Atomic Habits: Avoiding Temptation

It’s been a while since I posted about Atomic Habits by James Clear. Amid house shopping, an insane new work schedule and a number of other unexpected surprises, my reading routine went on the back burner. Atomic Habits is still sitting on my coffee table partially finished. However, for what feels like the first time in a month, I finally found a moment to sit down and catch by breath. Here are my favorite bits from chapter 7 of Atomic Habits.

  • Disciplined people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.”
  • “It’s easier to practice self-restraint when you don’t have to use it very often.” 
  • “Bad habits are autocatalytic: the process feeds itself.”
  • “You can break a habit, but you’re unlikely to forget it.”
  • “Self-control is a short term strategy.”
  • “It’s easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.”

Of course, sometimes this all feels far easier said than done but that doesn’t make it any less true. I don’t think there’s a single person in my life who hasn’t experienced the intense frustration of mustering enough energy to face the new day at some point. It’s exhausting and does seem to demand a heroic effort far too often. I want to be a disciplined person, one with enough self-control to avoid unproductive situations instead of simply muscling through them. 

Flying Blind

“Well… That wasn’t part of the plan.” I’ve been saying that a lot lately. I feel like the comedic relief in a Star Trek episode. There’s always something else that I did not see coming. But that’s life. It’s messy and complicated and no matter how you try, if the timing is off, things will undoubtedly go sideways. We like to walk around like we know what we’re doing but most of the time, we’re just as clueless as everyone else. 

It’s okay. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones we didn’t plan for. Maybe some crisis at work turns out to be a blessing in disguise or a daunting task like buying a house becomes your new sanity project. Seeing the silver lining takes a little work but it’s usually there if you look closely. 

Space Cadet!

Well, this week did not go according to plan. It certainly had its ups and downs but one thing’s for sure, I need a break! For the first time in over a year, my brain was so overloaded that I completely forgot to write a blog post for Friday, hence this Saturday update. In fairness, it wasn’t entirely due to my own failure to plan. Sometimes things happen, things that you could not possibly foresee or prepare for. Today’s post is a recap of all the madness that ensued since my last post and a reminder to everyone else feeling a little flustered that it’s okay to cut yourself some slack.

The first situational curveball was the emotional kind. A friend of mine had a date and, being a little inexperienced in the dating game, she’d been sending me regular updates leading up to the evening. She was clearly nervous and skeptical but willing to investigate a potential romance with a first date. However, 45 minutes after they were scheduled to meet she texted to inform me that the guy still hadn’t arrived. 

A word of advice gentlemen, barring serious physical injury, don’t EVER leave a girl waiting for you in a crowded restaurant for longer than a half hour. We’re all human and sometimes tardiness is unavoidable but 45 minutes is unacceptable. Needless to say, I dropped my plans for the evening and hopped in my car to meet her after hearing this. We enjoyed sampling the local flavors at Aftermath Cidery and Winery and spent the entire night chatting about all sorts of things. 

The next day I arrived to work a little bleary eyed but happy that I was able to help turn my friends’ night around. After the usual morning meetings a couple of my coworkers popped their heads into my office with news that they’d soon be moving to other companies, leaving me, the associate, as one of the most senior people in the department. Of course, life happens and situations change. I’m immensely happy for both of them but can’t help feeling woefully underqualified for my newfound responsibilities. 

I know I’m not the only person to be thrown into a scenario like this and in another two years I’ll probably be looking back on this day fondly as the huge learning opportunity that it was. Over the coming months I will grow in skill, knowledge and confidence because I have to. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself standing on the edge of major life changes, utterly terrified. Each and every one of those instances shaped me into the person I needed to be. When duty calls, you figure it out.

 Despite appreciating the eventual silver lining of my soon to be understaffed office, my brain was in overdrive by the time I left for the day. However, the excitement was far from over. Instead of heading for home I plugged an address into Google Maps that my realtor had sent me that afternoon. After weeks of price checking, house tours and a couple of lost bidding wars, my realtor was excited about this one. Google Maps failed me at several points during the drive over so I was tired and frazzled by the time I pulled into the driveway. But I slapped on my game face as my realtor walked me through the house and soon found myself beaming with excitement of my own. It was everything she’d promised and more and I even had a chance to chat briefly with the sellers during my visit. I’m thrilled to say that after a long and tedious search I think we have finally found a winner. Although becoming a homeowner is terrifying in its own right, it was a much needed upturn to an otherwise stress filled day. 

It’s these moments, when you find yourself petrified on the brink of life altering change that things get interesting. There are but two choices; step up and become the person you need to be or don’t. Playing it safe might seem like a good short term solution but always be wary of regret which comes from passing up the chances you should have taken. 

What chances are you taking today? How are you becoming the person you need to be? Share in the comments.

30 Hours in a Day

I think I’ve just realized one of the reasons why I feel like I’m running on empty so often these days. One of the most wonderful and frustrating things about time is that it is constant and finite. Everyone on Earth receives the same, non-negotiable, non-refundable 24 hour daily allowance to do with as they please. Well, I’ve looked at the numbers and I’m 6 hours over budget. Below are all the hours I would spend everyday if I had all the time in the world.

