advice · goals · habits · self care

Go Team 2023! Focus on your efforts

This is my second-last post for this January series so I am continuing with my plan to reiterate the messages I hope I stressed throughout the month. Yesterday, I reminded you to check your systems. Today, I’m reminding you to focus on your efforts instead of your results.

Yes, I know it is really fun to notice and celebrate results. I’m definitely not arguing otherwise. However, results take time, they are not always within your control, and results happen after a series of efforts. If you only focus on results, you can end up frustrated and annoyed -especially if you realize that the result you originally sought isn’t the same as the one you want to seek now.

Soooooo, if you focus on your efforts instead, you can enjoy more regular feelings of competence and accomplishment. You can check something important off your list every single time you are working towards your goal or moving forward with your habit.

This doesn’t mean that you need to put in a Herculean effort every time.

It means that all of your efforts count.

The day that you do a single squat or a minute of meditation? That counts!

The day that you do an hour long dance workout or sit in meditation for hours? That counts too!

Focusing on your efforts makes everything part of the big picture (your habit/goal/practice) and of the biggest picture (your well-being.)

I’m not saying that you’ll never be frustrated or disappointed – those things are just part of life (and of habit-building)- but focusing on your efforts can help you have a realistic perspective on things.

And when you notice the efforts that you regularly have time and energy for, you’ll have more reasonable expectations for your eventual results.*

So, Team, as you move forward with your habit-building practice, please consider keeping the focus on your efforts instead of just on your results.

Caveat: If you are the type of person who is completely fueled and energized by the idea of your future results and you can easily shake off disappointment and frustration about day-to-day activities, please just carry on doing what you are doing. Different brains enjoy different approaches and I just want everyone to have the freedom to work in a way that makes sense to them.

Here’s your gold star for today’s efforts, whether you focus is just on the work of today or if you also have one eye on that distant prize. Please be kind to yourself, either way.

A drawing of a shiny gold star surrounded by small dots.
A drawing of a shiny gold star surrounded by small dots. The dots are green, blue, red, and pink.

*To use a non-fitness example, if I want to write a novel I can focus on that end result – a finished first draft. Compared to my imagined future manuscript, 5 minutes of daily writing will seem paltry and it will feel like a very long time before I can celebrate an accomplishment. However, if I focus on my efforts – building a regular writing habit that will eventually lead to a manuscript- I can enjoy the process more, I can celebrate more often, and I can see every writing session as part of the bigger project. AND, because my focus on my efforts will show me just how much I can get done in a day, a week, a month, I won’t be creating the unreasonable (and definitely disappointing) idea of finishing my novel in a very short period of time.

advice · fitness · goals · habits · self care

Go Team 2023! Systems Check

I only have three more posts in this January series so I wanted to reiterate three important things for you to carry with you as you forge ahead with your habit-building.

First up: a systems check!

Whether you are cruising happily along with your habit building, you are finding each day a struggle, or you are somewhere in between, it’s a good idea to check your systems from time to time.

Note: Doing a systems check is especially important if you are struggling. In my experience, people who are struggling with habit-building are awfully quick to attribute their struggles to some ‘flaw’ they perceive in themselves.

I don’t want that to happen to anyone but I especially don’t want that for you, dear Team members. Instead of defaulting to self-blame, please get curious about your systems instead.

Do you have systems in place to support the plans that you have made and the tasks you need to do to bring those plans to fruition?

If you haven’t consciously chosen a system for adding this habit to your life, you are probably unconsciously defaulting to a system you have used for something else. And a system designed (consciously or unconsciously) for a different project is unlikely to support you in building your current habit and will probably cause you a lot of frustration as you go along.

Your system doesn’t have to be complex or elaborate, it can be a straightforward as selecting a time and a place when you can be reasonably certain that you can do your habit-building tasks on a regular basis.

For example: If you are trying to build a habit of daily meditation, your system could involve choosing to meditate first thing in the morning because you get up before everyone else and you are rarely interrupted. It could also involve things like l putting a blanket in your meditation location every night, setting your coffee pot timer a little later so your coffee is ready when your meditation is done instead of when you first get up, or requesting support from your partner or roommates to take care of anything that arises during your meditation session.

Are your systems doing what you need them to do?

Maybe you have systems in place but they are designed for an ideal day rather than your regular life.

