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“Things I Think I Should Do But Don’t” (Creating Better Habits)

purple flowerA while back I made a list of “things which I think I should do but I don’t”. It was rather long.

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It’s an interesting exercise. I think a lot of us have quite a bit of pain associated with these things we “should” do. Putting it out there on paper (or a screen) helps us confront them more directly, perhaps deal with these negative feelings we have.

In my case, I wanted to try and work towards making these things a regular part of my life. I thought that having them in front of me would help me by bringing a certain amount of clarity.

Unfortunately I don’t know where I put that file so I can’t revisit it. But I remember I tried to make at least one of these things part of my life. The one I can remember trying was: “Taking cold showers”.

I know that I sometimes feel really good after taking a cold shower. It’s the epitome of something you “should do but don’t”: it feels bad in the moment you do it but then you feel good afterwards.

Except, after steeling myself and giving it a go, I found that I didn’t feel as good as expected. Most of the time, I cooled my body down too much, and felt terrible for several hours afterwards as my body tried to find its balance again.

I was rather stubborn about it, and suffered several times before I realised that even though I thought I should do cold showers, it actually wasn’t for me.

With this disappointment, I left my list of “things I should do” and forgot about it for quite a while.

Recently, though, I thought to revisit the concept.


Revisiting The List

Some context: a little while ago I got zealous again and tried to structure my life a bit. I decided I’d drink four large glasses of water every morning, take up jogging a couple of times a week, and do voice training and German lessons every day.

I hope I didn’t put too much on my plate. Somehow I think I’d be more likely to get habits like these to stick if I added them to my life one at a time. But I’ve managed to keep them up for about a week, and I feel happy about these changes. We will see how it goes in the long term.

Now, drinking water was interesting. See, I have known for a while that drinking enough water makes me feel better. My mind feels sharper, I seem more aware of my surroundings. Definitely something I “should” do.

But as I tried to drink enough water again recently, I found my (very sensitive) belly hurting for the first couple of days.

Historically I have been rather stubborn in these situations, pushing myself to do what I “should” do until I suffer so much I give up my resolution entirely.

This time, though, I was I think a bit gentler with myself, and I decided to pay attention to what my belly was telling me.

And so, instead of drinking tap water, I bought a 5L bottle of mineral water and drunk from that.

Much better! It seems that my body doesn’t like tap water (even filtered as it was). With this slight adjustment, I was able to continue my new habit.

The New List

What’s interesting about the cold showers and the water drinking is that something was not quite working. In the case of the water drinking, I could work out what I needed to change and change it. In the case of the cold showers, I just had to admit that it wasn’t for me after all.

I think that much of the time you think you “should” do something but don’t, it may be that there is some real reason why you don’t want to do it, and listening to yourself is the only way to find that out. Perhaps listening will make you decide not to do it after all; perhaps it will simply cause you to do it differently.

Well, after these experiences I decided to write a new list of “things I think I should do but don’t”.


Interestingly: this list was now rather shorter.

I guess I now had a better idea about some things being not so good after all. Perhaps I was a bit more realistic this time. Perhaps I was no longer so quick to jump to that position of berating myself for never coming up to my own standards.

The other thing that was interesting was this:

I looked at the list, and thought, I can actually do this.

They were fewer, and more practical, more aligned with what I actually feel like doing (rather than what I just thought I “should”). And also, I knew this time that I would be taking them on at least somewhat experimentally; if they didn’t work I wouldn’t force them; I’d either make adjustments or reconsider them entirely.

The great thing about having them down in writing is that they won’t go anywhere. I can keep revisiting them from time to time, refreshing my determination to consciously shape my life.  I believe that with a small amount of effort, but a constant one, I can make it happen.

Well, we will see. 🙂

My List

For those who are interested, I’ll post my list in following:

 

These first ones are things I’ve recently started doing:

  • Drinking water
  • German learning
  • Voice training
  • Regular exercise
  • Singing every day

And here are my other possible resolutions for the future:

  • Biodanza and/or yoga
  • Meditation
  • More salads? And/or fruit
  • Stretching
  • Dancing
  • Wasting less time / getting the most out of my time / prioritising
  • Limiting Facebook
  • Developing a better social life
  • Losing weight slowly
  • Avoiding crisps, having healthier food on hand when I expect to be outside for long periods

 

Note relating to Facebook. I mentioned in a previous post that limiting my Facebook use caused me a massive improvement in my productivity. The problem was, I had kind of too much energy and didn’t really know what to do with it. After working myself rather too hard a few times, I (more or less consciously, though influenced of course by the pull of addiction) decided to drop the self-imposed limit for a while. Even so, I think I’ve still remained more productive than before. More importantly, though, I’m now learning how to tell when I want to/can work, and when I should rest, and how I should rest, and how I should work for that matter. The realm of non-coercive self motivation is a world unto itself it seems. I’m having to learn to pay attention to parts of me I’ve mostly ignored all my life. It’s quite a project.


 

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