to an off-site program, so I went over to her and said hi, introduced myself, found out who she was and told her who I was before the teacher introduced us.

After my experiences of the last few days I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always feel uncomfortable doing this, but that it’s a lot more uncomfortable to be in the same place as someone and not know who they are, than it is taking this step.

So far it’s been ok because it’s been one-on-one interactions. I’m not so sure about doing this in a more populated environment, such as a party, meeting, “networking” event or conference. I remember attending a work conference with a colleague some years ago and was amazed at how she simply walked over to people, held out her hand and introduced herself. I was tagging along like a terrified shadow, too scared to say anything.

I mentioned this to her at the time, and told her how impressed I was that she was doing this and how easily she was doing it. She told me that she was terrified, but had made a decision to meet people because that was the point of being at the conference in the first place, so she basically took a deep breath and just did it. I did not.

Perhaps I need a conference to go to so I can ramp this challenge up a bit.
Nooooo!

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 2/10

How I felt doing it: Nervous and a bit awkward.
How I felt after doing it: Glad I’d taken the initiative before the teacher introduced us.

Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 9: Call someone about something I would normally email them about

We got a letter from the council a few days ago about some work they are planning in our street. It’s not exactly clear (at least to me, non-town planner with plan-reading skills of approximately zero) exactly what’s proposed and why it’s changed from what we understood the original plan to be. There was a contact name in the letter if we needed further information, who we could call or email. I was going to email, since that’s normally my easy way out of dealing with an issue, but decided to actually speak to the person instead just to challenge myself a bit.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 4/10
How I felt doing it: Nervous, but I was asking for information, not asking for anything to happen or be changed, so I talked myself out of the nerves. Sort of.
How I felt after doing it: Annoyed because the contact person wasn’t the person that could answer my questions so I had to call the “expert” the next day.
Would I do this again: Well I have to don’t I?!

Activity 10: Request at work

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 7/10
How I felt doing it: Nervous because I couldn’t slot the point I really wanted to make into the conversation.
How I felt after doing it: Annoyed because I didn’t say what I wanted to say. So I didn’t complete the challenge.
Would I do this again: I will try again.

Activity 11 Make an appointment I’ve wanted to make for ages

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 2/10
How I felt doing it: A bit nervous about making the call, but the lady I spoke to was very nice.
How I felt after doing it: Relieved at having made the phone call but still anxious about the actual appointment.
Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 12: Go on a school excursion with 100+ kids

I’ve been on heaps of school excursions and they’re always fun, but I always get a little bit terrified of going because I become responsible for other people’s children, who I don’t often know very well. It’s scary trying to keep a group of 25-30 kids together while you’re walking to the venue and crossing busy roads and, while the teacher is ultimately in charge, you’re there to help them and make sure nothing goes horribly wrong.

This time was particularly scary as it was a reasonably long walk to the venue and it was a huge day with hundreds of kids from schools all over the place there. It gets easier to manage days out as the kids get older, but this was the biggest thing I’d ever been involved with.
I really needn’t have worried so much. I had a group of eight kids to watch over, I had another parent with me and the teacher floating between groups. So it was pretty chill in the end. All I had to do was gently guide the kids back on track if they looked like they were drifting away and make sure they didn’t wander off. It all went smoothly and I’m not sure what I was worried about.

20160812 FOBI 22

Maybe it’s just a little stage fright that comes with being made Responsible (and charged with reporting back to the teacher if any kids misbehave). Maybe it’s the same excitement/nerves I get before I do anything a bit unusual and isn’t really fear at all.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 3/10
How I felt doing it: I had a great time. I didn’t lose any kids. I learned stuff.
How I felt after doing it: Glad I did it.
Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 13: Write a post about a difficult subject on my blogT

his was one of my standard posts about a book I’d read as part of my 24 books in a year goal. It was Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, and I focused on the subject of death and how she wrote about how no one speaks about it.I wondered if I should post it because it’s not a comfortable subject. But it’s my blog and it’s about what I’m learning – so if what I write doesn’t connect with anyone, that’s fine.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 4/10
How I felt doing it: Worried I might be writing about a touchy subject that might be upsetting.
How I felt after doing it: Wondering if anyone had actually read it.
Would I do this again: Yes.

 

Activity 14

Completed

Challenge 5: Fix what bugs you

This challenge has its origin in several places.

I’ve been reading Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, in which he talks of the circle of concern (which is everything we care about) and the circle of influence (which is everything we have control over or influence on). He recommends undertaking a 30-day proactivity challenge, where you work only in your circle of influence, on things you have control over, rather than getting caught up on things that concern you but which you can’t do anything about.

Along the same lines, a recent email challenge over at Hey Kendra was to go for 24 hours without complaining. Kendra says that while complaining has some rewards, (because it feels good to vent and can help us bond with other people who have the same complaints), it has downsides if you do it a lot. For example, you look like someone who isn’t in control of their life; people can get sick of you if you complain a lot and you can attract other complainers into your life. Kendra puts it like this: “we have perfected the art of fine whining”.

This is something I’d already started to focus on, because I started thinking that, unless other people have the same issue as I have, they really aren’t interested in the little things I complain about.

I committed to not complaining for 24 hours for Kendra’s challenge, and didn’t even last half a day! Some things (that are totally outside my circle of influence) really push my buttons. But on reflection, they aren’t worth the energy it takes to complain about them.

Kendra says the challenge is to focus on solutions – and if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing. And this leads us to the final piece of the puzzle that is Challenge 5 in my year of #steppingonthecracks.

This came from a recent podcast from Asian Efficiency, with Paul Akers from which I got the big takeaway “fix what bugs you”. This could possibly be the best advice I’ve heard all year.

