Nothing bores me more than people with crystal balls.

The more I talk to people, the broader and less certain the subjects, the more fun I find it to picture them turbaned, leaning over a crystal ball by candle light, muttering an incantation…

“Yes, the spirits have spoken. If we leave the EU our government will totally not join TTIP!”

“Indeed, I see it clearly… having a baby would be the best/worst decision in your life!”

“Allow me to consult the cards, I need to know whether your business will keep making money in two years.”

“The prophecy says that if we do not quell the rise of religion, we will be in the dark ages by 2050…”

“The lines on your hand predict a short love life, so avoid marriage because it will never last.”

“Donald Trump’s stars say that if he tries to build a wall he will start WWIII!”

Yes, I’m sure you’re completely right. If every single factor you are assuming actually takes place. And everyone seems to think they have it figured out. TTIP is supported by the EU, so if we leave the EU then we will do the opposite of them, right? Well, only if the government wants to. There are many reasons for leaving the EU that don’t exclude joining TTIP separately. Relationship statistics are pretty bad, so marriage is pointless, right? Well, only if you are marrying out of some desire to have a pretty wedding and impress your friends, rather than as a legal tool to assist in your shared goals. Marriage is about working as a team towards one thing, not going along for the ride and seeing where you wind up. Trump’s wall would create masses on international conflict and break out into war, right? Well, only if other nations view it as worth their while to start armed conflict with the USA. Perhaps border control isn’t worth the risk of annihilation.

Same goes for all the rest. The underlying assumptions need to be true, and the buildup conditions need to be fulfilled for your “prophecy” to play out.

So stick to your crystal ball. I’ll just keep working on everything I can control and keep on the fence regarding everything I can’t. It’s less stressful that way.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

10 Things You Can Do For Your Baby Now.

So you’re pregnant. Or you might be. Or you’re TTC and getting way ahead of yourself. And you really want to give your baby the best imaginable start in life. What can you get started on right here and now that will give your baby a better start in life?

Here are ten things I am doing to ensure my baby has the best start I can give it.

1: Eat well.

A good diet for your baby starts well before weaning, before breastfeeding, before even conception.

Your baby’s intra-womb nutrition is very heavily based on digesting the fatty tissue around your hips, upper thighs and buttocks. This is why a low waist to hip ratio and a wide, round bum is appealing to the vastest majority of men: it signals “I have abundant baby food!” Before conception, this fat is very hard for your body to digest short of actually starving yourself. This is why it was so hard to lose your “fat bum” when you hit puberty. Your body wants a fat bum.

So what goes into growing a fat bum, full of healthy baby nutrition, without getting fat everywhere else? Your body shoves a series of types of lipid and nutrient into this fat:

  • omega oils
  • calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc
  • fat soluble vitamins

Make sure to eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids, to grow wide hips to feed many babies with. Just keep your portions under control to not grow much wider everywhere else!

2: Get husband to eat well.

His diet matters as much of yours, but mostly it matters before conception. After that it’s a bit easier on him.

The average man needs to follow these guidelines to produce numerous, strong, genetically balanced sperm cells:

  • extra zinc, magnesium and selenium
  • more green veggies
  • more protein
  • some alcohol, less frequently
  • fewer sugars

3: Work.

Whether you are an employee, self employed or a housewife, do as much as you can to make and save money as the baby is on its way. You will likely have nowhere near enough time to make or save money once baby is here, and you will probably be hit by the nesting bug and want to buy more things for the baby very soon.

So make a point of making extra money, saving more, and setting a lot to one side, for peace of mind.

4: Stockpile.

Set aside a small corner. Start collecting baby basics, like wash cloths, weaning spoons, bibs, burping cloths, bra and nipple pads, vitamins… anything you will need during pregnancy and the first few months. Whenever you see something at a good price, snap it up and save it. This will save a lot of panicked, expensive last minute shopping.

5: Take notes.

Go and see the doctor.

Join a baby group, online or in person.

Research.

Ask friends and family.

Find out everything you could possibly want to know about making a baby and take note of anything useful, interesting or unusual.

Not only will it help you feel a bit more prepared and avoid big mistakes, but it will bring some comfort, relief and happiness.

6: Stay fit.

