Fave Reads Friday #13 – Defining Yourself

I’m reading a lot this summer. I find it easier to encourage the kids to complete their summer reading if I’m also doing my own. One book that I needed to read this summer was Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin. If you’ve read my blog over the last few years you’ve probably heard all about many of her books by now (just click her tag at the bottom of this post), but reading Happier at Home was like a refresher from The Happiness Project.

The big take-away for me in this summer of turmoil is that I need to just be me to be happy. It’s okay that I’m different from a lot of my friends and definitely my family. I have to stop letting the way others label me define how I feel about myself. I need to just go back to doing my thing in order to be my best me. Continue reading “Fave Reads Friday #13 – Defining Yourself”

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July STREAK

So, Lesson #2 is something that I should have picked up from Gretchen Rubin awhile back…..

anything worth doing is worth doing every day

(or something like that). Anyway, for the month of July I am STREAKING with my runs. Today is Day 11 (which is actually 12 days in a row just because of how my June training ended) of running every day for the month of July. I am building mileage for my fall run and it’s also an excuse to make my kiddos ride their bikes more.

See, I have entered the glorious phase of life in which (most of the time) I no longer have to push a jogging stroller on my runs. My little guy is now 5 and pedals away like a champ for a max of 3 miles. Now, that’s not to say that he doesn’t crash from time to time, or need a little push from behind up a hill, but for the most part I can get all of my low mileage stuff in with the two of them on bikes.

The thing about streaking is that it’s helpful to set a short-term goal for doing something every day and see how long you can maintain it. The bad thing about streaking is that once the short-term time frame is up, it’s always harder to maintain. So, for running I planned out every run from June 9th until Race Day in September. That way I know where I’m going and the streak is not just about the one month of running every day. That’s just a mileage building portion of the overall training plan.

I’m having trouble streaking in other areas of my life. They’re a little less long-term goal focused. For instance…..I’m trying to start doing a Daily 10. Want to know what that is? Come back tomorrow for Lesson #3.

What do you streak at?

What breaks your streaks?

Follow my streak at MapMyRun.com

Turn the Light Off…

It’s been 125 days since I posted on my blog. Life has been crazy chaotic and I wasn’t sure how to manage it all. However, there’s been so much good as well and I want to just write and write and write until the keys pop off of my laptop.

First off, I am reading another Gretchen Rubin book…..Happier at Home. Her number one rule is: Be Gretchen; and today’s post is going to be about the one truth I’ve learned lately…a rule I need to follow.

Continue reading “Turn the Light Off…”

The Importance of Habits for Obligers

I hope that this Thursday HABITS UPDATE will become a regular thing in my life and for the blog. It’s necessary for me to have a regular posting schedule for my writing and for myself. And currently I’m undertaking the project of improving my habits.

Today I’m also linking up with Amanda at Running With Spoons as I have been doing on and off for the last couple of years. She does this great Think Out Loud Thursday round-up that always gives me new things to read. I’ve found a lot of great new blogs to follow through there and I’ve enjoyed having some of her readers stop by and comment from time to time. It gives me fresh eyes as to what people will click on and read.

But HABITS UPDATES are going to be strictly for me. A post that I need to write each week to keep myself accountable to the changes I am trying to make….serious changes in my fitness and scheduling. Habits are important for Obligers because we have this sense of duty in life….to serve. In yoga we talk about our duty in life as our Dharma and as a yogi, a mother, a wife, a teacher, etc….I serve a lot of other people.

Rubin wrote in Better Than Before (and recently on her blog) about Obliger Rebellion…..when those of us who live to serve reach our limit. This HABITS UPDATE will also make me accountable to myself and giving myself time to do what I want to do so that I don’t reach the point of Obliger Rebellion.

So, how am I doing so far?

Well, this week I’ve been pretty good about checking off things on my to-do list. I am using my planner on the regular and committing to doing the things that I put on there. I am committed to putting things on the list that I want to do as well as things I need to do and not prioritizing needs over wants all of the time. Some of my wants are also needs.

