A Two-week Challenge

10 05 2010

It only takes about a month to gain a new habit. Seriously. And honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you fail a few times (ahem, a lot) during that month. But even that month depends on the first two weeks. So really, it takes about 2 weeks to kick off a new habit (or stop one).

For example: You want to go to the gym four times a week. That’s a good number, gives you some room for missing out. Or eat more vegetables. Or pray daily. Or write a journal / blog. Or not smoke.

All you have to do is: (1) make a commitment to just 1 week and (2) connect it to a “trigger” action.

(1) A week is short and definable, it’s easy to see the end of it. If you “really want” to do something, you can usually use that to get through the first week.

(2) Find a realistic time to put it in your schedule. Waking up an hour early to do it probably won’t work. But going to the gym after work, or praying between brushing your teeth and going to bed – those are reasonable. Smokers – a little trickier as there is a chemical addiction, but deal with the physical habit. Try chewing gum. Take a smoking break like before, take a long stick of gum, and chew it slowly, by biting off small bits. In other words, make it as similar to smoking as possible. Try to connect it to your real schedule so that something you already do will “trigger” the newest habit.


Why aren’t you?

5 05 2010

How do you change your behavior? How do you change a whole group’s behavior?  There are things you do that you shouldn’t, and things you should be, but you don’t. The problem is, most people start by asking the wrong questions.

I should eat healthier. Why? What are the benefits? Why is it important? Why should I?

That’s the wrong question. You already know you should. Here’s the right one:

Why aren’t you?

Find out what’s stopping you from doing what you should be doing, and take away the barriers. Like this:

I’m not eating healthier because I’m too busy to really care. Because I like the taste of junk food. Because I need my extra-calorie-laden mocha every morning. Because I really don’t know how to eat healthier. Because my body’s addicted to sugar or salt or fat and I don’t even know it. Because I don’t know how to cook. I don’t like to cook. I don’t like vegetables. I’m a meat-and-potato kind of person.

If you really dig down, you might be surprised what’s really stopping you from doing what you should.

You should fire the unproductive employee. You should finish that project on time. You should stop smoking. You should spend more time with your kids.

So why aren’t you?

The Vorpal Sword

4 05 2010

So, Jabberwocky is nonsense. And yet, it’s perfectly clear. There’s a story: a father gives a warning, the son sets out, conquers the Jabberwock and brings its head home to a proud father.

On the other hand, I saw a group of people clearly know their instructions one moment, then confess they were confused about it the next. The instructions were simple and clear, but one person simply claimed they were not and suddenly the group was unable to understand simple English.

It’s terrifying to realize that what a person knows one minute can be un-known simply by suggestion. This is particularly true in a group mind.

Communication has nothing to do with language. It has everything to do with willingness and desire to understand.

It has almost nothing to do with a desire to be understood.

Deviations in the Schedule

2 05 2010

I’m the kind of person that freaks out when the schedule gets interrupted. People not arriving on time? What do we do?!!! We can’t WAIT, because we’ve only got limited time as it is! Pressure. Stress. Call them all and see where they are and why they’re not here and when they’ll be here and how we can possibly manage to get anything done!

But I’m also spontaneous. I’ll get in the car and take a random weekend trip with only an hour’s notice. Or I’ll call someone up for dinner at 6 pm. I’ll take that schedule that rules my life and rip it up and do what I want. Unless, of course, I’m freaking out about it.

A few days ago, I disturbed the schedule. Actually, I blew it up with a stick of dynamite. I went hiking after work, barely made it to the top in time to see the sunset, then rushed down before darkness set it.

Nothing got done for the evening. I skipped my class. I didn’t clean or cook dinner. I seriously messed up the routine.

It was good for my soul.

We all need more spontaneity.

Keep it Simple

30 04 2010

Been watching TED Talks on my lunch break at work. This one has given me something to think about.

The point: simplicity.

The definition: something functional, reliable, cheap, and inter-connectable.

The best quote: “Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is all in reference to design, the Keep It Simple and Stupid (KISS) principle.

But isn’t great writing equally elegant in its economy?

And our faith? A theology as simple as possible, but no simpler? (Paraphrase of Einstein)

A Cultural Frustration

27 04 2010

I’ve debated whether I’m better off writing a post every day, even if it’s hard, or waiting until I have something to say and the time to write it well. Considering my track record on this blog, I’d say that latter isn’t working too well. So, a random reflection for the day.