  • 8 hours of restful sleep – I used to be so disciplined in my sleep schedule before moving off to college. There was still the odd late night when I was up finishing a school project but I was always able to drag myself out of bed in the morning at the sound of my first alarm. In fact I was so good at it that I once rose bright and early, got dressed, ate breakfast, packed my school things and was halfway out the door before my mom reminded me that it was Sunday. Now, it blows my mind that anyone could find time for a full 8 hours of sleep every night. 
  • 9 hours of dedicated work – This was so much easier before stay at home orders which blurred the lines between work and play. Of course, there are perks to the home office; no depressing sack lunch, no groggy commute, no one poking their head into your office to dump some new crisis onto your already full plate (now they do it via conference call). But despite all of that, office time was work time and the drive home after a busy day was a necessary 20 minutes that I relished for recharging my mental batteries.
  • 1 hour of exercise – I’m no fitness guru and you won’t catch me dieting. I just want my jeans to fit right. There’s also something incredibly revitalizing about strenuous physical activity which reassures you that you’re doing something really good for yourself. It’s easy to get bogged down with all the daily mental and emotional clutter and sometimes it seems like progress comes slowly if at all. At the end of the day, it feels so good to work hard. 
  • 4 hours of creative writing – At the moment, this is an incredibly ambitious and idealistic writing goal set to address my blogging and novel writing needs. I’d love to post quality content on this blog every day while also having enough creative juice to finally get a novel on paper. The random snippets of time stolen from my 8 hours of sleep every night are never quite enough to really dig into the ideas that are rattling around in my brain.
  • 1 hour for communicating with friends and family – Phone calls with my parents, plans with work and church friends and texts to old high school buddies are all included in this. I’ve never figured out how best to keep up with all of them, especially in a world of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and every other app that people use these days. When did we all stop talking to each other?
  • 1 hour given to God through dedicated prayer – My faith formation is still in its infancy. I’m learning how to ask God to intercede in my life and sometimes I forget to altogether. I want to strengthen my relationship with him and attune my eyes and ears to his work, even on the bad days. It’s amazing how your life can change when you take time to say ‘thank you’ every single day.
  • 1 hour of reading – There’s nothing better than getting lost in a good book. I’m a firm believer that great readers make great writers. It’s how they learn.
  • 1 hour of music practice – I’ve always loved playing music whether it be in a piano recital, high school concert band, community symphony, the school musical orchestra pit or the college football halftime show. Over the years, my skill and enthusiasm has been subject to the eb and flow of a busy school (and now work) schedule but I was always good enough to know that I could be much better if I set myself to the task.  
  • 1 hour for meal preparation – In fairness, I try to complete the majority of my meal prep on Sunday afternoons. When cooking for one, leftovers are a must. Experimenting with new recipes is a little easier when you know you’d get a day off from master chef duties tomorrow. 
  • 1 hour for cleaning and managing logistical tasks – If turned into a daily task, there’s a good chance this would never actually require a full hour. Tidying as you go is much better than the weekend pileup. There are so many better ways to spend your weekend.
  • 1 hour spent immersing myself in nature – Depending on the day, this could easily be lumped into the exercise hour. I love to hit the trails for a refreshing jog through the thick Indiana air. As much as I love reading, writing, talking with my family, making plans, playing music, at some point, I need to get away from all of that. I need to just be with myself in nature.
  • 1 hour to unwind, relax and recharge – After attempting to finish all that, I’m lucky if my brain hasn’t turned to utter mush while still reeling at one hundred miles per minute. 

I’d love to be the kind of person that can do all of this and still have a little time leftover. However, There are only so many hours in the day. What are you doing with yours?

POTD: Sunshine and Ladybugs

Today I am kissing the weekend goodbye with a photo gallery from my most recent adventures out on the trails. Even the tiniest speck red on the wings of a ladybug or the faint blush of fresh spring blossoms is enough to make me long for the kaleidoscope of vivid greens, yellows, blues and nearly every other color under the Sun which graces Valparaiso amid the heat of summer. What colors did you notice today?

POTD: Flannel Friday

The seasons are changing and soon the days will be far too long and hot to cozy up in your favorite flannel so be sure to enjoy it while the chill wind still breathes whispers of winter. To everyone nearing the end of a tedious work week, have a fantastic Friday! Don’t be afraid to crack open a bottle of your favorite beer to celebrate.

POTD: One Step at a Time

Once again I find myself trapped in the cyclical self improvement kick that never seems to stick long enough for me to feel like I’ve really got my life together. After months of social distancing, working from home and generally trying to avoid going insane in the quiet of my apartment, I am at last on the upswing of an emotional and mental slump (again). But we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes that just means starting over for what seems like the thousandth time. 

Today I greeted all of my work conference calls with confidence, I tidied my kitchen, I went for a run in the cool April sunshine (and discovered the pull of midwestern bird watching) and I cooked up a pasta dinner for the week. Looking around, it doesn’t feel like much. There are more conference calls and follow ups waiting for me tomorrow. The dishes neatly stacked by the sink still need washing. I still wish my belt sat just a hair more loosely around my hips and spaghetti was hardly a health conscious dinner choice. 

However, the only way to move forward is by putting one foot in front of the other. Today I took the first step. Did you?