I had a whole thing prepared for today... to talk about how resilient we all are and how this year—in the middle of unbelievable hardship—we've learned we are capable of getting through pretty much anything. And that's a fact.I see it in my clients every day, and I hear it through those of you that write back to me with your stories each week. Your survival skills inspire me every day, even and especially when you feel like you're just barely managing.
I had a whole thing written... and then a bomb blew up in my city on Christmas morning. The blast rattled through our house and sent my son catapulting into our room at 6:30 a.m. At first, I thought a transformer or a gas line blew up in the neighborhood. Then my husband read it was an RV, so we assumed it was an accident. It wasn't. This is a photo of our historic downtown. (Source unknown. It's circulating widely.)
Everything blew up this year. I can say that with authority, as we started the year with a tornado and ended with a bomb. I'm grateful we made it through in one piece, but wow, it's been a beast—and our family hasn't even been impacted by the worst of it. I'm the health coach with the good advice, right? But the truth is I'm in this mess right along with everyone else. So, with 20 yeas of training, here is what I know about moving forward...
The subtitle of The Habit Trip is: A Fill-in-the-Blank Journey to a Life on Purpose. That's on purpose, not with purpose, not of purpose. We humans get wrapped up in knots, trying to find a purpose rather than choosing what to do with the tools we have on hand—on purpose.
We can't predict the future. I hope 2021 is a year of healing for all of us. I'm optimistic it will be full of opportunities to rebuild. But if this past year is any indication, there simply aren't any guarantees for the time we have on earth or any specific kind of stability while we're here. We don't know what's coming, but that's not as bleak as it sounds. It's a siren call to show up fully, to appreciate and work with what we've got.
The new Disney Pixar film, Soul, speaks to this idea that life is unpredictable. If we spend all of our time searching for our individual purpose (or the purpose of meaningless acts like Christmas Day bombings), we lose sight of the simple pleasures, beauty, and powerful choices right in front of us.
This is one of my favorite sketches from The Habit Trip. It's from chapter 6, Future TBD, in which we glean a bit of wisdom from Grand Pabbie, the Troll King from Frozen II. He says, “When one can’t see the future, all one can do is the next right thing.”
So, as I work with clients (and make choices in my own life), I'm all about doing things on purpose. Sometimes "on purpose" means a 5-mile hike; sometimes it means cinnamon crumb cake for breakfast three days in a row. Sometimes it means working too much on a Sunday, and sometimes it means taking time to watch a movie with my son while he still wants to curl up next to me on the couch.
If we practice making decisions intentionally (even the "bad" ones), then making different, healthier ones gets a lot easier over time. When choices are deliberate and divorced from guilt, they are so much more malleable.
So I have an exercise for you this week. You can forward this email to any friends who might want to join you. On a piece of paper, create three sections for the following questions:
What habitual choices do you make on purpose that make your life better? These can be big, small, or anywhere in between.
What choices do you make repeatedly that are definitely not on purpose?
Pulling from both of those lists or adding something new, what rituals or routines do you want to choose on purpose going forward: good and bad, healthy and unhealthy? No apologies—all of them conscious and intentional.
If you need a reminder of where unseen choices may be hiding, refer to the Wellness Wheel on the Work with Me page on my website to revisit the Ten Areas of Well-Being. (If you hear an alarm going off in your head like, Hey! Maybe I need to pay attention to this thing! That's a good place to start.)
What is the next right step? You don't have to know what comes after that, until you get there anyway... as long as you take each step on purpose.
2020 catapulted us into the unknown. There is a lot of comfort and power in simply taking the next right step. This new year might not be the ideal time for sweeping changes, but it does offer an opportunity to bring old routines and mindless choices into the light. From there, each of us can decide if those habits are supporting the solace and satisfaction we deserve.
New Year's Day won't flip the switch and make everything perfect all of a sudden, but it's a pretty good chance for a deep breath. I hope the exercise above helps you find some new reinforcements and a few "bad" habits to hang onto for now, on purpose.
Happy New Year from me to you! Thanks for reading and showing up each week. Your presence means more to me than you know.
This is something that two of my clients are doing this January to take a deep breath. Adriene Mishler is a much-loved yoga teacher in Austin, TX who offers free yoga videos online. HERE is a link to her 30-day Yoga with Adriene series from last year, with all videos already available, no login required. They run less than 30-minutes each. Or you can sign up for her new series for 2021. (And P.S., your "30 days" can run 60 or 90 or as many days as you please... your body, your choice.)
"Why do we do the things we do and not do the things we should do? This book helped me understand so much about the many "micro-habits" I've created over my life. Some good and some not so good. Topics here are written thru a scientific lens but read as playful and fun... So many self-help books don't take busy women's actual lives into consideration, but this author did. All thru the book, light bulbs were going off, and I ended it thinking, "I can do this." I highly recommend this book for anyone curious about digging a little deeper but having a blast getting there." - J.F., Amazon review.
Thanks, C.G. for this photo of The Habit Trip on your solo Airbnb adventure at the ocean. Did I mention I love getting these photos?! They reinforce everything I dreamed about while writing it... you and your strawberries and pets and blankets and cozy reading nooks.
Last, a bit of good news to finish out the year:
20 Good Things That Happened in 2020 from The Washington Post
Nurtured by Nature: How the pandemic has intensified our connection to the outdoors
Swimmer Diana Nyad on spending time with her "old hound, Teddy" in quarantine