One Year Later

It always surprises me how quickly a year goes by. Today, December 22, marks the one year anniversary of the day I came back from Korea. If you haven’t been around, I had an epic health meltdown that prompted my quick return, and this past year has been one of healing, discovery, and baby steps on the path to…well, something. The future, but that sounds cheesy.

Taking stock, I’ve done a hell of a lot this year.

You can see that in between the small things, life has taken a quick upswing in momentum. I got a job, a car, and a new home all within about four months, and those were four of my five big milestones for my life I wrote back at the beginning of this year.

One year later, everything is coming up roses. I’m still stressed out about money and life and the future and everything, but I’m learning to live with that fear. I’m learning to walk with it instead of constantly fighting it, and overall, I’m feeling eager, hopeful, and curious about life. If this past year has taught me anything, it’s that life can change in a day, and what you thought would be the trajectory of your life is but the next ten feet in the fog, and you really, really can’t see beyond that.

This next year, I have so, so many plans, and some of those will succeed and most of them will fail, but always, I will strive to fail better, and so life will go on.

Happy New Year, friends, and happy anniversary to me.

I Failed, and That’s a Good Thing

Fall Berries

Well, We All Fall Down

Remember my four-month check-in? I was doing so well. I had those nice preprinted habit trackers that I filled in faithfully each day, getting a jolt of pleasure every time I checked one off. It was addicting to be so fruitful, and I felt like I was making good progress. Towards what, I didn’t know. Recovery, in a sense, as by the time four months was up, I was well enough to start going out and thinking about getting a job.

A job. Well, I do have a job now, and I’m very, very grateful. It’s even full-time, which means I get health insurance; my biggest financial concern.

Here’s the thing though, once I started job hunting, my habits shut down. Now, I’m not one for excuses *cough cough*, but there are a few reasons.

An Irresponsibility of Excuses

Firstly, I stopped using the preprinted habit trackers. I made my own for May in a different format, which worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t easy to see the markers, and I wasn’t as into it as the others. It just didn’t give the same satisfaction. Then I got less interested in bullet journaling, as has happened before, and stopped tracking them at all, relying on what I hoped were well-enough ingrained habits to keep me going. Turns out they weren’t very ingrained.

Thirdly, in June I got a pretty bad case of vertigo. I think it was a headcold messing up the fluid in my inner ears, because it lasted for quite a while, and while it was bad, I stopped doing yoga and meditation, since closing my eyes made my head spin. It was hard to concentrate, and I started looking for a job around the same time, which took all the energy I could muster.

Then there was the job search itself. I applied online and in person for about six weeks before I heard anything, and it was about two months of looking overall. The stress was impressive, and while I didn’t have a full relapse, thank heavens, I let a lot of others things slide.

Failure Is A Great Teacher

I failed to keep up my habits. I failed to make them stick, to keep up my good streak. Add to that the compounded guilt of making new habits and restarting it all and everything else kind of slipped away too. This blog, for instance. I stopped logging in to Habitica. I stopped exercising and put on weight. All I could do was work, and think about work, and zone out after work from sheer exhaustion.

But you know what? It’s okay. It was even good. Because I needed to fail, and fail hard, to see what had worked and what would work again, and what wouldn’t.

It’s good because now it’s September again, a time of refreshing for me. I have always begun anew mentally in September when the weather begins to change, rains come, and Mabon nears (autumn equinox). As we celebrate the waning of the year,  I celebrate a revitalized interest and energy in improvement. In change.

Celebrate Renewal

  • I set up Habitica once again.
  • I collected rainwater to symbolize refresh.
  • I made a list of projects to work on, and plans for each one.
  • I forgave myself for messing up.
  • I developed a new mindset about work (mainly, that it has no right to stress me out).

These small things have meant that last Saturday, I awoke for the first time in a long time with hope for myself. I have felt a weight of unknown-ness, a pressure that my life wasn’t where I wanted it. I felt underemployed, and useless, packing books on interesting subjects for other people who must be doing so much more for themselves than I was.

