My first blog was called TinyTweaks. It was about little things we can do to make our everyday lives better. Fast forward twenty years later, these are the same lessons that have served us well throughout 2020. The learnings on habits that is a recurring theme on this current blog have also been most useful. Sharing practices that have helped keep things together for me throughout the crazy year that was.
Acceptance is key to movement. Choosing to accept reality as it is and not how we want it to be will save our energy. This finite resource is then better channeled to taking stock of what we can control and working on those instead. Accept then ask – what is the smallest action that I can do to make this particular situation even a little better? An expression of this was creating a “quaransked” as soon as the lockdown was announced. Calling it as such was a form of acceptance and having it as an initial working schedule gave me some semblance of control at the start when the uncertainty was at its highest.
Simplify your operating system. Having a home operating system that works for the family is important. This includes setting routines, time boxing activities, carving out individual spaces, setting expectations and assigning responsibilities. During the pandemic, we had no help so each one was expected to do chores and home tasks. One way we simplified was by setting just one major meal per day, lunch. Breakfast was bread popped into toaster, lunch was yummy and hearty but easy to prepare and dinner was leftovers or an easy wrap/sandwich.
Having a routine helps. A big part of a working system is the establishment of routines. It is a good thing that I have always been a creature of habit and somehow transferred this to my children. A routine gives everyone a sense of how a day will generally flow. It helps children to be independent and anchored. It serves as a scaffolding that guides rather than imposes. What is interesting about routines is when they turn into rituals that give joy to each day. For instance, the daily habit of making morning coffee for my husband has become a time to have a brief intimate conversation that sets the tone of my day. It is a respite before I dive into my back to back schedule. Also, a new habit of doing Morning Pages has also been beneficial in quieting my frantic monkey mind.
Delegate, trust and be okay with “good enough”. I am often asked how to achieve balance. First of all, I have accepted that there is no such thing. I also jokingly say that I accept mediocrity. I do so for things that are of low to medium importance. For those that truly matter I am quite exacting. In addition, focus on the tasks that give you energy and those that are of the best use of your time and gifts. If you can delegate or outsource then by all means please do so.
Practice strategic joy. Find deliberate ways to inject fun and enjoyment into your day. These things will fill up your cup so you can give more to those who are with you daily. Part of this practice is also choosing to ignore those that do not contribute to your happiness (e.g news and social media). For me it helped that I kept movement/workout as a core part of my day, in whatever format. Moving helped me experience and embody progress even if things may have stood still.
And above all, gentleness toward one’s self and those with us. We are all trying and sometimes it is enough to simply acknowledge that effort. So here’s to another year of continued trying and tweaking.
I depend on my calendar for all the things that happen during the day. If it is important and I need to remember it, I calendar it. Lately I have been thinking about how I can be more consistent in carrying out daily routines. Perhaps I shall try to put these into a schedule.
What I worry about though is that if an activity is plotted daily, I will gloss it over because I know that I actually do not have to do it. There is no reason for me to do it – no one would be affected, no one will know if I actually did it, there is no deadline. The only reason is that I simply would like to do it. It is for the pleasure of doing it for myself and for the sheer act of it.
Getting started may entail the deliberate inclusion of a task in a calendar but what gets it to stick is the act of doing. The momentum of keeping at it everyday imprints the practice into our being, becoming part of our identity. This is what I am aiming for but for now the best I can do is to put in a daily reminder.
What are the moments in life that make you utter the words “Oh wow!”? Sometimes we think it should be the achievement of the large and audacious goals in life. Perhaps it may be the measures that are typically ascribed when people refer to a successful company or person. It may also be hinged on one’s impact in the world.
But it is the little moments with those who we love dearly that are the real and lasting oh wow moments. It is the quiet evenings when the kids rummage through old letters and squeal in delight as if they were toddlers reading a nightly note. It is a warm cuddle on a rainy night, snuggling against a partner who is steadfast and constant.
These experiences allow us to go into the world to do and be more in the work that we do. As we build these lasting sanctuaries for ourselves and our loved ones, we fill our cup. In turn we are energised to create. We endeavor to show up and contribute towards the mission we set out to do. We give more because of the happiness and contentment
One thing that I am trying not to lose as I do the work that I am doing now is the hunger. The drive to keep trying and to keep giving my best shot springs from a core need that does not seem to be satiated. I have always considered this hunger an edge that keeps me on my toes. But lately I have been pondering on how to reframe this insatiable desire to do more and be more.
I do not think there is something inherently wrong with staying hungry. They say the best entrepreneurs “stay hungry and stay foolish”. But the hunger connotes a senses of scarcity. That there is someone out there to get you, to outwit you, to surpass you if you start getting too comfortable. It triggers a vigilance to guard what we have been building and growing.
