Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

Self portrait.  15 minutes of nothing . . .
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“The habit of being happy enables one to be freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Be part of The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post.
Be part of The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post.

 . . . and check out these habitual Weekly Photo Challengers: 

Here’s a beautiful habit to start my list
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | Chocolate Spoon & The Camera

A better picture than bitten nails
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | Noinini’s Blog

How inseparable are you from your habit?
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | Last Train to QVille

Dogs are creatures of habit
there are squirrels out there, and it’s up to me to find them | Lovin the Trip

There are a lot of WPC: Habit posts about coffee this week, but this one made me swoon!
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | typeBea

A gaggle?  A flock?  A host?  A swarm?  A mob?  What is the answer?  Click here to find the question.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | Khana’s Web

A different kind of rush hour
Rush Hour at the Cat Door | Required Writing

Fun = This post about a habit
Habit #3 | follow your nose

This post proves a habit is not the same thing as a routine
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | Not The Sword But The Pen

New technologies evolve to new habits
Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit | I am

 

 

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Blueprint of Happiness Recap #2

If  you’ve been paying attention, and you actually do the math, at some point you’re going to realize that anyone who designs a Happiness Project with a minimum of three intentions per month, will have 33 new habits at the end of the eleven months.  The twelfth month is dedicated to reflection on all of them.

Having 33 new habits would be a piece of cake (and I can’t tell you how happy cake makes me), if I didn’t already have about 102 other good and bad habits that I do every day.  I know few people who could fit that many more things in their already packed schedule.  Presumably, some of these happier habits are meant to squeeze out the ones that don’t add to my life, and I will be pleased with the results . . . like having to toss your old furniture when you bring in the new stuff.

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Using a letter grading system on the frequency of practice, the quality of my practice, and the satisfaction I get from it, I rated myself.  My report card looks like THIS.

And how is this affecting my other habits; the good and bad ones I already had?

Getting outside is by far the best intention I have made so far.  It lifts my spirits, grounds me with my community and nature, and makes me move a little bit.  This is definitely better than being inside.

Finding decent music on the radio during my twelve-minute (yes, twelve minutes — don’t hate me) commute isn’t always easy.  The morning shows are all talk, trying to be funny, but coming off as negative, sarcastic and cynical.  Eventually I can usually find a station playing some kind of music.  Getting my groove on may not be a life-altering behavior, and certainly isn’t replacing any other, but it puts a bounce in my step that the morning joe can’t match.

10238463774_373da92bb6_oDoing nothing for 15 minutes, or eating mindfully doesn’t replace other behavior as much as it requires you to ignore distractions.  This is what creates the challenge, and thus the lack of frequency.  Sometimes finding the right setting, away from diversion is key.

Pausing to stop, look, and listen replaces a habit of mindlessly walking from here to there.  It acts like a camera where you look through a lens and see the everyday world in a new way.

..~~*~~..

This month has its own challenges as the days are shorter, and have me driving home with headlights.  The shivery temperatures, and lack of sunshine bring me down.  It’s a good time to focus on the home, fix what is broken, throw out what is unused or unappreciated, and make room for new ideas.

My intentions for the month of November are:

  • Fix
  • De-clutter
  • Desire

I think defining aspirations must come easy for some people.  They always know exactly where they are heading, even if they don’t know where they will end up.  I am not one of those people.  I am a realist, leaning toward pessimism.  If the grass looks greener on the other side, experience has taught me that it isn’t.  Even if it is, I’m well aware there are also dandelions, stickers, and possibly a wolf.  No, I’m the kind of person who keeps her sites set firmly on this side of the fence and makes the best of it.  Exploring my true yearning is going to be a challenge.

The two books I am working with, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, truly work quite well together.  I can begin to see pieces of my desire by looking at which intentions come easily and what gives me the most satisfaction.

10238509465_45cf4fd54a_o..~~*~~..

There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.
— George Bernard Shaw

Blueprint of Happiness Recap #1

To answer the burning question “Have I found myself any happier?”  Oh, of course!  It is Autumn, and the air is crisp!  If there are two things that lift my spirit, they are the longer days of spring and the cooler days of fall.

