Can Tiny Habits Help Me Achieve My Goals?

I’ve done a lot of thinking today about achieving things and the potential power of tiny habits. Can they help me with a personality quirk that has seen so many of my goals incomplete?

tiny habits for successful living

I am great at starting projects. I love new ideas, new plans, and new goals. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting down and planning out how it’s all going to be. And my enthusiasm at the beginning is always enormous. I’m not just going to learn a language, take photos, or get fit, I’m going to become fluent in ten languages, become a famous photographer, appear in the next Olympics!

Inevitably, as time passes, motivation dips. The main reason for this, as far as I can ascertain, is that life gets in the way. If I could lock myself in a room 24/7 and work on a single goal it’d be great, but I can’t. There is parenting to be done, I have to look after the house, deal with insurance and a bajillion other life admin tasks. There is work to worry about. I have other projects (too many), that I haven’t yet finished…

And slowly, the motivation drops off and my project languishes, and I get distracted. Often by a shiny new project.

And letting go of these projects is very hard for me. I like to finish things – I like to get things done. So I will pick up a project sometimes ten years later and then work on it some more before life gets in the way or something else exciting comes along.

The result of this is fairly obvious.

Lots of projects.

Lots and lots of projects.

And I think it is exactly this that has driven my love of minimalism. My brain LONGS to be free of the mental burden of all things that I have set myself to do.

Reducing physical clutter definitely helps with this, but as time has gone on I’ve noticed that digital clutter is  a problem for me also.

As you can imagine, this is not a constructive or particularly efficient way to live a life. We only have a finite amount of time on this earth and I really don’t want to die with a load of stuff half-finished.

It’s important, regarding any change I may make, that I accommodate my personality here. I am not the kind of person who is going to drop projects that I’ve had running in the background for years (like the family photobooks or the half finished novels (yep, plural). I need to get to the end of these. But I have got to change my way of working.

Consistency

Consistency is the key. I’ve known it for a while, but it’s becoming ever more apparent as I get older. I watch how others live their lives and I can see that consistency trumps talent and luck every time. Consistency is what gets results.

And yet, consistency is where I fall down, over and over again.

I work in big chunks, with big breaks in between (sometimes breaks of several years). In the breaks, I end up sliding back downwards. Sometimes, if it seems that I’ve gone too far downhill (business ideas, other mad plans), I will give up completely and write that project off. I don’t like doing this because it makes me feel like I have failed. I do understand the value of failure but it’s still not fun.

My business ideas, my writing, my freelance work, none of it seems to gain the momentum it should do. It’s almost as though as soon as it starts to move forward and look really promising, I step away and let it drop back to zero. Every time I write and get something published, I don’t write for ages. If I run a big race, I stop training completely. I won a dance competition and never danced again (I was 23).

I’m don’t think it’s subconscious self-sabotage, but I can’t be sure of that.

What I do know is that if I had been consistent with any/all of those things, I would certainly be a lot more successful now in any of those areas than I currently am.

The Cure

So what is the solution to a distracted mind? I think partly the problem is that I am genuinely interested in loads of different things. My brain that loves to suck up information and learn new stuff. I reach a basic level of competence in something pretty quickly, and I love it, but then as soon as it comes to moving into mastery of that subject, I get bored. Something else catches my attention.

I can’t remove this desire for learning, and I will always be the kind of person that stands in a bookshop and feels so giddy that she doesn’t know where to start.

But this trait is, to be honest, destroying my ability to really achieve anything remarkable.

Tiny Habits?

I first read about habit-stacking and tiny habits several years back, and of course Leo from Zen Habits attributes habits to all of the amazing life changes he has been able to implement. I am aware of the theory, but it’s only really now sinking in that this might be the way to change everything for the better.

A quick personal illustration of the power of habits:

The other morning I got a cup out of the cupboard to make a cup of tea. I boiled the kettle and then I went to the fridge and got out a small carton of nut milk I had bought. Nut milk isn’t very nice in tea, but I wanted to experiment and see if I could get used to drinking it that way. I put the little nut milk carton next to the mug, filled the mug with boiling water, swished the teabag around, and then, while I was talking to the kids… I went to the fridge, got the cows milk out, poured a bit in my mug, and put it back in the fridge.

