May Challenges Recap & the Next Challenge!
June 2, 2010
“One can have no greater or smaller mastery than mastery of oneself.”
The wise, kick-ass Leonardo Da Vinci
The month of May was about breaking old habits and forming new ones. Specifically, around my eating and drinking habits. I’ve started breaking old drinking patterns (coffee and alcohol) and eating patterns (sugar, processed food, dairy, red meat) and am now in the process of choosing how I want to approach these things. I like the idea of threes – three caffeinated drinks per week, three alcoholic drinks per week, three cheat meals/snacks per week. There’s a 90-10 concept that makes sense to me. 90% of the time I eat what’s healthy for me, and 10% I eat whatever I feel like eating. None of these challenges were about giving things up forever (though on certain things, I might some day…) but merely taking charge of my life and my decisions.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I’m also proud of blogging almost every day last month! I think I missed about five days of the thirty. And I think I ate more fruits and vegetables and a month than I did during the entire four years of high school. I had enough energy to stay out dancing til 4am only drinking water, and then get up at 7am the following day to do productive stuff like yoga or write. And I’ve cut down on a lot on Facebook and email – I even did an entire (week)day without either. I should try that with my cellphone sometime. Shut it off for a day. Or a weekend. In two weeks I’m going on another retreat at the Buddhist Monastery down near Escondido, so I’ll be unplugged that weekend.
During the month of May I’ve noticed that when I start drinking again after taking time off, it’s always disappointing. I had a margarita on Memorial Day at the Standard Downtown. Not only did it not do anything to me (get me buzzed, make me happier or have more fun), but it made my stomach cramp up. I did get a buzz later from a few redbull & vodkas, but really, drinking again wasn’t as fun as I’d expected it to be.
And yesterday I went out with some girlfriends for a birthday dinner. I figured I’d get a nice (expensive) glass of wine. It wasn’t that great. Looking back on it I should’ve returned that glass (a Pinot) and tried another – I don’t know if it was the wine that was blah, or just that my palette’s not used to wine anymore. I remember after going without drinking during the month of February, the first beer and glass of wine I had both tasted disappointingly gross.
Not only was drinking again rather disappointing, I’m not sure I want to give up on the physical effects of all of this healthy eating and drinking. I’ve been getting compliments left and right, and have had the words “vibrant” and “radiant” applied liberally. And from the pictures I’ve been taking lately, I’d have to agree.
Also, my psoriasis seems to be looking a little better. I’m not sure if the healthy diet/no drinking finally had an effect, or if it was the hot-as-hell mineral hot springs I soaked in on Sunday, or the hours I spent dancing and swimming in the sunshine, or the fish oil capsules I’ve been taking…that’s one problem with experimenting with your life, there are so many variables (and no controls) so it’s hard to keep track of specific cause/effects.
I also feel much more tired the day after drinking – both alcohol AND caffeine. These past two days at work have been the toughest I’ve had in awhile as far as keeping my eyes open and longing for a nap. Even the coffee I had yesterday didn’t seem to help me feel any more awake, now that I think about it…
Oh, I forgot another disappoinment – at work yesterday they were handing out giant oatmeal cookies. I haven’t had a cookie in a whole month. If you know me well enough, you know this is huge for me. I love cookies. In the past I’d rarely go for more than 3 days without having a cookie. I am not exaggerating. Anyways, I got this big lovely oatmeal cookie and…it was disappointing. But I ate it anyways. Which, like the wine, is the entirely wrong decision. IF I’m going to do something that’s not good for me, it better be good. REALLY good. If it doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of drinking the glass of mediocre wine or eating the mediocre cookie (or … doing anything else that’s mediocre – use your imagination ), I’d rather walk away from it and hold out for something excellent. Ok that’s gonna be my new motto.
Of course, to do this, you have to be aware of the mediocrity in the moment, despite the compulsion to continue doing or eating or drinking whatever it is out of habit or boredom or social pressure.
I think some people are better than this at others. Take movies, for example. I’ve never walked out of a movie. Some people make the decision that the movie’s not living up to their standards, and they’d rather do something better with an hour and a half of their lives than waste it on a mediocre movie. It takes an active decision. I want to live from that authentic, connected place. Do people in our generation even walk out on movies anymore? Or have we been conditioned to accept more and more crap in our lives and just sit there?
Sadly, this morning, I heard that while it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, it actually takes 6-7 months to completely break an old habit. So, as I’m already noticing, it’s gonna take more than a one-month challenge to change some of this stuff.
Anyways, for the month of June, I’m doing the Consumer Fast again! I did it back in January and it was awesome. It really makes you aware of how you spend your money, how much of it is on things that aren’t important, and where you can cut back. I feel like I’m doing really well in most sectors of my life (work, friendships, creative pursuits, health, etc), EXCEPT for finances. I’ve still got some mindless spending habits I need to work on. AND I’m saving money for Burning Man in August and a trip to Australia in November(ish). Thus, Consumer Fast!
Another reason to do the consumer fast and save money for travel instead of buying stuff: experiences are scientifically proven to make you happier than buying and owning things.
Here’s an article on the research paper:
When buying consumer goods, people will almost always have at least some doubts afterwards – by selecting one thing, you miss out on something else. It relates to the Paradox of Choice – more choices actually make us LESS happy. Check out this TED talk for more: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html
Another thing that the study found was that while our satisfaction with experiences we’ve had go up over time, satisfaction with material goods goes down. All good things to keep in mind for me when I’m faced with a choice between spending money on something or saving it for one of my trips!