I spent the end of last year thinking about the six principles in my good friend Luke Sniewki’s, Million Ways to Live: real food, movement, rest and relaxation, lifelong learning, community, and love. While on vacation, I took a separate day to think about each of these concepts.
While I am a very goal-oriented person I think of goals as desired outcomes that are a result of intentional behaviors. I select behaviors that will best position that goal as a successful outcome and commit to forming habits around those behaviors. Even the use of the word “commit” is deliberate. You “commit” to “the act of doing something.” You don’t commit to the actual outcome itself. I commit “to spending” more time with family. I cannot commit “to time.”
So the way I thought about these commitments were in terms of things that I need to continue, start, or stop. Commitments lead to behaviors. Behaviors lead to habits. Habits lead to being.
I’ve been focusing a lot on nutrition and eating healthy over the past couple of years so this was the easiest principle for me to review. In fact, most of the behaviors I selected were simply ones where I had grown lax and needed to begin again.
- Drinking 3-4L of water a day
- Avoiding unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks
- Sourcing groceries from local, certified-organic farms
- Eating more leafy, green vegetables
- Eating more fish and less red meat
- Reading food labels more carefully
- Eating excessively salty foods
- Eating foods with high fructose corn syrup
- Eating foods with trans-fats
I’m not going to be able to completely eliminate foods with processed sugars and trans-fats but I can at least make the commitment to avoid them when I can and be more mindful when I make the choice to indulge.
I lost my first 100 or so pounds without exercise (read that article here). As I move forward I want to exercise more but more importantly I want movement to be a part of my daily life.
When they did a study of blue zones, communities where the citizens live active lives well beyond the average life expectancy, one of the things every–EVERY–single one of them shared was that they DID NOT exercise. At least, not exercise as we’ve come to think of it in Western society (e.g. going to gym, hitting the elliptical, lifting weights, etc.).
What they did do was lead active lives full of movement. They walked or rode bicycles. They enjoyed gardening. They danced. They placed things in their home in such a way that they would need to be constantly moving. So most of my behaviors center on not remaining sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time.
- Walking more than 10,000 steps per day
- Having walking meetings whenever I can
- Taking the stairs if there are fewer than 5 floors
- Movement meditation (e.g. tai chi, yoga)
- Cardio and strength training at least 3 times a week
- Breaking up time sitting in front of the computer
- Watching TV for more than 60 minutes at a time
- Vegging on the weekend
My trusty FitBit tells me that Saturday is my least active day. Weird. I would have thought Sunday. Nonetheless, I need to be more mindful and resist the urge to just plop on the couch on the weekends, justifying it with the fact that I’ve had an insane week. As my boy, Cee-Lo, said during his Goodie Mob days: “You need to get up, get out, cut that bull***ish out.” Preach, Cee-Lo. Preach.
REST AND RELAXATION
This is the area where I am the worst-behaved and I suspect many of you might feel the same way. My recent vacation was the first I had taken in 3 years. Sure, I might have taken a day here and there but as far as a proper vacation…first in 3 years. Shame on me.
I find myself constantly managing multiple projects at once and moving between periods of high-intensity with very little downtime in between. Not only is that dangerously unsustainable but it keeps me from fully savoring each experience before chasing after the next.
So the substance of the behaviors I chose for myself involve creating specific mechanisms that force me to slow down. They are carefully planned moments of relaxation. Yes, the irony of “planned relaxation” is not lost upon me.
- Daily meditations
- Monitoring blood pressure weekly
- Unplugged Tuesdays
- Sleeping at least 6 hours a night
- Getting a massage every other week
- Taking a 3-day weekend every other month
- Letting my vacation time accrue
- Taking on a new, high-intensity project without a 2-4 week furlough
- TV / computer screen time after 11 p.m.
Okay, before you hit me with a #richpeopleprobs or a #ballerstruggs know that my brother L said it best: “Serge, you’re never going to not be tired.” Three-day weekends every other month might sound extravagant but are still only a week of my vacation time in total. If I don’t schedule time off ahead, I’ll procrastinate until I find myself 3 years later before finally taking a vacation. Mock me as they might about my predilection for spa services, my friends and fam know I do it because I basically have to pay someone to make me sit still. Okay, now you can hit me with the #hashtag.
If you’ve been reading my blog then you know I love learning new things and I am constantly challenging myself to try to learn them in the most efficient and effective way as possible. Lifelong learning was something I embraced long ago.
- 90-day Challenges
- Memory training
- Reading 2-3 books a week
- Mastering meta-learning techniques
- Learning 2 languages per year
- Setting up stakes for my learning experiments
- Trying to master more than one skill at a time
This principle is certainly the easiest for me to maintain as I’ve already formed habits for lifelong learning. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have areas to improve, as I certainly do. In fact, each new learning experience gives me a new set of tips and tricks to apply to the next learning endeavor.
With so much of my attention being on personal projects lately, I haven’t spent much time on community. I used to. At least every other weekend used to be spent volunteering or working in the community. I was active in many shared interest groups. It’s time to get back to connecting with people who share my passions.
- Posting–but more frequently–to my blog
- Growing my OneLifeCan Project
- Hosting regular meetups of my Memory Club
- Regular meetups for my To-Be-Named Group
- Working on my Geek Project
- A community for 4HB and Slow Carb
Considering I haven’t been active in this area lately, I coudn’t identify behaviors I needed to stop…except to stop being a slacker, get off my ass, and start sharing my passions with a community.
Sharing what I’ve learned and helping other people unlock their potential is something I’d like to put more attention to this year. The three projects I’d like to start aren’t fully articulated yet but will play to this purpose.
The topic I dreaded the most. I have many deeply loving relationships with friends and family. I’m not shy about showing and telling the people I care about how I feel about them. Each and every phone call with my sister and Dad ends with, “I love you.” But beyond that, I struggled with this one when it came to romantic love.
- Telling the people I care about that I love them, openly and often
- Working on self-acceptance through daily affirmations
- Writing daily in my gratitude journal
- Doing 2 random acts of kindness per week
- Spending more time connecting with my godchildren
- Socializing more on the weekends
- Pursuing relationships I know to be just fleeting dalliances
- Hiding behind my projects as an excuse to avoid seriously dating
Brutal truth time. On the topic of romantic love, I’ve been pondering Chbosky’s, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Giving it to you straight: I self-sabotage because I’m not sure that I am deserving of more right now. Rejection is an MF and the force is strong with the FFK.* Gotta’ work out some of my own personal stuff and in the meantime it would take a mighty exceptional woman to put up with my nonsense. I’ll get there, I just need time to own up to it.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Yeesh. That last one was a doozey. Almost clicked “delete” on this article ’cause of that one. But you know I’m always going to give it to you straight, no chase. There you are: real food, movement, rest and relaxation, lifelong learning, community, and love. Forget resolutions that have a lifespan of your New Year’s hangover, what commitments for lifelong behaviors did you make for yourself this year?
*Former Fat Kid (FFK), Former Fat Kid Complex (FFKC), and Former Fat Kid Syndrome (FFKS) are dubious copyrights and not-sure-if-its-worth-the-cost-to-trademark untrademarks of Sergio Gonzales.