When I usually embark on yet another self-improvement journey (~ a couple times a year), I end up taking one of two approaches:
- A holistic approach, or "meta self-improvement", when I try to be aware of the self-improvement process itself and pay attention to (and work with) my thoughts, behavior patterns, and other mental concepts.
- An atomistic, or hyperfocused approach, where I focus exclusively on improving a certain aspect of my life, e.g. my writing, my organizational skills, my routines, my public speaking skills, or literally anything else.
Both have drawbacks:
The holistic approach starts out great but rarely lasts long since I quickly get distracted by life itself. When you have hundreds of other things going on, there's only that much time you can allocate to the meta stuff before getting sidetracked.
The hyperfocused approach works great for improving any single area of my life, and I can often sustain it for weeks and months. The drawback is I tend to fully immerse myself in one activity putting the rest of my life on hold, which can be a disaster in the long run.
The solution? Being Always Aware™.
Last week, I've been allocating at least an hour every day to reviewing and updating my Mental Library in the morning and writing down the mental and behavioral patterns I've noticed in myself throughout the day to my Mental Maintenance Log in the evening.
In addition to that, I've been doing mental check-ins in my accountability chat with a couple friends three times a day. These consisted of just a few bullet points outlining my mental wins, mental losses, and plans for the immediate future.
As it turns out, this basic process is enough to keep me mindful and aware of my plans, thoughts, feelings, energy levels, and other mental traps at all times. And being aware is the first (and I'd say the most important!) step to reinforcing desired behaviors and changing the undesired ones.
Thanks to the Always Aware™ process, I managed to stay more or less mindful – and organized – throughout the whole week, successfully overcoming the energy dip around Wednesday and Thursday that I often succumb to and staying relatively productive and focused (and happy) during the weekend.
While I've been experimenting with the different components of this system in the past – mindfulness, organization, thought logging, accountability – it seems that all of them are crucial.
And the Mental Library is what ties them all together. It's one thing to be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings (it's a good start!), but having a database that lists, describes, and names all of them makes it so much easier to point to a specific feeling, call it by name, and recall one of the right ways of dealing with it.
Have an Always Aware™ week,
A few thoughts
Slow down to speed up. One of the entries in my Mental Library is Shiftiness, which is what I called the state of mind when I feel the need to rush to do the next thing, always living in the future. Last week I've been actively combatting it by purposefully slowing myself down, and it's worked wonders.
Hello macOS, my old friend. As a Windows guy, I could never make myself use (let alone love) macOS without getting frustrated by its quirks, perceived or real. After having an annoying experience with Dell, I decided to give MacBooks another try – this time, I'm approaching it with a truly open mind to see if I can get along with it macOS instead of fighting it and inevitably succumbing to frustration.
Cardio is energy. Yesterday I decided to take my bike out for a ride for the first time since last summer. I got caught in a downpour and was totally soaked, but it was fun, I had a great time, and today I woke up with a lot more energy than usual. Weightlifting + cardio feels so much better than just weightlifting.
Productivity "It doesn’t matter how fast you move if it’s in a worthless direction. Picking the right thing to work on is the most important element of productivity and usually almost ignored. So think about it more! Independent thought is hard but it’s something you can get better at with practice."
Pilot and flight instructor Heidi Reuss, 87, sits in her Taylorcraft airplane in Anchorage, Alaska. "When I fly, I'm free," says Reuss. "That's what I feel like. And if I fly the Taylorcraft—that’s my baby—it does what I want it to do. I don’t have to tell it what to do. It becomes part of your body. You think ‘turn,‘ and it turns."
The fun part
Summer rains, you can never predict 'em.