I want to run twice a week with T; but I also need to run to keep my body in good health, clear my mind, and socialize with another adult. I want to read and write on the blog. I want to have a clean house. I want to see my kids have fun at  t-ball. These wants all make me happy and happiness is something I really need in my life.

I also thrive on schedules. I am a planner and a finisher. I love to see things ticked off my list. I’m sure my students appreciate this too because it means that I’m taking care of things they need from me and planning classes that have a purpose. I’m sure that my kids appreciate that I don’t miss their events and that I make time for play dates. I’m sure that my husband appreciates that I have scheduled a time to shop and pay bills so that our house is mostly in order and we’re not always ordering out.

Scheduling is a big thing for me to be successful in my habits….it’s the reason that I’ve already ordered my new planner and have birthdates, anniversaries, and school schedules (through spring) in their….waiting to be used. But my new planner presents a few new challenges to me.

First is that there are only 7 spaces (if I squeeze) on each day. Currently I have 10 spaces for each day and often write double items on lines. This is a habit I want to break and hope that my new planner helps me to finally start saying NO to overbooking and over obligating myself.

The second “problem” is that I have to decide if I’m continuing my Word of the Day as a “daily” thing in this planner. There’s a perfect spot for me to write a word for the week, but not enough space for daily inclusion….it would take up one of my 7 lines. So, I have to decide about this habit. I haven’t been doing it for long enough for it to be noticed as absent in the near future, but by the time I hit January I would have had quite the streak of WOD that it might feel empty without it. One way I can trade off on this is to start doing a weekly word in November….things that I will consider as it comes closer (marathoner).

The thing I’m happiest about at this point with the habits is that I haven’t chosen drastic changes that set myself up for failure. I feel confident in keeping this going and I am looking forward to updating you again next week!

How does scheduling affect your ability to keep a habit?

Fave Reads Friday #11 – Better Than Before

This is by no means my last post on the subject of habits. I have found this topic of Gretchen Rubin’s much easier to embrace than the idea of a Happiness Project…..it probably has to do a lot with my personality.

She ends this book with a story of how her youngest daughter wrote a sequel to a novel that Rubin enjoys. She titled it Every Day Life in Utopia (also the last chapter title in Rubin’s book). This is my ideal as well. I want to live the life I want to live and to be happier and more efficient in it.

The last section of Better Than Before talks about Clarity, Identity, and Other People and brought up a lot of great questions for me. Like, Is a habit important because everyone else thinks it is or because I think it is? This was a hard one for me because, as a Fitness Professional, there’s a lot of things that I promote for others to do. Where does this information come from? The heads of my industry. But, I also tell people all of the time that they need to find what works for them….find clarity.

Also on the topic of clarity, can I choose to do something that’s right for me, but also meets the needs of others? Super hard for me to do because I’m an Obliger and this means that I always want to do what’s best for others before I worry about doing what’s best for me. It ties into identity in that I identify as a giver, a mother, a planner, an organizer, etc, etc, etc.

Rubin writes about finding clarity on both the habit (good or bad) and the problem with committing to it. What value does it serve? Values are a big part of identity as well. Three quotes from this section that solidify that sentiment:

Our habits reflect our identity. p. 242

We can build our habits only on the foundation of our own nature. p.257

No simple, universal solutions exist. p. 258

Values are a big thing for me…..I feel like fundamental values of who you are don’t change much over time, but the way that you express them may. For instance, I’ve always been a feminist….my whole life! I remember hating the word “chicks” because women are not little, yellow, fluffy birds. It rubbed me the wrong way for so long when I was a teenager. I wore a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt with pride. I thought that those were the definitions of being a feminist.

Today I take a different approach. I still feel that women are equal to men, but my view on how to create equality is different. From a yoga perspective I try to find inclusivity for all instead of “fighting” for women. I work hard at what I do, support efforts of change, and teach my children that no one group is inferior because they are that group. My value hasn’t changed, my habits have.