Even though the nut milk had been right next to the mug, I’d still gone to the fridge and got the cows milk out and poured it into my tea. Because that’s how I’ve made tea for almost 30 years.

That is the power of habit.

The cows milk was further away, and required more energy to retrieve. But I did it without even thinking about it.

Imagine if I could do that for positive habits like writing and exercising and eating great food?

Getting Started With Tiny Habits

I’m wary of making some big commitment and then failing to follow up. However, I think that habits might be the key.

What if I could set in place a series of mini habits over time that transformed my morning from reactionary chaos in getting the kids to school into a calm, organised start to every day? (Well, let’s be realistic, I can’t control the tantrums and bickering, but I can at least be better prepared than I am – some mornings I don’t even shower or brush my hair before leaving the house with the three of them in tow.)

What if I could build a daily habit of working on things that I never seem to have time for? (Primarily exercise and writing spring to mind.)

Could I restructure my life by repeating small things every day until they become autopilot actions?

I have tried this before, but with hindsight I think my goals were too big. It’s the habit that matters, not the actual output. My first daily goal was writing 250 words. On some days it took forever to dredge those out of my brain and so eventually I stopped. I think a much, much smaller goal (say, 50 words), would have been better.

There is always the option to do more than the goal you set yourself, but that goal is the bottom line. It’s the worst you’re going to achieve in anything you set out to do. And writing 50 words a day is, over the last year,  18,250 words more than I have actually written.

I’m setting up a coach.me account. I used this for writing before, but this time I’m going SMALL.

Super small.

And I am going to PROMISE an update in a months time.

27 February 2018

I must be getting more sleep as I’m not blogging so desperately with updates, lol! Things have settled down quite a lot now F is in with me. She has started talking in her sleep before she wakes up and I think she is a really vivid dreamer because she will often say something (usually about food), and then get upset and wake up. However she settles back pretty quickly with me there, so it’s probably as good as it’s going to get for now. I still like to be in bed by 9pm, which is okay as it’s just me and the three kiddos.

I have picked up the family photo books again, and I’ve just finished 2013 (so that’s 5 books – 2009-2013 – done). I restarted after a long break because I was doing a big clear out of the conservatory. It houses our filing cabinet and inside was loads of artwork and kids stuff from preschool. I knew I just had to get these photobooks FINISHED because leaving them just makes for a horrible backlog (like the one I’m facing).

I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment to simplify the house further and reduce the number of projects I always seem to have ongoing, so the books have been occupying every spare moment.

Completing 2013 was a relief. It was a tough year: three miscarriages, the death of my nan, I was attacked by a dog out running, two friends had pregnancies, baby showers and babies, we did a long weekend away with some people I later realised were not really very good friends and we went on a family holiday with my in-laws where Steve and I argued almost all week. I was so lonely and tired and sad that year – how the fuck I ended up persevering and finally having F in 2015 I actually cannot fathom.

I felt really quite down while going through all the photos and although it is a lovely album with some wonderful pictures of the boys there is an underlying sadness to the whole year and I remember every event and how I felt inside even though I didn’t display it.

I vowed to myself last night that I will never, ever again pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. I will never put on a smiley face to keep relatives and friends happy and avoid making other people feel uncomfortable. It was utterly exhausting and such a hard, hard year. People in general have been far more helpful and concerned over our recent marital separation than they were over my miscarriages and haemorrhages and hospitalisations. People generally speak to me about it as though someone has died, when in fact it is the death of a marriage, not a person.

Maybe it is because the subject of miscarriage is too personal and uncomfortable, whereas relationships break down all the time. People know what they are expected to say when talking about relationships. They understand.

Anyway.

The photobook mission is back on.

The Third Trimester

On Monday I reached 28 weeks pregnant. The third trimester! I still have a long twelve weeks to wait before meeting this baby, but getting close to half of me is now anticipating that we will actually get there without something going wrong.

