Tag Archives: goals

20 for 2020: week 13

Week of 23 March

My 20 for 2020 list: https://thesleepydwarf.wordpress.com/20-for-2020/

This week was a bit of a blur trying to get a grip on what’s going on in the world during the covid pandemic and what it means for me, my family, my work, Kramstable’s schooling . . .

20200323 Deserted Cat & Fiddle

Monday lunchtime in Hobart

My main focus aside from all of that was getting my uni assignment (thing 8) completed and submitted. I did my usual thing of writing far too many words and then spending a large amount of time trying to cut it back to something that resembled the maximum word limit (plus 10 per cent) but that still included everything I wanted to say. Much as it caused me angst, I knew I was going to hand something in. It got to the point where I was quibbling over individual words and I knew that the effort I was making wasn’t going to improve the essay in any substantial way, so I bit the bullet and handed it in. Bang. Done. I am now officially half-way through the course and I have a break for about a month before the third unit starts. Whatever that’s going to look like.

20200324 Hinsby Beach 42 edit

Tuesday afternoon reflection time

I spent 15 minutes every day working on my photo project (thing 1). I watched some of the Photoshop course videos (thing 7), and even tried to use one of the techniques, which, let’s just say, did not end well. I have a lot of practice to do!

20200328 Hinsby Beach 2 edit

Watching the clouds

This was week 4 of no alcohol (thing 5). Since I’m riding my bike on the days I go to work (thing 10), I don’t have time on the bus to read (thing 14) anymore, so I’ve been doing it before I go to sleep at night. It’s not my favourite time to read but, because I’ve been going to bed earlier, I can actually do it then. Maybe over the coming weeks I’ll be able to find another time that works better for me.

20200329 Tea break edit

Tea break instead of alcohol

Sunday was the closest Sunday to the end of the month so it was time to do my Unravel Your Year monthly review (thing 22). This had been a coffee shop ritual, but as the coffee shops aren’t allowed to serve anything on the premises now, I decided at least to stick to the ritual, get a takeaway coffee and do it at home. I don’t find it as easy to concentrate on things like this at home so I don’t think I did as good a job as I’d like to have and I didn’t really come out of it with any clear goals for April. I feel like my March goals (and sub-goals) are still a bit undone because so much has happened since I wrote them down and that I need to keep going with them rather than try and move onto the next thing.

That’s okay. I rather suspect I will have a lot of time to do that work in coming weeks.

20200326 Salamanca Place & Gladstone St 534pm 1

Salamanca Thursday home time

Summary for the week

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed to date: 6 (4, 6, 10, 15, 16, 18)
  • Things I progressed: 6 (1, 5, 7, 8, 14, 22)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 3 (3, 13, 11)
  • Things not started: 7 (2, 9, 12, 17, 19, 20, 21)
  • Days I stuck to my 15 minutes creative habit: 7
  • Days I scheduled (and did) 50 or 25 minute blocks of time to work on my projects: None.  Let’s face it, this isn’t working!
  • Days I read a book:  7

30 days alcohol free: day 10

I wrote this post on Sunday, day 10 of the 30-day no alcohol challenge, and felt like it hadn’t been difficult at all. I’d been feeling really good about it. I guess that’s a good thing. I’d hate to be finding out that I’m addicted to alcohol and was unable to give it up!

(Confession: Later that day, around 5pm, when I was cooking dinner, I did start to feel like I was missing out. I had started a tradition on Sundays where I’d sit with a cider and write up my week in my photojournal. It was the first time I really felt like having a drink, but I didn’t cave in and I ate cheese instead. Lemon Mineral Water Sunday doesn’t quite cut it when I’m used to Cider Sunday!)

I was talking to a workmate, who I discovered is also having a break from alcohol, about this challenge. One of the things I’ve observed, other than feeling a lot less physically heavy, is that I am getting more tired at night, around 9 pm, and feel like I’m ready to go to bed at 10pm. When I’d had a few drinks in the evening, I rarely felt like this and was regularly able to stay up until past 11pm. My workmate said the same thing and we concluded that alcohol masks the tired symptoms so that you feel more aware and alert, but your body really is tired and is ready for sleep a lot earlier than you think it is.

So going to bed earlier, which is not one of my 19 for 2019 things, but is something I need to do so that I get more sleep and have more energy, has been something I haven’t had to try very hard to do now that I’m not dealing with the “I’m not tired” feeling that comes from having a few drinks in the evening.

