Life is a little nutty right now! I’ve been doing some thinking and planning related to fiction writing, and I started writing morning pages when I wake up, and both of those interfere with my blogging. I’m sure I’ll get back on track. For now, here’s my February gratitude list:
Sick days. Very relevant because I needed one this week.
Family traditions. On Valentine’s Day, we hang little hearts on our bedroom doors. Each heart says something we love about someone in our family. LOVE.
Reading books to the boys. My current favorite thing to do with them is curl up on the couch with a pile of books.
Edgar’s giggles. Whenever anyone asks him a question he knows the answer to, he automatically says, “I don’t know.” For example: if I ask him, what letter does your name start with, he’ll say, “I don’t know… E!” I’ve been trying to encourage him to say “Let me think” instead of “I don’t know,” and he thinks it’s hysterical. Last night, we practiced it over and over, and he collapsed into giggles EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Love this kid so much.
Morning pages. I haven’t written them in years, but I restarted the habit a few days ago and I’m finding it refreshing.
A few weeks ago, I had coffee with a friend. It was lovely. I mean, Edgar was there, too, so we were frequently interrupted by random WHY questions about anything and everything, but it was still great.
When I got home, I found that I was feeling envious of my friend. I was comparing my current situation to hers, and subsequently feeling jealous.
Let me explain.
My friend is awesome. She is an entrepreneur, a therapist, and a yoga instructor. and she is currently running two businesses – a private therapy practice and a children’s yoga business. We talked together about my envy; I explained to her that I mostly felt jealous of how inspired and motivated she is. And that is accurate.
However, by the time I got home and was chatting with Tamara about it, I found myself making mental plans to become a certified yoga instructor (the last yoga class I participated in was in July 2019) and to open up a private therapy practice (which Tamara politely explained to me that I decided I wanted to postpone until our kids are older).
Why does this happen? When we compare ourselves to others, it’s almost always problematic. I know this – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t fall down that rabbit hole repeatedly.
The thing is, usually when envy strikes, I am envious of someone who has what I actually want. Like a blogger who is making good money writing from home about the things she’s passionate about. So why did I spend half a day feeling envious and confused after a coffee date with a friend who is doing awesome things – but not the awesome things I want to do?
I decided that it was about clarity of purpose. I envy my friend’s inspiration and motivation, for sure – but that doesn’t mean that I want to pursue the specific goals and dreams that she is pursuing. And in the midst of this crazy life – little kids, full-time job, new house, adult responsibilities – it’s easy for me to become unclear about what my priorities are.
A few years ago, I hung a bulletin board on my bedroom wall and pinned three flowery note cards to it. There was a single word on each of the three cards: family; service; writing. My three priorities. The three purposes of my life. Loving and caring for my family; being of service to others, however I can; and writing. When I started feeling distracted and disgruntled, and making plans to become a yoga instructor, I remembered these three words and it helped me to come back to center and remember what I care about the most.
This is all related to my birthday funk. When I start to feel regretful and worried about achieving my goals, it helps me to have clarity of purpose and a plan of action. My clarity of purpose, I decided, is those three words – family, service, writing – plus three more: adventure, wellness, and simplicity. When I think about the past and the future, I think a lot about adventure and travel; they’re important to me, and they have often been neglected due to other responsibilities. When I think about life right now, I realize that wellness is a theme running through everything; I can’t achieve my goals if I’m not taking care of my overall mind-body-soul wellness. And finally, the priority of simplicity is really about frugality and minimalism – living simply and saving money.
Thinking about those six priorities – family, service, writing, adventure, and wellness – helps me to focus. When I am clear about my priorities, I don’t get sidetracked making plans to open up various businesses that aren’t in line with my current plans and passions.
Now that I’ve been writing my way through my birthday funk, I’m a little grateful for it. It’s so easy to get lost in the chaos of life as a working parent with little kids. I’m happy to be reminding myself of my goals, and getting some clarity about what’s most important to me in this life.
I am currently reading the book Atomic Habits, and I love it so much that I can’t possibly wait until I finish to write about it. I’m only 113 pages in, and I’ve already found so much that I want to reflect on and write about.
A little background: the book Atomic Habits was written by James Clear, an author and entrepreneur who writes about making small and important (“atomic”) changes that produce great results. Here’s a list from James Clear’s website, highlighting what the book is about:
10 Things This Book Will Teach You
Learn how to…
Build a system for getting 1% better every day.
Break your bad habits and stick to good ones.
Avoid the common mistakes most people make when changing habits.
Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower.
Develop a stronger identity and believe in yourself.
Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy).
Design your environment to make success easier.
Make tiny, easy changes that deliver big results.
Get back on track when you get off course.
And most importantly, how to put these ideas into practice in real life.
…and much more.
SIGN. ME. UP.
I seriously love it so far. And I’m going to try to include little summaries of Clear’s work as I write and process what I’m learning. Now, you all know that I don’t like writing book reviews, so this is NOT that. And I’m sure I’m not going to summarize his words perfectly, but I’ll give it my best shot.
The first piece of advice I wanted to reflect on is: Clear advises to think about changing your identity rather than changing your outcomes or your process. So if you’re making a New Year’s Resolution, Clear advises: Don’t resolve to “lose ten pounds” (outcome-based) or “run every day” (process-based); resolve to “be a runner” (identity-based).
That makes so much sense to me. Phrasing your goals that way means there’s no end point; you don’t stop running after you ran the marathon, because your goal was to be a runner forever.
Now, when I think about some of the habits I’ve been struggling with lately, they are primarily related to health and wellness. Unhealthy snacking, too much caffeine, etc. And I couldn’t really come up with a one-word goal that would fit those little resolutions. But I came up with this: I am a person who prioritizes health and wellness.
