Let Go Of These 25 Things Next Year.

New year’s resolutions are often about doing more, adding more, holding onto more and more things… Which is very good, to be honest. Doing more exercise, finding more time for family, making more money, working harder in the garden or reading more books are all honourable, valuable things to add to our lives.

But for everything we add, we need to make some space. So why not balance every addition with something we can let go of?

1: Hopelessness.

Why let go?

There is nothing we can’t work on, there is nothing we can’t fix or live with. There is always a way and there is always something nice left.

How do I let go?

Whenever you feel hopeless, write a list of everything you still have by your side and everything you have to look forward to.

What does it pair with?

Goal-oriented resolutions, such as weightloss, strength gain, work goals or creative work.

2: Keeping up.

Why let go?

You aren’t anyone else. You have a different life, different means and needs and different end goals than them. If you compare yourself continually, you will never be enough.

How do I let go?

Set yourself personal goals and keep detailed track of your progress and setbacks. You are your main point of comparison.

What does it pair with?

Shared goals and group activities, like gym attendance, courses and family resolutions.

3: Hang ups.

Why let go?

A hang up leaves you constantly slightly concerned about unlikely events and overly worked up about inevitable events.

How do I let go?

Look at your situation for what it is, rather than what it could be. Focus on reality and now and try and work for the best realistic result.

What does it pair with?

Relationship goals, work goals, anything where you depend on other people for your success.

4: Boredom.

Why let go?

Boredom is a choice, not a state. You have endless books, tv shows, music, hobbies, projects and ideas within your grasp.

How do I let go?

Whenever you feel bored, try and pick up one of your hobbies. If you haven’t got enough to go around, then you might need something new!

What does it pair with?

Tedious and repetitive goals, like dieting, studying or keeping accounts.

5: Perfection.

Why let go?

Nobody is perfect, nothing is perfect. It’s fine to aim for the stars, but if you can’t accept anything less, then you might be stressing yourself.

How do I let go?

Rather than set yourself a pass-fail test, set yourself percentages. Aim for 100% always, but 80-90% is still great.

What does it pair with?

Any goal that feels like all-or-nothing to you!

6: Miserliness.

Why let go?

We don’t need a quarter of what we own, let alone of what we want. Clinging onto things rather than people can make us weak and nervous.

How do I let go?

Share openly and freely. You don’t need to give everything away, just to balance your savings with your socializing.

What does it pair with?

Money and savings related resolutions.

7: Grudges.

Why let go?

A grudge does no good. It makes you feel bad and treat others badly.

How do I let go?

Write down your grudges. Write down how they make you feel and in what ways they continue to affect you. On a separate piece of paper, write things you can do to actually improve the situation. Burn, bury or bin the grudge list and keep the improvement list.

What does it pair with?

Everything and everyone.

8: Fretting.

Why let go?

Once you’ve identified a problem, any further worrying is just bad for your health.

How do I let go?

Work out what the problem is, work out solutions and try and distract yourself from it. Consider a mantra, such as “this is finished/solved now”.

What does it pair with?

Any high-end resolutions where the 100% target is quite hard to reach.

9: Procrastination.

Why let go?

Putting things off only feels good in the short term. In the long term it can ruin plans.

How do I let go?

Try and set yourself a list of tasks and goals and stick to it. Make sure everything is done.

What does it pair with?

Unscheduled resolutions where your goal could be accomplished at unspecified times.

10: Despair.

Why let go?

Despair is like a grudge, hopelessness or fretting. You’re letting yourself stay sad over something rather than working with or against it.

How do I let go?

Try and find the positives rather than focus on the negatives. Don’t desire to feel sad, desire and seek happiness in everything you do.

What does it pair with?

Resolutions where setbacks are part of the game, especially self improvement.

11: Compulsions.

Why let go?

Compulsions are like faulty instincts. We do them without thinking and they can easily hurt us or others.

How do I let go?

Find out what you do compulsively and make a point of stopping it for up to three months. Replace it with healthy behaviours. After then, a new habit could have formed.

What does it pair with?

Quitting-based resolutions, like diets, kicking drugs and removing maladaptive behaviours.

12: Stress.

Why let go?

Stress is a part of everyday life and often the only thing that keeps us going. But it’s also destroying our bodies and our sanity.