Having healthy hip fat is only part of the battle. If you want a strong and healthy baby, you need to be strong and healthy yourself.

Keep your weight down. Don’t diet, but try and not put on too much fat before or during the pregnancy. Some very overweight and obese women can even healthily lose body fat during pregnancy. Remember: the fat your body feeds the baby is almost a completely different pool to the fat you burn when you diet. Baby will be fine.

Stay active. Go for walks, lift weights, play with the dog. Don’t overexert yourself, but it’s absolutely fine to exercise until you’re a bit out of breath or tired. As long as you aren’t sweating or massively straining your abs, you are doing well.

Get outside. Get in the sunshine, breath some fresh air, experience the calming effects of nature. Not only will you get some vitamin D (crucial for bone development of the baby and healthy bones in yourself) and cleanse your lungs, but being in nature is good for mental health as well.

Keep your immune system strong. Don’t expose yourself to multiple people with the same bugs. Don’t overwash or underwash your hands. Eat well-cooked or very fresh foods. Listen to your sickness. Your body doesn’t need to be overburdened.

7: Meditate.

Sit down and take some time to relax, think about the baby and just enjoy your body.

8: Nurture love.

The baby may come before other people, but it should not push them out. Show affection and kindness to friends and family. Make a place for your partner as the parent of your child. Make sure everyone feels loved and a part of this.

9: Plan loosely.

Start making some plans.

Think about the money you want to have saved by the time the baby is born.

Think about how you will manage finances and work and maternity leave, check what government grants are available.

Think about what names you want to go for.

Think about how you could adapt if your baby is born disabled.

Think about what your partner will help you with.

Plan, but don’t plan too much.

10: Don’t stress.

Chances are everything will be fine. And even if things don’t go according to plan, you will definitely be fine.

And that’s what I’m doing to try and give my baby the best start possible. What would more experienced mamas and papas suggest I start doing to get ready?

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Welcome Spring!

This Friday is going to be the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Autumnal Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere. Which basically means the time the sun is up will be equal to the time the sun is not up. Which means that here in England, Spring has finally sprung!

Like the other three seasons, I love Spring. There are many reasons to love it and many things to do. The days are going to get longer and warmer and melt into Summer.

The first thing I’m looking forward to is the beach! I’m an outdoor person in all weather, but something that’s very hard to do in Winter is go to the beach. Chilly wind, huge waves, flooding, sea spray, storms, beached animals and sand flying everywhere doesn’t really make the multi-hour trip to the coast worthwhile. But I’m not really much of a Summer beachgoer either. Direct sunlight for more than a few hours at a time, the intense heat and the holiday crowds don’t appeal. So Spring is when I like to get to the beach. We don’t go very often even when it is Spring, but I’m looking forward to when the air is warm enough to go out in a top and a light, airy skirt, the water is just cool, the wind is calm enough to sit for a picnic and the beach is empty enough to go for long walks, seek out mussels and crabs and just have a great time.

Until the weather is spot on and we have a series of days off in a row, though, our walks will remain landlocked, in the green countryside. I adore spring flowers. From the last nodding snowdrops to the first daffodils to the explosion of Summer wildflowers, Spring brings great colours and scents to the countryside and my garden. I look forward to collecting a variety of wild daffodils on our walks, watching the wildflowers and beds bloom in our garden and seeing my seedlings start to burst up and flower, ready to give us tasty fruit through Summer and Autumn. That is, if we get to them before the rabbits do!

A part of Spring I hate to love at the moment is all the little fuzzie baby animals. They’re so cute and bouncy, from lambs to rabbit kittens to ducklings. They break into my garden and eat everything they can get their grubby paws, hooves, mits, teeth and beaks into, but they look so cute and friendly, as all diminutive animals do. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going in the pot when they grow up. But whilst they’re tiny I like to look at them and think about when my babies will be running about the garden stepping on my peonies and eating the tomatoes off the vine.

And then, once the rain is dying back, onto Summer with delicious home-grown fruit and veggies, barbeques in the garden, picnics in the woods, mid-afternoon siestas and weightlifting outdoors.

But for now, let’s enjoy Spring.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What are your favourite parts of Spring? What are you planning on doing this Spring? Is it Autumn where you live? What are you looking forward to down there?