In Chapter 23 of The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey writes about his 30-day experiment to drink only water. He cut out all coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks from his diet, much like I’m doing (as of Sunday). Like me, Chris already didn’t drink soft drink, but unlike me, he says he didn’t drink a lot of coffee or alcohol before he started.

I already touched on coffee on Saturday (sob!) and noted Chris’ comment that by consuming caffeine you are “borrowing” energy from later in the day. Along the same line, he suggests that drinking alcohol is “borrowing” energy from the next day. He says that it may “provide you with a bit more energy and creativity as you drink it, but it will also almost always provide you with a net loss in energy and productivity and make it much more difficult to accomplish what you intend to—especially after you come down off the buzz the drug gives you. [ . . . ] In the morning you have to pay interest on the energy loans. This leaves you with a net loss in energy.”

His conclusion after the 30-day experiment of no coffee or alcohol was that by the end of the month he began to have a huge amount of energy and that the amount of energy he had was much more stable; it didn’t fluctuate anywhere near as much as it had when he’d had a few drinks every week.

Chris suggests that most people (me!) won’t want to completely cut alcohol out of their diet but that if you understand the effects of drinking on your energy levels, you can make the decision on what to drink intentionally knowing the consequences.

This is a different way, to me, of looking at alcohol consumption than the normal messages of how bad it is for our health and the health risks associated with drinking, which are not insignificant.

I often read about how alcohol can overload our livers, contribute to weight gain, increase our risk of some cancers, and I completely disregard the current recommendations for “acceptable” drinking of two standard drinks a day, with two alcohol-free days a week. I don’t doubt any of this information but, despite overwhelming evidence about the risks of drinking, I have never been able to use that as motivation to reduce my consumption. It always seems as though those consequences happen to other people, or they take years to manifest and I have plenty of time to change my habits and, until then, I can go on doing as I please.

I know that this is not true. There are, no doubt, heaps of studies into why trying to encourage people to change unhealthy habits by telling them what the risks of their behaviour are often doesn’t work. Do gruesome photos on cigarette packs work? Smokers know the risks, yet they continue to smoke. Likewise, people who drink know the health consequences of doing so. I know them yet I continue to regularly drink at unsafe levels. (I know there’s a lot more factors involved and it’s a lot more complicated than this for many people. But this is a blog post, not a scientific paper and I’m writing about my experiences, not about the complexities associated with overcoming addiction and other related issues!)

What Chris’ experiment showed him, and what I’m hoping mine will show me, is the immediate consequences of drinking. Not the long-term possibilities that might affect future me. I’m hoping for results similar to Chris’ results so that when this experiment is over I will be more likely to make conscious, intentional decisions around if, when and how much I drink, knowing what the impact of those decisions on achieving my goals will be.

Today is day 14. All is good.

19 for 2019: week 10 update

Week of 4 March

Well, things took an unexpected turn this week, with a no-coffee experiment being unexpectedly thrown into the mix. You can read about that in Saturday’s post.

Everything else is going slowly, with my main focus this month on getting more sleep, avoiding alcohol (thing 13), and doing at least 15,000 steps a day for the Cancer Council’s March Charge fundraiser.

To get more sleep, I’m attempting to move my bedtime back from sometime between 11pm and midnight to closer to 10pm, with my interim goal being 10.45. I achieved this every day last week, and most of those days I was in bed well before 10.45 but decided to read for a bit before I went to sleep, so the times I’ve recorded are the times I’ve turned the light off, not the actual time I was in bed.

I’ve also been trying to turn my computer off no later than 9.45, to give myself an hour of screen-free time. That has been less successful, so I’m looking at things I can do to make it easier to do.

Here’s last week’s tracker:

Day 4 (Monday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,618 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 5 (Tuesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,421 | Bedtime: 10:45

Day 6 (Wednesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 28,311 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 7 (Thursday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps:19,963 | Bedtime: 10.30

Day 8 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,775 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 9 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,825 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 10 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,916 | Bedtime: 10.15

I’m also tracking my wakeup time and my computer off time, as well as keeping an hourly record of what I’m doing and what my energy levels are as Chris Bailey describes in Chapter 3 of The Productivity Project. The purpose of this is to determine what my times of highest energy are so I can make sure I’m working on the things that are most important to me at these times. After ten days, the results are inconclusive. There were a couple of unusual things that probably threw a couple of days’ results off, and Chris also notes that if you’re making a switch to no alcohol and no caffeine, the first few days might not be entirely accurate as your body adjusts to being without those stimulants. So I’m planning to keep this up for a month and see if things become more consistent later in the month.

