A 30 Day Challenge

This is a further exploration of some of the ideas I wrote about in the last post, could even called a slow implementation of those ideas.

I like 30 day challenges. They are an excellent way to start the process of building a new habit, research how a specific life-change will affect you individually; if it adds to your life in some way that’s worth continuing.

So to that end… Starting today through March 22 I’ve given myself two challenges: Walk everywhere within a 2 mile radius of my home and turn off all electronics at 7:30 every night.

A two mile radius around my house incorporates everywhere I go except our Co-op, which I have to say is pretty cool. To make the radius I found a couple programs that allow you to create a distance radius around a point. These are easy to find by simply plugging a search into Google, but just in case anyone’s interested out there the first doesn’t have a name but works using googlemaps and the other is in free map tools. I didn’t play with either of these too much, just made my radius and called it good. I’m sure there are others out there or you can probably do it easily on any mapping software.

The rule for when I will walk is simple: If I need to go somewhere outside that two mile range I drive, and can stop at places inside the circle along the way. But, if I’m at the home and need to go somewhere within that two mile circle, I walk.

Shutting down the electronics at 7:30 is meant to create a downtime period before sleep. A period away from the chaotic bombardment of light, sound, and information, that has become the “normal” in our lives. This freed time, hopefully will transfer to good reading time, giving me a bit of space at the end of the day to keep up with my four books a month reading goal.

There’s also a lot of research out there about electronics keeping the brain overly active in the evening, and suppressing melatonin. So hopefully it will also enhance my sleep a bit.

We’ll see how it goes….

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The Gift of Inconvienence

I walked to the library the other day. It’s my office, where I write my “work stuff.” I hadn’t done the walk in awhile and figured I could use it. Save some gas, get some exercise. I found myself enjoying the time between home and work immensely. It took me away from the ever encroaching storm of “other things I need to be doing.” There was nothing to do but walk and think. It was a relief.

The walk itself is about 1.5 miles and goes through a quiet neighborhood and drops into a small wild canyon, before topping out back in civilization. It’s beautiful and I’d be hard put to think of another place I’ve been where wild country cuts civilization so easily.

It got me thinking about what we miss when we get caught up in conveniences. Driving to the library is convenient. It’s quicker, makes going home for lunch an option, and a quick run to the store after work easy. But, it’s also depriving me of a good opportunity to get out in the fresh air, have some time to myself. Time to think about work or other projects, get some exercise, and -though briefly- puts me in a wild place.

The definition of a convenience is something that allows us to “proceed with less effort or difficulty” and invariably less effort means getting something done quicker. That something can range from communication, to travel, to washing dishes, to getting information, and everything in between. But there’s a gift in letting go of conveniences when we can.

Each convenience deprives us of something, and the kicker is, many times, it’s not even missed until we become mindful of the processes outside of the help of the convenience.

We can’t forgo modern conveniences all together. They’re not only nice to have, but many have become a essential part of being able to function in this hectic modern world. Which isn’t good either, and there’s probably a good discussion here about making life less hectic, thus taking some power away from what we perceive as our need for those conveniences…for another time, though.

 

The simple question I asked myself on that walk was; what are we losing by not performing that effort? What might we be missing by continually taking the “easier” route, the route paved with conveniences? Let’s take a look.

• Vehicles/Driving
Yes, they are necessary, but I’d hazard to say most of us use them much more than necessity dictates. By using them when we don’t have to we’re missing out on those “gifts” I found myself appreciating on my walk; exercise, time to think, time outside, saved gas -not only a gift to our wallets, but a gift to the environment-, and less stress.

Even the way we park our vehicle is, often times, based on ease. It’s convenient to park as close as possible to our job, the store, etc. But, again parking further away gives you the gift of exercise and possibly, depending on your parking habits, saved time and gas. I’ve seen people cruise a parking lot until a “perfect” spot is free. I’ve also seen multiple people drive from one class to another on a small college campus. It’s nuts and we’re missing things in that dogged pursuit of making things quicker and easier on ourselves.

• Cell Phones
I’ve got a major gripe about how most people use cell phones in the first place. Every time I see someone walking, head down, texting away or talking, I want to walk up and knock the phone out of their hand. Gift yourself some awareness of your surroundings, quit using your phone in public unless completely necessary.

Awareness, or lack of it, is a whole discussion in its self though.

Beyond robbing awareness, cell phones -we may as well lump other electronics in here too- can completely takeover our life. When was the last time you ate a meal without watching a movie/TV, texting, or surfing the internet? What are we losing by doing this? The opportunity to interact, talk, strengthen and deepen relationships with our family, friends, loved ones; or the equally needed chance to sit quietly. We also miss out on eating mindfully, enjoying the food for what it is, and being thankful for that food.

Also when a conversation is going on and a question comes up, it’s not necessary to jump on the internet and look it up right then. Gift some practice in patience.

Texting is another convenience better used as little as possible, at least in my opinion. Sure it’s convenient to shoot a text, but people use them like machine guns, when they should be signal flares. It’s easy to want to have “text conversations” about everything, but it shouldn’t rob us of the tools to communicate face to face. Don’t let it become the easy way of taking care of conflict. It’s hard talking to someone about something emotional or scary or sad in person, but it’s worth it. Things are less likely to be misconstrued or taken wrong and reactions can be measured. Leave the conveniences of texting to simple things. Practice the skills of direct communication when life gets complicated.

