Ridiculous Thought #1

“I’ll never be able to enjoy listening to jazz again if I stop drinking.”

Conclusion: Case dismissed with prejudice.

Started sketching again late into the night. WBGO* online radio and my two cats as company. First time I have listened to WBGO while sketching sober. It felt good. In the groove again. It felt familiar and even better sober. Concentration was present. Small steps. My fingers cramped up. It has been so long. I’m out of practice. A good cramp. It will get easier day by day as I return to sketching and painting. Creative pursuits with a clear head.

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”**

Mini habits are having a positive impact already. The evening breeze is coming in the window with the occasional moth. The neighbourhood is quiet. I can hear from far, far away the hum of the motorway. No morepork (owls) hooting in the night. No planes, no helicopters. Admittedly it is already morning and a peaceful time to think and create. The stars might be out but I’m occupied. My eyes are staring straight ahead, following the pen strokes. The pen stroke following my brain. Or maybe my brain is following the pen. Who knows what my hand will draw next? Until tomorrow.

*WBGO is a jazz public radio station “Jazz 88”, 88.3FM from a studio in Newark, New Jersey, USA.

**Dr Seuss quote

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Can’t Help Myself

Pre-school children sit in a room. They are told they can have a marshmallow now, or if they can wait 15 minutes they can have 2 marshmallows. The marshmallow in placed in front of the children. The instructor walks out of the room and observes the children.

Are you a 1 or a 2 marshmallow kind of person? The Stanford “Marshmallow Experiment” was carried out in 1960 by Walter Mischel and Ebbe B. Ebbesen. They wanted to observe delayed gratification.

In that case I would easily be a 2.

In real life can we be 2s always? I don’t think we can. I think we fluctuate between the two, the instant versus delayed gratification, like a tug of war. Or is it just in our heads the Devil’s advocate whispering, take it now, why wait? We know to wait gives a better outcome but we also know it is more difficult to wait.

Those of us that are able to wait, or to delay gratification, have a better chance of succeeding in life or that’s what the experiment was supposed to show. Years later it was proven that the results depended on the socioeconomic background of the child. It wasn’t based on will power at all; it depended on the affluence of the household. A biased experiment.

Why am I talking about this? It kind of relates. In my previous blog Care, I mention the mini-habits and that there should be a limit on 4, otherwise it is harder to achieve. Well I did mention I had 6 mini-habits. That’s right. More than recommended. Did I read the label and the instructions? Yes. Do I know better? It would appear so.

Does assembling more mini-habits than recommended mean that I am stuffing my pockets with marshmallows now so that I can achieve my goals earlier? Am I trying to accumulate the habits quicker? Am I rushing the process? Does that mean that I might just end up with a sticky gooey mess and no mini-habits at the end of it? Am I trying to get instant gratification on too many goals as apposed to if I took it slow, I would delay the goals but end up with properly formed habits?

Here are my 6 mini-habits:

  1. Eat a whole food daily.
  2. Open Morning Pages Journal
  3. Put on Gym Gear or Sit on Exercise Bike or Sit in Sauna
  4. Do 1 Duolingo lesson
  5. Open Sketchbook
  6. 2 pages of Reading

This is beginning to sound like the Spanish Inquisition…

These are my 7 mini-habits:

  1. Eat a whole food daily.
  2. Open Morning Pages Journal
  3. Put on Gym Gear or Sit on Exercise Bike or Sit in Sauna
  4. Do 1 Duolingo lesson
  5. Open Sketchbook
  6. 2 pages of Reading
  7. Stand Outside in the Garden

We shall just have to wait and see. I am going to continue with my 7 mini-habits and monitor how I go. So far so good. This is my experiment. After a month of these mini-habit they should evolve into proper habits. The habits will be on autopilot. Wish me luck.

Care

My word is CARE. This year, 2019, the year of care. It might also be the year of the pig but that is for another post.

Care is providing and protecting what is necessary for health and welfare. Looking after, having an interest or concern for something that is important.

Care is my umbrella word for this year. It will shade me when I step too close to the sun, it will provide shelter when I leave myself out in the rain, it will protect me from side winds when gusts appear out of nowhere.

Choosing care is choosing kindness to oneself. It is making a choice to be kind. It is enveloping oneself carefully in the inclusion of the world. It is not excluding, it is not barring or deterring oneself from the world. It is opening one’s arms and embracing the world from a safe distance. That distance is up to you. It’s your world after all.

Listen for the voice of kindness deep within yourself. Ignore the obnoxious loud whining of the one you would rather dump off the edge of a cliff but its a part of you and you can’t shake it off. The whining will stop or become so quiet that you will stop noticing it. Your voice of kindness will be all that you hear. You need to listen for it. It is there. It has always been there waiting patiently for you.

