In January, I tried to Workout More.
I learned that working out consistently is easier once it becomes a habit. Developing the habit was the hard part. That was the part that required… motivation, self-discipline, grit, whatever you want to call it. One way or another, I needed to develop a mental framework where, six days of the week, for 6 months, I had a 30-60 minute window of time where working out was preferable to any other activity available to me at that time.
I think it helped that there were a lot of different things motivating me – progress, vanity, well-being, and most of all the social pressure of telling everyone I was going to do it. Some mornings I wanted to get in the gym to set a personal record – other days I just wanted to get in so I could post about it on Instagram. Other days I just wanted to look better, feel better, and on a few days I swear I actually did it for less self-absorbed reasons – so I can contribute to society a little better, set an example for my kids and all that.
But as the weeks and months went on, the “reasons” I needed to work out faded away. It became a habit, and then it was just a matter of avoiding reasons not to work out. Things like injuries, family sickness, vacations.
And then I reached my goal in July, and everything changed.
If you go back and look at the data, once I reached my goal the wheels came off. I started skipping workouts. Now I’m lucky if I workout once a week. And if I’m going to do better next year, I’ll need to come up with a gameplan, fast. And I’m stressing about it. If I want to workout more, I have to realize that every day I’m either developing the habit of working out, or developing the habit of not working out.
In February, I tried to Get Organized.
I learned that I definitely had too much stuff (and probably still do) but that my relationship with my stuff was a little more complicated than I thought. I learned that the idea of minimalism can be seductive. It sometimes made me feel like I was better than other people, that I had it all figured out, that they were all in this materialistic rat-race chasing down symbols of “status” they thought would make them happy, and that I was above all that.
But when I looked closer, I realized that I wasn’t above the idea of “status” at all – I was simply trying to change it’s definition to suit my own circumstances.
A clean desk can be a status symbol. An organized closet can be a status symbol. A spreadsheet detailing the pounds of stuff I got rid of can be a status symbol. And I think that’s the reason why my progress was so fleeting, why it didn’t stick. If I’m going to do better next year, I hope I can do so in a way that withholds judgement, and that comes from a deeper understanding of my personal relationship with the material world, as opposed to a trend that I’ve observed and been attracted to.
And as far as keeping a clean house with young kids… I’ve decided that it’s not a black-and-white issue. I can’t draw up a decision-tree that will tell me whether, at any given moment, I should play with my kids or pick up after them (perhaps that’s a false choice – my oldest is starting to actually contribute to cleaning in a meaningful way… fingers crossed!)
In March, I tried to Drink Less.
I learned that tracking is everything, and that the DrinkControl App deserves most, if not all, of the credit for my progress in this space over the past three years. The app recently underwent a major update with lots of helpful new features making recordkeeping and data analysis even easier than before. To that end, I recently subscribed as a Patron, donating $.99 a month to support further development.
I learned that a large portion of my annual consumption could be cut out with little to no effect on my social life. I also learned that, as I mentioned earlier in this post, it’s a habit like anything else. Whether I feel like drinking on a particular day is surprisingly dependent on what I’ve done the past few days.
Right now it’s looking like I’m going to close the year having reduced my annual consumption by 20-25%. Did I have 20-25% less fun in 2019? I don’t think I did… but what about next year? Do I try to reduce annual consumption even further? Is there a “right number” for me, or for anyone else for that matter? If I’m going to do better next year, I’m going to have to look inward, really try to understand the nuances of my relationship with alcohol, plan accordingly and stick to the plan.
I have to say, the biggest surprise from writing about Drinking Less was the number of people who reached out to me saying they were trying to do the same thing, asking advice or just thanking me for writing about it. There’s definitely a lot of shame and stigma surrounding this subject, which is why I’m so grateful for Annie Grace and other writers in this space who’ve done such a great job of approaching it in a way that’s so… well… approachable.
Next week, I’ll take a look back at Learning A New Language, Being More Creative, and Being A Better Parent.