Cultural frustration moment: I have a vet I go to regularly. He’s a nice guy. Both him and his assistant speak English pretty well and seem to know what they’re doing. The other day, I even tried an experiment – I called for an appointment! He must have saved my number, because he answered with “Hello!” It was quite cheery. I happily made a grooming appointment.

So, later I stopped by with some friends to drop off Selah. I’ve taken her in before and they do a god job. So it should be simple. I told him I wanted her shaved everywhere, leaving about 1 cm of hair. He was clear on it. The assistant showed me another dog as a sample, and I joked, “No, I don’t want a naked dog. Just 1 cm.” He clearly got it also.

Then the vet saw that one of my friends was Korean. And, while her English is good, it’s no better than the vet’s. But suddenly, he wouldn’t speak to me. He asked her what I wanted. And she proceeded to answer! They spoke about line cuts and all sorts of other things in Korean for at least 10 minutes. My friend has never had a dog (and presumably doesn’t know anything about grooming) and she never asked me what I wanted. I even walked out of the room to see my other friend. Honestly, I was very upset.

Finally, after they agreed on something that did NOT involve shaving, I said, “No, just shave her to 1 cm.” As I said that, the assistant joked, “No naked dog, right?” He got it and I appreciated his easing the situation.

So, what happened here?

First, as far as the vet’s concerned, he probably assumed a friend of mine spoke better English than he did. I get that, although that’s just a sign of how much he under-estimates himself. Also, I get that he probably wanted her to play the role of translator, not realizing she would just answer him herself.

Second, I don’t really know this friend very well, so I can’t guess at what she was thinking. She seems to have mis-understood my directions about “1 cm”, because I think she was convincing him I didn’t want Selah shaved. Perhaps she thought “no naked dog” meant no shaving, just a trim.

Most important: Why was I so angry?

A lot of it is perspective. Now I have it; then, I didn’t. That’s a big part of living in another culture – recognizing that your perspectives are different. And honestly, they will always be different. So even if you don’t “get” what others are thinking, the key is to understand what they think, learn to predict how they’ll react, and be patient with it. After all, you’re the foreigner with crazy ideas / strange reactions.

But for myself – How was I feeling that made me angry? I think it was mostly feeling de-valued / de-humanized. They spoke as if I wasn’t in the room, or as if my opinion didn’t matter. It was like I vanished. It was terribly rude.

But finally, a lot of it is about control. It’s my dog, my appointment, and my money is paying for the haircut. So I want my say in it. I was mostly upset with the vet for asking my friend instead of me; it takes away my authority as the client in the situation.

However, I recognized my anger and tried to hold my tongue. I know the feelings still seeped through – I don’t hide them that well. But, I also made an effort and let go of the anger within 20 minutes. As Ephesians says, “Be angry, but do not sin. And do not let the anger stay for long.” It’s nice to know that God understands our emotions welling up. We’re allowed to feel angry.

Anyway, the cut turned out perfect. And Selah act light and free!

Some Teenage Wisdom

20 03 2010

As a teenager, I came up with my motto for life: No regrets. Now, that’s not so unique, but I went further. I named two corollaries. Or rather, two applications of this rule.

First, the past. Whatever has happened is in the past. It’s over. Sure, we’ve got to live with it. But there’s no point crying over spilled milk. You just get a rag and clean it up. Particularly in my life, this meant there was no point being angry about a screwed up childhood. Others made their choices and I have to live with it. But I’m not going to regret it.

But then this also applied to the present and future. I’m eighteen and I’ve got a life to live before me. Choices to make. Life choices. “I don’t want to stand with the setting sun and hate myself for the things that I’ve done.” So I won’t. I’ll make my choices with care and consideration. If I do this tonight, will I regret it tomorrow? Yes. Then I’m not doing it. Simple as that.*

At least, it all seemed that simple. No regrets. Move forward. Look forward. Watch where you step along the way and keep moving.

Those steps led me to God. Then there was a whole world of other mottos: Love God. Love others. Serve God. Keep the Sabbath. Meditate on the word. Ask everything of God. Be humble. Be gracious. Loving. Kind. Honest.

Frankly, I forgot about the “No regrets” rule. There were too many other things to worry about. But now, as I’m hitting 30 this year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

And you know what? I think “no regrets” pretty well sums up where I am in life. And I’d say that’s pretty biblical.

*Yeah, I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but then it falls under the first corollary.