Phrasing is also a topic on clarity that Rubin writes about. Fit is a Feminist Issue wrote recently about the phrase “Let me see what you can do”. I have been looking for an opportunity to use that in my classes, but haven’t incorporated it yet. In defining the problem with commitment to a habit, the value of the habit, and the habit itself she considers the words chosen. In personal training we tell people to consider not just what is being said, but also how it is being said (body language, tone, and the care put into the words chosen). In trying to adopt or adapt a habit phrasing can make or break you just as not being specific can sink a SMART goal.

This all leads to more questions of identity….

…..make sure that my life reflects my values. p. 256

My eternal question (and one I will continue to revisit as a part of my yoga practice of Svadhyaya) is WHO AM I? How are others affecting me and my habits? How am I and my habits affecting others? This is a big one when it comes to my children. They are developing their identity based on the world around them just as I did mine. I remember my one uncle always referring to my family as “The Loud Family” and that has definitely carried over into my life today. But, how else do I define myself and how do those definitions affect my habits?

Going forward (and trying to keep with some of the habits I’m working on) I plan to blog on Thursdays about habits and how they’re working for me or working against me. I would greatly encourage you to pick up this book from the library or bookstore and give it a read. I would love (as an Obliger) for you to comment here or on any of the other HABITS posts and join me in this discussion of habit formation.

Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday for Meditation Monday!

Distractions

Do you use distractions properly? In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin suggests that distractions are a great strategy for staying on track with habit formation and maintenance. Wow! Was I educated in this section….

Things that distract me from finishing a task:

  • Kids
  • Friends
  • News
  • Internet
  • TV
  • Books
  • Other unfinished tasks
  • Work
  • Boredom
  • Family
  • Kids
  • Kids
  • Kids

But these are distractions and not a distraction strategy. A distraction strategy is meant to keep you from doing bad habits. Rubin gives herself a 15 minute rule….do something else for 15 minutes and usually that’s enough to forget what it was that was going to reinforce a bad habit.

Another distraction technique that she applies is to chew on stirring sticks instead of putting other things in her mouth (food, gum, coffee). I am not sure if I use distraction techniques at all. I’m definitely a fan of the Pomodoro Technique and I use it as often as I can, but I’m pretty sure that if something is a distraction….it’s a distraction from my good habits.

What are your distractions? Do they help or harm?

Word of the Day for Friday: LOVE!

And because it’s being posted on Saturday (see here) – Word of the Day for Saturday: KISS!

If; Then

Apparently I didn’t push “Publish” on this post yesterday, so here it is today. What I just sat down to write today will get schedule as a post for tomorrow. Back to regular “almost daily” posting on Monday.

In the latest section of Rubin’s Better Than Before book she talks about a strategy for improving good habits called “If; Then”. We use this same language in yoga, but in a much different way. In yoga we say that IF you feel a certain way in a pose; THEN adjust this way. Rubin’s suggestion is more along the lines of a planned strategy to avoid “failing” at your good habits. So, IF I can’t go outside to run today; THEN I will do a HITT workout instead.

Rubin also talks in this section about planned exceptions to the rule that don’t really break the rule. So, on Tuesday I did my first “weight training” day in a long time. And therefore, I chose (in advance) not to do sun salutations that day. Partly because I wasn’t sure how weight training was going to go and partly because I’m trying to stop putting things on my schedule when I fill each line. There’s no need for two things per line! (or so I’m currently telling myself….it’s not going so well) And partly because I’m not trying to streak with sun salutations, but rather slowly build the habit of doing them until I can complete my goal of 108 consecutive sun salutations. This didn’t make me feel guilty about skipping a day of sun salutations and then, yesterday I did them again right after my run.

Planned exceptions are not the same as spur of the moment exceptions. For example….yesterday I didn’t read in Rubin’s book nor post. This made me feel guilty and behind today. Today I have other things to do, like writing a different post on the material I was supposed to read on Wednesday. I really wish those two items were checked off in my calendar or that I had not put them on there anyway. But…..I started to rationalize this to myself using what Rubin calls a Loophole Excuse.

