“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.” ― Bob Goff
This week I’ve really tried to take time to understand what I enjoy about the process of blogging - because I really do enjoy it. Is it narcissistic? Do I feel I have something extra super special to share with the world? Um, in a word: no. I’ve always loved research, and I’ve always loved writing - and I’m finding that the more I do it the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.
Writing (even the kind riddled with grammar errors like mine) has so many benefits. It helps us to think more deeply, sharpen our analytical skills, reflect more thoughtfully, live more intentionally, build healthier habits, refine our writing skills, and build confidence when we believe we have something to offer.
Writing is also just a great way to get thoughts out of your head. Journaling and morning pages can be super therapeutic. For me, I like the repetition and discipline it helps to build. I like to share it because I like sharing, and I like the accountability. Too often we want things to be perfect before we share them - but if I waited for perfect I’d never share anything.
So here are five less than perfect things I am interested in and wrote about this week
Friday the 13th
Today is the first of two Friday the 13th’s of 2017. Did you know there is a word for people who have a fear of Friday the 13th? A twenty-three letter word no less: “paraskevidekatriaphobia” - yeah really, my cat didn’t just walk across the keyboard.
FDR had a fear of the number - he wouldn’t have 13 guests at a dinner party or travel on Friday the 13th. His bud Winston Churchill also allegedly wouldn’t sit in row 13 in a theater or plane.
There is evidence of a Western superstition about the number 13 (“triskaidekaphobia” if you were wondering) and Friday the 13th since the middle ages, but the actual origin isn’t known. Some people think it goes back to the last supper where Judas - who betrayed Jesus - was the 13th guest.
As a math teacher - and someone who is just really into numbers -I think the reason has more to do with the number itself. It’s unique. There are 12 months in a year, hours on a clock etc etc.. and feels complete - so 13 right after feels off.
But back to today - I read that Friday the 13th is the most feared day/date in history. Airline prices actually fall due to the perceived unluckiness (but your chance of a crash is actually statistically lower), weddings cost less on this day, many buildings leave off the 13th floor, and - most importantly - Tupac died (allegedly) on a Friday the 13th haha, but seriously, what do you think - is today somehow unlucky?
Myers-Briggs (or why I have no follow through)
I’ve always been really interested in learning more about myself and I love personality tests - especially the Myers Briggs. I took the test officially for the first time as a 22 year old and got ENTP (and have every time I have taken it after). When I read the information about ENTP’s I was shocked at how well it encompassed my personality.
ENTP’s are known as the “Inventor” or the “Debater” - they are rational, see complex interrelationships, they hate rules, regulations, routine, and structure, while they value independence, competence, and intelligence. They are “idea people” who are great at brainstorming and thinking big - but have a problem with follow through.
Like... a big problem. When I read that part of the report I was ashamed at how well it described me. I have tons of big ideas but I get bored easily. I need new things, new people, places etc. to feel fulfilled. And while this isn’t all bad - I need help with my follow through.
This is a big reason why I’m restricting myself from things each month this year. Most people would say that restriction is unhealthy and will lead to more of the thing you aren’t allowing yourself later - you want what you can’t have. But, because I know myself, I know that it is important for me to make myself follow through with things that are difficult. I know that I allow myself to move on to the next big idea too often - and intentionally placing restrictions on myself is helping to build the willpower that I need to follow through with other things in my life.
Eating the Elephant
I’m sure you have heard the phrase “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It’s meant to help us in times of overwhelm - to break down something big into smaller pieces. When you break down goals into smaller pieces they become manageable and process oriented. For someone with shaky follow through, this is key - I can see the progress and stay engaged in a project when the process is part of the goal.
Eating the elephant is a good process to think about when trying to build willpower. Willpower is the control we exert to contain our impulsivity and control our behavior. We know from research that self control and willpower lead to more positive outcomes and that people who are able to delay gratification are more successful. But often we give in to our desires because we just can’t see how the elephant is going to fit into our crock pot for dinner - we don’t realize that it doesn’t have to.
I am not drinking for the month of January just to practice building willpower. I was talking to some friends about it and many said they, “didn’t want to put those restrictions on themselves” or they, “couldn’t commit to a time frame” but that’s just it - that’s the important part! The time frame is what builds the willpower. And that is how I’m eating the elephant - one day at a time.
Like decision fatigue, willpower can be depleted by stress. That’s why it’s important to think in terms of process. If you have a big goal and try to achieve it the next day, you’re going to be more stressed - and will likely give up sooner. If you instead go back and forth between your comfort and stretch zones, with incremental progress on a goal, you will start to see the progress and be motivated to continue. After eating the elephant regularly it will become your favorite food - and the process will become a habit. You will have built your willpower. And just like a muscle, willpower gets stronger with use.
Eating the Frog (or why you should do hard things)
Now let’s talk about eating another wild animal - the frog. Eating the frog is another famous idiom that derived from the Mark Twain quote that if you “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning... nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Basically - do the hardest thing first, then the rest of your day will be easier. I - admittedly - am not great at this. I put things off for days and then - when I finally do them - I feel the relief and wonder why I didn’t just eat the dang frog in the first place.
It’s similar to climbing a mountain. When you climb a 14er you should start super early - for lots of reasons - but for me, it feels good to have achieved something so big at the outset of my day. I could go home after and just watch Gilmore Girls all afternoon but hey, who cares, because I ALREADY CLIMBED A FREAKING MOUNTAIN. I always get up and go on weekends for this reason. But here lies the rub: those are all things I want to do. I can do the hard things I want to do - but what about the ones I don’t?
It all comes down to prioritizing. Everyone is busy. Everyone has a to do list a mile long (the people I like at least). The difference between the people who are productive and those who aren't is in the priorities they place on those to do’s.
Think of prioritizing like a two-way frequency table (because math is everywhere). Everything on your list can be put into one of the four boxes. There are:
- the things you want to do and need to do
- the things you want to do and don’t need to do
- the things you don’t want to do but need to do
- the things you don’t want to do and don’t need to do
The frog is going to be in the “don’t want to do but need to do” category - and that should be what’s first on your agenda each day.
Here is a thing I made for the visual learners among us (which you will remember is us all)
After eating the frog: do the things you want and need to do, then the things you want to do but don’t need to, then maybe just cross off the fourth category altogether - busy-ness for busy-ness sake isn’t helping anyone. If you don’t want or need to do something - cut it out of your life.
One of my favorite authors and speakers (and kindred spirit) Bob Goff quits something every Thursday - big or small - to make room for new things in his life. We should think about prioritizing in the same way - we will never create the margin in our lives that we need, or the room to grow, (or to write about five random things every week) if we continue to do the things that we don’t need or want to do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about eating this week - metaphorically and literally. Along with no drinking, I’ve made a fuzzier goal of clean eating for January. Basically I’m just trying not to eat at any restaurants or any super processed foods.
I read an interesting article this week in the Washington Post about clean eating and it's many different meanings. It’s not really a real thing so people have made it into whatever they want. I agree with the authors point of view that it’s just being mindful with what you are eating. I want to be able to understand the ingredients going in to my food, and keep track of how it makes me feel.
I know that eating a Little Caesars Hot and Ready pizza will make me feel terrible - so I’m choosing not to eat it. I know that sometimes a chocolate brownie makes me feel great - so sometimes I am choosing to eat it. It’s nothing revolutionary - just a more mindful approach. It’s so easy to get into the habit of stopping after work for random takeout - but it’s just as easy to get back into the habit of cooking (or at least just heating up) your own food.
It’s also much more realistic than any unsustainable fad diet.
Happy Friday :)