So much tracking!

20190308 Waterfront from Mac 2 3 edit

A morning walk

Onto other things on the list.

  • Photo course (thing 1): I watched two videos (day 17 and 18) but haven’t done any more assignments.
  • Reading (thing 5): I finished three books this week, one fiction and two non-fiction (The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz). I’ve now read 12 books this year but the brief was six of them had to be fiction and I’ve only read five fiction books, so I don’t consider this thing to be complete.
  • Wellness program (thing 6): I guess cutting out alcohol and coffee should contribute to reducing my stress levels and helping me stay calm, even though they are not specific issues that have been covered at this time. My main focus is on building up strategies I can call on when I get overwhelmed so I can better deal with those situations. I haven’t done a lot this week.
  • 2018 photojournalism (thing 11): I stuck a couple of collages in the book.
  • Beer books (thing 12): I entered one more book into the spreadsheet so I’ve finished six books, with four to go.
  • Explore a track on kunanyi (thing 15): I already did this in February but I got another opportunity this week to accompany a group of kids from Kramstable’s school on a day bushwalk on the Pipeline Track so I can tick this one off again!
    20190306 01 View from the Pipeline Track edit

    Pipeline Track, kunanyi

    20190306 07 View of the Mountain from the Waterworks edit

    Looking back at kunanyi from the Waterworks after the Pipeline Track walk

  • Lightroom (thing 19): I haven’t done anything specifically new; I’m just getting familiar with it by using it.

Status for week 10

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

100 things in 2018

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

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

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

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

20180324 Mixed media 2 IG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby steps

So I’ve now publicly confessed that I’ve become somewhat more relaxed about sticking to some of the healthy life choices I’d been succeeding with, and have had a good hard look at why it might be a good idea to make some changes to get things back on track (she writes with a glass of wine in one hand).

Good. Recognising that there’s something not right and, very importantly, identifying why I need to fix it is a good first step. But now I actually have to do the hard work, decide what I’m going to do and (shudder) do it!

But where to start?

There are loads of areas I would like to have better habits in, but I know if I try to change everything at once, I’m not going to succeed. It will be too much in too short a time. There’s some reason out there in brain research world about why this is. It’s something to do with our caveman brain getting very agitated if things change too fast, and sabotaging our efforts because Change = Danger. So, the theories go, we have to trick caveman brain into thinking it’s safe by making only very tiny changes that don’t register with it.

If this is right, the baby steps approach is in order. And absolutely no stepping on the cracks, because caveman brain would notice that kind of dangerous behaviour and step in to try and keep me away from danger.

A concept I’ve read about in several places when you’re contemplating trying to make a change is, rather than looking at what you want to do, to ask yourself who you want to be, and then ask yourself what that person would do.

Gretchen Rubin refers to this in her book Better Than Before as “the Strategy of Identity”. The basic idea is that: “Your habits reflect your identity, so if you struggle to change a particular habit, re-think your identity”.

Ms Rubin gives an example of a way she changed her own thinking:

For years I thought of myself as someone who “hates exercise”, but at some point I realised that I hate sports . . .  I don’t mind exercise .  . .  Thinking of myself as someone who “enjoys exercise” allowed me to change the way I viewed my nature, and that helped me to become a regular exerciser.

Neat hey.

I looked at the main habits that are causing me concern – the afternoon snacking, the extra glass or two of wine every night, and the late nights – and I considered who I wanted to be in relation to those habits. This is what I came up with:

  • I am someone who doesn’t regularly eat food with refined sugar.
  • I am someone who doesn’t drink alcohol at home during the week.
  • I am someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep a night.

Oooh! Dotpoints! This is serious.

I think that if I tried to become that person in one big swoop, caveman brain would notice and would strongly resist, and I’d fail. Again. So I’ve decided to be that person on Mondays. The rest of the week, caveman brain can stay safe with the familiar.

(Maybe I need a name for caveman brain, which is looking out for my best interests and keeping me safe by making change so damn hard, so that we can become friends. I know it’s just doing what it was programmed to do and thinks it’s acting in my best interests. I mean if I was suddenly jumpscared by a tiger, caveman brain would be right there trying to save me.)