My word of the day for Wednesday was ENJOY! I spent the day trying to enjoy each thing I did…..including grocery shopping with a 4 year old! I tried to enjoy my run and our playdate at the park, bill paying, and eating. Then it was time to have an afternoon playdate and I enjoyed that too……so much so that I left myself without time to read and write. I was embracing my word of the day….that’s what I told myself…..but really I was making a spur of the moment loophole excuse to ditch something else that also gives me joy. Doing this also made me feel guilty the next day and not as “THANKFUL” (the WOD for Thursday) as I should have been.

Today I am thankful that I have another chance to check off my list. It’s not a fail nor a fall….just a stumble. IF I cannot complete my checklist one day; THEN I will try to pick up the slack the next day. IF I cannot “catch up” on my checklist; THEN I will make peace with what was left undone and move forward from there.One thing that was very painful to read was about Obligers and their ability to come up with loopholes….especially when the habit has no accountability to others. Yep, I’m an Obliger through and through! But, that doesn’t give me permission to use it as an excuse. Rubin comes up with 10 different loopholes that people create and a great deal of them are the excuses for why I haven’t yet applied for the full-time job posting that’s up right now……

How do you feel about unfinished work?

What excuses do you make?

How do those excuses make you feel?

Do you have “IF; THEN” strategies?

Thank you to Amanda for a place to share ideas!

Finding My Formula

My word of the day today is CELEBRATE!

Things I’m celebrating include my uncle’s birthday, continuing to be consistent in my “good habits”, and I took the little one out for a free ice cream cup because he earned it for having read 3 sets of BOB books. When they finish a book or book set I let them choose the “reward”. Last time it was chocolate almond milk and for the next set (he’s already half way through) he wants balloons. Not always food related.

I’m also just celebrating life. That’s what my word of the day reminded me to do. To just keep loving my life or change it if I don’t.

And that’s what this Habit Project is all about. I was working through a few of Rubin’s strategies and trying to decide what my best formula for being successful at my “Good” habits (the ones I want to have) will be. Here are the three areas I’ve been considering:

1.Abstinence vs. Moderation – I’d like to think that I’m a moderator…..but truthfully I think that I’m the type of person who needs to be all in or all out with most things. This has been particularly true when it comes to eating habits for me. I think I’ve gotten better about being an eating moderator now that I have decided that (for the most part) I don’t want to eat animal products. Last night we had tacos (it was t-ball night) and the kids chose black beans and cheese quesadillas with a side of refried beans. I had two tacos with black beans, refried beans, rice, lettuce, guac, and cilantro. I went back and forth about adding cheese and/or sour cream. I also wasn’t sure what to do about buying queso dip for the chips. That one was easier because they kids decided they wanted tomatillo salsa for chips and I didn’t want the queso just for me. I find it harder to abstain if others are not. I ended up with sour cream on my tacos, but would have been totally satisfied without it due to the creamy nature of the guac. I don’t know why I gave into it. I think I need to be an abstainer on my own in order to be a moderator with others.

2. Convenience – We all know that if something is easier to do, you’re more likely to do it. For me I sometimes post from my phone (even though they’re not pretty posts), but it means that the posting gets done. I answer emails from my phone now and my tablet. I have three devices that allow me to do “work”. They also all allow me to read blogs, check the news and the weather, and take/organize pictures of my children.

Remember the idea of “Spending Out” from Rubin’s first book? I read an article recently about people being happier who spend money on things like Uber rides, maids, and online grocery shopping.

Yes, You Can Buy Happiness — If You Spend Money to Save Time

Because, like the title suggests, it saves time. Convenience of equipment is what has kept me working out over the past 6 years that I haven’t had a gym at my ready. However, I haven’t been swimming or lifting weights (two things I’m adding back in this fall) regularly because of lack of access. I also haven’t done triathlons since before I was pregnant with my first son because of lack of equipment and money.