The goal for September was to energize by following four guidelines in my Blueprint of Happiness.  Let’s take a look and see how it played out:

  • Get Outside – I found the fresh air and sunshine had the most positive impact on my attitude.  Of course, the weather has been sunny and comfortable.  Time will tell if I will find this as energizing in February.  In addition to our weekly jaunts to the dog park, I found time to sit outside and enjoy my senses, meander through nature, and work on a few projects out in my own yard.
  • Music – In my opinion there is too much talk radio broadcast in the morning.  I prefer to start my day with a song stuck in my head.  Of course, the goal was not to just listen to music, but to find something that moves me.  It really doesn’t matter how it moves me.  I want to cry, to dance, to do a little head-banging, and sometimes just sing along and laugh my butt off!  To feel emotion is to feel alive.  To feel alive is to reap happiness.
  • Run an Errand – It came as no surprise that trying to think of one errand every day, no matter how small, became laborious.  Within a week I had redefined the goal to “Complete Something.”  I patched a section of lawn.  I wrote a letter.  I bought ingredients and baked cookies.  I bought a light bulb for my oven.  Something did indeed get accomplished every day, and I am the better for it.
  • 15 minutes of Nothing – As predicted, this was the most difficult task to perform.  I found it easiest when combined with my goal to get outside.  Sitting with the sun on my face and watching the squirrels hop through the yards while doing nothing was lovely.  It reminded me of times past when people used to sit on the front porch at the end of the day.  It’s a perfect way to reconnect with your senses, which the world has become so adept at cutting off.

..~~*~~..

This month of October I have decided to connect with reality and truth.  Not the kind of truth where I’m going to ask Bubba if my jeans make my butt look big.  I will happily reside in that ignorance indefinitely.  The truth I seek is that which comes from spending time mindfully.  My daily intentions include:

  • Eat mindfully
  • Stop, Look, and Listen
  • Create a moment of truth (The Joy Diet by Martha Beck)

The first day that I went through the four steps for creating a moment of truth, I found myself sobbing.  It went like this:

Step 1:  Start with your daily dose of nothing

As usual, I spent my fifteen minutes taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood.  I looked at the timer three times before it finally went off.  While I enjoyed the break, I was ready for the alarm to sound so I could continue the tasks of the evening.

Step 2:  Ask and answer these questions:

What am I feeling?  I kind of wish I had spent those fifteen minutes accomplishing something.

What hurts?  I hate that the days are so short that doing something for myself feels like a waste of time.

What is the painful story I’m telling?  I’m wasting my life working for a paycheck, and just surviving from one day to the next.

Is my painful story working?  Yes, I am tricking myself into thinking that my life is being used against my will.

Can I think of another story that might work better?  The things I choose to do matter.  Even if I am doing something I’m not thrilled about, I make other people happy by making them laugh, or treating them right.  Look at what a good life Barney had while he was just hanging around with me.  He was such a good dog, and I made sure he knew it every day he was with me . . . .

 . . . and that’s when the sobbing started.

The exposure of this lie I had been telling myself — the truth — set me free.  I may not be able to choose to stop working for a paycheck, but I can choose how I affect the people around me.  And in liberating that reality, the grief for the recent loss of my dog surfaced unexpectedly.

Step 3:  Offer compassion to your inner lying scumbag.  

May you be well.  May you be happy.  May you find peace.

..~~*~~..

The thermometer is dropping and I have taken to wrapping myself in a scarf and blanket, and sitting on the front step with a cup of tea.  Eventually I become awkwardly aware that a smile has settled on my face.  I quite like it, and instead of setting the timer to make sure I fulfill my fifteen minute session, I now set it so that I don’t forget to stop.

 

Blueprint of Happiness

September brings another year for me.  It’s the month I was born.  In more recent years this has not been a time of celebration as much as a time of reflection on growth, possibilities, and life.  It seems like the perfect time to create a Happiness Project guided by the book of the same name by Getchen Rubin.

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Every project needs a blueprint.  Plotting a project takes time.  You need to look at it from all angles, decide what should come first, and what is the best time for each step.  As it turns out, a Happiness Project is no different.

I used four things to generate my blueprint:

  1. The First Splendid Truth from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project
  2. A list I like to call “Things That Make Me Happy” — I know — creative, right?
  3. A quiz that Gretchen calls How Well Do You Know Yourself? which I would recommend to anyone contemplating a happiness project, or not.
  4. The Joy Diet by Martha Beck

..~~*~~..

At some point, I ran headlong into the conflict between what makes me happy and what I think should make me happy.  For instance, all the experts say exercising will boost my energy, suppress appetite, and lift my mood.  They also tell me if I don’t like exercise, I just haven’t found the right one.  I like playing with the dogs, bicycling, gardening, and taking walks; none to the point of exhaustion.  I have more interesting things to do with my time.  Exercise makes me hungry, tired, and cranky.  It’s right up there with doing laundry.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to exercise.  Moderate exercise allows me to sleep better and keeps my joints mobile.  And doing laundry keeps me looking and smelling fresh.  Yet I’m never going to confuse either of them with happiness, and if I never had to do them again it would be okay with me!

By focusing on something I think should bring me happiness but doesn’t, I am neglecting something else that actually does.  It occurs to me that this is how a Happiness Project works.  I will be focusing on the things that make me happy.  If I tell you to notice the red things in the room, you will instantly see them, whereas a minute ago you did not realize they were there.  As I focus on the things that make me happy and the opportunities to create happiness, those things will appear in places they were once camouflaged.