So now, what would dotpoint person do on a Monday?

She would make sure she has a nice healthy snack on hand so that when she gets the after lunch craving, she has something else available. (*Puts almonds on shopping list.*)

She might also think about taking all the cash out of her wallet when she goes out, so it’s slightly more difficult to buy the item in question. (She has a reluctance to EFTPOS small amounts, which might turn out to be a useful thing for this situation.) She also might decide not to walk past any tempting shops when she goes out at lunch time (including a certain clothes store).

James Clear refers to the practice of setting up your environment in a way that will support your desired (healthier) habits as “choice architecture“.

Having succeeded at not indulging in the afternoon, our hero would feel pretty good when she got home. (OK, hero might be overstating things a bit. She resisted eating cake. She didn’t save someone’s life.)

Yep, today she’s someone who doesn’t eat refined sugar. The same someone also doesn’t drink on a school night, but by the time Monday evening comes around, she’s tired and would quite like to relax with an alcoholic beverage. However, she knows that one leads to two leads to three leads to staying up late and being exhausted in the morning.

Knowing the flow-on effect of one drink on her ability to be someone who gets 6-7 hours of sleep, she also has to be someone who doesn’t drink. She has learned about choice architecture, and so she thoughtfully set up her teapot, tea and cup near the kettle, which she filled up before she went to work in the morning. They’re all there, making it easier for her to make the choice to drink tea rather than beer.


She sits with her tea and writes in her journal.

And when her 9.30 pack up alarm* goes off, she doesn’t have half a glass of wine left that inevitably seems to get refilled, or the decreased will power that alcohol appears to inflict on her, and she actually packs up and gets to bed by 10pm.

A successful mission.

These are the smallest of baby steps. In isolation, this is no big achievement. It will only benefit me if I keep being this person every Monday. I’ve already noticed how much better I feel on a Tuesday when I’ve had more sleep than I get on other nights. Wednesday morning me wants to be like Tuesday me, so Tuesday me will have to have almonds instead of cake and herbal tea instead of beer, and will have to go to bed on time. And within a few weeks, I’ll be that person I want to be without caveman brain Betty having noticed.

It sounds easy. I’m sure it won’t be. So, in the spirit of trying new things out, this is an experiment to find out if thinking about who I want to be rather than what I want to do is an effective way to change a habit.

If you think this might be a helpful strategy for a habit you want to change, tell me about it in the comments, and we can cheer each other on.

Who do you want to be?

* The packup alarm is supposed to remind you that you need to be getting up in 6/7/8 hours, and that it’s time to pack up, turn your screens off and go to bed. I have several of them. I ignore every single one and carry on. (Bedtime alarms really is a thing. Google “bedtime alarm”.)

I’m struggling

I thought I was doing well in healthy eating and taking care of myself a few months ago. But I’ve slowly slipped back into bad habits that are sabotaging all of that, and I don’t like it.

It seems like every healthy habit I have is hanging there by a thread. After three attempts at quitting sugar, I hadn’t eaten it for months, and I thought I’d kicked the habit for good. But then, after a couple of “just this once” desserts, now I have a cake or sugary snack almost every day after lunch and I don’t know how to stop myself. I look forward to it. If I can get through the morning, I can have a treat. Eating crap was a habit that was disturbingly easy to pick back up.

I get up stupidly early in the morning and walk 20-30 minutes and meditate. I’ve been doing this every morning for over 18 months, but I still struggle to do it every single day. It takes a huge effort to do this – it’s not something I can “set and forget”. To maintain the habit, I refuse to let myself skip a day unless there’s a genuine reason not to do it, because it would be too easy to stop. I’d just miss one day, then another, then another, and the habit that I’ve spent so long to develop would be gone within a week.

I don’t love doing this. I think I’d love to sleep in more. Yet somehow I can hold myself to this obligation, but not the obligation to eat healthily. Why?

I know that a big factor in people’s success in achieving what they want to achieve is having a strong “why”.  A really meaningful and powerful reason for doing it that’s strong enough to override their impulse to not do it.

I can’t find any why stronger than that I want to be an active presence and positive influence in my child’s life for as long as I possibly can. I want to set a good example for him so that he can grow up fit and healthy and not have to battle his weight like I have.