The boys are heading back to, and starting, school, so for the first time in 6 years, my days will very soon be my own. I am both nervous and excited at ‘starting over’ with a new baby. Nervous because it will be another 5 years from now before my youngest will be at school and I will be 45 by then (eek). Will I cope with 5 more years of sleep deprivation, tantrums, and awful toddler and baby groups?? I have not always found motherhood to be the easiest of responsibilities. Will I look old and ancient in the playground compared to other mothers? I have struggled, deep down, with the appearance of grey hairs and wrinkles – they make me sad. Then on the other hand, despite my rapidly advancing age (and the fact that I never, ever, planned to have babies in my early 40s), I am eagerly excited to do it all over again. This time with the wisdom and (hopefully) calm that comes from experience, and of course with boundless gratitude that we have been able to do this at all, given our chances seemed pretty much nonexistent at one point.

I haven’t got another midwife appointment until I am 30 weeks pregnant, and in total in 6 months of this pregnancy I have seen a midwife just three times. I know this is in part down to me booking in so late, but I have not been called for the whooping cough vaccine, nor for a glucose tolerance test… I am feeling a little like I’ve just been left to get on with it. My husband says if it was the other way around I would be complaining about people hassling me when it wasn’t necessary, and he is probably right.

However, I am starting to feel nervous about the birth. With my oldest son I haemorrhaged so rapidly and so badly that I lost consciousness, ended up in theatre, needed an emergency blood transfusion and manual removal of the placenta. With my second son I had the same issue with the placenta, and another massive haemorrhage. I have all the usual concerns about the birth, but I am absolutely terrified about how we are going to get the placenta out. I will research this once the boys are at school and make a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup, backup plan, but I am frightened and there is no real way for me to appease that fear. Given that one of my miscarriages also resulted in a haemorrhage so bad I was in hospital for three days on nil-by-mouth with another emergency blood transfusion, I think I can safely say that my concerns are very real and they need to be addressed by the staff at the hospital so that they can plan for what might be.

Sigh. I’m feeling a little down this morning. Can you tell? In other news, my weight gain at 28 weeks stands at 8.2kg, or 18lbs. My pelvic pain is dull and constant and this baby feels very low compared to the boys at this stage. I want to do more exercise, but anything, even walking, aggravates my pelvis. In all honesty, I’m ready to have the baby now. 40 weeks (+3 days as it was for the boys) can’t come soon enough. Having spent so long trying and trying and trying, and having failed pregnancies over and over, all we want is for this baby to arrive safely. I won’t be sad to be leaving pregnancy behind, which is a feeling I never had with my second. I won’t be sad to be focused on family life and never have to worry about peeing on a fucking stick ever, ever, EVER again. I have already started to clear out old maternity clothes that no longer fit – I am saving nothing this time around and it gives me a sense of immense freedom to know that we are moving forward and will not be repeating this, that all the clutter and paraphernalia and pregnancy STUFF can all just be let go.

When the kids are older I want to travel with them, see the world, to do all the things that we haven’t even thought of for three years because we have only had one focus – completing our family. The husband and I have come up with a plan to attempt to pay our mortgage off early. It’s a crazy plan, but we both realise that the financial freedom this would give us would be life-changing. We can see the future now, and make plans, and I feel in awe of the pleasure that this gives us – something that as a couple now we have ignored and ignored and ignored, until we ‘got number three sorted’.

So, final words (gosh, I’ve written a lot – I didn’t mean to write an essay this morning). As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been consolidating everything digitally. I’ve gone back to using the Day One app as a record of thoughts and statuses, and it now has new functionality that lets me share to twitter, Facebook, linked in or whatever I like. I LOVE this, as it’s a central private database and I can share the information I want to share really easily. So, I’ve managed to delete un-needed profiles and tidy up my method of recording and sharing things.

Blogging-wise, I’ll almost certainly write here until the baby is born, but as I already mentioned I’m moving over to a new blog where I’m going to share as the Real Me – part of my larger plan to bring the fractured parts of my personality together. We’ve reduced so much in the house, and I’ve cleared away/given up so many other projects that were consuming my energy in a negative way, that I’ve suddenly found time and motivation to do things I’ve been putting off for years. I’ve started writing again, and am working on a novel, which I’m really enjoying, especially as I’ve been meaning to do it since my brief encounters with success and publication last year. I’ve been a better mother, as I am stressing less about all the things I have to do (because the list is drastically reduced). I should update my impossible list, as I’ve ticked off a lot of things on there recently. I may move this onto my new blog. We’ll see.