Perhaps the system elements you thought you needed at the beginning don’t actually meet your needs.

Or maybe you the system you created was perfect at the beginning but you quickly outgrew it.

It’s possible that the system you created is more complex than you realized and it’s too hard to follow. (This happens to me a fair bit. I often don’t realize how many steps I have put in place until I try to follow them on a regular basis. Then I end up trying to meet the requirements of the system instead of the system serving me.)

It’s ok to adjust a system that isn’t working.

Taking time, even mid-project, to assess how your systems are working is probably time well-spent.

Identifying the friction in your system now will help you reduce frustration overall and help you refine your habit-building process more quickly. Reducing that friction will let you spend more time on your habit-related tasks and less time fighting with yourself and your own system.

What do you need to add or remove to get your system working for you?

This is not the time to be hard on yourself about what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ need.

If you think of something to add to or remove from your system that will help you move forward with your habit building, please do what you need to do.

If you find it easier to exercise with a ribbon tied around your left wrist, tie a ribbon around your left wrist. And have a system for keeping track of the ribbon and one for cleaning it when it gets grubby.

You don’t have to get precious about the ribbon – you know you *can* exercise without it, it’s just feels better when you do – but you also don’t have to atop using it just to prove a point.

Go ahead and adjust your system until it meets your needs.

After all, supporting you is the whole point of the system – it might as well do a thorough job.

All Systems Go

So, Team, as you move forward with your habit-building practices and tasks, please do the occasional systems check.

You will always be doing the best you can do with resources you have in a given moment.

There’s no need to let a mismatched system cause you any stress or, worse, to cause you to doubt yourself.

With the right system, and the right match between your expectations and your efforts, you can build the habit you want to build.

And, speaking of efforts, here’s a gold star for your efforts today – whatever those efforts might entail.

Be kind to yourself out there.

Pretty please.

A large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
A drawing of a large gold star outlined in green against a shaded green background decorated with closed yellow spirals and green dots.
advice · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! When you just don’t wanna

Team, let’s be clear about something…

When you are undertaking a long term project, especially one where it may take a while to see your progress, you are going to have days when you just don’t wanna do the thing.

You probably have time and capacity to do it but you just feel so meh about it that you can’t be bothered.

For starters, this is a normal part of the process of making change and trying to complete a long project, so please don’t automatically take this feeling as a sign that the project isn’t for you. Also, please don’t take it as a sign that you aren’t up for the challenge.

And, while you’re at it, don’t assume that your temporary lack of enthusiasm is permanent. You don’t have to feel excited about your tasks or projects every day. Most of us have a mix of enthusiasm, boredom, determination, apathy, and focus over the course of any project.

So, now that you have cleared the worry that today’s lack of enthusiasm is an omen, what can you do about the fact that you just don’t wanna do the thing?

1) You can decide not to do the thing today

It’s true! There’s probably no one forcing you to do the thing and, in the big picture, this one day probably will not make or break your plans.

Maybe you need a rest. Maybe you need to feel like you are ‘breaking’ the rules today, like you are getting away with something.

Maybe you just need to assert your authority over your schedule to remind yourself that this stuff is your choice and that these tasks are supposed to serve you, not the other way around.

No matter what your reason or your need, you do indeed have the power to say ‘Nah!’ today.

2) You can do the thing anyway

It’s a bizarre truth that you don’t actually need to be enthusiastic in order to get something done. In fact, you can be completely apathetic and do something in the most rote and routine way and it can still get done.

It might be a little harder to get started but you can decide to just forge ahead with the damn thing and get it over with.

It might not be the best iteration of the task, it might not be fun, but it will be done.

Like saying goes ‘Done beats perfect every time.’

3) You can change the thing you have to do

Maybe you don’t actually feel meh about your project overall, maybe just feel meh about today’s task.

Maybe the walk that seemed like a good plan when you made your list now feels like the worst idea ever.

Maybe when your hopeful Monday scheduled a 10 minute meditation today, they imagined a much more relaxed week. However, the you of today, the one who has been through the tasks of the week, can’t face the idea of sitting for 10 minutes right now.

The you of today can override the you of the past.

Past you was planning based on ideas, present you is working with information.

Present you can use that information to make a different plan.

Present you can decide to dance or bike or swim instead of going for a walk.

The you of today can choose to do some meditative movement or to colour or draw or fold laundry or sort legos – anything that gives *you* that same sort of focused calm.