But it’s not all about him. I want to be active and healthy for as long as I can be so that I can keep doing the things I want to do when I’m older, not be confined to a lounge chair full of regrets.

And if these two things don’t  motivate me I don’t know what will.

Yet I still feel like I did when I was 20 and feel like I have this air of immortality.

Logically I know that I don’t have all the time in the world to make the changes I know I need to to maintain my health into the future. I don’t want to be one of those people who ends up on their death bed regretting the things they didn’t do and the opportunities they didn’t take.

I want to turn things around because I’m making a lot of unhealthy choices and I don’t want to do that any more. But the unhealthy choice is usually the easier one.

Why don’t I want to make unhealthy choices any more?

Because making the types of unhealthy choices I am making will be bad for me  in the long term. I don’t want my health to deteriorate when I get older because of choices I’m making now. And I want to give myself the best chance of getting older in the first place!

Why don’t I want my health to deteriorate as I get older?

Because I want to be around for as long as I can be. I want to be physically and mentally able to do exciting things when I retire from work. I want to be around to see my son grow up. And if he has kids, I want to be able to do things with them.

Someone recently described this to me as wanting to be “a rocking Grandma” – if I become a Grandma. Great concept! And if I don’t become a Grandma I want to be a rocking old lady who is active, healthy, energetic, brave, fun and full of adventure for as long as I can.

Actually I want to be that person right now – I don’t want to wait until I’m old. I want to live a life where I can be the best version of me that I can be. I want to be healthy, active and creative. I want to learn and explore, have adventures, and create beauty. I want to be brave, calm and kind. I can’t be that person if I feel tired and uninspired from lack of sleep and sluggish from eating the wrong foods.

IMG_1032

My motivation

I also want to set a good example for my son so that he grows up fit and healthy, not like me with a poor body image and unhealthy relationship with food.

I recently realised that I most likely have had more yesterdays than I have tomorrows – unless I am incredibly lucky – and, unless I make some lifestyle changes now, my number of tomorrows might be even smaller than I think I have.

That means that I’m running out of days where I can say “I’ll start tomorrow”. As I get older, time moves faster and faster, the years all start to blend into one, and the next thing I know it’s another January 1st and I am exactly where I was at January 1st the year before. Yet I still persist in believing that I have time to turn things around, so I don’t have to start just yet. Next week will be OK, because we all know that next week, just like tomorrow, never comes.

I’ve had periods where I’ve thought I’d succeeded. I’ve been able to run 7 km and have weighed 56 kg. I kicked the sugar habit, once, twice and finally (or so I thought) a third time. I know all of this is possible to do because I’ve done it before. But what I have really learned is that we never really succeed – we don’t reach a point where  all of a sudden we are the person that we set out to be. Life is a journey, not a destination. We reach milestones along the journey, and we might know the general direction we are heading in, but we don’t ever get to what we might consider our final destination. Because we don’t become the person we want to be and then stop. We have to keep on being that person, and doing the things that make us that person.

We don’t “become” healthy and then stop. We only remain healthy because we continue to make healthy choices. We don’t “become” creative and then stop. We are creative because we continue to create.

So it’s up to me – to know that if I want to be a rocking old lady with an active and positive presence in my son’s life, I need to put the foundations in place now. If I don’t, one day I will wake up in that lounge chair full of regrets instead of being the rocking old lady I wanted to be.

I have to go back to basics. Again. And what better time to start then now?

Next time: Baby steps towards restarting.

 

 

12 commandments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

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

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

My 12 (draft) Personal Commandments for 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to take stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20161006-what-make-you-happy

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

Growth mindset: day 29/30

Also Book 20/24: Jump: A Journey into the Mind of a Champion, by Lydia Lassila and Andrew Clarke.

Book 20 - Jump

One of the exercises in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is to find out about the effort that your “hero” put into their accomplishments, rather than assuming they are someone with extraordinary abilities who didn’t have to work too hard to get to where they wanted to be.

I thought this would be a good exercise to do as part of my project, but I don’t really have a hero, so I decided to pick up a biography of someone who had achieved amazing things and learn how they did it. The next challenge was to find a subject. I was still thinking about this when I saw Lydia Lassila‘s book Jump: A Journey into the Mind of a Champion. The blurb on the back convinced me that Ms Lassila would be a good choice: a talented gymnast who reluctantly gave up the sport, and who then took up the challenge of becoming an aerial skier, without having skied before, and became an Olympic champion.