How do I let go?

Practice meditation and mindfulness. You can meditate to leave the stress behind and be mindful to push it out of yourself. You can use meditation and mindfulness techniques anywhere, at any time, for however long you like.

What does it pair with?

Time-restricted and work based resolutions.

13: Weakness.

Why let go?

Nobody wants to be weak, or chooses to be weak, but we can choose to either embrace or defeat our weaknesses.

How do I let go?

Make a list of things you cannot resist, things you cannot do or cannot fight. Systematically work through them until you feel more accomplished.

What does it pair with?

Generic, intangible or unmeasurable resolutions, such as “be better at maths” or “spend less”.

14: Talking down.

Why let go?

Talking down to yourself and others is a bad habit that encourages negative thinking and asocialness.

How do I let go?

Try and find something positive in someone every time you have a negative thought about them (even yourself) and say the positive instead of the negative.

What does it pair with?

Social, positivity and self-esteem based goals.

15: Fear.

Why let go?

Fear makes us reluctant to try new things, to return to places that upset us or to act as we would want to. It stifles action and keeps us in one place.

How do I let go?

Think of all the things your fear prevents you from doing. Think of how much better your life would be without the fear. Bit by bit, build up the courage to face your fear.

What does it pair with?

New and exciting resolutions, resolutions to change, self improvement resolutions.

16: Social anxiety.

Why let go?

Social anxiety stops us from being our true selves and keeps us far less or far more socialized than we would want to be.

How do I let go?

Unless it’s at a clinical level, you can cast aside social anxiety by making a point of socializing as much as you want, being yourself around friends and family and talking yourself up for important events.

What does it pair with?

Any resolution that depends on other people for success.

17: Pain.

Why let go?

Pain and suffering are an inevitable part of human experience. But when pain becomes who you are and devours your life, you start to lose control everywhere.

How do I let go?

Write a list of things that pain interferes with. Decide whether they’re reasonable or unreasonable to you. One by one, address the unreasonable points on your list, until pain is no longer restricting you.

What does it pair with?

Recovery resolutions, health based resolutions and emotional resolutions.

18: Hoarding.

Why let go?

Hoarding things can make us feel temporarily good, but when our physical, mental and emotional clutter becomes too much, we lose sight of true priorities.

How do I let go?

Make a stock-list of the items you hold onto and hoard. Write down your reasons for keeping them. For every reason you have to keep them, write down two reasons to throw them away. Persuade yourself to part with a few items a week, until you feel in control.

What does it pair with?

Cleaning, organizing and decluttering. Mental health and destressing. Emotional health and healthy relationships.

19: Wastage.

Why let go?

As the opposite of hoarding, wastage is when we let too much go. We are often denying ourselves things we want and throwing away valuable resources in the process.

How do I let go?

Find a use for everything. When you’re about to get something new, ask yourself if you already have something that does the job.

What does it pair with?

Reducing spending, fighting shopaholism and any resolution based around simplicity, minimalism and saving.

20: Disrespect.

Why let go?

Disrespecting others only makes social situations uncomfortable and awkward. It can feel good briefly, but after the event you are in a worse situation.

How do I let go?

Try and treat everyone with a minimal level of politeness. For example, make a point of not swearing, even around friends and family, so as to get in the habit of not swearing around anyone else.

What does it pair with?

Social-based resolutions and any resolution where you depend on others. Stress reduction and self-esteem boosting.

21: Blame.

Why let go?

Holding onto sadness sometimes makes things feel better. After all, it’s harder to recover and move on than it is to keep blaming others again and again.

How do I let go?

Find what actions and behaviours of yours are causing some of your issues. Try and find at least one thing you did to cause your situation.

What does it pair with?

Stress reduction and general life improvement.

22: Self-loathing.

Why let go?

Sometimes it can seem as though self-loathing hurts nobody… which is why it’s a problem. If you feel that self-loathing and self-depreciation doesn’t hurt anyone, you are doing yourself harm.

How do I let go?

Try and find something nice about yourself and focus on it whenever you feel down or bad about yourself.

What does it pair with?

Every goal you expect to reach needs you to love yourself enough to go for it.

23: Stubbornness.

Why let go?

When we’re too stubborn we can sabotage ourselves and stop ourselves from reaching goals or accepting constructive criticism.