25 Maxims and Philosophies to Live By.

1. Have fun, enjoy yourself. Don’t necessarily go out of your way to avoid work, just try and find pleasure in everything you do.

2. Don’t live assuming you will die tomorrow. What if you make it to 100?

3. Work hard at something you love. There’s reward in everything, even monetary reward, when you look hard enough.

4. Don’t expect anything. Nobody owes you gifts, kindness or time. Be grateful for everything you have been given.

5. What is good and right is not always what is true. Live life according to life’s law.

6. Don’t get too obsessed with this, but: You are actually the protagonist of your own life and it happens to be a choose-your-path story.

7. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s broke, fix it. If it’s broke and determined to stay that way, leave it to itself.

8. There are consequences and reactions to everything you do. Accept them and carry on.

9. Don’t get caught up in anger, sadness, thrills or worry. Intense emotions are habit forming if indulged.

10. Respect your body, the way that it’s made and its needs. It has got you this far and will carry you further. It is not a mistake.

11. Think about your future self, their needs, wants and concerns.

12. Harden yourself to critique, pain, fear, solitude, etc. You will experience them again and again, so learn to bear with them.

13. Set yourself goals for everything you do. It keeps your mind on track.

14. It’s better to invest 80% of yourself in one thing and 20% between nine than to invest 10% in each thing.

15. The numbers you are judged by matter very much to the people you have yet to meet.

16. Keep going as long as you get a step further each day. Give up when you haven’t advanced a step in three days.

17. Satisfy your desire to eight tenths of its maximum. Feel rewarded and happy, but not fully satisfied.

18. Everything has a purpose, and a second purpose, and a third purpose. Reuse and make the most of everything.

19. Only invest in something that will at least return 100% of what you put in.

20. Someone who makes many accidents is as troublesome as someone who is trying to do harm.

21. If you’re in your neighbour’s melon field, he could assume you were stealing them. Only stand there when absolutely necessary.

22. Excess of one thing usually means limitations on another.

23. Not every once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity is worth taking.

24. Others are blind to some truths and have seen truths you are blind to.

25. If it doesn’t matter, then don’t worry about it. If it matters, see what you can do about it.

New Year Objectives.

First lets review last year’s objectives.

My tangible goals for this first year of self-improvement were:

1: Be fluent in French.

I met this objective. My French is to a level I can consider fluent, although I will always strive to perfect it. I can now work tutoring, translating and writing in French, as well as enjoy French news, films and novels.

2: Speak at least GCSE standard German.

I missed this objective by quite a margin, so I will recycle it this year. I started strong, but got waylaid as I delved into work and other objectives and my German level hasn’t really moved since May.

3: Get to a point where my artwork is selling.

I only just met this objective by selling a couple of paintings and scoring three ghostwriting deals in the past month. Gods bless the internet.

4: Get to a point where my tutoring is providing the £50-100/week minimum I should contribute.

Objective met, hugely exceeded and I’m really glad it was, seeing as I may be the main earner for a few months in the New Year. Hoping Jon will find his feet quickly and get a new paycheck soon, but anything could go wrong, so I’ll need to keep earning around £300-500/week to keep us steady. In early January it may be hard, but from February it will definitely be back to usual earnings.

5: Get my garden and chicken-keeping started.

The garden has been kept beautiful, though it’s a bit dead and snowed under at the moment. The flowers are very attractive and I look forward to their return in the New Year. We got a great harvest of parsnips, broccoli, lettuce, herbs, beans and radishes and a moderate harvest of tomatoes, potatoes and courgettes. Heavens know what happened to the beets, swedes, pumpkins, melons and peppers, though! Despite the illness that took the flock, I have learned a lot about keeping laying hens and look forward to getting some pullets late next Spring.

6: Finish writing two books.

Not really met. I finished my novel and started the second book. And my guide to economizing is about 2/3 there. Haven’t started my book on beginners housekeeping yet. I’ve written a few children’s books, but that hardly counts.

7: Deadlift, squat and shrug my bodyweight.

Objective not met. My deadlift died a death when I started getting back tension that wrecked my form, but I’ll try again soon. Last I did them they were at 35/65kg for doubles. Squats are at 40/65kg for doubles at the moment. Shrugs are not on the rota right now, but are at 45/65kg for sets of five.