And that was pretty much all I knew about Ms Lassila, as aerial skiing isn’t a sport I know a lot about. Or anything, in fact. But I figured that people don’t become Olympic champions in a sport they took up at age 17 unless they have a growth mindset. So she’s my case study.

The book tells the story of how Ms Lassila grew up as a very talented gymnast, who had entered the elite program at a relatively late age, with a view to competing at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. Ultimately she made the decision to quit without having realised her dream, a decision that gutted her at the time, but that she knew realistically was the right one.

When one door closes another one opens (so they say) and in Ms Lassila’s case, she was contacted by the Olympic Winter Institute (OWI), which was experimenting with a program to recruit ex-gymnasts into the aerial skiing program. This is something no other country was doing at the time, so I think it’s a good example of growth mindset within an institution.

Ms Lassila says that, even knowing nothing about skiing, she loved the idea, and the chance of being able to fulfil her childhood dream of Olympic success convinced her to give it a go. At the very least, she says, she’d learn to ski for free.

Obviously she did a lot more than learn to ski, and the book takes us on her journey from 17-year-old novice to World and finally Olympic champion in 2010. It’s the story of unwavering commitment and determination, in the face of potentially career-ending injuries, and of someone for whom winning wasn’t enough; who wanted to be the best female aerial skier who had ever lived. (In the 2014 Olympics she had a good chance of winning performing “safe” jumps but it was more important to her to do a jump that no female skier had performed before in competition, which she did, just missed the landing and took out the bronze medal.)

Her mindset at the start was that the sport was a challenge, and she wanted to conquer it. “I was pretty sure of myself,” she writes, “in the early days that I had what it took to be successful in aerial skiing. Initially I felt intimidated because I knew I was at a development stage and that I wasn’t good yet, but inside I felt that one day I would contend with the best.”

She had always wanted to jump like the men – she notes very early on that there was a big gap between men and women in the sport and that she was determined to change that one day – and this was before she had even mastered the basics of the sport. “I din’t feel like there were any barriers except for myself. I knew it would be difficult, but not impossible.”

Ms Lassila’s career, up to the point the book ends, can be divided into two stages: pre-2006, and then how she changed her approach after the events of that year.

Before the 2006 Olympics, she had been a successful jumper, who had her fair share of injuries. Probably more. She’d had a serious shoulder injury as well as having her anterior cruciate ligament replaced in 2005, which had been a huge blow as she’d been on track to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She had just seven months to recover from a knee reconstruction so that she could compete, and describes it as “a desperate, rushed and ill-prepared campaign”.

She made it to the 2006 Olympics, but her dream was shattered as her ACL ruptured on landing one of her jumps in qualifying. I can imagine some people would have quit at this point. However, she was determined to achieve her goal and the thought of quitting never entered her mind.

The difference between coming back from injury this time and what she’d done previously stands out for me as a wonderful example of a commitment to learn, to ask for help, to act on feedback and to never give up.

Instead of trying to rush her recovery as she had done previously, Ms Lassila decided to take a year off to completely recover from the injury. She learned to listen to her body, and also began to change her mindset. She teamed with a sports psychologist to reframe her mind and help her set out a plan to achieve her goal of becoming the best in the world and winning Olympic Gold in 2010. She learned about the concept of “delayed gratification” so that she would sacrifice some of her immediate goals to focus on the one she really wanted. She writes that she had to change her focus from outcome to process, by developing an action plan of all the steps she needed to take to put her in the best position of achieving this.

“I spent a good chunk of my career thinking I was seeing the picture, but . . .  I wasn’t really getting the concept. I’ve always set myself goals, but they were just destinations with no map, and I had a lot to learn about being patient and trusting there was a process I’m place to succeed. You need to be patient, which was clearly one of my biggest weaknesses. I was desperate to achieve my goals, but I didn’t really have a [detailed] plan for how I was going to get there.”

She set out a three year plan, and while she could have been out winning other competitions with safe jumps, her goal was a more difficult triple jump to win gold at the Olympics, so she writes she had to learn to trust the process that would lead her to this.

While she was on her enforced rest, Ms Lassila launched her own brand of ice pack, developed out of the frustration she’d felt about not being able to get an ice pack that worked satisfactorily for her injury. I think this is a great example of someone making the most of circumstances that they could have whinged and complained about – to see an opportunity for change and take advantage of this.