YES. That is who I want to be; that is who I am. And it’s what I can think about whenever I am debating whether or not I should buy a diet Coke from the soda machine at work. Clear advises that, too; he mentions a person whose identity-related goal was “be a healthy person.” This individual, according to Clear, would use a little question every time she was faced with a choice. When deciding between taking the elevator and taking the stairs, she’d ask herself, “What would a healthy person do?” And then she’d make the healthy person choice.
I suppose I could use I am a healthy person as my identity goal. But that one doesn’t cover as much as I want it to. Thinking about health and wellness together covers things like meditation, yoga, hydrating, and self-care all in one sentence.
Be a person who prioritizes health and wellness. That is my identity-based goal.
This post is Part 1 of “I don’t have any idea how many posts it will take to cover this book and topic.” There will be lots more to come; as I mentioned in my last post, I’m on a kick right now where I’m thinking a ton about goals, habits, changes, and pulling myself out of my regret-filled birthday funk. So stay tuned because self-reflection and goals are my jam.
Can I be honest? I’ve been in kind of a funk since my 37th birthday.
I am not usually someone who feels bummed about getting older. But, dude – 37 is an adult. Like, 36 was, too, but 37 DEFINITELY is. I could say that I’m in my late thirties; that would be an accurate statement.
And I am not where I want to be, professionally, creatively, and personally.
My family is wonderful and amazing; they are my rock. I am so grateful for my wife and my two boys. But everything else feels wishy-washy and unclear.
The reason why I’m writing this is: the next few blog posts on playful + peaceful will be all about the baby steps I’m currently taking so that I can get really clear about what my goals and priorities are and then get even clearer about the steps I can take to achieve my goals and keep my priorities at the forefront of my life.
I often write about habits, goals, and priorities, but I felt that the cluster of posts coming should be placed in context. And that context is: I’ve been in a funk, and I’ve been really struggling with regrets. Regrets about time and money I’ve wasted on the wrong things, and regrets about opportunities and dreams I’ve not yet pursued.
NOT YET PURSUED. I am using those words very intentionally, because I know that there is time. When I get into a funk, my mind becomes a cluster of “Not Enough” thoughts. There’s not enough time. I don’t have enough talent. We’ll never have enough money.
One of my wise and gentle friends reminded me today: You are enough. You have enough. You do enough. And I know that this is true – even when it doesn’t quite FEEL true.
So, please be prepared for a whole lotta posts on habits, dreams, goals, clarity of purpose, and life alignment. If you’re an Enneagram person, I’m a 4 and we are ALL ABOUT the navel gazing and self discovery. Let’s do this.
My plan for February 2020 was to focus on service and kindness, but I’m changing it up a bit.
My January resolutions were hard to manage, particularly the ones related to food. I constantly find myself slipping back into unhealthy habits – too much caffeine, junk food – when I’m stressed or busy. (OR when I’m just stuck in a bad habit, like stopping to get a snack on the way home from work!)
So I don’t feel fully ready to dive into a topic like service. It makes more sense to me to take my topic for March – Mindfulness, Meditation, and Presence – and blend it together with my health and wellness goals to make a new theme.
Therefore, my theme for February 2020 is going to be Mindfulness + Wellness. Here are the resolutions I’ve come up with so far:
1. Attend 2 AA meetings every week. (Aim for three; don’t allow less than two.)
2. Meditate every morning.
3. Dock my phone AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – limited screen time.
4. Plan adventures. (More on this soon.)
5. Take baby steps (atomic habits) toward improving my sleep hygiene.
6. Stop worrying about eating healthy and limiting caffeine; I seem to do better in this area when I’m not stressing about it.
May this February be heart-shaped and lovely. Let’s do this.
Let’s do this: the first month of my year-long 2020 Gratitude List.
So much reading! So far in 2020, I’ve read 7 books – 4 novels, 1 YA novel, and 2 nonfiction/memoir-type books. All seven were wonderful, and I’ve been reading like crazy. Currently I’m reading a book about habits, reading a novel, and reading another YA book, The Name Of This Book Is Secret, for book club with my eleven-year-old nephew, which is the most adorable aspect of 2020 so far.
Jonas sleeping through the night! We had a little backslide in late fall, when Jonas started waking up frequently and drinking part of a bottle. A few weeks ago, we stopped using the bottles altogether and now he’s sleeping through the night consistently, with occasional wake-ups when he throws all the pacifiers out of his crib accidentally.
Our house is getting closer and closer to being unpacked. Our guest room is starting to resemble a place where young children could hang out safely, and we’ve been contemplating hanging things up on the wall, which is a big step for us.
My sister bought Edgar a box of the Mr. Men books for Christmas and he loooooves them. He’s always been into reading, but especially lately. He loves curling up on the couch with one of us, his head resting on our arm, enthralled with a book. (He also now knows when I try to skip pages in long books, and stops me, saying, “Mommy, you’re reading it backwards.” Hilarious.)
When Edgar wakes up in the morning, he opens his bedroom door and walks into the living room, squinting. He asks, “Is today a school day?” If I say, “No, today is a Mama/Mommy Day!”, he breaks into a big smile and comes over for a hug. Then he sometimes says, “I’m so happy to see you!” AND THAT IS PRETTY STINKING CUTE.
This is a bonus item, and it’s really a continuation of #1 – I am really enjoying the book about habits I’m reading. It’s called Atomic Habits and it’s by James Clear. I’m finding it so helpful already, so please forgive me for the multiple blog posts I expect to write related to Clear’s habit strategies.