My less tangible goals for this first year of self-improvement were:

1: Keep fit and healthy.

Met. I have maintained my body weight, increased my weightlifting and flexibility, lost some fat and even decreased my WHR by shrinking my waist and “gaining” in the chest and hip areas. I’ve been generally eating well, even if I abuse carbs and coffee from time to time, have eaten plenty of organic vegetables, fresh meat, some game, own produce and foraged fruit. Almost every single meal has been cooked from scratch. As a percentage, well under 1% of meals were not made by me and under 5% included pre-prepared sauces or products containing dubious substances.

2: Learn as many skills as possible pertaining to running a home.

Met. I can now: darn, knit, bake, make jam, make pickles, make chutney, grow various plants, keep hens, keep a cat, clean a car, light and cook in a fire, control mold outbreaks, iron, hand-wash, bleach things, scent a house, cut and dry kindling and logs, make useful bags and household items, coupon shop, make compost and hold dinner parties. A total of 23 new relevant skills.

3: Be as self-sufficient as possible.

Met. We supplies our own eggs, greens, potatoes and beans. Soon I will not have touched benefits in a year. I have earned my keep through housework and paid my keep in moneyed work.

4: Read whenever possible.

Not fully met. I have had chances to read that I have used watching animes, documentaries or films whilst crafting.

5: Paint whenever possible.

Not fully met. I have slacked a bit in the past few months. Although general crafting has been continually productive.

6: Experiment more in the kitchen.

Met. I have worked out several ways of making Paleo baked goods, of keeping the WWW interesting, of using a roast or reusing leftovers. I have made my own chocolates and oat bars for Jon.

7: Keep the house in order and Jon happy throughout.

Seeing as this was something that wasn’t really for me (well, not directly), I am asking Jon to rate it out of 10 and add his commentary.

“House in order would be a 9/10. There have been times when we have been busy, but other than that it’s always been in order. She has kept me happy to the best of her ability, but with the issues I’ve had with work and health it must have been a difficult job.”

That gives me a total of 9/14 goals met, or 64%. Obviously the unmet goals are mostly at 50% completion, not 0%, but it wouldn’t be right to count them as successes. And 50+% success isn’t bad at all.

So, with everything in mind, what are my goals for the new year?

Tangible goals:

1: Make £50/day, 6 days a week minimum so as to keep us supported until Jon gets his first new paycheck.

2: Finish “On a Budget” and write “The Beginner’s Guide to Housekeeping”. Self-publish both.

3: Speak at least GCSE level German.

4: Get certified as a native speaker of Spanish and a fluent speaker of French.

5: Deadlift, squat and shrug my bodyweight before I’m pregnant.

6: Continue to adhere to my #NoNothingNovember challenge.

7: Establish the eBay shop once Jon’s back at work and I’m pregnant. No upper limit, but would like to break £50/week in profits at least.

Less tangible goals:

1: Work towards TTC, prepare for the baby and learn about basic childcare.

2: Try and avoid buying most things new. Make, grow, buy second hand, barter/trade, buy in a charity shop. Always consider the cheap options before buying anything.

3: Grow and forage more plants than last year. Document growing and foraging.

4: Keep the blog as active as possible.

5: Read or craft whenever possible.

6: Continue attending events and clubs and holding dinner parties as soon as we’re stable enough.

7: Keep the house in order and Jon happy throughout.

As stated on the objectives page, there is no minimum number of goals I must achieve. It’s just a list of things to give my life direction and make the most of the year ahead. These objectives will not change, but if anything interferes with them I may postpone them or prioritize another one. Hopefully I can exceed this year’s 9/14. 🙂

Making Mindful Progress

Inspired by this chapter review at Girls Being Girls, I have been thinking about the importance of mindfulness –that is, being consciously and actively aware of every aspect of something– in regards to making progress.

Making progress is hard. You set yourself a goal and start out on a path that you believe will lead to success, only to find your plans thwarted by time constraints, unplanned events or a lack of structure. This can cause you to become disheartened and abandon your goals. Of course, you can’t plan for the unexpected. But you can plan assuming something may happen to throw you off.

