Style guide for living

I’m always looking for ways to make my life calmer and more enriching. I like lists! I like grand declarations and sticking to plans. (did you notice! 🙂 ) I’ve decided to adopt my COVID to do list as a style guide for living. Think of it as a personal list of T&Cs.

Why would I want a style guide for living? Modern life, pre or post-pandemic, is a mass of decision points. Living in a developed country, I have lots of choices. Take acquiring and preparing food for example. The choices I  can make include whether I:

  • waste or not waste food. 
  • shop at the multinational supermarket or the farmers’ market
  • buy stuff in plastic or not
  • buy bulk or not
  • freeze or not
  • eat meat or other animal products or not 
  • plan meals or buy on impulse

I could keep going. If I wrote a similar list for exercising it would be equally as long. Is a 5-minute burst of HIIT (high-intensity interval training)  really as beneficial as a one-hour walk/run? 

I want to choose healthy plant based food.

Decision fatigue is a real thing. 

Habits help us manage decision fatigue to a certain point but having a style guide for living can shepherd your choices and, to an extent, eliminate many of the daily decisions you need to make.  It leads to a greater level of automaticity and hence less anxiety. Choice is not all it’s cracked up to be as Barry Schwartz clearly demonstrated in his book the Paradox of Choice. If you have too many choices you tend to make none! Dr Laurie Santos also talks about this on her podcast, The Happiness Lab. Check out Season 1 Episode 8 on Choice Overload.

To-do becomes  Ta-da

A few months ago I wrote about my COVID to-do list and how I decided to turn it into a ta-da list as a way of celebrating success rather than beating myself up with the things I had not crossed off.  My aim for each day of lock down was to:

  • create something, 
  • organise something, 
  • learn something new and 
  • move everything (as in exercise). 

Ticking off these things every day was a TA-DA moment!  The things didn’t need to be big and were open to interpretation. This list served me well and I have decided to keep it as part of my life.

I want to re-badge the TA-DA list as my style guide for living.

Creating a small image counts.

Style Guide for Living

The style guide for living is not intended to be a daily to-do list but rather a way of living. I don’t expect to be able to cross each item off every day. Rather that I see myself as the type of person who for instance, values AND participates in regular exercise. It builds on my ikigai (reason for getting up) which I outlined in a recent post.

I have been mulling over an idea for a mnemonic to capture my style guide and make it easier for me to internalise and remember. The Ta-Da categories spell out a rather awkward COLM!  I want to be calm not COLM! I’ve been working on a better mnemonic – CALMER.

Here is my first attempt. 

C – Create before you consume. I don’t intend to create something everyday but rather be a person who creates before they consume.

A – Arrange (as in organise) – I will be a person who stays organised and de-cluttered.

L – Learn something new – I will be a life long learner

M – Meditate – I will meditate regularly to improve my mental health

E – Exercise – I will the type of person who incorporates exercise into my life as often as possible.

R – Reduce/reuse/recycle – I will be the type of person who reduces their environmental impact.

This misses a few important aspects of life that I want to include, like healthy eating food, restful sleep and positive relationships. 

PERMA+

Greater minds than my own struck this problem too. PERMA is a concept and mnemonic that’s been around in the positive psychology space for a while now. PERMA focuses on five pillars that have been shown to lead to positive mental wellbeing, namely:

P = Positive emotions

E = Engagement

R = Relationships
M = Meaning

A = Accomplishment

To fill in the physical factors necessary for overall good health and to launch it into a state of flourishing,  the schema evolved to PERMA+ (said PERMA plus) The “plus” being good diet, exercise, and sleep, as well as resilience and optimism. They just lumped everything they couldn’t fit into the plus sign!

CALM-FEST?

I have been fooling with a few iterations for my own version of the PERMA+ concept and I’ve turned CALMER into a festival – CALM-FEST!

C – Create before you consume

A – Arrange (as in organise)

L – Learn something new

M – Meditate

F – Friends, family and my community.

E – Exercise 

S – Sustenance and sleep.

T – Tread lightly on our Earth.

It’s a work in progress!  If you have any ideas for better words that encapsulate my intentions, please comment below. Especially the “S” to cater for sleep and food.


Some of these intentions will be easy to achieve everyday. For others, I’ll be happy if I can do them 20 out of 30 days in the month. Borrowing from the ideas of BJ Fogg in his book Tiny Habits (which will be the topic of an upcoming blog post) at the very least each day should be a mini-festival!

Cut back on your daily decisions by working out your style guide for living.
Meditation helps settle your mind

Furious Fiction 17 – November 2020

This month I found it really easy to use the prompts provided by the Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Short Story Competition. The good luck fairies were standing on my side of the fence! I have been able to progress my Frankie story and have managed to get the Judge and Frankie in the same room. There may be a few continuity errors creeping in but heh…I’ll fix all that up when I combine all the chapters I have been putting together over this year.

This short story competition is serious fun and I recommend it to anyone who likes creative writing. Only 500 words with a prize of $A500. I’ve given up on writing for the prize, now I am just trying to write my story. I’m getting closer to the end!

November’s prompts

This month the prompts were as follows:

  1. LOCATION: Your story must take place at a HOTEL.
  2. OBJECT/PROP: Your story must include a PHOTOGRAPH.
  3. WORDS: Your story must include the following words: COLLAR, GLOOMY, POLICE, RHYTHM, SAPPHIRE.

In Australia, a hotel can mean a number of things. A pub or bar or a hotel where you can get accommodation. Theoretically all hotels have to offer accommodation.

This month I submitted the story at 6:30 PM on Saturday, although I had essentially finished it on Friday night. Exactly 500 words.


