Tag Archives: goals

February Happiness project- Attitude

And so (given that I finished her book at the very end of January), I decided February would be the start of my Gretchen Rubin-inspired Happiness project. Not long to plan, exactly, I know, but I thought I’d ride the motivational wave and get stuck in.

More t/f on the rest of the project (assuming I keep at it!) but it’s fairly closely modelled on Gretchen’s: essentially, tackling one area a month with some more specific goals laid out. I thought I’d start with “Attitude”. Interestingly, she leaves this one until November, which didn’t make much sense to me when I read the book. I thought if I worked on this first, the remaining 11 months might be a bit easier.

So my mini-goals/tasks/resolutions were:

1) No negative FB updates

2) Use your kind voice– funnily enough as soon as I started this I got an email from The Parenting Place– some NZ parenting support group I’ve had almost nothing to do with except signing up for their newsletter in a moment of weakness. They don’t send a lot of useful stuff, but I found this timely:

“As parents it’s easy to forget that how we say something often matters as much as what we say. If you have a child who can be resistant, keep the fight out of your voice and try using charm instead. It’s amazing what can be achieved when our tone of voice lets our kids know that we expect them to make a good choice. Making a decision to sound calm and happy often has the added benefit of making you feel calm and happy – a win/win for everyone.”

Sounds so simple doesn’t it? Along with it went a resolution to try and say “Yes” as much as possible. “Yes I’ll play with you. Yes we can go to the park. Yes you can help me make your breakfast”. What no one has told me is how you’re meant to respond when they throw it back in your face- when, after a morning of speaking kindly and saying “yes”, Master L has a meltdown because you say (kindly) “Yes we can build sandcastles on the beach…. Another day. Now we have to go home and have lunch and put Miss L down for a sleep”. And suddenly your sweet obliging child turns into an ungrateful, entitled monster and you’re almost sorry you bothered indulging him in the first place.

3) Find an area of refuge– “when people’s minds are unoccupied,” Gretchen says, “they tend to drift to anxious or angry thoughts. And rumination- dwelling on slights, unpleasant encounters and sad events- leads to bad feelings”. I’ve found this hard as it’s a bit vague. Apart from the argument with my sister, which has taken up more of my headspace than it should, what I’ve been trying to do is think of nice things- the new baby, holidays etc, before I go to sleep at night.

4) Smile more– especially when you feel negative or anxious

Gretchen recommends keeping a resolution chart, ticking off each day which resolutions you pretty much stuck to and reviewing it to see how you are going.

Now that we’re half way through February, I wonder if the reason she left this one till last is that it’s so bloody hard! Apart from the fact that it’s a bit more abstract in nature than, say, eating healthily, it requires an incredible amount of determination, resolve and energy to maintain a good attitude towards life in general. As Gretchen her self says,

“It’s easier to complain than to laugh, easier to yell than to joke around, easier to be demanding than be satisfied.”

Especially when you are moderately heavily pregnant with your third child… (Don’t make excuses, fortunately, is not on the chart).

February’s been an up and down month anyway. It started with a solo night away in Melbourne for me at a work meeting. I finished the book the night before I left and was all fired up to plan my project and start! I found 2 days (and one, blissful night in a comfortable bed in a cool, dark, quiet hotel room) unbelievably refreshing. I came back relaxed and energised and feeling like I’d had a holiday. Maybe something to do with the fact that we did, then, go on holiday for a week, back to Sydney, which was also a really enjoyable week.

Since coming home though, I’ve really struggled with work, especially, but also the day to day routine in general. I’m tired, annoyed with the annoying bits (of work) and desensitised to the good bits. Maternity leave is within view but before it lie 2 more night shifts and another weekend. Plus a number of work things I need to get done before I go on leave. And it seems like every week for the next month or so either Mr L is away or I am either away or working a weekend. Other things, like petty arguments with my sister, a slight change in routine for the kids and a ton of things on my to-do list that I never seem to get on top of, have allowed a negative attitude to stomp all over my resolutions and February happiness goals.

