As a long-term goal setter I have learnt many lessons from working towards a goal and some of the biggest lessons have been from when I have failed to meet a goal.
I go into each of my goal setting exercises with the full intention of giving 100% and wanting to achieve it, but I am also 100% realistic as well now. In the past if I was failing on a goal, I would double down and work extra hard to achieve it and concurrently get down on myself because I felt like I was failing.
This year, I have struggled with two habits I want to establish so I can achieve my goal of creating space in my life for creativity and calm. They are:
- 33 consecutive complaint free days
- 3 hours a week for creativity
Yes I was failing at achieving these goals, but the problem wasn’t from lack of effort as much of lack of mental headspace. Trying to make too many changes to your routines or habits at one time is never a good idea and I know that.
Mid April I decided that to cement one of these habits, it was going to need my whole attention. Not complaining was the most important to me, so I put the creativity habit on the back burner.
Deciding to wait to focus on creativity until I had reached and consolidated my 33 consecutive days of non-complaining gave me an instant feeling of relief. Interestingly as well, since taking the pressure off, I have achieved more creativity than when I was focusing on it!
Lessons from taking 137 days to achieve 33 consecutive complaint free days
I have finally streaked past my target of 33 consecutive complaint free days on Monday 16th May. 16th May is the 137th day of 2016. Even though it took me an incredibly long time to achieve, I am very proud of this result. With the benefit of hindsight I can now see the key reason why it took me so long:
I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do instead of complaining!
For the first couple of months, I was just trying to stop the complaints from coming out of my mouth. The complaints were still going on in my head and I was using mainly will power to not let them blurt out.
Will power is a limited resource; you only have so much before you need to recharge your stores. If I was tired, it had been a testing day or I had made lots of significant business related decisions one day, my will power stores were too low to help me hold it in and I would spew forth my complaints.
I would be incredibly disappointed with myself as soon as I did it. Complaining doesn’t sound nice even if you are the one complaining. It sets the wrong tone for the family and it doesn’t get the results I want anyway.
Once I worked this out, I then started thinking about what else could I do instead of complaining. The best way to change a habit revolves around determining a different behaviour once the cue or trigger arises. (You can read more about that in this post – How to change a habit.)
My kids were still going to frustrate me; that was not going to change! I needed to change my complaining routine in response to that to something else.
As my meditation habit was now firmly in place, I used it as a tool to help me create a new routine. When I am cued or triggered to complain by something the kids have or have not done, I try to spend 10 seconds focusing on my breath. In this time I consider:
- Is this a big issue?
- Do I need to make a comment?
- If I need to comment, how can I do it to get the best result (as measured by calm!)?
Quite often I don’t even comment now. It is not about letting the kids “get away” with stuff. It is about working out what is important and finding the right time and the right way to give the feedback.
The beauty of creating habits is that they have their own feedback loop that makes you want to stick to it. If I don’t complain, the house is definitely calmer – that is a win for me.
There are certainly still times when I may not have complained, but I have approached a situation in the wrong way. The result is definitely not calm and it reminds me to think more before I respond.
To create a habit that is important to you it requires planning and perseverance. I didn’t plan how I was going to deal with my emotions when I couldn’t complain for the first three months of the year and the result was I failed to establish the habit. However by setting up a new routine and persevering, I established a complaint free habit.
I have unfortunately complained since achieving my 33 consecutive days, which made me very sad. I was heartened though by my instant response. I watched what happened as soon as the complaint left my mouth and the negative energy it spread amongst the kids and it instantly reminded me why this habit is so important to me.
I am not perfect and there will be moments when I might fall off the wagon. But I am persevering with the complaint free habit as it has such a huge impact on the calmness of family life, it is worth the effort.
|Habit||Connection to goal||Monthly progress|
|37 pieces of clothing per season||Decision fatigue is a real thing - less clothes to choose from will free up mental energy! I am going to simplify my wardrobe to make choosing what to wear easier and having less items in my wardrobe will give me back needed physical space.||Have found this a little harder now it is colder. My wardrobe needs an update so am going to have to work on a one item in, one item out system as I do this.|
|33 consecutive complaint free days||Complaining spreads negativity and I have so much to be grateful for. It is hard to be calm or creative when your mind is full of negativity. I have half heartedly worked on complaining less before, but to become a habit I need to track and measure it.||Achieved on May 16!|
|33 consecutive days of meditation||I have dabbled a little with meditation and it makes a huge difference to the noise in my head. It makes me feel calmer, but I am yet to do this regularly. Doing so will help create an inner calm in my life regardless of the chaos around me.||I would meditate 95% of days, many days twice a day with one in the morning and one to help me off to sleep. Absolutely love it and could not recommend it high enough.|
|33 items decluttered from the house each week||On the surface our house looks relatively clutter free, but there are over flowing cupboards and drawers. Decluttering will give me a greater feeling of space and calm.||Had some big clear outs over May and have my sights on the pantry for June.|
|3 hours a week for creativity||Time for creativity never made it to the top of my to do list as I didn't give it the value it deserved. If you want something to happen you have to schedule it.||Had given this a break for May and will do so for June as well. Trying to start too many habits at once is not a good idea.|