(Laundry or sorting doesn’t do that for me, personally, but lots of my clients have reported that tasks like that feel mindful and helpful. You do what works for you.)

Like I said in the section above, enthusiasm isn’t required to complete a task. However, if you lack enthusiasm about your planned task but a different task that serves the same purpose *is* appealing, then go ahead and do the other task.

You don’t have to stick with the original plan that past you made. Present you knows more about your situation than past you did.

Keep aiming for self-kindness

Obviously, your ideal situation is to keep working steadily toward developing the habit you want to develop.

However, working steadily does not have to mean working constantly on a rigid plan.

Instead, using a self-kindness lens, you can interpret ‘working steadily’ to mean giving yourself what you need each day to move toward your habit.

On any given day, the kindest choice might be to take a break, it might be to change the task, or it might be to forge ahead anyway, despite a lack of enthusiasm.

Only you can decide which is the kindest one for your present self.

I wish you ease and I offer you this gold star for your efforts – your efforts toward your habit, your efforts to change your plans, your efforts to rest, and, as always, for your efforts to be kind to yourself either way.

Your efforts matter. 💚

A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background.​
A drawing of a gold star against a patterned background that slants upward from left to right. The background is composed of three sections. The top one is made of intersecting tile-shapes that contain slanted rectangles that alternate between black and white. The intersecting point of each set of four tiles is overlaid with a circle. The middle section of the background is a series of small squares, some of which have a smaller square in the centre while others contain dots at the top and slanted lines at the bottom. The bottom section has light black lines overlaid with three objects drawn on top. The objects are long sticks with smaller sticks laid across them. The smaller sticks have small back squares on the ends of each one. In the centre of each long stick is a square or rectangle framing a smaller object of the same shape.
ADHD · advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Choose for your own peace of mind

Today is a bit of an off day for me.

I had a few complicated things to do and I’m not feeling particularly well and I just kind of want to climb under a blanket and take a nap.

I had a reasonable amount of things on my to do list today but now it is mid-afternoon and I can take things in two possible directions.

1) I can forge ahead with my to do list as-is and just hope for the best.

2) I can get strategic and decide which tasks to work on and how much time/energy I am going to put into them.

Perhaps you’ve had success with option 1 but almost every time I’ve tried it I have ended up feel frustrated and dissatisfied and VERY conscious of the tasks left undone.

And I have usually had to spend a fair bit of time coaxing myself out of feeling badly about the whole thing.

However, anytime I have paused and made a conscious choice about which tasks to work on and how long to spend on them, I have more peace of mind right from the start.

My tasks feel more accessible, more possible. My efforts make sense to me, they feel more direct. I end up being able to focus on what I *can* do with the resources I have instead of having an constant low-key dread that I won’t get stuff done.

What does this have to do with your habit-building tasks?

Well, I have found that I feel much the same when the tasks ahead of me are related to my habits as when they are related to my work.

If I am holding those tasks in my head on an off-kilter/busy day with the idea that I will get to them ‘as soon as possible’ and that I will do them completely as planned, I end up feeling stressed about them. They take up way more room in my head than they need to and I end up feeling like I am falling short.

BUT

If my day is going a bit sideways and I stop to make a choice about what I will or will not do, I feel better about the whole thing.

Instead of going into overdrive, mentally and physically, and wearing myself down, I focus and choose my next steps.

And making those choices gives me peace of mind.

I’m no longer fitting in a 20 minute walk ‘if I can’ – I’m choosing to take a 10 minute walk because I am certain I have time for that.

I’m no longer ‘hoping to meditate before bed’, I’m choosing to stop anything else I’m doing at 10pm so I have time to meditate.

Or, I’m no longer planning to row ‘when I finish everything else’ (a phrase that could extend my day far more than I want to), I’m choosing not to row at all today because I had to shift my priorities or because I don’t feel well.

Alternatively, I may be choosing to row or walk or meditate for a longer period of time or in a more challenging way and choosing *not* to do something else.

So, Team, based on this extended example from how my brain works, how do you feel about choosing the parameters for your habit-building tasks today?

Will making a conscious choice bring you peace of mind?

Or are you just as happy to carry on with your to do list and see what happens?

Please choose whichever feels kindest to you.

And here’s a gold star for your efforts today, no matter how many choices are involved.

