books + reading · habits

Atomic Habits: Part 1 of ?

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…

  1. Build a system for getting 1% better every day.
  2. Break your bad habits and stick to good ones.
  3. Avoid the common mistakes most people make when changing habits.
  4. Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower.
  5. Develop a stronger identity and believe in yourself.
  6. Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy).
  7. Design your environment to make success easier.
  8. Make tiny, easy changes that deliver big results.
  9. Get back on track when you get off course.
  10. 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.

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habits

Habits 101

I read Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before years ago, and I just loved it.

I’d read Rubin’s other books previously and enjoyed them a lot, particularly The Happiness Project, which was a book that follow a year-long experiment Rubin undertook focused on making small changes each month (in accordance with a monthly theme) to try to make her life happier.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Better Than Before recently, because I’ve been contemplating all the habits I am trying to form or maintain. This is fresh in my mind since we just moved to a new home. A big move like that allows for a strategy that Rubin calls “Blank Slate” – using a big change to start fresh with habits you want to keep.

One of the hard parts for me about Rubin’s Better Than Before is that many of the strategies she suggests are not helpful for me. She classifies all people into four different categories when it comes to expectations and habits. Upholders meet all expectations, outer and inner; Obligers meet outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations; Questioners meet inner expectations but question all outer expectations; and Rebels struggle to meet outer and inner expectations.

I am a Rebel, for sure. I’ve taken Rubin’s online Four Tendencies quiz several times and I always come up Rebel. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s pretty close. I am not the best at following through with expectations, whether they’re coming from my mom, my boss, or myself. The positive side of this is that I am good, especially as an adult, at knowing that I can say no to things. I’m good at evaluating expectations from others and judging whether or not they are appropriate or fair. Not always, but a lot of the time, I am able to better deal with unfair expectations from others than an Obliger would.

The problem is that I really struggle with meeting my own expectations, and Rubin’s books don’t offer a ton of advice for Rebels. She does recommend the strategy of Identity for Rebels, and that sometimes works for me; thinking to myself that I am a Runner or I am a Healthy Eater is sometimes helpful. But not always.

Currently, I am sort of 50/50 on my January health-related resolutions. I’ve definitely cut back on my caffeine; I’ve been running every day; I’ve been meditating consistently. But I’ve been struggling to maintain healthy eating, especially when it comes to late night snacking, and that’s really frustrating. This week, I am going to consider two things: 1. Should I stop worrying about this habit?  Sometimes I try so hard to break a habit that I actually reinforce it! 2. Do I need a little more education (or a refresher on what I already know) when it comes to habits? This morning, I’m going to start listening to either The Power Of Habit or Atomic Habits on audiobook, and see if there is any additional insight that will help me on my quest to eat less sugar.

I’m not feeling confident, but I AM hopeful and motivated. Stay tuned.

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adulting · cleaning for beginners · habits · Uncategorized

Cleaning For Beginners

There is one new habit that we’ve been able to form since moving to our new home, and I have been amazed at how much happiness is brought me.

Let me start by explaining – we didn’t really clean at our old house. That probably sounds ridiculous to people who keep a clean and tidy household, but we really did the bare minimum. We’d wash our dishes – by hand, no dishwasher – eventually. When the floor started to drive Tamara crazy, she’d sweep it. When we knew we were having visitors, we’d deep clean the bathroom. But there was no regular cleaning schedule.

You’d think I’d be too embarrassed to admit this publicly, but I’m not. I have never been a neat and tidy person, and I have a pretty high tolerance for dirt, mud, and general disarray. Plus, at our last house, we were living on a farm, in an extremely old farmhouse that never gleamed no matter how much you cleaned. Keeping the house clean felt impossible. There was new mud and dirt coming in every day, and we had little time to do all the things we wanted and needed to do. I often sacrificed cleaning time for writing time, and I felt good about that.

Now that we’re in a new house and changing up our lifestyle, I feel a little differently about keeping things clean. First and foremost, I want to teach my kids good cleaning habits, and the best way is to teach them is to show them the different tasks that have to be done to keep a household clean and tidy. Secondly, I think I’ve been experiencing a level of low-grade stress due to having a cluttered and disorganized house. I really want to live a Marie Kondo-esque kind of life; I want to know exactly where everything is, because everything has a specific home in the house, and I don’t want to have or store a whole bunch of crap I don’t need. And I think it’s way easier to clean when the clutter is under control.

That said – it’s been hard, and we don’t have a system for cleaning yet. We’re still pretty busy, so I’ve just been quickly spot cleaning things like the bathroom sink or the toilet when I think of it. Things will slow down next month, and we’ll be able to get into a better routine then.

But for the moment, the habit that we have been maintaining successfully is cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. And it had made me SO happy.

It’s so simple. One of us cooks dinner – usually Tamara – and the other parent plays with the boys while that’s happening. We eat together as a family. Then, after dinner, one of us plays with the boys and the other parent cleans the kitchen. Sometimes we get the boys to ‘help’; Edgar does a decent job of wiping down the table and bringing dishes to the sink. Jonas likes to pretend he’s mopping. And when we’re done, there are dishes in the dishwasher, a clean kitchen table, clean floors, and leftovers put away.

I love it. The situation never gets so overwhelming that we’re going to have to spend an hour getting things clean, and I can enjoy my evenings and my mornings without staring at things in the kitchen thinking, I should really go clean that up.

ARE ALL OF THE HOUSEHOLD CHORES GOING TO BE AS SIMPLE AS THIS? I really, really hope so. I want to continue to prioritize writing, reading, and self-care, and I know cleaning and household maintenance take time. I’m okay with that.

JUST NOT TOO MUCH TIME. I’ve got stuff to do.

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