As we are nearing the end of 2016 here in Finland very soon, I’d like to wrap it up with some reflection and a mental note to myself for 2017. While the content is clearly inspired by the yearly rhythm, I still think the lessons apply to turning chapters in general. If the time span isn’t as long as a year, using the calendar to create bite-sized tasks and challenges can still be a valuable tool. Mentally, I find it easier to thrive when I actively remind myself of clean slates in various ways, and in particular in habit building the new dawn can be powerful. So, out with the old and in with the new!
Celebrate and learn
The brain responds best to positive self-talk, which in this case means framing whatever has happened such that I celebrate what went well, and learn from some mistakes made.
It’s so easy to say “Yes, yes, I know this already!” when faced with the fact that nobody is perfect, but the trouble when you have perfectionist tendencies is that somewhere deep inside you (I) still resort to old patterns sometimes. I truly know that nobody is perfect, but in practice it still happens that I hold myself to higher standards than the rest of humanity.
This of course translates to a circle of not very constructive and happy thoughts, but I’ve also noticed how it’s easier to remember the positive brain talk when I’m acting, being in control, rather reacting based on my surroundings’ actions. See the difference? It’s subtle but significant. Obviously I’m not insinuating we can control everything that happens, but it’s more about controlling what can be controlled and accepting the rest.
Show, don’t tell
Ahhh, this is a good one. When I tell first, I inevitably set myself up for failure. I’ve done this repeatedly and should know by now that basically we’re talking about something close to a natural law.
I admire greatly those, who can pre-sell courses, announce that in a month’s time you definitely will see some fantastic, actionable, life-changing e-course on their website, but I’m not one of those people. In good and bad, because everything has pros and cons. And so this translates to my method being as good and as bad as any other, even though the grass may feel greener elsewhere.
So, 2017 should hopefully be about showing first and talking thereafter.
Go to school again – Discipline
This is both literal and figurative. Learning is a true passion of mine, so expanding my knowledge consistently and with intention (yes, a buzz word but valuable) is a key component of goals for 2017.
The figurative meaning is tied to my new word of the year. In 2016, I’ve actually had two words, clarity and focus, but pondering throughout December what has gone well and where there’s room for improvement still, I realise it’s time to step up my game. In practice, this means working less, but working far smarter.
The latter part includes “going to school,” because when thinking about systems, why it’s easy or challenging to implement them, and habit building in general, I see just how much I’ve cringed like a reluctant child faced with “You can’t stay at home, everyone else is showing up too!”
I love a neat home and the idea of a business that rolls like a well-oiled machinery and a healthy lifestyle never off track and a zillion other things all systemed up, but I really don’t like disciplined work according to a self-imposed schedule.
The problem is that I want to have a nice home and a business generating steady income, spread over three different websites (why go easy on yourself…), and a meaningful leisure and also going to school officially again.
So if I’m ever to control all these pieces of my ambitious puzzle, I just have to accept that going to school worked for 12 years, excluding my years at university. When including them, it’s around a third of my life.
Did I ever not want to go? While it wasn’t always a happy thing to run to the bus with no minute to spare, I still did it because rules. It didn’t occur to me ever to throw a free education out the window and screw up my future that way, so I showed up day after day, with homework done. Was it fun each of those days? Heck no.
Now I’m self-imposing “school” on my everyday life once more, and while I’m scared I’ll fail, getting even half of the tasks done “on time” sounds better than being a bit disorganised about them all. I know what I need to do, I just have to get it done. Discipline. Ugh, lol. Yet refreshing in its scariness.
Reflect and plan
If you’re following me on Twitter, you’ve seen me post quite frequently about project management (PM) this month. While PM is a key tool now, what I mean on a deeper level by reflecting and planning is to observe, identify only the weakest link at first, and tackle it with gusto. You have to start small, because tackling it all isn’t going to work out.
An example from my home is my bad habit of creating what I call mid-stations. When I’ve washed laundry and hung it to dry on the rack over night, I’m reasonably good at folding it so I don’t have to look at the metal thingy anymore.
But then, enter mid-station. I still haven’t figured out why the act of leaving the pile of neatly folded laundry on my sofa is so tempting, but there it ends up going quite often. Changing bedlinen every Thursday happens like clockwork these days, yet the aftermath clearly isn’t as fun.
So when I talk about “going to school,” it extends to reflection and planning also in this context. I need to work on removing the mid-stations entirely, be they physical or abstract, and follow through from beginning to end.
While identifying mid-station behaviour is quite easy when it comes to something tangible such as laundry, things can get challenging quickly on the more subtle levels where I need to identify patterns for instance in job-related tasks.
Sometimes tweaking an already existing system is necessary, other times it needs to be established from scratch. No matter the situation, I don’t recommend trying to change too much simultaneously.
Start small, build momentum, create a streak or not, and pat yourself on the back.
If you want to treat yourself well, make the “start small” so small that it’s nearly impossible to fail yet still requires a bit of effort. Even if it may feel like almost cheating, because it’s so easy, don’t underestimate the power of consistency.
Once you’ve got the ball rolling you can add other tasks or make the current one more challenging, but just like you play twinkling stars at first rather than an intricate Bach, embrace the process of progress.
How about you, are you doing this kind of reflection, too, or jumping right from old projects to new ones? There’s still time to stop for a little while to dig deeper. Can I help somehow? I wish you a peaceful turn of the year!