I like finding myself one year older every September.  The temperatures are usually cooling and the humidity is dropping.  School busses once again follow their paths, the fruit is heavy on the trees, the garden swells with harvest.  It is a good time for me to focus on energizing.

Some of the harvest is swelling more than others.
Some of the harvest is swelling more than others.

Here will be my daily intentions:

  • Get Outside – That sounds simple enough, but some days I’m only outside long enough to walk the dogs and transfer from my car to work or home.  I’ll be making a point of getting outside to feel the elements, hear the birds, and smile at someone.
  • Music – I want to listen to at least one song that moves me in some way every day.
  • Run an Errand – Getting things done energizes me.  I love getting to the end of the day knowing I completed some little thing.
  • 15 Minutes of Nothing – The first step to joy in Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet.  This may well prove the most difficult action of the four.
Look at the free book I obtained while at the State Fair yesterday!  How timely!
Look at the free book I obtained while at the State Fair yesterday! How timely!

 

Not Exactly Listless

After Bubba ate his muffin and sipped his morning Coke Zero™, I asked him (because you don’t ask Bubba anything before he’s had some sugar and caffeine), “What are your plans for today?”

Bubba:  I have a LOT to do.  I have to check on reservations for my buddy’s bachelor party, get snacks like pretzels and chips, I have to check in at the gym, and I have to buy a whole ton of stuff . . . (his voice drifted off, gazing, as if reading his to-do list from the ceiling)

Me:  Okay.  Because all I really have on my list is to go to the grocery store and do some self-reflection.

Bubba:  You gonna go look in the mirror?

I don’t think I’ve really spelled out what a compulsive-obsessive list-maker I am.  I have as many lists as ways of accumulating them.  I use Springpad, Out Of Milk, Mindjet Maps, FlyLady, ColorNote, DroidDia, Netflix, Habit Goal Monitor, Pinterest and good old fashioned pen to paper.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the different lists and gadgets I have for listing out ways to eat and exercise.

All my life I’ve looked for formulas to life.  Everyone has one to sell, read, download or listen to, and if I could only find the one that works for me, life would be simple, right?

Lists found from a brief walk around my house.  Not a reenactment.
Lists found from a brief walk around my house.
(Not a reenactment)

An article titled The art of list-making by BBC News mentions compulsive list-making.  I couldn’t have written it better myself, and so to truly understand my thought process, you must read the following:

There are several stages to writing a list.

First there is the gentle thrill of anticipation as I contemplate the pristine paper in front of me. I may not yet have a subject for my list, but just the thought of one gives me a sense of purpose.

Second there is the light-headed buzz that gradually develops into bliss, euphoria and an all-consuming calm.

Third comes the extraordinary sense of satisfaction from having created a rigid timetable of impossible tasks that has taken a disproportionate amount of time and thought.

It doesn’t matter that I will never look at it again.

Psychologists say that obsessive compulsive list makers (I guess that includes me) are trying to create an illusion of control in otherwise chaotic lives.

Eero Saarinen
Design genius Eero Saarinen’s to-do list included changing light bulbs

My compulsion has now been spoken aloud.  It does get worse at times of hormonal mutiny.  Following or falling off of my plans can also coincide with hormonal uprising.  With this in mind, you must now know that I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  This is list-making on a grand scale.  Caution must be exerted along the way.

It is The Happiness Project that inspired my Best Practices page, which is indeed a list I have collected through life experience.  Gretchen calls them Commandments and Secrets to Adulthood.  Not being a religious fan, commandments sounded too . . well . . religious, but also restrictive.  Once I renamed it Best Practices, I had a hard time sorting the secrets to adulthood from the best practices, so I joined them into one list.  Gretchen is very reassuring about making this project your own and to be honest, I need less lists not more.

So far, so good.  My Best Practices list is a list of things I already, for the most part, do.  It is good to have a list of actions to remind myself to keep doing, celebrate that I am the kind of person who behaves this way, and (because I am a good mother) nag my kids to do.

There will be more posts about my journey, but as you know (or will know if you just tuned in), I meander through life.  Since my blog follows me wherever I go, so too will you, my reader.  There is much of life to explore!  More lists to make, more food to taste, more vegetables to grow, more sorry excuses about which to rant!  So this isn’t going a straight line from beginning to the end of this book.

I subscribed to Gretchen’s newsletter, “liked” her on Facebook, and followed her on Twitter.  I downloaded the e-book, then forgot I did, so I bought it as an audio-book.  And as I listened, I really wished I had a hard copy so I could highlight various excerpts, so . . . you guessed it . . . I ordered a hard copy.  So much for my How-To-Be-A-Minimalist list.

I’m seriously afraid she’s going to take out a restraining order.

Peace . . .