The book continues Ms Lassila’s story about how she made it to the 2010 Olympics (and got married along the way). She describes some of the problems the Australian team was having at this time with the coaching staff a situation that had deteriorated so badly she had considered leaving Australia and skiing for Finland, her husband’s home. I admired the way Ms Lassila stood up for herself and her team mates at this time, and took matters into her own hands to make sure that they could continue their preparation for the Olympics despite these issues.

Her support team (her A Team), including coaches, physio and psychologist, was starting to form, and she also began to work with her “silent partner” Jeffrey Hodges, founder of the Sportsmind program, who proved to be the final piece in the puzzle of her preparation for the Olympics. After having completed that program, and having some setbacks during the events she’d been competing in, she contacted him and asked him to work with her until the Olympics was over.

In another excellent growth mindset example, Ms Lassila says, “Because I had already done the Sportsmind program [Jeffrey] had to be pretty experimental with me and he created a lot of new ways for me to keep improving mentally.” Mr Hodges recalls, “I wondered if I had more to offer Lydia since she had already learned everything I thought I had to give. When she wanted to continue, it was a turning point in the whole journey because it forced me to develop a totally new program . . . This was a wonderful example of the student pushing the teacher rather than vice versa. The ideas had been there for many years within me, but Lydia forced me to bring them out and turn them into practical application.”

I love that!

There was one point during her preparation when she was in so much pain she wanted to quit, but a win in the vent she was competing in changed her mind and she continued in her lead up to the Olympics, with a clear vision of her future self, who had won the gold medal in her mind. “As the time drew nearer to the Olympics, I felt like I was becoming her… the future self I wanted to be,” she writes.

And here’s her future self, who had, when she first met her, seemed so very far away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kA12dz5LU_s

This was a fascinating book and I really enjoyed reading it. Obviously achieving Olympic Gold is hard work and requires persistence and dedication, but I don’t think I really appreciated how much until I read this book. The commitment Ms Lassila showed to achieving her goal was mind-blowing. She writes, “When I look at my gold medal I don’t see six seconds of jumping. I see a lifetime of hard work and dedication . . . I didn’t give up on myself and what I believed I could do. I surrounded myself with my A team who helped me change my mentality and consider the bigger picture rather than immediate results. I had to be active, rather than reactive and create the future I wanted instead of leaving it to chance, and I had to learn to control my thoughts and stay present. Developing this kind of awareness in myself has changed my life forever. It has also set me up with tools that I can use to tackle future challenges and goals”.

A key message for me is that what Ms Lassila has learned – to be proactive rather than reactive, creating her own future and staying present – is the kind of learning that I’m trying to use to tackle challenges and goals in my own life. So it’s kind of cool to see the level to which someone can take this.

And I’ll never look at aerial skiing the same way again!

 

Stepping on the cracks: Day 45

If you’ve been following my Travelpod blog, you’ll know that we’ve just got back from a family holiday in Victoria and South Australia.

As you might have suspected, my attempt to holiday-proof my routines and continue the Stepping on the Cracks project was a spectacular failure. I ate more, drank more, went to bed earlier and later, didn’t sleep well, woke up early, slept in, didn’t drink enough water, didn’t find opportunities to go for a walk – pretty much everything fell in a heap and it was a massive waste of space in my bag taking my walking shoes.

We were on the move every day, so there wasn’t really any time to settle into anywhere. I didn’t read much, didn’t think much, and spent most of my time taking in everything around me. Being in a different bed every night played havoc with my sleep, so I never felt especially rested.

I had a great time! We went to some lovely places, ate some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life and had some great experiences – but it simply wasn’t the sort of holiday where I could have bedded down routines and spent time thinking and learning.

So I’ve decided to draw a line through the first 15 days of the evening routine challenge and the last 15 days of the growth mindset challenge, and start them again now that we’re home. This just means that my “habit change” challenges will start on the 15th instead of the 1st of each month, and my more substantial challenges will start on the 1st instead of the 15th. So I still have 15 days to go of the growth mindset challenge, and there are at least a couple of exercises from Carol Dweck’s book I want to do in that time. I don’t want to finish this challenge without giving some thought to some of the ideas she discusses.

I think that makes sense, and I’m ok with doing this, because I think I would have had a miserable holiday if I’d spent the time beating myself up for not sticking to my original plan. And I still have three more days before I have to go back to work to resettle myself.

Here are some photos!