I am not depriving myself of alcohol I am choosing freedom. I feel like I have another start at life. The new sober me is great to be. I am embracing this sober life. It is the right choice for me. I’ve been dreaming of this off and on for so long, it seemed unobtainable. I thought I needed willpower. Turns out I didn’t need it. I chose to stop poisoning my body, mind and soul. That is all.

38 days in and I am starting to feel stronger about my decision. Insomnia is still with me but I am not wrestling with it. I accept it is with me for now. It is summer and the nights are cool and it doesn’t really matter what time I go to bed. 4am is my new normal. This morning it was 5am. Insomnia won’t be with me forever. I have plans to shock it out of my system. But all in good time. Slowly, slowly does it. The turtle wins the race, not with speed but with consistency.

I am trying Mini Habits, the idea from Stephen Guise. Ridiculously small actions done daily to form habits.

Open my Morning Pages Journal.

The above is one of my mini habits. That is all I have to do. It doesn’t say write three pages. It doesn’t say write anything. It doesn’t even say sit down in front of your Morning Pages journal. It doesn’t even say pick up a fountain pen. It is just a ridiculously simple action to open a journal, nothing more, nothing less.

If I happen to be sitting down and open my journal and I have a fountain pen in my hand, I might feel inclined to write something. A line, a sentence, the date, three pages. There is no obligation to do anything except open a journal. It I choose to do more that is a bonus.

See how it works. The concept encourages you rather than making you feel bad if you didn’t do your mini habit. And it you don’t even manage to do your habit, it is no big deal either.

It is suggested that you don’t introduce more than 4 mini habits into your life. Anymore and you are overdoing it.

Addictive personalities, a myth if ever there was such a thing, makes one go all out or do nothing. It is all on or all off. There is no in between. The tap is either on or off, there is no low pressure there is only high pressure or off. There is no trickle, there is no moderate pressure. If one has the steering towards an addiction towards alcohol, then there is most likely a tendency to overindulge in other areas too, food, gambling,…

The first sip, the first bite, the first bet gives a thrill but how about the third or the tenth? Why is there a need for a first anything anyway?

I had my first sober pizza yesterday and that tasted better than my first drunken pizza. To be honest, I can’t remember it. Is that so surprising?

I went off on a tangent when I had no intention. Forgive me. Back to mini habits and limiting oneself to 4 habits. If you are like me you have 6 written down and you are trying to be an overachiever, pushing yourself to the limit. All for what? It’s just opening a book. The deflated feeling when you don’t meet a goal is because your goal was too vague, too big or too many, completely unmanageable. It wasn’t because you aren’t able. It’s just worded it wrong. You wanted instant gratification. You wanted it all now. Life isn’t like that. It is a journey. If you run all the way you will be exhausted. It is better to walk and rest, take things slow. What’s the rush. The journey is the process and you are meant to enjoy it.

Another of my mini habits is:

Put on your Gym Gear or Sit on the Exercycle Machine or Sit in Sauna

There is no actual exercise required. No 100 sprints, no push ups just get dressed or sit somewhere. This is an alternative mini habit. A habit with a choice. We like choices as long as there aren’t too many of them. If there are too many of them we freeze up and make no choice. Yesterday to pick up my pizza I put on my gym gear. That was me. I walked to the car. Drove to the pizza place and collected my pizza and walked quickly back to the car and home. That was my Exercise mini habit done. No shame that I didn’t go to the gym, didn’t walk so many steps, just satisfaction of doing something towards the idea of the thought of exercise. That’s half of it, isn’t it. The thinking about something. The intention is there. I checked off my Exercise as done. I don’t usually go to the gym on Saturday anyway so I don’t feel guilty.

These mini habits are so stupidly simple that there is no guilt for not doing them and no shame if you do do them. If so inclined you happen to drive to the gym and start exercising then great, that’s a bonus. If you happen to pick up and pen and write a line or a page or a few, again it’s a bonus.

The point of the mini habits is to create habits. Habits are things you do daily. They become something you do so often they are something you don’t without thinking. It’s the lazy way to form habits. I’m all for it.

The goal and the action cannot be the same. The action is a smaller part of the goal. Let’s look at my “Exercise” mini habit, my action is tiny. It involves either putting on clothes or sitting on something. Even on a bad day I think I could manage this. On a good day I could be on the treadmill for 40 minutes, followed by weights and stretching. It’s an idea. The goal is a weight goal. It is generous. As in I have given myself plenty of time to achieve my goal. A year, with my first mini goal after three months. I’m after a lifestyle change here. My “Exercise” mini habit is linked to my “Food” habit, Eat a whole food daily. Combining the two mini habits improves my diet (my eating habits) and makes me move my body more. It improves what I eat and my overall well being.

Take care of yourself. What would your mini habit be?