I packed books on performance and storyboarding for people who must be getting amazing jobs making stories in Hollywood, books on physics for people who must love it, and be working in labs making a difference, books on business for all the amazing people who must be starting their own businesses, as I longed to.

And books on writing, the same books I’d read or wanted to read, for people who must be actually writing at home, instead of watching TV and dreaming their lives away…

But Saturday I awoke with hope, and forgave myself, and made a plan, and followed through.

And it’s all very, very good.


Four-Month Check-In: Habits

We’re a third of the way through the year (time flies?). When I think back to the day I flew home, it seems so long ago, and it also seems like no time at all.

I thought it would be fun to share how I did in my habits this year and to see how they’ve grown or changed.


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As you can see, I did well in the few habits I started out with. I’ve talked about what they were and why I chose small goals before so I won’t go over that again, but you can see it was a good month for me habit wise. This was really important because most days, just doing those few things was all I could manage. I added in Bible reading halfway through and that went well, but it took those two weeks for me to feel comfortable adding a fifth habit. #BuildALadder


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I started sleeping better and feeling more energetic, so I added in walking. My idea was to add it in and see how I had done at the end of the month. As you can see, it didn’t go so well. I actually think the biggest block was location; every other habit I could do in my office, but the treadmill is at the other end of the house, and most days I simply forgot.


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But in March I decided to become more intentional with walking and did pretty well. I also added in crafting, because I have a lot of projects that I want to finish, and unless I made time, they would lie there. I decided to keep the habit mini-sized because crafting is a relaxing hobby and I didn’t like the pressure of having to do it.


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And April. I added the “no spend” category, which I knew I couldn’t make a full run of, but it was nice to see how often I didn’t spend money. It was also kind of a wake-up call because there were so many days I did spend even a little bit of money. I made an expense tracker for the first time in my bullet journal (I always used an app before), and that made it easier to track. The month overall was a little spotty, because I had a lot more social engagements (yay) that took my focus away from doing my habits. That’s something I’m going to be working on in the next months; keeping my habits going even on really busy days when I don’t have much spare time. After all, that’s the point.

Habit tracking has been really good for me. I find it provides the accountability I need to keep doing things. If I just keep the desire formless in my head, I know I won’t follow through, but it appears that even the small act of making x’s on a page is enough to keep me faithful. I was curious about that because keeping up with habits has been a problem for me in the past, and I wondered how I could overcome it without getting a full blown accountability partner or another more hardcore method.

But it seems to be working! What has your journey with habits looked like? If you have trouble knowing what to do or how to keep it up, I suggest reading both Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise and The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin.



Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise: Book Review

It’s pretty much only coincidence that two of my three book reviews so far are by the same author. Only pretty much, because books that really stick with me (enough to get a review) are rare, and Stephen Guise has written two that have really stuck with me. They are both short. That helps. They are both immensely practical. That helps too. They both took my world and turned it very gently on its head, rummaged in its pockets, and took out all the useless bits to show me why I was wrong. That helps the most.

My first book review for Guise was for the second and most recent work of his I’d read, How to Be an Imperfectionist. Being the second book, it builds upon the previous book, Mini-Habits, about which I will now shut up introducing and get on with reviewing.

The Idea

The idea is very, very simple. Easy enough for anyone, literally, anyone, to understand. A mini-habit is a habit of doing something every day that is very small. For instance, 1 pushup a day. Read 2 pages of a book a day. Things like that.

Guise introduces the idea and then goes on to say why it works. He talks about motivation vs willpower, how waiting until you feel like doing something is the TOTAL WRONG WAY TO DO ANYTHING, and how by using such a small goal, you will hit your target every day, and most of the time, you will overachieve it. You’re on the floor having done 1 pushup, might as well do more, right? And then you’ve done 10. The key though is not to have secret goals, like, I will do 1 pushup a day, but it must actually turn into 50, and then you have the same block against doing the 1 since it isn’t actually 1, it’s 50.

