My goal for December was:
1) Read for thirty minutes a day.
I didn’t read every day, but this month did help me to shift my perspective on my Habit Experiment. I’ve not been responding well to the detailed plan, to the metrics and all of that, and I’ve not been keeping to my habits very well.
I can think of a few possible causes for this:
1) Trying to do too much at one time.
2) General fatigue at the end of the year.
3) Some habits actually take longer than 21 days to develop.
In addition, I’ve noticed that the habits I’m keeping best are the ones that I do right after I wake up. When I exercise as soon as I wake up, I exercise daily. When I get out of bed and meditate, I can do that every day. Same thing if I write just after the alarm goes off (I’ve been working ahead). Of course, the trouble is that once I do one of these things, the spell is broken (and the kids are awake). I’ve tried going back to bed and starting again, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I get up, do one habit, then the rest of the day is a wash. Not really, but that’s how it feels when I focus on the habits I’m not doing habitually.
So, I’m letting myself re-interpret my goals. Instead of forcing myself to take a walk in the cold, dark New England morning, worrying that every shadow is a skunk ready to spray me, I’ve been doing free workout videos from Fitness Blender in my basement. It’s not the great outdoors, but there are no skunks (knock wood), and I get to watch the thermostat go up as much as two degrees by the end of my workout.
Instead of making myself meditate on my cushion, I’ve been cultivating mindfulness in random moments throughout the day and bringing my awareness to the sounds in my bedroom while I’m falling asleep at night. Starting in January, I’ll also be multitasking reading and mindfulness by reading about mindfulness. I’m pretty sure multitasking mindfulness kind of defeats the purpose, but I’m going to try it anyway.
Instead of trying to enforce a bedtime for myself, I’m developing a habit of thinking of the hours between 8pm and 6am as “sacred to sleep.” I don’t necessarily sleep that whole time, but I keep my focus on winding down and keeping things sleep-like during those hours. There are a couple of evening meetings I’ve not been able to weasel out of, so this gets derailed about once a week or so, but perfection isn’t really the goal, is it? (Certainly not the stated goal, at least.)
For those interested in my other goals:
“Mindful Internet Use”: Reading Plato’s Republic this month has made me look at the Internet and all “shadows and reflections” differently than I did before. Plato has a way of taking the fun out of lurking on Facebook or reading strangers’ funny text messages. I’m not sure if I’m using the Internet less or not, but I’m certainly more mindful of how I’m doing it.
“Drive Less”: I drove 639 miles in December (odometer reading went from 120,952 to 121,591), even more below the 800 miles/month limit I gave myself. Where the heck did I used to go that I’m not going anymore? It’s a mystery, but I like it.
And now for January’s goal:
Establish a Daily Writing Practice
1) Write a little something every day.
In light of my December realizations, I’m going to leave this very open. I can write about what I’m reading, or I can draft a blog post, or I can write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts, or maybe I can type a silly story for my kids on the typewriter my mom sent my five-year-old for Christmas. (It’s a totally awesome typewriter. It’s a Smith-Corona Vantage that my dad bought in 1979. My mom and I had to send away to upstate New York for a new ribbon, but it was worth it. My kids love it, and so do I. And being able to load a sheet of paper into a typewriter and adjust the margins has to be a valuable skill for a 21st-century kid, right?)
So, my goal is just to put down some words about something every day. Easy-peasy. (Maybe.)
Points to Ponder:
What do you do when you find yourself falling behind your goals? Do you push harder? Reevaluate and modify your expectations? Eat more chocolate?