How do I let go?

Ask yourself what you’re guarding against. Make sure that whatever you’re scared of or angered by isn’t causing you to be unnecessarily restricted. Try and be conscious of when you’re being stubborn and try and let your guard down once a week.

What does it pair with?

New experiences, social resolutions and anything where advice and support from others.

24: Loneliness.

Why let go?

Loneliness is as much an internal experience as a physical reality. The feeling of being alone in a crowd, or in perfect company on your own is internal. And when we feel lonely, whether we are around people or not, we aren’t comfortable with the safety and support our friends and family have to offer.

How do I let go?

Reach out to people. Find people who you can get along with and talk to them. Go and visit friends and family. Find a place where you feel welcome.

What does it pair with?

Letting go of loneliness pairs very well with any solo resolutions. When you’re on your own and working hard at something, having people to return home to could be a comfort.

25: Anger.

Why let go?

Anger is a fire that consumes your energy and your mind. It can interfere with healthy processes and relationships.

How do I let go?

Practice meditation and mindfulness. Learn to calm yourself down even at the most tense of times with breathing and mantras. Learn to focus through.

What does it pair with?

Any self-improvement resolution. We can all get frustrated and learning to control our anger will help.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

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IQ is EVERYTHING… and Nothing.

Everybody is obsessed with IQ.

When it supports your absurd political ideology, biological or sociological theory or simply when the “right” people and agendas are associated with a high IQ, it means everything. It is infallible, a marker of definite quality, a sign of the Messiah.

When it offends your delicate sensibilities, disproves or works against your theories and when the “wrong” people have high IQs, or, Heavens forbid, the “right” people have low IQs, it means nothing. It is weak, a poor measure of quality, meaningless.

And once they’ve decided whether IQ is good or bad, people will trot out countless individuals and studies proving their case. It’s astonishing how well science has proven that IQ is the most important measure of individual quality, meaningless on an individual level, a marker of society’s success and independent of social development, all whilst it doesn’t even exist! Truly a miraculous thing.

Now, for what it’s worth, I sort of agree with the last statement. No, not the sarcastic remark, but that IQ doesn’t exist. At least not in the way people think about it, or want it to exist.

Many people assume IQ is a definitive marker of intelligence, like a brain scan, an exam score or the likes. Something that tells you, with at least 80% accuracy, how smart, wise, bright or otherwise intelligent a person is. The reality is a little duller. What even the most culturally neutral, squares-vs-circles, spot the difference IQ test measures is actually mathematical ability. In other words, how well you can put two and two together, order things by size and shape and work out the next item, word or number in a sequence. Which I’m pretty sure we all mastered by the age of six. Even very autistic or mentally handicapped children can do such things, albeit not always on demand.

I’m not saying these things aren’t important, mind. Being able to quickly, consistently and efficiently do such things plays a huge part in your life. Being able to work out if you got the right change, to guess which data plan suits you best, to gauge the time it will take a gazelle to reach your hiding spot, to take apart and put together machines, to whittle a point to just the right size, etc have always been important skills for humans. We need to do these things in order to live. We always have and we always will. Because regardless of your job, lifestyle, age or status, a human who can’t remember the difference between a moving and a still car, who can’t remember the severity of car impact, who can’t gauge the speed of an oncoming vehicle, who can’t work out the probability of getting hit and who can’t weigh the pros and cons of crossing an open road versus looking for a pedestrian crossing is probably a dead human. Maths matter, folks.

So why is a measure of simple mathematical ability used as a measure of intelligence? Well, it isn’t. Even the most hardcore IQ-loving scientist understands that IQ isn’t telling you how intelligent someone is. It is simply telling you their potential for intelligence. How intelligent they could be if everything worked out right.

The difference between IQ and intelligence is similar to the difference between a talent and a skill. Let’s look at my family, for two reasons. One is we are a very artistically gifted (or talented) bunch, the other is there are a lot of us. My father is a skilled musician, a decent writer and a good painter; my mother is an excellent painter and a good crafter; my eldest brother did not exploit his talents as far as I know; my other brother is a good singer; my eldest sister is a good writer and a good sketcher; my other elder sister is a good singer, but I’m not sure what else; I like to think I am a decent painter and a good crafter, sketcher and writer; my younger sister is an excellent painter and a good writer; my youngest sister is a good painter, writer and jewelery maker. So with genes that are somehow conducive to artistic talent, we all wound up with different sets of skills. And we all use those skills differently. I will write absolutely anything, my younger sister writes scripts, my father writes songs and poems. I paint landscapes and surreal and impressionist art, my father painted a lot of abstract work, my mother paints realistic portraits and illustrations and my younger sister paints manga and pop art. We have used what nature gave us very differently.