This is how to set yourself up to reaching your goal through the use of mindfulness.

1: Set a goal.

mindfulness1

This sounds easy and many of us do this stage blindly, thinking it makes no difference at all how much we consider our goal. We say “I will…” and assume that’s enough. In reality, far more clarity is required.

In fact, it’s a serious problem I have with many of my adult-learning students. They walk in through the door, or send me an email stating they want a or b many lessons in x, y or z, from whenever. Then, when I ask the question, namely: “What do you want to get out of this? Where do you want to be?”, I get a blank stare or some silence. They want to learn Spanish and have a two hour lesson every Thursday. Surely that is enough? But, depending on their goal, this lesson plan could be intensive or relaxed, casual or academic, grammar- or vocab- or conversation-focused. If they want to speak enough Spanish to get around Marbella as a tourist in two months, then the easy-going GCSE grammar-boosting lessons won’t do them much good. If they have an exam coming up, their work must be focused. Surprisingly, the students who know exactly what they want are usually the younger ones. This is because a GCSE student’s teacher will have told them where they need to be next week and they are happy to work towards that.

In much the same way, we need to seriously consider our goals before embarking on a quest for self-improvement. Where do we want to be? When do we want to get there? These are the two questions we must ask ourselves when first establishing a goal.

An example of the process in action:

I will study French and German.” becomes “I will become fluent in French and achieve at least GCSE-level German by the end of this year.”

I will workout regularly.” becomes “I will maintain my figure and health, as well as improve my strength so I can deadlift, squat and shrug my bodyweight.”

Try it out with some of your goals. Or, if you can’t think of how, imagine you’re giving advice to a friend. Make the following goals more concrete:

I will be more feminine.”

I will lose weight.”

I will study meditation.”

I will read classics.”

I will learn to cook.”

2: Look at the path towards reaching that goal.

mindfulness2

Often we fall into the trap of saying “I have x many hours per week.” or “I will do this once per week.” Then, the time rolls around and it becomes filled-in, or we look at our progress one month in and see that we’re exactly where we started.

One thing we can forget is that it takes so many hours to develop a new skill, alter your body, change your habits or read a book. If you say you’ll dedicate an hour per week to reading your classics and you’re perpetually interrupted or distracted, you’ll have hardly made it through a single Canterbury Tale by the end of a month. If you dedicate one hour per week to a language, you can hardly expect progress. In the dieting world, there’s a saying that goes something like this: “One salad won’t make you thin. One burger won’t make you fat.” It takes perseverance and accumulation to change yourself. Just as one burger won’t make you fat, one hour of casually repeating French words won’t make you fluent.

If one of these in a month of "dieting" won't make you thin, then how can one hour in a month of "studying" make you knowledgeable?

If one of these in a month of “dieting” won’t make you thin, then how can one hour in a month of “studying” make you knowledgeable?

So the next step is to look at your goal and see how much work you need to put in. If it takes 360 hours of solid study to become proficient in a language, or 10 000 hours (or not?) of dedicated work to become an expert at something, or 100 000-150 000 words to write a novel, then you need to factor this in. Want to become proficient in German in a year? That’s at least an hour per day. You may do two or three hours every other day, but splitting straws won’t get you anywhere: either you put in the 360 hours, or you don’t reach your goal.

Once you’ve worked out how many hours you need to put in, how many pages you need to read or how many calories you need to burn, it’s time to reassess that original goal.

100lbs in three months? Not happening.

Fluent in three languages in a year? The risk of confusion aside, you’d better have 4.5 hours every day for studying languages.

Yet, if you adjust your goals realistically, the result is still satisfactory.

100lbs in one year. Very possible and, if you have the time to workout and motivate yourself, even probable.

Fluent in one new language in a year? 1.5 hours per day should be manageable.

3: Other variables.

mindfulness8

A lot of people appear to hit this hurdle before even setting a goal. How many times have we heard, or even said “I would love to, but…” and followed it up with things that could interfere with our plans. These things are often the first and final hurdle we must overcome to even set ourselves a goal.

Before I carry on, first consider how many things you have quit, or never even started, because of the hurdles you may eventually reach. Here’s my list. These are all things I put off, quit or never started because of the hurdles that I would, or might have encountered. I may have started working towards them now, or they may still be on the back-burner, but here they are, laid bare.