*Nothing serious just some minor symptoms related to having a tooth pulled a few days ago.

PS – I know that some of these thought patterns have ADHD-related origins, at least in my brain, but I understand that at least some neurotypical people also think this way sometimes. Either way, I think making conscious choices on a hard day is good for your brain and helps you feel more in charge of things.

A drawing of a shiny gold star against a background of green spirals and green dots.​
A drawing of a shiny gold star against a background of green spirals and green dots.
advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Err on the side of self-kindness

Sorry for the spoiler in the title, Team, but I always want you to be kind to yourself, no matter what.

I think that one of the biggest obstacles in developing new habits is how hard we can be on ourselves about the challenges involved.

We’re trying to layer a new habit into an already busy life.

We’re trying to rewire our brain to make a different choice.

We’re working to change an ingrained system.

Over time, our brains and our bodies have acclimatized to one thing (for better or for worse) and we are trying to coax them into doing something different.

That takes effort.

Conscious, repeated effort.

This requires experimentation. There will be successes. There will be missteps. There will be adjustments. There will be changes.

The whole initial idea may have to be revamped if those experiments and adjustments provide new information.

This things (and all kinds of others) are all very normal parts of the process of building a new habit, of making change.

So, when you bump up against any of these things and falls into ‘blame yourself’ mode, you don’t do yourself any favours. In fact, it just makes things even harder.

So, please, don’t add that obstacle.

Aim for self-kindness.

When a mistake is make, when something needs to be changed, when you are struggling, try to view yourself through the most compassionate lens possible.

Instead of defaulting framing things in terms of fault and failure, try to to see yourself as a normal human being doing normal human things. A normal human being who needs support, structure, and systems to build a new habit.

Whenever possible, err on the side of self-kindness.

I know that self-kindness may not be easy.

In fact, it is a whole separate habit to build.

But, it is definitely worth putting into practice, even if you are just experimenting with it at first.

Even if you don’t *fully* believe it, even if you have doubts, even if you worry that you are letting yourself away with something, it’s worth giving self-kindness a try.

And if you can’t stir up kindness for yourself, imagine that I am talking to you about the situation at hand. Imagine what I would say to you in the situation (hint: it’s going to be kind and it will not involve blame.)

Self-kindness is never going to be a bad choice.

Your gold stars for today’s efforts in self-kindness, habit-building, or planning are in a basket below. Take as many as you like – you’re doing an awful lot of work here!

Wishing you ease and self-compassion today and always, Team.

Drawing of a shallow basket of gold stars, sitting on a table
Image description: A drawing of a shallow basket filled with gold stars of various sizes sitting on a table. The table and basket are drawing in black ink with a woven pattern on the basket and lines like wood grain on the table, the stars are painted gold.

goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Get the motivation you need – whatever it might be

Finding motivation is a tricky business.

Sometimes we can sail along without it, letting our systems or routines or habits just carry us into the next task.

Other times we get discouraged or frustrated or bored or just off-kilter and we struggle to get moving in the first place, let alone to put in any sustained effort.

Obviously, it would be ideal if we all had an unlimited amount of internal motivation (i.e. the kind that works best in the long run) but, when things aren’t ideal, we may need some external motivation to get us through.

Unfortunately, it’s not like flipping a switch. We have to figure out what will work for ourselves or for the person we are trying to help motivate – not just any type of motivation will work for every person.

Some of us need reward systems.

Some of us need to be coaxed.

Some of us need to be left alone to figure it out for ourselves.

Some of us need to be reminded of the end goal.

Some of us need to be reminded that our actions today matter.

Some of us are motivated by a challenge.

Some of us are motivated by an easy start.

Some of us need a day off.

Some of us need to keep at it every day.

Some of us are motivated by being told ‘Get up! You’ve got this!’

Some of us need to be told ‘It’s okay to take it slow.’

The key is for us to find the right kind of motivation for a particular situation and to have it on hand when that situation pops up.

Note: There have been times in my life when I kept an actual, paper list of ‘If you feel like X, try Y.’-type solutions. I had to create a habit of checking the list when things cropped up but it did come in handy since I didn’t have to keep all possible solutions in my head at all times.

And, it is really important to remember that it is ok for you to need the kind of motivation that you need when you need it.