It’s fascinating to read about motivation as well. He cites several studies over the years on the way motivation works in the brain, and let me tell you, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Motivation fails too often to make it a good instigator of anything. Cue willpower.

Like I talked about in my review of his next book, the key is to create a positive cycle or streak of successes. Can everyone read 2 pages a day? If you’re reading this blog post, then yes, you can. It’s a stupidly simple goal. So you do that. And rather than focusing on how you want to turn that into reading 2 books a day, you focus on how you’re creating a habit of reading anything at all, every day. Every day is the key. You do something every day and it becomes a habit. You don’t have to think about it. And then you can start hitting bigger goals much more easily since you’ve got that foot in the door.

(Also, apparently, 21 days to implement something as a habit is a myth. It can range from 14 to over a hundred days, if I recall correctly, depending on the habit and the person.)

My Thoughts

When I first read the book a couple of years ago, and first had my world gently mugged, I did my mini-habits very carefully. I don’t remember what they were. I think they were fitness related, so I think I did his one push up a day for a while. But I was just beginning to work overseas, and I secretly wanted more, and what with all that and not being very aware of ownership of my own head at that point, I stopped mini-habits for quite some time.

Until this year, actually. When I came home to get better, had several breakdowns and epiphanies to boot, I found and read How to Be an Imperfectionist (HTBAI), which reminded me of Mini-Habits.

I immediately picked it up again, especially after reading in HTBAI how anxiety is often a result of perfectionism, and how mini-habits punches that in the face daily. Small victories which create a perpetual positive cycle, in a too-brief summation.

My mini-habits are currently; write 50 words, read 1 chapter in the Bible, read 2 pages of a book, exercise for 5 min, and meditate for 10 min. Technically, the meditation should be much shorter, but I’ve had a streak on for over a hundred days and it IS a habit now. I guess I should take it off the list and add it to the list that includes brushing my teeth every day. It’s now just something I do. That’s the goal with all of these.

In Practice

Let’s say you want to write more, which is my major goal for this year. During NaNo, the daily goal must be at least 1667 words or you won’t hit 50k by the end. I’ve done it three years in a row, so I know I can do it. Therefore I thought I must do it every day. I gave myself a little more leeway and went for 1000/day, but after the intensity of November, and the inevitable weeklong writing break I gave myself (which turned into two weeks, then three…) I realized it wasn’t working. 1000 was just too much.

I decided to use his goal of 50 words/day. Because I’m just starting out, I’m counting journaling, blogging, and fiction writing.

So far, I have done it with no problem for about a month, since I arbitrarily decided to start on January 1st (not super arbitrary, and that did happen to be the starting day for the cool habit tracker I printed out, so…).

My first real snag came yesterday. I spent all day out of my house. Sure, I had my small notebook, but I was also feeling crappy and didn’t bother writing in it. I got home around eleven, way past my comfortable bedtime (hello, youngsters), and was so knackered I nearly, nearly gave it up. But I didn’t want to have that blank space in my tracker (I need external accountability to get me to do things, and streaks of check marks help a lot*), so I pulled out my iPad and journaled. I could have spent just about two minutes doing it and written 50 words, but I stayed there for 10 minutes recapping my day, and hey presto, I did my habit. I x-ed off my day. I kept up the streak, and my habit tracker is fat and full and happy.

That’s why it works. No matter what kind of hellish day you’ve had, at the end of it, you can grab your iPad or phone and write 50 words. You can flip over on your bed and do a pushup, you can pull that book over and read 2 pages. That’s the key and the beauty of a mini-habit.

I encourage anyone who’s ever struggled with resolutions or goal-setting or good habit forming to read it and try it out.

Let me know how it goes!



*See Gretchen Rubin‘s book The Four Tendencies to learn what kind of habit maker you are. It’s a great tie-in to making mini-habits and a fun read too.