-didn’t finish multiple sewing projects

-long list of book ideas that I haven’t even started work on

-starting tutoring

-learning German

-learning Latin

-learning Japanese

-reading both Homer’s great works, the Iliad and the Odyssey

-having children

-around 5 small businesses I planned and never even started

-losing weight and getting fit

There are probably more that don’t come to mind immediately.

Now, some of these were left due to legitimate reasons. Of course, I am only now in a suitable situation to have children. Some I have accomplished by now, such as losing weight and learning Japanese (albeit just to GCSE). Some I have recently started or picked up. But the fact remains that they are things that I, for whatever reason, didn’t consider beyond the “this can’t happen” stage.

Yet it’s only now, once we’ve thought of a goal and planned it out, that we can actually know what we can or can’t do! We may find ourselves surprised that it would only take a few hours every other day to learn German, or that through thorough planning we can fit in a workout or two a week. If we hadn’t got this far to begin with, we wouldn’t have noticed. You know how some people go on about how you have to “make it happen”? Well, to an extent, they’re right.

Of course, now is also the time to face the obstacles. We may have thought we had time to jog every morning, but have noticed that, if we did that, nobody would feed the pet. Or we may have decided to paint twice a week, but forgotten what a mess the children would make with the paints. And then we have bigger hurdles. We may need our spare time for emergencies, or for daily activities.

mindfulness4

And it’s important to factor this all in. You need to look at your plans as plainly and realistically as possible. When we’re aware of what hurdles stand in our way, we can adjust the plan to make it fit. So maybe you have to stay in to feed the pets, or get back on time to give them breakfast before you go to work. Or maybe you could jog to work. Or maybe you could ask someone to feed the pets a couple of times a week. Or maybe you could leave food out a little early. Eventually, you’ll land on something that works for you.

If not, now is the time to put that plan to one side and pick another up. A plan you have to do half-a**** is a plan not worth doing at all. Perhaps you could do some reading, or clay-work instead of the painting? All self-improvement is good, and you’ll be able to pick up the other plan in the future.

4: Measuring your progress.

mindfulness5

It’s vital to keep on top of whatever progress you make.

When our progress is invisible to us, when we’re uncertain of how far we’ve come or how far we need to go to reach our goal, continuing to progress can be hard or impossible. If we monitor our progress through a journal or clear periodical targets it’s a lot easier to see where we are. If we create a projection, we can also observe where we need to be.

For example, if I want to have produced a hundred paintings by the end of the year and I’ve only produced thirty-two by June, then I know I need to step my game up.

These journals can also help motivate and inspire us when planning a new goal to work towards.

As well, the setting of smaller targets makes the experience far more rewarding, as your progress is documented and each target you reach is a reward.

Imagine the concept of just dieting and exercising for a year, without using any measures, then blindly stepping onto the scales and whipping out the measuring tape. Now compare it to the more familiar experience of regular, unstressed measurings and weigh-ins. The first would be a far more difficult process, as you have to overcome self-doubt and a lack of motivational factors. On the other hand, the second is a lot easier, as you are motivated by your (hopefully) steady progress and continual target-hitting.

Finally, the psychological benefits of seeing how far you’ve come are immense. Every part of you, as a human being, loves success. And these targets, this progress is viewed by your mind as success upon success.

Think of every target met as a small goal. You may not speak fluent Italian, but you can already pass GCSE past-papers. You may not be running for an hour straight, but you can get further than the next lamp-post.

If you want to stick to your plan, achieve your goal and succeed, it’s important to be mindful of the progress you have already made.

5: Changing the goal-posts.

mindfulness6

And you will, sometimes, find that your targets aren’t being met half as regularly as they should be.

Often this can be corrected with a slight adjustment to the plan. We’re leaving your work to the last minute, so we make ourselves do it early. We’ve been trying to do our work every other day and continually putting it off, so we decide to do a little bit every day instead.

However, sometimes our progress isn’t going to plan due to legitimate interference. You may have had something turn up, or maybe you just hadn’t factored-in everything. At this point we must go back to steps 2 and 3 and ask ourselves what we can do to make this plan work.