Perhaps it may be framed instead as an overflowing hunger that speaks of a generosity to give more of the best in ourselves in the work that we do. Maybe it may be viewed as a vigilance to stay curious about others and about matters that inspire us to create. It may be seen as a wellspring of possibilities versus a void that needs to be filled up. Thinking about hunger this way leaves me with a sense of ease.
Trust is something that is hard to come by for me. My younger self had a difficult time letting other people in due to the lack of trust. I would often be sought by friends because I listened fully and intently. They feel heard because I do not say much and simply tune in to them. I rarely talk about what I am going through and would rather focus on the other.
Over the past years I have been able to work on trusting others. What I am working on now is trusting the self more. I have started this journey by trying all sorts of ventures and following my curiosity. What I have noticed though is that I have a tendency to hold myself back when fear of failure starts to set in. I have to work on betting on myself and believing that whatever the outcome is, I can pull myself together and through.
Lots of work to do on this front. But I think what is important is to show up, stay curious and not take myself too seriously. It is also when I focus on the other as well as on the task in front of me that I can be more open to possibilities and more attuned to trusting the process.
We often hear about self care as a way for people to cope with the challenges of the times. I bristle every time I hear someone talk about how it is the most important thing that one should do before taking care of the worries of the world. I think it is because it has been overused and tied so much to external factors for one’s nourishment.
This morning, I listened to a conversation between Liz Gilbert and Rachel Cargle. They spoke about being a kind friend to one’s self instead. They offered a definition of taking care of one’s self framed as a deep and genuine friendship. It is about treating ourselves with trust and gentleness, just like how we would treat our best buddy. We speak to her honestly and candidly. More importantly, we always assure her that we’ve got her back, no matter what.
This is such a wonderful definition of taking care of one’s self that I would like to practice. It is one that is imbued with trust. I realised that a big part of my self talk is a lack of trust that I can deliver what I said I would. I end up berating myself when I miss yet another deadline or when I don’t get to follow through on a task I said I would do. But the friend in me trusts that I will stay true to my word and believes in me wholeheartedly. In turn, I will strive to work my darndest to not let her down.
Anticipation springs from a desire to be in a different state. It is the imagined fulfilment of what one is craving for. Often, anticipation is a big part of the fun. The painstaking planning, the conjured experiences, the daydreaming – all these add to the thrill and excitement.
However when reality differs from the painted picture in our heads, the feeling of disappointment can be overwhelming. The build up to this one moment that has to be absolutely perfect has caused the present to be lackluster. We are beset with worry that things should fall into place as you’ve planned it to be. What we miss is the unique experience unfolding as it should be, based on the current condition and circumstances.
I have to remind myself to anticipate excitedly but temper accordingly. Easier said than done. But what has helped greatly is having my senses attuned to and engaged with the activity I have patiently waited for. It is by summoning the senses to pay attention that an imagined reality becomes a fully lived experience.
At improv class today, we were asked to take on a character. It started with siting a certain way then embodying the character that sits that way. Questions were asked. You then had to reply as consistent as possible with your character.
As I went through the exercise, I mixed up truths, half truths and some created ones. I suddenly was a forty year old yoga teacher rediscovering her true self after being forced to practice law for most of her life. I admitted to finally being free after decades of trying to please others.
Pondering on this experience, I wondered which of those replies were truly made up. Perhaps every response had an ounce of truth. Even the most contrived ones may be a glimpse into one’s inner longings.
I woke up late today. As soon as I realised it, the day came flooding in. I started to feel the first niggle of worry, thinking of the stuff to do. I went through my morning routine and felt myself relaxing, knowing that the rest of the day will unfold in its own time.
It took a gentle reminder to ease into the day. My G’morning book coaxed me to make a little space for myself before letting the world in. It was a note to settle and savor. It brought to mind a constant prayer- to allow me to move into the world with ease of being, gentle presence and loving attention. These remain to be my daily asks.
I am trying to add more good habits to my current chain. I would like to do my planks, writing, walking, jumping and listening throughout the day. What I am getting at to accomplish these tasks consistently is by stringing them with existing routines. I figured that if the cue is consistent then carrying out the new habit tied to this will happen. Easier said than done.
This exercise has reminded me of the discomfort that comes with starting something. Before an action becomes second nature, deliberate and conscious action is needed. When all our facilities are alert to what we are doing, it is tiring. It takes a while and the key is to keep going even as it seems like no progress is evident.
So I shall carry on, stringing along these desired actions as much as I could muster. The pleasure I derive is from the actual doing anyway. The outcome is secondary.