O’Mallory meet Frankie

It had been a long time since O’Mallory had been in a dive as gloomy as the Mumbai Sapphire.  Despite its name, there was nothing colourful or exotic about it. The air was fetid and the carpet sticky. He gingerly picked up his glass, and satisfied it was clean, he took a deep swig. He sighed and closed his eyes wallowing in the simple pleasure of an ice-cold beer.  

His eyes darted around the bar, looking for signs of recognition in the faces. Had any of these characters been in his courtroom?

As he sat waiting for the others he peeked at the photograph again, holding it under the table like a schoolboy with their phone. He snorted with glee! He couldn’t believe that the Honourable Karen Brooks, Minister for Social Inclusion, founding member of the Ultra Conservative Party and co-drafter of the Fashion Laws,  had been so indiscreet. So undeniably, comprehensively indiscreet! He snorted again! He wanted to drum his feet on the floor in a happy little rhythm. 

The longer he waited the less brave he felt. It was all very well to talk about sedition on a Friday night after a few whiskeys, but could he actually do it? He was tempted to leave the photo on the table and walk out. He was certain someone would report Brooks to the Fashion Police. The cops would collar her quicker than you could say Violation of the Federal Fashion Code. He’d read about it in tomorrow’s news from the safety of his own home, far away from any chance of being caught. 

He toyed with this safer but short-sighted option for a few moments.  The goal wasn’t to topple just one lousy Minister, however senior. He wanted to see every single duplicitous, shonky, hypocritical ratbag who made up the UCP scattered on the Parliamentary floor with no chance of political resurrection. 

To do that he needed more evidence. To get the evidence he needed Thomas Ball and the ex-con he was bringing, Frankie.  Frankly, he didn’t remember Frankie despite having sentenced him to five years.

Ball had heard about Frankie and his stash of incriminating photos when he was digging up dirt for his underground blog.  According to Ball, the stash was worth much more than a blog post.

The Judge looked up and there stood a man with a shock of Elvis-like hair, pasty skin and the eyes of a scared animal, dressed in the regulation grey outfit of the times.

“Guv’nor” the man said and then O’Mallory remembered Frankie, the serial offender. The one with the blue pants and green shirt. The one with the silver and gold sequins. 

The words fraternising with a known felon echoed in O’Mallory’s brain. 

“Right-o, Frankie, down to business,” O’Mallory said clumsily, “who are these men with their back to the camera?”

“Beer first, Guv’nor. Business second.” 

Frankie closed his eyes, and sipped his first beer in five years, he wallowed in the simple pleasure of the icy-cold liquid.


Are you a fan of short story competitions? Are there any others I could be entering? Add your ideas in the comments below.

The Great Southern Road Trip

I have spent the last few weeks settling on a destination for my next big adventure. I had been hatching a plan to do an extended road trip through Victoria. This plan has been on the drawing board for at least 3 years, when I set out my 60 for 60 plans (60 things to do before I turn 60). 

Border closures make things tricky

I had to reconsider my plan when  Victoria became Australia’s hot bed of COVID19 and strict lock down laws including a complete shut down of the border ensued and continued long after the other States had begun to loosen up. I thought I’d have to go north and began looking at a huge trip through Central Australia. Some of my sensible buddies talked me out of that given the time of year I was planning on going. Days and days of endless 40oC plus may not be a great idea!  

Too hot for this trip!

In the meantime, things were getting better in Victoria and I decided to take a punt and start booking a few critical bits of the itinerary. I crossed all my body parts in the fervent hope that by the end of February things would be open. 

And….they have! It seems that all Australian internal borders will be open from the end of November without the requirement to self-isolate. (Provided we don’t go backwards!!)*

The Great Southern Road Trip

With that good news I’m pleased to announce that the Great Southern Road Trip is going ahead! However, now that the borders ARE open there is the very real prospect of destinations being booked out because those Aussies who might normally be heading off for international destinations are “stuck” at home.  On top of this many towns near the NSW-Victorian border have still not recovered after the horrific bushfires which preceded COVID.

The Great Southern Road trip itinerary is shaping up well. The overarching plan is to follow the NSW and Victoria coast down to Melbourne then take the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait to join the 6-day walking tour and then a few days in Flinders Island. After that I’ll spend another week exploring other parts of Tasmania.

So far I have booked one night’s accommodation in Victoria at a lighthouse because there was only one night available in the time frame I was planning on passing through. This sought after accommodation was already close to being completely booked out for the next 6 months!

After three weeks in Tasmania, I’ll head back to the mainland and ‘do’ regional Victoria concentrating on the western side of the state, then back up through the Highlands to home.

The Two Iains are looking forward to another adventure!

The itinerary shapes up

All up I’ll be away for 6 weeks.  While I’m tootling around in my trusty Subaru, I intend to knock off a few things from my 60 for 60 list including:

  1. Southernmost point of the Australian mainland and perhaps even most southern point of Tasmania.
  2. A hot air balloon ride.
  3. A cheese-making course in Melbourne (if it’s on!)
  4. A writing retreat. In a way, the whole trip will be a writing retreat!
  5. Astrophotography. I think there will be dark sky on Flinders Island and I might even get lucky and see the aurora in Tasmania, although I could be a bit early. It is apparently at it’s best from March – September.

Apart from the 6-day guided walking tour there will be at least one other overnight hike. I’ll be alternating between luxurious accommodation and camping to make my money spread a little further. Once my spending ban is over, I’ll be on the look out for a good second hand tent and camping gear. I have already jumped the gun and bought some maps!

I haven’t nutted it all out yet, but this is part of the plan.

I’m counting down already!

* The South Australian border has been closed again since I began drafting this post! 🙁