You don’t have to be hard on yourself about what you need and you definitely don’t need to get into a whole thing about why you *shouldn’t* need it. (As soon as the word should comes into your internal discussion, tread carefully. You may be about to be mean to yourself.)

Instead, I’d like for you to be able to get the motivation you need when you need it – whatever that motivation happens to be.

If you need a sticker chart? Have at it!

If you need to wear a special hat? Put it on!

If you need motivational messages written on your mirror? Break out the dry-erase markers!

It’s ok to need motivation and it’s ok to get motivation.

Even if the type of motivation you need seems a bit silly.

Basically, if it works then do it!

And, please be kind to yourself about it while you do.

Here is your happy gold star for today!

Congratulations on your efforts towards your habit, towards your plan, towards your idea, or towards a solid system of motivation.

Go Team!

a drawing of a happy-faced gold star and a series of brightly coloured shapes decorated with black dots, spirals, lines or ovals.
A drawing of a happy-faced gold star standing on top of a slanted blue triangle decorated with black pinstripes that is on the right hand side of the image. The left side of the image is divided into somewhat geometric shapes in different colours. The shape behind the star is red with black dots. The bottom of the image is purple with black ovals, on top of that is a yellow triangle decorated with black spirals and above that is a irregular white section with black lines – some of which go up to the right on an angle, others of which extend toward the middle of the shape with small circles on the end of each one.
advice · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Check in with yourself

So, Team, back on January 10, I was inviting you to figure out what knowledge, experience, and information you had gathered about yourself and your new habit/plan at that point.

That wasn’t just about noticing (although noticing is good, too), it was about assessing how well your plans and systems were developing and making the choice to continue as you were or to adjust as needed.

Today, after 24 days of practice, I‘m inviting you to check in with yourself about the same overarching sorts of things.

Are your systems supporting your plans?

Are you mostly able to do your habit-building tasks when and how you plan to do them?

Do you find yourself happy/content to do those tasks? Or do you feel neutral about them? Or do you dread them?

Does your goal still make sense to you? Do you still care about it?

Have any of your priorities changed?

Do you know anything now that you didn’t know on the 10th or on the 1st that affects how you want to proceed?

Have you gathered any information about yourself, your systems, your approach or about anything else that will be useful for you in other contexts/for other projects?

Maybe you’ll ask yourself these questions, or questions like these, and conclude that everything is going grand.

Maybe you’ll ask yourself these questions, or questions like these, and discover that you want to change things up.

Maybe these questions will reveal things that you can save to apply elsewhere.

Either way, it’s worth taking a few minutes to check in with yourself about this stuff. Otherwise, it’s too easy to end up plodding along with something just because we ‘might as well finish what we started.’

As you can probably tell, I vote no on that.

I want better things for you.

I want you to have plans and goals that serve you well and I want you to have the systems and support you need to follow through on those plans.

Even if those plans, goals, systems, and needed supports change over time.

I’m wishing you ease and self-kindness as you consider these questions today (or whenever!)

Here’s your gold star for your efforts to reflect, to move forward, to make plans, or to get enough rest today.

Go Team!

A drawing of a happy-faced gold star on a swing
A drawing of a cartoonish gold star (with bright blue eyes and a big grin) sitting on a swing and holding on to the strings of the swing with her two side points. The swing is black and the background is blue with purple dots. There’s a thick dark purple line at the bottom of the image.

advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! The pre-work work

Years ago, I was grumbling to another coach about how much time a project was taking and, in the course of the grumbling, I said something like ‘It’s prep stuff that really annoys me. I don’t mind spending time at the ‘real’ work, I hate all the gathering of information and sorting of papers.’

After empathizing with me a bit, she then offered up an important piece of wisdom that has stuck with me to this day:

The preparation is part of the work.

I had never thought about it in those terms before.

Obviously, since the prep work had to be done before the ‘real’ work could begin, the prep work was real work, too.

It was step one of the real work, not some foolishness to get out of the way first.

I thought of that fact when I was writing my post for yesterday and considering how to comment on the common fear of starting with the wrong thing – the fear of ‘wasting time’ on something that wasn’t the ‘real’ work.

To go back to my driveway-shovelling analogy from yesterday, it’s kind of easy to see that tasks like putting on warm clothes, getting a water bottle, and selecting a shovel could be considered part of the real work – necessary prerequisites to shovelling.