If you’re uncertain, go through every aspect of your life that interfered with your work. Maybe even keep a journal. Every time you wanted to do something and couldn’t, write down when it was and why. You may also surprise yourself, as often what we thought were legitimate reasons look a lot more like excuses when they’re put to paper!

A secondary exercise to consider is to keep the journal for a second week and, this time, plan and write down a solution to the interference.

For example, you may think the children are getting in the way of the gardening, but when it comes to finding a solution, you quickly notice that they could help you harvest tomatoes or make holes to plant beans in. Or you may think it’s always too noisy to read, when, in reality, you turn the TV on as soon as the house is quiet.

This also helps us to reconsider our priorities. Do we really need to spend that time watching TV, or can we use it more productively? Does it really take an hour to hoover the house, or are we dragging it out somehow?

And, of course, there’s no shame in having to move your goal-posts for a legitimate reason. Or even to quit or postpone a plan due to a legitimate reason. If we look at our plans, the interferences and our time and we decide we’re asking too much of ourselves, it’s better to adjust our plans to suit what we can actually do. By leaving something until later we ensure we do a good job of it. By replanning our hours we allow ourselves to focus properly on progression and this extra focus and order could help you better meet your targets!

6: Maintenance and moving on.

This is the final stage of mindful progress. The same as when you lose weight, or when you learn a language, the final test isn’t hitting that number or passing that exam: the final test is maintenance.

Mindful maintenance is the hardest part of mindful progression. In terms of difficulty, rated from 1 (easy), to 10 (very, very hard), this sequence would go somewhat like this:

Thinking of a goal: 1.

Setting a proper goal: 3-5.

Researching your goal: 6-8.

Planning it into your everyday life: 4-6.

Doing the work: 2-5.

Adjusting targets and goal-posts: 6-7.

Maintaining: 8-10.

It’s easy to come up with something. It’s relatively easy to make a more specific goal. It’s hard to work out the amount you’ll have to invest. It’s slightly easier to plan once your research is done. It’s easy to do the work once you have the plan. It’s moderately hard to adjust your targets and goals. It’s incredibly hard to maintain the acquired skill or trait.

This is because, once we have something, we often take it for granted. In physical terms, it wouldn’t have been hard for me to keep myself doing pull-ups. In reality, because I let it slide, even though my upper body is stronger than ever before, I have lost the mechanical ability and specific muscle strength to do them. And that’s what makes it hard. We take it for granted, tick it off our lists and move on.

Like with my pull-ups, in reality, if you had to work to get it, you’ll have to work to maintain and use it. Every skill can get rusty, your body is continually degrading and your muscles DO have a sort of memory that makes oft-repeated tasks easier than rarely-performed ones.

Mindful maintenance is firstly about being grateful for what we have developed. Love the improvements you’ve made to yourself and your life.

Mindful maintenance is secondly about not taking them for granted. Routinely practise or monitor your improvements.

Mindful maintenance is thirdly about making use of our progress. Maybe you got fit to look hot or maybe you did it to become a PE teacher. However it is, make sure your investment isn’t wasted.

Mindful maintenance is fourthly about not losing anything. Obviously, to maintain something you mustn’t let it degrade. If your monitoring reveals that you’re slipping, it’s time to get back to using your progress!

Mindful maintenance is fifthly about being willing to reset a goal. If you do degrade, it’s important to value your progress enough to want to rebuild it.

And mindful maintenance is finally about moving on.

You can’t keep going at something forever. It’s a bit like school, or reading, or gaming: once you’ve passed a certain level, you need to move on to the next one. Of course, moving on takes many forms.

If you love lifting weights, moving on may be setting yourself a new goal. You’ve surpassed your original goal and you’re starting over, with goal1 being the starting point and goal2 being the next finish line.

If you’ve finished a book, moving on may be starting a new one instantly and enjoying it as fully as you did the first.

If you’ve learned a language, moving on may be starting to read in that language, or learning to play a musical instrument.

Basically, moving on is looking at where we are, asking ourselves “What next?” and starting working towards our new goal.

The important thing to remember is that moving on isn’t about quitting now that we’ve reached that goal. Self-improvement is a life-long process.

mindfulness7