Sunday, 25 December 2016

Habits of 2016

In my journey towards the mountain (does anyone ever get to the mountain?) I've focused a lot on habits and developing the architecture of my life. Trying to build better habits, although I now see trying always to be a "better version of me" is actually a bad habit. There is no better version of me, and self-improvement leads counter-productively to isolating narcissism.

Still, developing good habits has been helpful. I read a lot of self-help books and once taken with a pinch of salt they can work. I've read "Grit" this year, and my favourite "Deep Work" by Cal Newport. Last year's book was "Better Than Before" and I've been keeping the Better than Before journal.

Some habits I thought were bad habits were really good habits. I had a habit of keeping a diary which I'd mostly write in the mornings and usually fill three A4 pages.  These were the morning pages from The Artist's Way. They had failed miserably in their intended purpose of getting me to write more, and they often took up to an hour to write as I ruminated and mentally digressed. So I said I'd give them up and switch instead to just keeping my Moleskine notebook. Things unravelled. First slowly, and then faster and faster until yesterday found me kneeling in my hallway, having dented my expensive front door with a kick of impotent rage, I had my head in my hands. I felt completely powerless and not sure what to do next. I think now my habit of writing was actually a good one, and it's one I think I'll go back to. Reflection is good.

I made a list last December of habits I would develop for the year. How many have stuck? Doing a few abs exercises in front of the telly. Putting on 20-25 minutes on the timer at least once a day and having a tidy-up. Unfucking my habitat at the weekends. Putting out my clothes for work the night before. Leaving the staffroom and finding somewhere quiet to work (this can be a challenge, both the leaving and the finding somewhere quiet). Taking five minutes to tidy up before leaving work. Reading classic fiction rather than watching television. Putting my Diet Coke in the fridge at night, and my breakfast in my handbag. These have all stuck, more or less.

What habits haven't been as sticky? Keeping better homework records. I've gotten better at this but it's still not as perfect as I'd like it to be. Sorting the laundry on a Friday. Getting blowdries. Keeping the fone charged. Getting the bus into town. Writing in cafés. Running. Bringing things in out of the car. Marking things on the calendar. Cooking my own food. Taking iron tablets. Writing. Going out on a Saturday.

There are some I've given up on, like meditating. I reckon going for a walk on my own fulfils many of the purposes of meditating. Also, I've shoved writing into certain periods i.e. the summer holidays. That is my writing time. This is after reading Newport's book, where he says there is a choice. You can do something every day, or allocated intensive blocks. I always felt guilty about not getting up early to write/ writing in the evening but this alternative way of looking at things - I'm either in writing mode or teaching mode - works better. Other things I've given up on are keeping the ironing board in the kitchen (why?), using a stamper (a habit I invested in by purchasing stamper) and sitting nearer the front in staff meetings.

There is still a week to go before deciding on next year's habits. Contenders from last year include going out on a Saturday night (have signed up to lots of meet-ups),being more materially generous (this is a bit of a vague habit), opening the post (I know!) and going for walks. The two-kilometre walk I do is better than the three-kilometre run that I don't. I'm considering joining a gym to do fitness classes but want to avoid the New Year rush and high prices. I reckon mid-February might be a time to do that. In the meantime, will walk and do my Minnie Mouse exercises at home.

Everything is alright really. I don't need to change who I am. There is no perfection, just excellence in the small things. There is reading. There are other people. There is the world, out there.

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