Leo Babauta at Zen Habits did a series called “A Year of Living Without” where he gave up (or restricted his use of) something different each month. I like the idea of doing a monthly reflection, and I’m working this year on forming new habits and meeting some goals so I thought it would be nice to spend the last day of each month reflecting on my progress. This month I wanted to start a habit of writing in a journal nightly. This is something I did for a span of 3-4 years as a pre-teen, and I really enjoyed the practice.
I am happy to report that I have successfully written an entry in my journal each night. I made it part of my nightly routine (after the bathroom stuff, before laying down), and it hasn't been too difficult to implement. I didn't put any codifiers or restrictions on my writing, I let myself get out whatever needs to be expressed and don’t force myself to hit a certain length or depth of reflection. I’m not sure how to assess the impact of this habit on my life, but I believe that journaling can be a stress reliever, provide focus, and help you identify patterns you may not have been aware of. I think I need to re-read my entries for the month in order for the experience to provide actionable feedback.
I set five running goals for myself this year. One and two are specific races, both taking place in March. I am registered for both and getting mentally and physically prepared for them. My third goal was to do different speed workouts each week and I have been doing that with great success. It’s making my runs more fun and I look forward to trying new things. Goal four was to increase my weekly run total to between 15-22 miles per week. If I get my long run in tomorrow I will have run weeks of 18.5, 20, 21, and 17 miles this month.
The reason I say if and also why this week is less is because I've been feeling some soreness in my right leg along the outside of my calf area, and I felt a weird pain in my right leg just below my knee on the outside during my last two runs. Instead of 4 miles yesterday I opted for a 40 minute hill interval workout on the ARC trainer. I am hoping my leg feels good tomorrow morning, but if not I have come to peace with the fact that I may need a few more days off.
My final running goal was to make some running friends, and I haven’t tackled this one yet. I’m struggling to find a running group that meets at a time/place that works in my schedule and I also worry that I won’t be fast enough and don’t want to frustrate people. This is definitely a work in progress! My first March race is local so I’m hoping to meet some runners at the race or expo that are my speed.
No reflection is successful unless it also looks forward. For February I’d like to start a habit of meditation. I've been reading, listening and learning about meditation for at least six months but can’t seem to make it a habit. I've struggled with feeling like I don’t have enough time to fit it in with my work, fitness, household, and relationship responsibilities. I realized that I was aiming for 5 minute minimum sessions and that I might be able to be more consistent if I broke that up into smaller goals.
I also know from reading about habits (BTW, this book is excellent for that) that they only stick when they are triggered by a cue and followed by a reward. I am going to set a goal of three two minute meditation sessions per day with the option to make them longer if I feel I can. The cues will be as follows:
Monday-Friday: Session 1 in the car when I get to work; Session 2 after I sit to eat lunch before I start to eat; Session 3 in my car when I get home from work
Weekend: Session 1 before I go out for my workout; Session 2 after I sit to eat lunch before I start to eat; Session 3 after I sit to eat dinner before I start to eat
The reward is easy because meditation provides its own – a sense of calm that is hard to replicate elsewhere. I will start on this tomorrow and make February my month of meditation. Check back in a month for an update! The other personal goal I have is to read more books than last year. I read 84 in 2013, and if I finish the book I’m almost done with today I will be at 8 for this year. Multiply that by 12 and I will smash my goal!