So I’m finding it hard! But half of Feb is left. The last couple of days I have been angry Mummy and I don’t like it at all, so I’m going to do and print my chart out right now and hopefully add some more ticks to it…

Past imperfect

I never did read that “Letters to my 16 year old self” book, although I did read a few snippets that were published in weekend newspapers and the like. However, I do occasionally indulge in an idle fantasy where I am asked to speak at some kind of assembly/speech day/welcome to students of my old school and I think about what I would say. This fantasy is often triggered by a school reunion, or running into someone from school, or another such reminder, not just of how far I’ve come in the last 20-odd years, but (somewhat narcissistically) how much I’d love to show off about it to all the cool people at school who never gave me a second thought. I wonder if I’d been like I am now, when I was at school, how different my high-school experience would have been.

Now that I have my own daughter I do spend quite a bit of time wondering and thinking and hoping that she becomes a slightly more functional teenager than I was myself (I’m conveniently assuming Master L will be a carbon copy of the highly-functioning teenager his father was, in marked contrast to his mother). More to the point, I hope I can at least set a decent example, if not guide Miss L, in areas where I feel I’d do things differently second time round (which, to be fair, I think is most areas!) I know it’s often said that parents want for their children what they never had themselves, or got to be, as if they want to live vicariously through their kids. I think it’s less selfish than that though, you just want to try and spare them the hassle of the hard stuff and the time-wasters and show them the best that life has to offer, which you often don’t realise yourself until after the fact.

I’ve often regretted how much time I wasted at school agonising and having attitude over things that a) didn’t matter or b) did matter but I should have bloody well just got on with it instead of bitching and moaning the entire time. I know part of growing up is figuring these things out for yourself, but I do think of all the other things I could have been doing if I’d known this all along!

So, if I am ever invited to give that speech or write a chapter for that book, here’s what I’d say:

1)    Do what you enjoy even if you think you aren’t the best at it. The main thing that comes to mind is sport. You like running (and you are quite good at it, you know that). Do more of it, work on it, find out how to get better at it. Not so you can win, but so that you get a sense of achievement from it.

2)    Be to other people how you’d like them to be to you. You want people to chat to you, be interested in you, ask you about things, invite you places. Maybe you should make the effort too instead of waiting for them to do everything. Just say hi, how are you, what did you do on the weekend? Keep an open mind, they might be a nice person. And if you find out you don’t click, move on, that’s ok, not everyone does click. But get over this obsession that no one really likes you. For a start, they’d like you better if you did (get over it)!

3)    On a similar note, you don’t have to have a “best friend”. Friends come in many different guises and pop up in all walks of life. Things that you have in common with one friend, you will not have with another. That’s what makes them interesting. Friends come and go through different phases of your life. Being comfortable with lots of different people is much more useful than trying to force one person into a “best” friend mould.

4)    Your time will come, be patient. Not everyone needs to be kissed by the time they’re 16, be going out drinking in Year 11 or have a boyfriend in Year 12. There is plenty of time for all this and it’s just making you miserable comparing yourself to girls in your year who’ve got there first. You’ve got other places they haven’t, so make the most of those places, there’s all the time in the world for boys and all the rest of it.

5)    You’re right to worry about your weight, NOT because of the way you look, but because of how you feel and your health. It’s not about being super-skinny and you can’t really change the basic body-type you’re meant to have, but carrying excess weight is bad for you, mentally and physically. Eat healthier food, and less of it, savour the delicious things in small amounts regularly, and busy-up your life so you don’t have time to sit around and obsess about eating. I don’t know how to spare you a 20 year obsession with food and chaotic, unhealthy eating behaviours, but it doesn’t need to be so hard, it really doesn’t.

6)    You know who around you has got it right. Think about what it is that they do. They have it figured out already. They’re smart, busy girls, they fit a lot in. They play sport and do well in class, yet they have no more hours in the day than you do. They talk to all sorts of people without demonstrating the hang-ups you have. These hang-ups are purely mental, but you need to physically push them out of the way sometimes- i.e. get out there and just get on with it!