However, if you have your warm clothes on, your shovel in hand, and you are standing in your snowy driveway not knowing where to start, you might have trouble seeing that as part of the work.

And if you just start anywhere in the middle and then realize that it actually makes sense to start by the steps, you might feel like you wasted time with those first shovelfuls.

However, I’m starting to see those kinds of things as just another part of the work.

Pausing to survey the landscape in order to develop a plan *or* just getting started until a plan reveals itself are both methods of starting the work.

They are both first steps to getting the driveway shovelled – or to building a habit.

And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about either of those methods…they will both bring us toward the key tasks that will form the most tangible parts of the work.

And, surveying the landscape/starting anywhere will both give us further information for the next part of the project.

In the driveway, they will tell us where the snow has drifted, how heavy it is, whether we have the right shovel, and if we will need to call in reinforcements.

In our habit-building, either of those methods will tell us what feels easy and what feels hard, what we enjoy and what we dislike. They’ll tell us if we need more information or if we haven’t been clear on our plans. They’ll let us tune in with our bodies and brains to see what we need and what works for us in certain situations.

But they won’t be a waste of time or effort, they are part of the work and they will shape and inform our next steps.

Sure, with enough abstract contemplation and research about your habit you *might* hit on the perfect way to start and the perfect method to proceed.

But you might also find yourself weeks later overthinking and with nothing started at all. (Go on, ask me how I know this. Sigh.)

However, if you do enough prep work to safely get yourself into the middle of things, survey the landscape up-close, and get started wherever makes sense* at the moment, you will make progress and you will bring yourself to the point where the most tangible part of your work can begin.

Because, like we talked about above, the preparation is part of the work – a necessary and vital part of the work – and it makes sense to spend time doing it.

Today, I’m offering you a whole spiralled string of gold stars to celebrate your efforts.

If you like, you can think of the stars in the spiral as celebrating all of the different types of work you put into building your habit – thinking work, prep work, and the most tangible, recognizable tasks that make you feel like you are really getting somewhere now.

Be kind to yourself about the whole process, Team. Your efforts matter, no matter what size and shape they are. 💚

*Any arbitrary definition of ‘makes sense’ works here – choose based on knowledge, on the colour of someone’s shirt, on what feels easiest/closest/doable, on your whim at the moment. It’s all good for getting started.

A spiral made of gold stars connected by a line.
A drawing of a series of gold stars connected by a line to form a spiral. The smallest stars are at the centre and the largest are on the outside.
advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! One shovelful at a time

We had a giant snowstorm here yesterday, around 50 cm/20 inches, and as I looked out at the snow this morning, I was reminded of one of my favourite writing analogies and I realized that the analogy works just as well for habit-building as it does for writing.

Lots of times when people want to start writing, or revising, they get caught up in trying to do the whole thing at once. I mean, if we stopped to think about it, we’d know it’s impossible but mostly we don’t even realize what we are trying to do.

So, when I realize that I am making that mistake with my writing (or that my client/student is making it) I compare the process to having a driveway full of snow and expecting to be able to shovel it all at once. (If the person hasn’t had that experience, I compare it to having a huge pile of laundry to fold,)

I think we often do that ‘try to do it all at once’ thing for habit building, too. We may not realize that we are trying to develop the whole habit in one go but if we are overloading ourselves with exercises, putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, or hoping for immediate results, we are probably falling into that trap.

If you look at a driveway full of snow (or a huge pile of clean laundry), you know very well that you can’t just clear it all away at once. And you know that you can’t dig out the front steps at the same time as you are digging the bottom of your driveway. You have to choose a place to start and clear it away one shovelful at a time until it is done.

If you are trying to build a habit (or if you are planning to write or to revise something), it’s like having that driveway full of snow. You aren’t going to be able to just do all of it at once, you have to pick a place to start and keep plugging away at it until it is done.

In your driveway, you might use a shovel, you might use a scoop, you might use a snowblower, or you might use a plow on the front of your vehicle. But, no matter what tools you use, you still have to do a series of repeated actions to get that driveway cleared.

With a habit, you might start daily, you might start weekly, you might start small, you may start big, but you will have to choose where/how to start and keep plugging away at it until you get your habit established.

If you have to get your car out quickly to get somewhere, you might not shovel a path from the car to the house, you might just clear the car’s windshield and shovel out behind the car and drive off, leaving the rest of the shovelling for later.