We could easily go on with this list:

• Chairs- sit on the floor or squat whenever possible and gain the lost gifts of naturally better posture, movement strength/flexibility, and, in a sense, humility.

• Cooking- Cook a meal from scratch and gain the gifts of letting your body prepare to eat, intimately connecting with your food, being in the moment, and slowing time down.

• Dishwashers- Wash dishes by hand once-in-a-while and gain the gifts of patience and slowing time down.

There are no doubt many others, but the point is try to get away from overusing our conveniences and gain some of those gifts in return.  In some cases we’ve probably never considered what we might be giving up for convenience.  It’s hard to see a task made easier as anything but gain.  Try it.  Pick a convenience and do without it for a time.  See if you can find the lost gifts.

 

Goals For A New Year!

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Another year has passed into history and we can feel the first stirring breezes of a new one brushing our expectant cheeks.  What will it bring? What will we accomplish?  What adventures will come? The doors are wide open and almost anything is possible as we each stand on the cusp, that edge of the drop.

Looking back at some of my goals for 2015 I could have done better, but I didn’t do horrible either. I accomplished at least some part of most of them.  That’s a win, if a smaller one.  I know, I know it would be great to be able to go down the list ticking off each goal as something done and complete.  But small steps right?  I figure if I worked toward a goal’s completion in any way it’s at least worthy of note. So, without further ado here is last years list

2015 Goals

Add a MovNat Certification to my Fitness Instructor Certifications
Done.  It was an awesome 3 day certification spent crawling, climbing, running, balancing, lifting, walking… MOVING and at the end, I came away with the privilege of becoming a certified MovNat instructor. Great stuff. It was inspiring, thought-provoking, tiring, and worth it!

-Finish A Short Story
Not done but being worked on.  When it comes to writing, procrastination is probably my greatest enemy.  This on transfers to 2016…

-Start a Blog
Okay this one didn’t get worked on at all last year. Been paying for a wordpress account for two years now. I’m not gonna hum and haw through excuses that aren’t really excuses…. It’s happening this year.

Read More (1 Book A Week)
This one went well, though not perfect.  I read more, but fell far short of getting a book in every week of the entire year.

Be Mindful and Simplify
I was able to simplify and minimize quite a bit, but it’s an ongoing process.

That was my list last year.  Nothing too mind blowing and looking at the list, that small voice inside is chiding me for not doing better, but before it gets too loud let’s move on.  A couple unexpected, happy occurrences affected the 2015 list.

First, in February I got married. I have the added comfort and support of sharing this path and life’s journey with a beautiful smart woman.

Second, a big move, came in June. New adventure, new challenges, new opportunities.

The move also put me in a situation where I was pushed to realize the unwritten goal of becoming a full-time freelance writer -I would make the argument that this has hampered my own writing goals somewhat, but it probably isn’t true.

2016 Goals

-Start a Blog (posting at least 2 a month)
I’ve thought long and hard on whether I should fork out the cash again, or let the blogging idea idle and die… at least for a while.

Well, I obviously decided to give it some more time. One more year to be exact. I told myself I’d start this year or let the account expire. Seems only appropriate that the first goal would be connected to what I’m writing right now. So, here’s the start. Yay, me.

 –Finish (The) Short Story and Another
I found a story contest with a deadline at the end of January as motivation to finish this short story I’ve been toddling away on for the past 5 months.

After it’s done I need to continue with fiction so I’m setting a goal of at least one more story this year.

-Read More (1 Book A Week)
Just transplanting this goal to the new year.  I always feel I could read more and more widely.  So, see if I can stick to the book a week this year.

-Pay Off My Credit Card
With possibly more debt on the way in the form of schooling we need to try and put a noticeable dent in our current debts. Put as much as we can into this thing. It’s a ever-present monster in my life (now our lives)and I want to be free of it.
• Dedicate payment plan, and stick to it.

-Exercise
Need to make time for this.  Either in the form of fitness challenges of some sort, get into the woods and work on movement skills, or get back into martial arts.
• At the very least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.  Stick to it!

-Be the Best Husband I Can Be
It is not my life anymore, it’s our life. Enjoy the Adventure together. Give thanks for every moment, every possibility, every smile, every conversation. Be there in every way for her. Remind myself daily how blessed I am.

Be Mindful and Simplify
I firmly believe that both of these are keys to a life I am content with and my ability to be of help to others.
• Reduce clutter. Reduce needs. Reduce passive activities. Reduce Rush. And become more mindful of what is left. Be in the moment, in the conversation, in the activity (no matter how mundane). Meditate. Engage wholly and intricately in life.

 

Not a bad list. I hope everyone out there has their own set of goals to drive opportunity in this new year.  And remember it’s not all that important you fulfill and finish each goal.  It’s the work that’s important. The striving toward a goal brings satisfaction in and of itself and, whether slowly or quickly, progress will be made.