7)    Make the most of opportunities that come your way. You never know where they might lead. And even if they lead nowhere, at least you aren’t left wondering what would have happened if you’d tried something new.

8)    Keep dreaming your dreams. You will become the person you want to be and you’ll learn a lot along the way. You pretty much can do anything you put your mind to (ok maybe professional ballet is out, but most other stuff!)

9)    Your parents know a lot but they don’t know everything. Don’t model your way of life on them. They could be busier, more active, more positive, more sociable, more adventurous. So could you.

10) Smile. It’ll make everything easier.

xx

Future Perfect

What we use to talk about the past in the future, eg “By this time next month, several changes will have come about.”

I get the feeling there’s a shift happening at the moment. You know, when things in your life change, subtly or not-so-subtly and you feel like you’re entering a new phase and that life’s moved on.

More often than not it’s because there are several small shifts that coincide. I guess for this to happen at the start of a New Year is not that unusual. In Australia, as well as the calendar year flipping over on January 1st, so does the academic year. Most people have a break from work over the Christmas and New Year period and so have a small rentrée even if their return is essentially to the same routine.

For me, this year, the change that’s brought about solely by a new calendar year has been magnified by several other small (and medium-sized) changes. Mr L’s parents were visiting for 10 days over New Year and left today to return to the UK, and so we are feeling that strange post-holiday feeling of going back to real life. Mr L returns to work in 2 days and faces some probable big changes this month and this year, of the exciting but also challenging kind. Master L starts preschool in 2 weeks, which his mother’s really excited about even if he’s not really that bothered about it. And then I go back to work after 8 months’ maternity leave to face all the challenges that go along with time away from the workplace: being out of the loop and then trying to rejoin that loop when my other life (as a mother of two) is what preoccupies me most of the time.  And on top of all that, Miss L cut her first tooth on January 2nd, just a reminder that her life is charging rapidly on too.

This unique feeling always makes me stop and take stock. It’s a combination of excitement and trepidation, a product of new plans and partly-answered questions. I’ve always been a planner and a goal-setter, which I suppose explains my previous attitude to resolutions (in short, I’m a fan but for a more in-depth discussion, follow that link). At the same time I’m a sentimentalist at heart, I cherish my past and hold dear memories of things I’ve done and people I’ve known. I’m not sure how the two go together, this love of looking to the future but also remembering the past….

I know it’s very in vogue to live in the moment and the popular quote which goes something along the lines of “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present.” seems to be what the pop-psychologists tout. I think there is a certain amount to be said for that. I’ve often been nostalgic for times gone past and those are often the times I haven’t appreciated as they were happening. Possibly a case of looking back with rose-coloured glasses, but maybe if we put those glasses on to look at the present and appreciated the moment as it’s happening, we’d prevent a lot of the regret that comes with looking back and realising how good you had it. However, what I don’t think is realistic is to feel you have to cherish EVERY moment. All those Mummy blogs that tell you not to wish it away because in the blink of an eye it’s gone- yep, some things, sure, but there are moments (hours and days even) of drudgery, boredom, tedium and even unpleasantness where you just kind of hang in there. I think trying to make people feel they are squandering their lives (or, rather, their children’s lives, which is the usual implication) for not “living in” all of these moments is a bit unfair.

I wonder as well, how you are meant to get the most out of life if you don’t spend at least some of your time thinking about the future? I don’t see how you can achieve much at all if you don’t make plans, think about how they’re going to come to fruition and what’s more, be motivated by the anticipation of making them come about.

And so I like this feeling of shift, it’s exciting. It reminds me that things are moving on and so I take a moment to notice how things are now because they won’t be this way again. Then when I do look back I can say, without regret “Yes that was a happy time but now I’ve moved on to more happiness”.