Similarly, if you quickly need something specific from your habit, you can start with the tasks that are most closely related to it. For example, if you are trying to improve your overall fitness but also you have a lot of back pain – your habit might start with emphasizing stretches for your back or with focusing on strengthening your core muscles. Or if you are finding that racing thoughts make it hard to fall asleep, the first part of building your meditation habit might focus on pre-bed relaxation practices.

Meanwhile, if you have no idea where to start with your driveway or with your writing or with your habit, it’s ok to start anywhere and just keep doing a shovelful at a time.

The driveway will get done, no matter where you start.

The thing will get written, no matter where you start.

And, if you are trying to build a habit and you return to it a metaphorical shovelful at a time, over and over, you will create the habit you want to create – no matter where you start with it.

I wish you ease with your habit-building, your writing, and with any snow-shovelling or laundry folding you need to do.

Here are your gold stars for your efforts today, whether they are small or large, whether they are a fresh start or part of the momentum you are building, or whether you are just trying to be kind to yourself while you figure out where you put your shovel.

Three gold stars resting on rectangular stands.
A drawing of three gold stars atop rectangular stands (one short red, one taller green, and one royal med-height blue, with black pinstripes on each), the edges of the drawing are decorated with tiny gold dots.
advice · fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023! Make some tweaks

Would changing a few things about your environment or your approach make it easier for you to build the habits you are trying to build?

Could you enhance your exercise or meditation space to make it more appealing?

Could you move things around to make your practice feel more accessible?

Is there anything you can change about the details of your tasks that will make them more fun or at least less annoying?

Let me give you some examples.

Today, I’m moving my rowing machine up into my living room.

Up until now, it has been in the basement which was perfectly fine until I started decluttering. My decluttering project has many stages and some of those stages take a week or more so there is stuff lying around partially sorted or half organized. And the thought of using my rowing machine amid that chaos has kept me from using it regularly.

I want to use my rowing machine but I know I can’t speed up the decluttering, so the machine has gotta move.*

Years ago, when I first tried strength training, I realized that I found it irritating to count up my reps. I wasn’t sure what bugged me about it at the time so I started experimenting with different methods of keeping track and I found out that using short periods of time (Do squats for 30 seconds) helped, saying letters instead of numbers (Why do I not mind doing H bicep curls but doing 8 is annoying? Who knows?), or simply counting down instead were all better than counting up.

Moving my rowing machine, changing how I track reps, using a small gardener’s mat for extra knee padding during certain yoga poses, putting a blanket in the spot where I meditate, lighting a candle when I write in my journal, using a textured sticker to focus on mindful breathing, all of these tweaks make it easier for me to do the things I want and need to do to build and maintain my habits

Yes, I know that some of these things might seem silly or weird.

Maybe they seem like hardly worth doing, like something I should be able to just ignore or just push past.

But I’m not out to prove anything here, I just want a straightforward path to doing the things I want to do?

Why add extra static to a task that already requires a fair bit of physical and emotional energy?

Why not make things easier on myself?

By tweaking the details of my environment and my approach, I remove a whole set of obstacles from between me and my tasks.

Removing those obstacles makes it more likely that I will be able to follow through on my plans.

So, Team, I’m wondering if you can give yourself permission to do similar things for yourself?

To reiterate the questions I asked at the beginning of this post…

Is there anything about where you exercise or meditate or journal or rest that might improve that space?

Is there anything about *how* you approach or undertake your tasks that you can tweak to make things easier?

Your obstacles may not be obvious at first. You may have to poke around in your reluctance a little to see what’s bugging you (it took me a while to realize that the mess of the decluttering process was interfering with my rowing) but it will be worth it to figure it out and experiment with how to make things better.

Whether your routines, systems and tasks are unfolding smoothly or whether they need a few tweaks, I wish you ease and self-kindness today and always.

Here’s your gold star for today’s efforts, no matter what they are:

A drawing of a red balloon decorated with a gold star and gold dots.
A drawing of a red balloon decorated with a gold star and gold dots. The balloon is on a string and is floating up from the bottom of the drawing. The background of the image is white with gold horizontal pinstripes.

*Luckily, it’s not a very fancy rowing machine so it’s pretty compact and the long part folds upward when I remove a pin so it won’t take up all the space in my living room.