I’m one of those people that gets a kick out of the stars aligning in my life for any caliber of reason. Whether it’s meeting someone through a grapevine of various people and events or reconnecting to something or someone unexpectedly. For example, I hardly ever utilize Facebook anymore. I have nothing against it. It’s part of my job to actively utilize Facebook… for other people. This, at times, requires that I flex my own digitally social muscles to spread a message, but all in all, it is my job and therefore I don’t want to get to into it after hours. I digress. So I’m clicking around for a brief moment and come across one of those “comment and I’ll give you a number” type posts. I couldn’t NOT comment. My friend who had made this post was commenting on a given age (for him, 30) which reflected on a time of my life that I spent many weekends eavesdropping on discussions of art and philosophy on his front porch while prematurely claiming to be a writer of sorts. His memories brought back a flood of my own. So, in turn, he gave me an age: 21 (coincidentally the age in which I stopped hanging around that front porch of his), which then led me to dig into my own memory vault to reflect on a very transformative year of my life.
My post was brief. Like my friend, I included a few key photos of what was going on during that time of my life which, to some surprise, spawned a pretty good response from everyone that was a part of my life back then – the band that a managed which included an ex boyfriend of mine (back in those romanticized young summer days of believing the first working relationship was going to be “the one” for life!). We reminisced and it was comical. Yet at the exact moment that I received a message in this thread answering the question of where our old drummer had ended up in life, I walked into the office behind a new colleague of mine. The message I received said that our old drummer, Pablo, was now the drummer for a band called Chelsea Grin. My new colleague that I had just trailed into the office, was an original member of this same band. I literally laughed out loud (LOLed, if you will) and had to mention it to him. But the stars continued to align later that night when, mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, I noticed a picture posted from long time drummer friend of mine, Ryan Seaman. I quickly backed up, did a double-take of the photo and read the caption only to find that one of the other drummers pictured was Pablo himself! Small world. Ryan and Pablo play very, very different music so to be in the same photo seemed highly unlikely and yet voila, reconnected.
To be honest, that story doesn’t have much to do with anything other than to say that I also hardly ever speak to my brother on the phone anymore, but we had a fairly long conversation recently about “Tiny Habits” – something he has been actively implementing into his personal and professional life as of late. He sent me some links and gave me some habitual input that I hadn’t yet had a chance to truly dive into when, this morning, I was considering giving it all a look over right at the moment that another colleague (these guys are so in my head!!!) jumped up for a bit of Friday motivation on the subject of… Tiny Habits.
More importantly… this.
While I’ve never really thought about habits vs. goals before, after this morning I realized where I do great in this aspect of my life and where I tend to fall a little short.
As we pow wowed over personal experiences and brain stormed how to implement tiny habits into our professional lives to help grow a business, I couldn’t help but think about some of the things I’ve accomplished precisely in this way. Most obviously (to me anyway), writing a book.
Perhaps it is on my mind because the NaNoWriMo organization is having their first NaNo Camp right now, encouraging writers to write out a second draft or a whole new book entirely. Either way, when I set out to write an entire 200+ page first draft (50,000+ words) in only four weeks this last November, I spent the first four days practically in tears about it (ok REALLY in tears about it). The task was daunting. When I looked at the big number “50,000” all I could see was the impossibilities. The truth is, I didn’t know HOW to write a 50,000 word book. I didn’t know how to write any type of book about anything at all despite all my ideas for some many years on what that first book would be about.
I had attempted writing a book several times in my life and equal parts discouragement from others and discouragement from myself, I never made it past Chapter 1. I just kept editing myself over and over and over and over and over. By day 5 of 0 words contributed to my novel, I had perfected the self-hating “pep talk” which mostly comprised of, “Why can’t you do this? You used to write 20,000 words a week just for homework in your Masters Degree so why can’t you write about this?” My excuse was that writing for a degree was easy. You knew what your audience wanted to hear (for the most part) and all the content for your paper could be taken from a dozen different sources. The content didn’t rely on just me or what I would have to say (without rambling believe it or not) throughout an entire novel. It was on the morning of Day 6, sitting all alone on the couch that I realized: I know how to write a sentence. In fact, I know how to write a compelling paragraph… or a page… and even a story! With great relief, it dawned on me that all a book consists of is a well organized series of stories. Each chapter is like a vignette into an overall plot. I thought, “I can do that!” And in just 16 days, I did. I had time to spare and I had accomplished precisely what I set out to do!
But, tiny steps are not always so obvious. Goals are not always obvious. I have the goal to be a kinder person and to do my best at accomplishing a happy feeling with myself and my own life. Sometimes being happy or being nice seems as unknowing as how to write a novel. I have learned over the years to break down the big goals to a fundamental foundation. What do I really need to do? What can I do NOW?
Tiny habits that I didn’t know I had: Writing down five things I am grateful for every. single. day.
Why? Kindness and happiness.
How I’ve perfected that habit over the years? I’ve realized that I can easily be grateful for everything around me – from a big, beautiful sky to a patient and loving relationship, but I NEVER have any gratitude towards myself. That realization made me feel like that was a big part missing in the roller coaster hunt for happy that we call life. So now, I write three general gratitude statements, one statement about my relationship, and one statement about the kind of person I am or something that I was able to accomplish. It is that final sentence, every day, that makes this tiny habit seem impossible, yet it is exactly what I need to take this tiny habit to the next level.
Still, this tiny habit didn’t stop there. Another tiny habit I started on February 1 of this year (a month late, whatevs) was to write a daily journal. I can’t tell you how many times since my first journal entry at 8 years old that I have tried to keep a daily journal. The truth is, not every day is that interesting and a lot of those days can turn into negative complaining with a sort of “key-hole” point of view about whatever may be happening at that point in my life. So, I turned to my marketing expertise and was inspired by Twitter’s initial purpose of “micro-blogging.”
Tiny habit: Write 1-3 sentences positively focusing on one key element of the day and update daily.
Why? So I never become that person that never took the time to tell the story of how happy I am and only took the time to write complaints in a blog or a journal. It is for my own reflection to see how far I have come and drive myself in the direction I want to go. And, let’s face it, how awesome will it be for my grandchildren to uncover a massive 50 year story that unleashes a side of their grandmother they never even thought possible. (“And for some reason she has blue hair…” 😉
While I may be a person that believes “everything happens for a reason,” I am not the person to become overly fantasized with what it all means (unless you ask my 21 year old self). But I believe there’s a sense of gratitude in recognizing what I now like to call micro-destinies. As humans, we realize destiny in reverse. We attribute a great meaning to our own lives and the lives of people around us because of some link from our past whether it be just a moment ago or “once upon a time…” My daily journal is a way of realizing my micro-destinies as they happen and expanding on my gratitude journal. I start my day grateful and end my day in positive summary. Any day I choose to skip this tiny habit, my attitude and capability is very much altered.
Today, I am successful. Today, I have goals yet to reach. In these simple and recent realizations, the core of its truth is that I cannot deny that I have great memories and lifetime friends even if they came from some of the years of my life I’d rather not remember. These friends have been a driving force in my life that isn’t always visible. That drive has led me to the friends and colleagues I have today that I can relate to over a part of me that started more than a decade ago; friends and colleagues that I can start something new with because of the energy I find in my tiny habits. So who are you at the core? Who is it you want to be? Not just at a human doing level but a human being level! What kind of person will you have to be to do what you want to do? Start there.