Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Can Get There From Anywhere

I really do recommend that you go back and listen to the archives of Question of the Day. It always makes me at least smile, and I usually laugh aloud at least once during the episode.

On the episode I (re-)listened to today (seriously, guys, transcripts would have been a great thing…), James and Stephen talked about life hacks, and whether they had any real value.

James talked about the whole concept of “life hacking” and how he found it frustrating that there are so many people who think that tiny tricks can do a lot to improve your life in a significant way. I agree. Sure, specific, small tricks can help with specific, small things in your life. I always hang my keys up next to the door when I walk in the house, so I always know where my keys are. I don’t really think of that as a life hack, but some people do.

I enjoy reading Lifehacker, and once in a while I learn something new, but I don’t think there are any real shortcuts to living a full and happy life.

The guys also talked about the difference between habits and meta-habits, and although I’m not sure that I agree with the terminology, I am definitely a fan of BJ Fogg and I read a LOT about habits.

In case you haven’t listened to the episode (seriously, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?), here’s the difference between habits and meta-habits, according to James:

Habits are the actions you want to establish, like flossing your teeth.
Meta-habits are the actions you take in order to establish the habit, as in, “Every night, after I brush my teeth, I will floss ONE tooth.”

The idea, popularized by BJ Fogg, is that once you establish a “tiny habit” — flossing ONE tooth, every night, you can then build on that tiny habit until you are ultimately flossing your teeth, washing your face, putting on moisturizer, and cleaning the bathroom before bed every night.

(My parents are reading this with furrowed brows, thinking, “Doesn’t everyone already do this?” NO. THEY DON’T. YOU ARE THE MOST ORGANIZED, DISCIPLINED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. MOST PEOPLE DEFINITELY DO NOT DO THIS EVERY NIGHT.)

I love habits research. I’ve done BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits course, and this summer I took a great class with Maria Brilaki of Fitness Reloaded that was heavily grounded in the concept of building on tiny habits. On days when I feel overwhelmed and unable to get anything done, I find it incredibly useful to take a moment and think about the tiny habits I have or want to have.

After I open my computer in the morning, I will write three sentences of my work in progress. 

After I drink my second cup of coffee, I will unload the dishwasher. (A truly tiny habit would be to **open** the dishwasher, and that was how I started, but I’ve progressed.)

For the most part, I can do these things without thinking, which is the point. When you unload the dishwasher without noticing that you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, it’s a habit, and you will never, ever have to think about it again. This is awesome, unless you are my dad and you really enjoy unloading the dishwasher. (I’ve never known anyone else who gets such joy from unloading a dishwasher. Certainly none of my children find it remotely enjoyable.)

At various times in my life, I have been somewhat stressed. During one particularly horrible period of time, I actually, on THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS, walked away from my car with the keys still in the ignition AND THE ENGINE RUNNING. You would have thought that the FIRST instance of this would have driven me to action, but you would be wrong. In my defense, my child was gravely ill and not expected to live. (He did. He is The Boy Who Lived.) The second time, also, did not prompt any actual action on my part. But the THIRD time it happened, I realized that I had a Problem, and I needed to find a way to Deal With It.

I created a tiny habit. After I get out of my car, I will lock the car. This may seem ridiculously obvious to most of you, but I regularly leave my car and my house unlocked. Partly because of where I live, and partly because I am an idiot.

Anyway, establishing the habit probably saved my life in some small way, because to lock the car, I had to have the keys in my hand, so I had to turn off the car. Which also meant putting the car in park. It was a rough, rough time in my life, and I did not handle it well.

So there you go. From a lighthearted discussion of my favorite podcast, all the way to childhood cancer.

It’s a gift.


isf said...

It isn't mere discipline; it is a visceral dislike of chaos and disorder. I control what I can and am amazed that the world is still a mess.

ducky said...

I also like folding laundry :-)
And it's such a simple jolt to come to the bathroom in the morning and see my sink and counter pristine!