One last thing, I saw a counsellor last week for my first session and it went well. She is a lovely lady, who bore just the right expression of concern as I talked nine-to-the-dozen for 50 minutes, including some uncontrollable sobbing where I literally couldn’t speak. I will blog about this separately – it’s still early days and my second appointment is this evening. I have no idea where we’re going to go with what I’ve told her, so we’ll see what happens.

And I think that’s about it 🙂 I’ve had a wonderful summer with the boys. I’m psyching myself up to actually order some real, physical, baby things (we still only have a moses basket and no newborn clothes, baby bouncer, pram or anything else). I’m writing. I’m feeling relaxed in my free time. I’m content. For the first time in so, so, SO long, I’m just content when I sit down and everything is still. It’s such a peaceful feeling it makes me want to cry with the beauty and simplicity of it. I feel endless, endless gratitude that life has reached this point, and that somehow I have been given the chance to be here. I can feel the autumn in the air, the close of another summer, nature’s final push before settling in for the long winter, and I am welcoming this change with open arms. Autumn has always been my favourite season. Darker nights, colder days, the stillness and inactivity. I want to gather my whole family around me, to stay warm and close until spring returns.

Consolidating Digital Stuff

I’ve been sorting digital data out all over the place, and have decided to continue blogging under my real name, with my normal email address, in a location that people I know in real life could find me (if they were so inclined). Shock!

My blog probably won’t be as personal, or emotional as the stuff I’ve spent the last three years writing. But then again… maybe it will.

I’ve exported all the blogs I follow (that’s all of you!) and added them to the reader of my main wordpress ID, so if there’s a random new Faye following you, it’s probably me 😉

My main general blog will now be:

St Francis’ Folly

The static page on the front are links to my various online homes, and you can also link to new posts from there – it only has one post on at the mo.

Sorry if that all sounds confusing – it really is simpler. My current set up means I miss notifications and don’t catch up on reader because half the time I’m logged in as my other profile and it was all getting too much to juggle.

I’ve consolidated a load of other non-blogging stuff too, all to make my digital life a lot simpler, and it is wonderful. I just love getting things organised!

As for THIS blog, I will probably update on here to get to the point of closure on some of the things I’ve been talking about, which are too personal to share. Gradually I plan to move over to the other blog full-time.

This all kind of ties in with self-acceptance and allowing myself to be ME without worrying about others judging me or thinking I’m weird/odd/stupid/crazy. Also it means I can connect with all different types of people under the same wordpress account, from writers, to programmers, to healthy eaters to other parents. And if my real life friends want to be a part of that, all the better. And if they don’t, then that’s cool too.

22 Weeks

So, pregnancy-wise, all is well. Kicks and movements are distinct now, and regular on and off through the day. My morning sickness has almost completely abated (will it ever completely go away?). My energy levels are great and I’m in my third week of regular workouts and loving it. I did my second run yesterday (a very gentle hill route), and am looking forward to getting out again tomorrow. This morning I did pregnancy yoga. I’m aiming to workout Mon-Fri and take the weekends as rest days. I might start blogging my weekly workouts… we’ll see how much time I get over the summer.

My weight gain has also slowed down this week, which I’m pleased about because about 70% of my gain happened between weeks 17-21 (I had a ridiculously huge appetite for about three weeks), and I was concerned if it carried on at that rate I’d be well over what I wanted to be by 40 weeks.

In total I am now 5.0kg up, or 11lbs up from my pre-pregnancy weight, which is great. My bump is still small enough that most of the time it doesn’t get in the way. I’d like to hang onto that feeling for a while longer – the third trimester can get pretty miserable towards the end, and I had a fair bit of pelvic, coccyx and hip pain with both boys in the last couple of months (although I was a lot heavier, which won’t have helped).

School finishes tomorrow, so I’ve finished a lot of my to-dos (including the nursery, yay!), and am really looking forward to spending some time with the boys. I’ve cleared the decks so that I can now sit back and relax for a few weeks before school starts in September and I begin some more diligent work on focusing on the birth and making sure I have everything ready for the big day and beyond.

My big (background) focus for the summer is on creating a more varied set of “go-to” meals for all of us to eat, and on expanding the boys’ tastes so they are not quite so picky and can eat with us without complaining so much about not liking what I serve. One step at a time…

Here’s a (yoga!) pic from today 🙂

22w

 

 

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