On the eighth day of grateful

As I come down the home stretch of 2015, I am taking stock of how the year played out against my goals. This is a habit which my parents help me to form a very long time ago. We used to do family goal setting, in fact. While I think goal setting is important, I don’t think it is an end to itself, (set it and forget it).

I was listening to a fizzle podcast recently where the topic was “How to create your own definition of success.” (A great listen for your end of year personal review process). What struck me was the discussion around the habit or technique different people use or don’t use for tracking personal success. It turns out, some people don’t bother at all. They have no kind of plan and just let life kind of flow over them. There have been years like that for me, (particularly when my kids were young). Looking back, that decade is kind of a blur. Probably because raising kids and working full time is a grind that no-one can describe to you. I wonder if those years would have been different had I been in the habit of goal setting and personal review?

I have read a lot about habits and written about them here in TGLL, because I think it is fascinating.

From that research and learning I’ve tried to create, modify or otherwise manipulate my habits with varying degrees of success.

Creating a new habit is not as difficult as I thought. My exercise program of the last 10 months is a good example. I didn’t set goals, I devised a routine. So when people ask how much weight I’ve lost or what I’ve done, as if I had a secret or a magic bullet, it is hard to answer in a sentence. I committed myself to the practice, on a daily basis of more exercise than what I’ve done normally. I don’t check in on the progress with strict measurements, I can see and feel it, over time.

Changing an old habit is much more difficult than I thought. My big one this year was negative self talk. That gets me into so much trouble. First I spiral down into it and then I tend to try and draw others into the vortex. I’m not sure if other people will think I’ve done a good job on this over the year, but I sometimes am able to catch myself. When I look back at what I was thinking, or about to say, I am shocked. Who would say such a thing? Me. This is an area of ongoing renovation.

As I look out the window today and review the weather forecast, it looks a little cloudy and is supposed to be a bit more windy than yesterday, which was blazingly and wonderfully warm. So it is probably a good day to spend some quality time thinking about my habits and the year to come.

Dust if you Must

I’ve always disliked dusting. I blame it on my allergy. It makes me sneeze. And it is so dirty. It is also pointless. It’s just going to accumulate again. Do you really dust it away? Or do you just move it into the air and then it settles after you walk away?

As the poem says, there is a “life to lead”. So many more fun things to do, rather than dust.

Dust If You Must
by Rose Milligan

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

  • 10 Tips For Dusting – OMG, I’m not doing all these things…no wonder my house is so dusty!
  • Sorry, I can’t add 2 more references for how and why you should be dusting….get outside and have some fun!

Every Decision Counts

I’ve just started into week 5 of the “6 weeks to a new body” fitness program. Just when the exercises are starting to become easy, the routine kicks up a notch again. And I’ve added another complexity to the situation, I’m on holidays. So making smart choices around eating is a bit of a challenge. 

I have a notion, or a routine around what I usually like to eat and drink on holidays. That means eating = a lot and drinking = beer. But I’m not going to reach my goals by eating a lot and drinking beer. So I’ve had to make adjustments. (At least for these 6 weeks).

I’ve been reading through my book, (also known as my coach, mentor and friend) and I came across the phrase, “every decision counts”. It was meant in reference to all the little things that keep you moving in the direction you want to go. In that one idea, I take comfort. I may not be doing everything perfectly every day, but I can keep moving towards my goals, one decision at a time.

I used to think that once a bad choice had been made, might as well – “throw the canary another seed”. What was the point of continuing to try and make a change when I had just eaten a huge hamburger? Might as well have another beer and eat all those fries as well. And show me the desert menu, please. Forget a workout, I’m too tired. That was how I lived for the better part of my adult life. 

Lucky for me, I am “all-in” on this 6 week experiment and I have given myself the grace to do this, one decision at a time. I will not be perfect. Rather, “every day in every way, things are getting better”. (Lovely saying my mother-in-law used to tell my husband as a child).

The Stages of Change

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Dr. James Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island identified 5 stages of change. Until I read about them in Maureen Hagan’s, “6 Weeks to a New Body”, I didn’t realize there are formal labels associated to some of the struggles I have been going through. As it relates to fitness, I have been stuck in stage one and two for an extremely long time. And feeling quite bad about myself.

Stage one: pre-contemplation, (not ready)
This was were I spent about 20 years, give or take. Here, you have little knowledge of the consequences of your behavior. As my fitness level declined, it happened slowly. So every year it got a bit worse. Then I spent many years being pregnant and recovering, (no small feat). Then I was in a kind of denial. Things were OK with my health in general and I hated exercise.

Stage two: contemplation, (getting ready)
I have been here for about 5 years. I was constantly evaluating the costs and benefits of changing. This produced profound ambivalence that caused me to remain in this stage. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. Seems a little funny to look at this stage from where I am now. I was negotiating action or inaction with myself on both sides of the debate.

Stage three: preparation, (ready)
This is where I am now. I’ve selected a fitness program – “6 Weeks to a New Body”, with Maureen Hagan. The book is very detailed in goal setting, journal writing, exercises, eating plans, schedule planning, etc. I’ve picked a start day – February 21, 2015.

Stage four: action
In stage 3, everything will be sorted so that I’m ready to hit the ground running on my start date. Maureen has laid out excellent advise for each day of the entire 6 weeks. Nothing is really left to chance. Her words of encouragement are sprinkled throughout the pages of the book. I’m even excited to start! Which is more than I can say for any other program I have ever tried.

Stage five: maintenance
For about 5 years it is advised to remain on guard and to continuously monitor progress. Up until this time the chances of slipping back into old patterns are high. This will take me to age 50, which is a great milestone. A fantastic age to be set with a healthy way of living.

Stage six: termination
After 5 years, it is considered that a new habit is formed. There is very little chance of slipping back into old ways. This seems very exciting to me. A new stage of life, with a strong and healthy body at my core.

I have learned so much already, which has made this part of the journey very interesting. I’m not leaving things to chance anymore. I picked “brave” as my word this year. It is all falling into place. While I don’t anticipate this life changing program to be easy, I feel the strength to see it through. (At least from where I sit tonight!)

I’m going to post about this program regularly and maybe even include some before and after pics, (maybe just after). Will see how brave I feel about sharing that much detail!