3. Inconvenience – Equally as important to stopping “Bad” habits is making them inconvenient. I’ve stopped buying cheese unless we need it for a meal with friends or on the nights that it’s “meat night”. I want to stop buying ice cream, eggs, and butter also, but I’m not the only one in the house. I’ve stopped buying as many snack foods and started baking our own muffins again. But food is not the only area in which I need to abstain and make things more inconvenient for me to get to them.

I’ve been talking a lot about being consistent. That I think is one of the first habits I want to cultivate. Second would be finishing things. Third would be decluttering. And fourth would have to be attitude changes. I am trying very hard in life to be a positive person…..hence the theme of the word of the day. I’ve always been a sucker for a quote or cat poster. But….. can you make bad attitudes less convenient?

Is attitude even a habit?

This is the question I’d love your input on the most!

Getting Started

It’s Monday! I say that with enthusiasm and vigor and overall happiness today. I’ve been reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before and it’s making a huge impact on the way that I approach things. This is something she calls the Lightning Bolt effect….when something just happens out of the blue because of something you read/watched/heard/saw or even just because you make a decision that you don’t normally make. It’s kind of like when I watched What the Health?….it wasn’t anything I didn’t already know, but it prompted me to change….right then (more on that progress later.

In the section I read over the weekend Rubin describes strategies for when to begin a new habit….much like New Year’s Resolutions. The time to act is now. How often should you do it? Regularly enough for it to stick. And a third factor (for me especially) is to find someway to be accountable/track/monitor your progress.

Some people have the approach to new habits called the Clean Slate approach. They wait for a significant event/day to get started like the beginning of the month, their birthday, or the start of the new year. I have tried all of those approaches and fall into what she describes as a “tomorrow” effect. It’s easy to say I will start tomorrow and then…..I don’t. I put it off or I make excuses or I give myself free passes to change what I had committed to. For me, the time is now. I did this with buying my new planner (which I cannot wait to use….whole other post). Instead of my usual wavering and procrastinating, I did it when I found one I liked. I didn’t worry about finding a better one; I bought it and now I have it and I don’t regret my decision.

I needed to use the Do It Now approach this weekend also. In my NETA PT workshop at Wingate University I was talking to the students about the goal of doing 108 sun salutations. When I left the workshop that day and started reading Better Than Before I thought to myself:

When can I start doing them?

The answer was NOW. So I got up and I did 10 sun salutations. They were hard to do because I was wearing shoes, in my hotel room, very stiff from standing all day, and had no mat to grip my hands. But I did them. Then I wrote them on my calendar for next Saturday. After further consideration (on Sunday) I decided to take the step to make the habit more regular. What would happen if I wrote sun salutations on every day of my calendar? I ended up choosing almost every day (because there were days where there were no lines left to write anything) and it made me feel satisfied.

The danger to this approach is that it’s what Rubin refers to as a Blast Start. Blast starts are great for some people, but at the end of their self-imposed “streak” they sometimes are giving themselves permission to quit what they’ve decided to do. This leads to a lapse effect. It’s always harder to come back to something the second time around. Why? I don’t know the exact answer, but I think it has something to do with the novelty of the experience being worn off. I feel like this has happened to me a little with running at the moment. I put on my calendar for this next weekend to pick my new race. That always perks me back up!

And that’s the third and most important component for me…..accountability. I’m not great at being accountable to myself. I think that’s the habit I want to change the most. My follow through. So, here’s what I’m doing to be more accountable about things:

  1. Writing it down in the planner
  2. Checking it off and doing each thing NOW instead of looking for “The Best Time” to do it
  3. Tracking all of my exercise in MapMyRun (even Sun Salutations)
  4. Telling you and everyone I can about what I’m going to do (I find it hard to disappoint others even if they’re not invested)
  5. Being ME

The last one means that I’m only committing to do the things that I know will make me happy. My word for today is SMILE and each time I look in my planner and read it, it makes me smile. It’s a reinforcement of how I want to be and who I truly am.

How do you go about starting a new project or habit?

Which strategies are most successful for you?

What is your longest streak on something?