As JFK said, “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”

NYRs

I am a resolution-maker from way back. As a child, I loved going back to school. Apart from the fact that I was never terribly good at entertaining myself so got bored by about day 3 of the summer holidays, each back-to-school was a chance at a fresh start, to miraculously transform myself into something perfect (the inevitable and exponential annual deterioration somehow forgotten/denied/justified). I made New Year’s resolutions and birthday resolutions… not to be naughty, never to cry again (I’m not sure why this was such a point of shame but for some reason crying in front of other people was one of the biggest embarrassments I felt I could suffer as a child), to keep my room/desk/locker tidy, to wash my face every day, to be more “grown-up” (ironically I think if I wrote a list now it’d include “be less grown-up and more fun”), to always write neatly…. In fact, the handwriting resolution was renewed with every new exercise book throughout the year.

Albert Einstein is famed (among other things) for saying insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Every year I made these resolutions and, no surprise, every year I broke them. They were often the same old resolutions re-hashed, gaining a veneer of maturity as I got older, but essentially they were all in the same vein- be healthier, be nicer, work harder, ie BE BETTER.

Resolutions are great for making you think more about the way you want to live your life and what you think you can improve on, but they set you up for failure, really. You can’t be bothered exercising January 3rd and you’ve “failed” the daily exercise resolution. Ah, well, only 362 days until you can renew that one. You finish the last piece of Christmas cake on New Year’s Day- bang, there goes “eat healthily”. Essentially, a conventional list of New Year’s Resolutions sums up the perfect being you think you want to be without really giving any concession (or credit) to the flawed, busy, conflicted, trying-your-best (well ok sometimes) being you actually are.

And so I think it was the year I turned 30 that I decided “enough with all this”. Instead of writing a list of resolutions, I set myself some goals for the year. Some of them were a bit lame- I think I resolved to “go out more” and “meet new people” which are probably almost as pointless as “write neatly all the time”- they are as vague as the old ones were specific and therefore set themselves up for failure because they aren’t really very well defined and when you can’t define what you’re trying to achieve you can’t really achieve it.

But that year I decided I’d do a half marathon. There was some consideration as to “how” (run 3 times a week, follow training plan x, y or z- I suppose you could call them “sub-resolutions”) but my goal/resolution/whatever you want to call it was simply “Do a half marathon”. And I did. I didn’t run 3 times every week. I did follow training program x, y AND z, as well as a to w, sporadically and inconsistently. But I did it. I ran 21.1km in roughly 1 hr 50 minutes. It was the furthest I’ve ever run and as I was crossing the finish line in the Opera House forecourt I felt strangely emotional. The same kind of feeling I’ve had after accomplishing anything major despite the fact that your preparation is never perfect and you’re not quite sure you’re going to make it, you somehow do. (I’ve done loads more halves since, it’s my favourite running distance and is no longer the big deal it was to me then but I think therein lies another lesson- or blog post- about challenges and perspective and lots of other blogworthy themes.)

Since then, I try to think each year of what’s coming up and what I want to do in the year ahead. My list isn’t necessarily full of “goaly” goals- the items on it might include a holiday that’s already been half-planned, developing a hobby I already have (such as “do a photography course”) or even just an event that’s happening in my life that year (eg June: give birth). I try to make sure there aren’t too many of them and that they are some of the things a good goal should be- realistic and time-specific and all that self-help speak. Some of them get crossed off when I realise they’re not quite right for me this year- maybe they’re unnecessary, unrealistic or simply something I’m not prepared to put the time into just yet. Sometimes life goes off in a direction you don’t predict earlier in the year and your list needs to be amended. It’s kind of hard to always foresee where you’ll be in December when it’s only January, that’s part of the fun.

And so I’ve been thinking, “What’s on the cards for this year….?” My list is only half formed, there’s a big(ish) question mark hanging over the second half of 2014 at this point and things are about to change big time for the little Ls and myself when I go back to work in 3 weeks.

So let’s just say my list’s a work in progress and for the moment, to be continued….