Making Good Habits

The coming year is The Year of Do.

"Doing" over and over again leads to forming habits. It's important to form good habits because doing so allows us to be not only inherently healthier, cleaner, or more knowledgeable (depending on what type of habit we form and commit to), but it also allows us to be more productive and efficient with our time. A habit is an action, good or bad, that one does with little thought as to the mechanics or steps of the process.

New tasks require a lot of brain power--a lot of RAM, if you will. We must think about how to do the task, our timeliness, ways to do the task better, ways to correct our mistakes, and so on. New tasks are mentally draining. Taking on new tasks can sometimes seem so overwhelming, that we opt out of doing the task all together. The more times that we do a task, the less attention our brain must devote to the task. We have more free space in our brain that we can use to think about other things. Completing a task that has become a habit becomes less mentally draining and causes little if any anxiety.

Unfortunately, bad habits form sometimes without our realizing it. Bad habits can be difficult to break. The good news is good habits can be easy to form. They take just a bit of time, practice, and repetition (about two weeks of repetition for daily habits and 5 weeks of repetition for weekly habits).

 How to start good habits: 
1. Give tasks the necessary time that it takes to complete the task. Deliberately set aside the appropriate amount of time it takes to do a task (for example, if it takes 20 minutes to wash the dishes, give yourself that 20 minutes to wash the dishes every day after dinner. Don't promise to squeeze it in when you have 15 minutes in between waking up and leaving for work because you'll end up being late to work or not doing the dishes).

 2. Do daily tasks at the same time every day and weekly tasks at the same time every week. That's not to say that you must wake up at 6 a.m. sharp, leave work at 4 p.m sharp., run at 4:30 p.m.sharp, and have dinner by 6 p.m. sharp every day. Too strict of schedules become overwhelming and don't allow you to make last minute plans for social and leisure time with friends. Instead of keeping a strict time schedule, form sensible and productive sequences like: cook after running, wash your dishes after dinner, tidy the apartment after brushing your teeth, prepare your lunch and backpack for the next day before going to bed. No more putting things off for an unspecified time; just do it. In the beginning, commit to these routines

 3. Enjoy your routine chores. There's no way around it: as an adult, you must keep clean, you must prepare and eat healthy food, and you must keep yourself physically active. You may as well find ways to enjoy doing these things. I listen to and sing along with music while I wash dishes. I listen to radio podcasts while I cook. I wear running outfits I feel good in and think of my next blog topic when I run.

 4. Make just-for-fun habits. Some of my fun habits include going bouldering (rock climbing) every Wednesday and watching my favorite shows every week. The beauty of habits is that it's easy to have time for these activities because you already have a blocked out time period in your week when you don't have anywhere else to be or anything else to do. You tend to plan around your set set activities. Better yet, join or build a community of people who will expect you to come to bouldering every Wednesday. Good habits built into your days and week will guarantee that you will have done at least those productive activities each week. As each activity becomes habitual, you're able to add on yet more productive tasks to your daily routine. It's a win-win situation; no goal-setting required. Nothing to it but to do it.



I'm independent, I don't need anyone. I've moved from city to city all my life. I've had to make new friends more times than I can count. My family hasn't lived all together since I was 18.

Lies, lies, lies... these are all lies. Well, OK, they're all true, but that first sentence is a lie.

I've made it as far as I have because of my family and because of my chosen family who adopted a nomad girl like me. My parents loved me so much that they raised me to be an adventurous, adaptable, and curious person. They knew that when I turned 18 and moved out of the house that they were releasing me into the world.

I stand on my own, but I do need people. I've always needed my family and friends. I still do.

The holidays and the cold wintertime is a difficult time to be away from family.


Year's End

2012: The Year of Taking on Fears
This year, I did a lot of things that scared me: I learned to stand up paddle; I went surfing; I ran multiple off-road races; I paraglided; I went canyoning; I jumped waterfalls in Hawaii and in Japan; I went zip-lining in the Philippines; I traveled to foreign countries without ever having been there, without an itinerary, and without speaking the language; I moved halfway across the world (well, I moved twice within a year of each other, a quarter-ways across the world each time) to a country whose language I do no speak; I climbed Mt. Fuji; I ran several races; I made friends from all over the world; I taught in many different arenas outside of my comfort zone (elementary schools, classes of adults who speak different languages, Japanese high schools); I traveled by myself, risked getting lost and having to rely on my in-progress Japanese speaking abilities and problem-solving skills to figure my way out through new situations; I traveled by bike more in the past few months than I ever had in my entire life up to a few months ago; I started bouldering every week, in which I take on climbing trails, leaps, jumps, and falls that scare me.

Most importantly, I taught high school students in classes as small in size as 10 students and as large in size as 45 students.

I know that that last one shouldn't be a big deal, but it means a lot to me that I'm getting back into the swing of things doing what I aspired to do for so many years. I still get nervous each morning before I do a lesson, but continually feeling that nervousness and then going into the classroom and teaching through that nervousness has proven to be much more rewarding than doing any task that didn't scare me to begin with.

In 2011, I turned down many opportunities to face my fears. I would say that I felt sick, was busy, or wasn't ready to do X. In a way, it was true: I felt sick with nervousness, was busy trying to put together better and better versions of, for example, lesson plans until I had something that I felt was perfect, and I definitely wasn't ready to go get 'em and teach.  I should have recognized these moments as "ready as I'll ever be" moments. I should have gone in to face the fray, assessed my losses, and strategized for how to have an ever-so-slightly better lesson the next day. I should have at least focused on showing up day after day despite any anxiety I had in order to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

2012 was different. 2012 was the year of facing my fears. And, in order to keep things interesting, I made sure to face many different fears as often as possible. I faced small ones and big ones. I can't say that I am now fearless, but at least I can say I did it. Even though the thought of climbing Fuji-san in the cold and pitch dark for 6 hours each way still scares me, I experienced personal growth in some way or another when I did it this past summer.

2013: The Year of Do
Next year will be the year of Do.

Too often, I fall into the trap of putting off a task because the goal I set for myself is too daunting and, to be honest, downright unachievable. I'm a "goal-oriented" person: I write goals for everything--What I Want to Achieve This Year; What I Want to Achieve Today; Things To Do This Week; Things to Do On My Vacation in Thailand. I then go about my days with these heavy lists that looming overhead and make me feel worse and worse about myself as each goal remains untouched. I want to move away from being someone who gets her feelings of accomplishment and self-satisfaction by checking off items on a goals list, towards being someone who gains a feeling of fulfillment.

For example, last week, I set out to run. I went out and did (run, that is) without pausing to think it out, set a goal, or plan. I didn't think to myself, "Today, I'm going to run 6 miles in an hour" only to proceed to sit in my living room and muster up the courage to get up and run and eventually become so overwhelmed at the task at hand such that I I decide not to run at all. This time, I didn't do any of that. This time, I just when out and did. I went home, ate a snack (I always run on a full stomach), got dressed, and ran. I ran until I felt about half tired. Then I turned around and ran the rest of the way home. When I checked my route, I found that I set a personal record for longest weekday run (over 8.5 miles).

This is the year of Do. Last year, I did things that scare me; this year, I'm doing little things that add up to big ways of taking care of myself. I'm forming habits without any thought as to measuring my success. Success lies in the act of doing, not in achievement.