And that is the difference between talent and skill. An artistically talented two year old who never exploits this gift will not grow up to be a great artist. They will paint better than the average two year old, but no more. Likewise, a brilliantly gifted abstract artist may paint more realistic portraits than Joe Average, but will pale in comparison to a talentless professional portrait artist with years of experience. Your talent is what you are born with. Your skill is what you learn. Together, they are your total ability, your limitations. Likewise, your IQ is a rough measure of your potential intelligence. What else you have and what you do to build on it is what makes your actual intelligence.

So what are the other sides to your intelligence, the other things that contribute to how smart you can possibly get?

The first is commonly called “Creative Intelligence” or “Creativity”. The most correct term for it is “Latent Inhibition”, ie, how naturally inhibited and obedient you are. The higher the latent inhibition, the more likely you are to need rules, even instruction, before you dare act. The lower the latent inhibition, the more likely you are to do something on impulse or to break boundaries. Everyone needs both the ability to follow some sort of order, even if it’s just remembering the consequences of your actions, and the ability to act independently, even if it’s just weighing several rules or orders against each other. I have a theory that it is often a poor balance between IQ and LI that results in stranger or less adaptive behaviours, rather than low IQ causing all the trouble. Individual motivations and interests aside, someone with a below average IQ with above average LI will be just as law-abiding as someone with a high IQ and average LI and probably moreso than someone with above average IQ and below average LI.

The next is social learning. This could be in the form of empathy, sympathy, cooperativeness, etc. Basically, it’s your ability to learn from others without instruction. This is where a lot of people on the autism spectrum fall. They may have a high IQ and moderately low LI, but without the ability to infer from others and properly observe them, you can’t begin to learn. Social learning is the groundwork for all other forms of learning. This is how you integrate into your culture, develop an accent or a walk. You don’t study another person’s accent, but if you live with them it will merge with yours, either from empathy, cooperation or just acclimatization.

Finally comes education. If you just have IQ, LI and social learning as distinguishing elements of intelligence, we would be no different to most social animals. However we also have education. This comes in many forms, from schooling, to training, to immersion, to passing old wives tales around. Your education is what you have learned from others through instruction and your IQ, LI and social learning abilities will all reflect on how easily you can be educated. Therefore, the last factor is simply your personality and culture. Are you willing to be educated? Are you overly trusting, maybe not trusting enough? What will you focus on learning? What education do you have access to? What education do you need? Someone with a high IQ, high social learning, and low LI could easily avoid educating themselves, be taught the wrong thing or live in a society where certain matters are not essential to their lives. Therefore, you can have someone who is set up for high intelligence, who is wrong about many things due to cultural factors, obstinacy, lack of educational resources or emotional intensity.

Of course, a hard limit on intelligence is a hard limit. All things being equal, someone with an IQ of 120 is smarter than someone with an IQ of 70. Just as, all things being equal, a man with two legs runs faster than a man with only one. And of two people in a class, all being equal, the one with the higher IQ will be able to advance to a level where the one with a lower IQ gets stuck. It’s as simple as that.

But there is simply more to it than that in real life. All things aren’t equal, for starters. Someone may have dyslexia, synesthesia, psychopathy, nerve damage, autism, etc. And the cultural environment in which our education happens can shape us permanently, so that someone very bright is reluctant to leave the social norm, or someone very dim is in the right setting to learn harsh truths the bright person can’t. And, finally, probably most importantly, few people reach their full potential anyway. When the environment is at its harshest we are encouraged to develop our intelligence as far as possible, but we rarely have the means to become educated. When the environment is at its gentlest we are hand-held through life and discouraged from developing our highest intelligence, but we have the luxury of great education. And which matters more? Who knows. Both are highly adaptive strategies.

What does matter is IQ. Just not in the way people think it does.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

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.

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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.

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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.

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