Putting all of this together, my next 30 day challenge is: If there’s something that’s pissing me off to first ask myself if there’s anything I can do about it. If not – let it go.

If yes – fix it. It probably takes as much energy to fix a niggling little problem as it does to whinge about it, and the difference is that fixing it means it’s no longer a problem, whereas whinging about it has used the same energy and the problem still exists.

If it’s not something I can fix straight away (the two-minute rule might be useful here – if it can be done in under two minutes, do it right away, don’t leave it), at least make an action plan to get onto fixing it.

Example: Last week I was in the kitchen and the bin liner had come away from the sides of the bin and was making it difficult to put stuff in the bin. You know, when you dump something heavy in the bin first up and it pulls the whole thing down.

Other person, looking at the bin: “That bin liner isn’t very useful like that”.

Me: *Pulls out the bin and straightens up the bin liner.* *Gives self gold star for fixing instead of pointing it out and doing nothing.*

This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about.

I’ll have to be very careful on Twitter, since that’s where most of my complaints are aired. If you catch me complaining in the next 30 days without having a plan to fix the issue, feel free to call me out on it! #fixwhatbugsyou

My goal will be to find at least one thing each day that I might have complained about and fixed instead.

And in case I felt inclined to complain about the weather, a reminder that spring is coming:

20160812 Pretty at St David's Park

 

Evening routines: day 29

The evening routine challenge is just about over. Here’s Day 5 of the Asian Efficiency evening routine challenge. It addresses a key issue that your routine needs to help you stick to it: Your why.

One of the reasons a lot of habits don’t stick is because you don’t have a clear reason for why you want to cultivate the habit, so there isn’t a real incentive to do it.

In the post Zachary asks:

Why is it so important that this evening ritual is strong? How does making the small, smart consistent choice to get the rest you need give you more of what you want out of life? More health. More abundance. More opportunity. More gratitude. More growth. More learning. More fun. More service. More romance.

More of you.

 

I realised that part of the reason I wasn’t very good at sticking to my evening routine and bedtime was that, along with it not being very structured, I wasn’t being very clear on why I needed to do it.

“I should go to bed earlier because I’ll be tired in the morning, oh but I can’t be bothered, screw it, I’ll have another glass of wine…. Oh shit it’s midnight and I’ve just sat on the couch all evening and done nothing.”

Very non-comittal.

This has gradually turned into an 11-step routine that starts at 9.20 and gets me into bed before 10.00pm.

But why?

Because I need to get enough sleep to function the next day, and I need to wake up early to get three of my most important things done before my day starts: meditate, move, create. I now look forward to getting up early to do these things, and most nights I look forward to going to bed several hours earlier than I used to.

On Tuesday night, I didn’t do the routine (mainly because I was filling in my paper Census form and watching the drama of #censusfail unfold on Twitter) and I felt very out of sorts as a result. I struggled getting to sleep that night, and I put this mostly down to the fact that I didn’t stick to my routine and specifically that I was on my devices right up to the time I went to bed. Either that or it’s a mighty big coincidence that it was the first time in ages I’ve had trouble sleeping.

So there’s my why; the final part of my evening routine, which ties it all together. In the Asian Efficency post, Zach suggests that once you’ve done this to:

“Set a calendar reminder to review what you wrote in a couple of weeks. Re-read and revise your “why” whenever you feel your motivation or execution slipping.

 

I think that’s a good idea.

Evening routines (Challenge 3): Day 24

The evening routine challenge is going well. Moving on with it, Day 4 of the Asian Efficiency Evening Routine Challenge is to make improvements to your sleep environment to help you get a better night’s sleep when you do get to bed.

There are a tonne of resources out there on how to get to sleep and stay asleep. I’ve had problems in the past, but right now I only rarely have trouble getting to sleep, so I’m very grateful for this.

Some of the common suggestions I’ve already written about in this series, such as having a set bedtime every night, putting a wind-down routine in place and dimming the lights around the house (easier said than done when you live with other people who stay up later than you do).

Other recommendations include:

Getting all devices out of your bedroom – including phones, TVs and e-readers, not only for the blue light that keeps your brain stimulated, but also because they are too easy to pick up and distract yourself with instead of going to sleep.

I once heard Arianna Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post, who has recently put out a book about sleep) say that when she’s getting ready for bed, she “escorts” her devices out of her bedroom, which I think is a nice way of putting it – she has 12 tips on her website for better sleep that you can download here.

I turn my phone to airplane mode when I shut down my other devices but I need the progressive alarm on the phone to wake me in the morning. This is a series of chimes that start off very quietly and get louder over the interval that I set (it’s about 6 minutes) – intended not to disturb anyone else, because I wake up before they get too loud and turn it off. I’ve tried to find something like a progressive alarm that’s a standalone clock but have had no luck, so until I can find something like that the phone has to stay!

Having a completely dark bedroom – which means blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask, and even going as far as no LED displays like clock-radios. We’re lucky to live in a relatively dark and quiet street, so haven’t needed blackout curtains, though they might come in handy in summer when it gets light earlier. It’s on the house improvement list.

Keeping the temperature relatively cool – apparently you need to drop your core body temperature slightly before you go to sleep; this is why a lot of people recommend a bath or a shower as part of their evening routine. There are several different recommendations out there as to what the optimal sleeproom temperature is, but I suppose it would vary between different people – they key is to having a lower temperature than your normal living environment.

The reason is apparently this (according to science):

Over a 24 hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. Our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5am. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping keep your body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep.

(http://www.simplemost.com/science-says-sleeping-cold-room-better-health-because-body-heat/)

I didn’t need to make a lot of changes to complete this challenge, but I’m still on the lookout for a progressive alarm clock that isn’t a phone app, so I can get the phone totally out of the bedroom. So if you know of such a thing, please let me know!