Photo by Debbie Galant
Merry Christmas!, if that's your thing. I'm a little ambivalent about it--up until a few years ago the warmth and charity that the holidays inspired in me were often overshadowed by the stress and disappointment that accompanied them. But in 2012 I gave myself a kick in the ass, and ever since I've been more sanguine about the season and better able to simply relax and appreciate it.
Something I'm appreciating at the moment is that I'm halfway through a 30-day challenge to up my game, which includes the four daily goals below. So how's it going?
Meditate for 30 minutes. I thought this would be the hardest goal, and it's actually been the easiest. When I began taking meditation seriously in 2008 or so, I found it extraordinarily difficult to do for even a few minutes. I felt "mentally itchy," and the constant distraction was intolerable. I realized that I needed to learn to be still. What's helped most has been recognizing that the discomfort of resisting distraction is actually the whole point of the process--it's a workout, not a break. Even so, up until now I've typically meditated for 10-20 minutes, and half an hour seemed like it might be a challenge. It hasn't been. I look forward to it, to the point where I'm now careful to structure my day to insure that my 30-minute window for meditation is protected.
Publish one post. One of my struggles as a writer is finishing--I often get started on a piece and make meaningful progress, but eventually lose momentum and stall. I have well over 100 unpublished posts in some state of completion--so I've been combing through my draft files to see what should be discarded, what's still a work-in-progress, and what needs to be finished. I've been pleasantly surprised by the results over the last two weeks:
- Stop Trying to Be "Good Enough" By "Getting Better"
- You're Not Multi-Tasking, You're Half-Assing
- Pasta Shapes (Stupid Fights and How to Stop Them)
- Get Moving! (Exercise for Busy People)
- Seeing What's Not There (The Importance of Missing Data)
- The Map Is Not the Territory
- The Ideal Bar
- Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?
- What Is Winning?
- The Danger of Playing It Safe
- The Value of a Good Fight
- The Spirit of the Stairway
- The Life Cycle of Learning Design
- Amy, California and Highway 1
A conclusion I've reached is that I tend to write every day or very infrequently. I don't really have a middle gear. I've known for a long time that writing is important to my identity and my state of mind, but I haven't always acted upon this knowledge. Just as I've been diligent about protecting time for meditation during this experiment, I feel the same sense of protectiveness around my time for writing. It's helped that I've been pursuing this project in between the end of one class at Stanford and the beginning of the next--teaching is just a small part of my overall work these days, but it's very time-consuming. That's precisely why I wanted to make use of this 30-day window--and it's more clear than ever that if I want to be able to maintain my momentum as a writer I need to say no to other requests for my time and be more focused on getting things done rather than perfecting them.
Read, read, read, read, read. I read constantly, but in recent years I've focused on professional literature--books and articles related to coaching and to my classes at Stanford--and magazines like The New Yorker and Outside for entertainment. I dove back into meaningful fiction in 2015, and it was deeply rewarding, but I've struggled to maintain that focus. This has been the hardest goal to sustain during my challenge--I feel like I've lived up to the letter, but failed to fulfill the spirit. Let's start with the positive: I've largely eliminated the bullshit--I do very little online browsing, and I read just enough news to feel informed and not so much that it's an obsessive waste of time. What I haven't done is get back to truly meaningful fiction, but that will happen today--I'll finish a lethargic middlebrow mystery that's been moldering on my bedside shelf, and next up is Phineas Finn, my first Trollope. So progress, but certainly room for improvement.
Lift more weights. I'm slowly recovering from a painful elbow injury that I incurred over Labor Day. It was bad enough that I had to stop lifting weights entirely, which has been an increasingly important aspect of my physical activity over the years. But it's finally healed enough that I feel able to test it again. This has also gone well over the last two weeks, and what I feel best about is my patience--I'm taking it slowly, befitting my advanced years, and not rushing to get back to where I was before the injury. This is a challenge for me--I like pushing myself. But even as I joke about my age, I do truly realize that my body's changing, and I can't get hurt anymore.
Bonus: Combing through my unfinished drafts has turned up a few gems, and a few baffling mysteries, and a few gems that are baffling mysteries, like the photo below by Toshimasa Ishibashi. Apparently I had an idea for a post and was planning to use this image as the header--but I didn't make any notes and today I have no idea what I was thinking. Your guess is as good as mine. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.