01 January 2018

The Decisive Dozen - 12 Habits to Conquer the New Year

The year 2017 is closed out, done, over, ended. 2018 welcomed me warmly with my beautiful 4 y/o daughter choosing to express herself through a full gamut of emotions. Flailing arms, tears, and a cacophony of disagreement captured in piercing screams and rebelling no’s, all at four hours past midnight. At least I was up early, and not confronted with a hangover reminder of last night’s escapades – no offense, or judgment for that matter.

In typical New Year fashion, along with the rest of the goal-setting Resolution Army, it is standard practice for me to outline some objectives. Usually, I look back and reflect upon the highs and lows of the previous year while capturing lessons learned. Then I do my best to not repeat my past year failings. But I’m not going to do that. I mean, I’m going to try and not repeat mistakes I’m just not making a lessons learned list. I have instead purposed a list outlining key mindsets and habits to focus my attention on as we embrace the coming months.

I am sharing them here to encourage, help, guide and lead anyone else who is also seeking to continuously learn, grow, and improve. The list stems from the concept of “sowing and reaping” and my adopted outlook on how to be effective in life.

Note: Here is a bit of Wisdom to help you start your new year. To be effective in life, first and foremost determine a focus. Identify and prioritize the most important things and work towards them. After establishing a focus, develop rhythm by instituting the keystone activities that allow you to function best. Lastly, maintain balance. Find and practice healthy ways to remain at rest and peace. 

The Decisive Dozen (in no particular order):

1. Maintain a pocket notebook. Planning, scheduling, capturing ideas, jotting reflective thoughts, building lists, recording training, logging important information, whatever your needs, having a method for immediately storing pertinent information is paramount. I have been a proponent of using the “notes app” on my Smartphone. However, I noticed that I have a habit of deleting notes prematurely, and often after writing a note I will get wrapped up messing around on my phone with no purpose, a total waste of time.

2. Sleep has to be a priority. Everyone is finally starting to realize just how important sleep is for recovery, performance, mental health and wellbeing, stress mitigation, and optimal function. Yet, it’s still ridiculously hard to prioritize sleep, especially with multiple children, work commutes, career responsibilities, fluctuating schedules, evening extra-curricular activities, etc. Try to counter some of these life obstacles to healthy sleep with these three habits: set realistic but non-negotiable wake and bet times, DO NOT PERMIT screen use two hours before bed, and get-up as soon as you wake up!  

3. Read real books. Moving forward an overarching theme for me is going to revolve around grossly reducing reliance on technology. One way I have found success in decreasing my exposure to screens is by returning to a healthy habit of reading for pleasure, finding manuals or guides to improve or build upon skill sets, and reading books to my children every night. There is something grounding in setting aside time to read, focus, and actually finish something you start. 

4. Drink tea. Hanging out in coffee shops is pretty hip – I get it. Like posting up at your local watering hole, the environment dictates that you also imbibe the local brew. Coffee, espresso, caffe latte, breve, crème, con panna, cappuccino, Americano, macchiato, café au lait – what in the world! Besides requiring the majority of small bills in your pocket fold, anything that complicated should be reassessed. Tea on the other hand is steeped (get-it) in long standing tradition. There is something to be said for the patience required to allow the tea to set before you can sip. Its cheaper, travels well, can be medicinal, is user-friendly, and accessible, need I say more. 

5. Foster a spirit of gentleness, mindfulness, and patience. Expectation often determines our attitude, perspective, and reaction to the majority of life circumstance. Most of the time unmet expectation unfolds in the opposite responses of impatience, aggressiveness, and disconnection. There will always be situations that test our patience, distractions that fight to destroy our focus, and people that challenge our ability to respond out of love. This is a fact. Nevertheless, we get to choose, every single time, how we respond. By making a habit of practicing gentleness, mindfulness, and patience in all areas of our life we are more inclined to revert to these attributes when it counts.  

6. Sustain recognition. Recognition is an incredibly powerful tool. Recognition is the forerunner to awareness. I invite you to recognize:
  • The importance of “the process”
  • The end goal or objective of what you are trying to achieve
  • People as people
  • Other peoples’ trials
  • What you “can do” over what you should or have to do
7. Sow seeds. Start now. Invest – time, money, energy, sacrifice, hard work, all of it. Build community. Be there for friends when they need you. Lend a hand when you see someone struggling. Be kind continuously, deserved or not. Listen. Save. Encourage others. Pay a compliment. Buy someone a coffee or tea (see above). Be selfless. Read books. Try something new. Do something you’ve been afraid to do. Be courageous. You reap what you sow – this is a truth. Sow accordingly.

8. Build healthy relationship. Life is not about accomplishment rather it revolves around relationship. The things we do merely serve as a platform to allow us to connect with others. So plug into the communities you have around you. Share yourself, be open, and be receptive. Encourage others by sharing the good in you. Have friends over for dinner. Tackle projects, adventures, or traditions together. Laugh together. Cry together. Pray for each other. Be present.  

9. Practice gratitude. An attitude of gratitude overcomes adversity. Take your thoughts captive and center them on thanksgiving. Your fears, worries, and anxieties will have no place in you.  

10. Limit technology. I enjoy the convenience of rapid access information. But content without context, addiction to social media pseudo-affirmation, and information overload that induces paralysis by analysis is absolutely unhealthy. Technology is a tool and should be respected as such and treated within the confines of user safety, with set parameters. When the creators of tech and apps are limiting their personal use and sending their kids to high-end schools that ban and restrict children’s use of tablets, Smartphones, and classroom screen time, that speaks volumes to the level damage these devices are wreaking upon our little ones’ development. Think about it.

11. Be outside more. For two years now I have found nothing but peace and a renewed presence when, immediately upon waking, taking a walk outside. No matter the weather, hot or cold, pitch black, precipitating or what have you, each elemental factor serves to ground me in the moment. Furthermore, I have had the privilege of initiating a quarterly outdoor adventure with the guys I work with, camping, backpacking, endurance hikes, etc. Being in nature refreshes the spirit, provides rest from the world, and tests resilience.  However, if you’re not up for tackling the wild, simply spend sometime outside on walk, throwing or kicking a ball around, soaking up some sun or a fresh bite of brisk winter air, or take your workout outdoors.    

12. Protect your downtime. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but if I’m being honest I have an underlying desire to be awesome at everything! This is difficult because at 5’8” I’ll never be awesome at reaching things on high shelves or being a man since my buddy claims you have to be 6 foot and over 200lbs to be a man. Nevertheless, I find that it is not easy to run in a hundred different directions like I tell myself I need to, in order to keep up with my own and self-perceived expectations of others. This grossly drains any semblance of free time or rather downtime to just “be” and “rest.” Fortunately, I have begun to mature over the years. I recognize the value in letting go of this ridiculous drive, and instead allow time to recoup, refresh, reflect, decompress, and grow by “being”, instead of “doing.” No one will give this time to you, as everyone else is running the same race. You need to proactively take the time and protect it – it’s worth it.  

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