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?
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.
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 be 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.
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!
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!