Sometimes inspiration is the result of a convergence of good ideas. Right around the new year, I saw this picture on Facebook called “Let’s save some money.” The instructions were to first open up a savings account, then add a dollar to it the first week. In the second week, deposit two dollars, then three in the third week all the way to the end of the year with a deposit of $52. If you keep up with this regimen you will save right around $1300 by the end of the year. Not too shabby.
The FlyLady, whose home management advice I have followed off and on (mostly off), has a 31 day program where each day you add a new routine to your day. The very first one is shine your kitchen sink, and subsequent routines include getting dressed to shoes, laying out your clothes the night before, making your bed and so forth. If you stick with it, by the end of the month you have some solid routines down and your life should be more orderly than it was before.
Combining the best of both these ideas, I have decided to embark on a mission to add one new good habit to my life each week. Trying to add a new habit or routine each day is too much for me, but one a week is doable, and if I stick with it, by the end of 2013 I should have 52 new good habits. If I don’t stick with it for the entire year but do maintain whatever good habits I have implemented up to the time I quit, then at least I will have those good habits in my life.
Three weeks into January, so far it is working well for me. At this point I’m choosing the habits based on what it seems I need to be doing in my life, but I suppose if I run out of my own ideas I will borrow from other people such as my friends, the FlyLady or anyone who makes a suggestion by commenting here. I think that the inspiration for which habits to implement and in what order has come from the Holy Spirit, as this is something I have made a matter of prayer.
I’m inspired by the discipline of the monastic life. I have read large sections of The Imitation of Christ and the entire Rule of Saint Benedict, both written as guidance for men living in the monastic community. While I resonate much with the spiritual growth aspects of this life, I know that basic discipline–sticking with the mundane but necessary tasks day in and day out–is much more difficult for me, and often the first thing that goes out the window when I’m feeling lazy or under the weather or when there’s something more exciting to do, which is all too often.
I’m hoping to acquire more of this discipline in a way that is sustainable and will work for me. I know from experience that trying to make too many drastic changes too fast always fails and that it’s better to take my time to build a solid foundation. So, some of the habits I work on may seem very small and would make absolutely no difference in someone else’s life, but for me consistently following each good habit I choose represents growth. Each week I can say I have more discipline in life now than I did last week.
I started this on Sunday, January 6. The habit I decided to implement for the following week was to only check Facebook once each day. I knew that in order to be successful at that I needed to wait until the evening (after the children were in bed). If I log into Facebook in the morning, then I am way too tempted to keep logging in again throughout the day to the point of it being excessive. Once evening came and I could log in, I didn’t set any limits on how long I stayed there, and yes, there were a few times where I was on way too long and stayed up way too late.
This led to the decision to implement the second good habit of going to bed no later than ten each night for the second week. The only exception I allowed was if I was actually out of the house and didn’t come home until later. This happened once on account of some evening training I was taking in Boulder. But if I was on Facebook and it got close to ten, then I forced myself to log out. Hence I now have a time limit on my Facebook time which allows me to still use the site and enjoy it, but which actually successfully keeps my time there in check. This works for me.
For this week, my third good habit is going to be that each day starting tomorrow, I choose something necessary but annoying and make myself do it. I’m talking about things that need to be done around the house that I endlessly postpone because they are annoying and I’d rather be doing something else. No, now I’m going to actually choose to do something because it is annoying and I would rather do anything but that thing.
For me, there is a two-fold reason for choosing good habit number three. The first is that there is much to be gained by pushing through something you don’t feel like doing (but know must be done anyway) and getting it done. I think any good time management book will tell you to make yourself do the thing you least want to do on your task list early in the day so that the rest of the day you’re doing the more fun stuff and it goes better. I see it as a discipline in and of itself. The other reason is that it is a way for me to embrace suffering on a daily basis. I have grown the most spiritually through times when I have suffered and when I have been willing to acknowledge that I was suffering and then accept that it was OK. I’m not talking about epic suffering either. I’m talking about suffering caused mostly by little things that are stressful, hurtful, embarrassing or plain annoying. I do not wish to add suffering to my life, but I do see great value in embracing, rather than avoiding, the suffering that is in my life, and choosing to do one unpleasant but necessary task a day is a great way to practice embracing and growing through suffering.
I’m hoping to write some brief posts about my experience with adding each new habit, or something about why I’m choosing the next habit. This is the sort of thing that can be edifying so it’s worthy of including on my blog. I hope that I manage to actually go the entire year and implement fifty-two new good habits and actually get to the point where I’m leading a more disciplined life than I am right now. I’m already slightly more disciplined than I was at the end of 2012.