Get plenty of sleep, drink water, take the time to move around, manage stress, and make meaningful things. Though a simple list, I believe it is a good suggestion of what to aim for to lead a better and healthier life this year. This is all well and good, but real life improvement comes from implementation rather than from deliberation; so, let’s discuss how we can make that final leap to action.
One, two, and three are fairly straightforward – we even know the daily metrics here. 7.5 – 9 h of sleep, 1.5 – 2 L of water, 0.5 h of exercise. The fourth point is subjective but we all know the drill: see the bigger picture, don’t get hung up on details; breathe. The fifth point, though, is tricky. There is a consistent message out there to do and make, but where to begin? What does this even mean?
I first came across the suggestion in the article here. On my reading, it suggests that we spend too much time on intention and not enough time on action. And fulfillment comes from action, and from implementation. My favourite example from the article is the conversation full of self-proclaimed “writers,” few of whom actually make that final step of writing something to justify the title.
So perhaps we need to commit to doing more in the coming year. Here are just a few of the ideas I came up with to challenge myself with. So far they are all in my head. Maybe by the time the year is over, I will be able to back up each one with a real, deliberate, illustrative action actually taken.
(1) Fight perfectionism. It is true that sheer perfectionism got me to many of the places where I am today. However, you may notice that I have gaps of several months between a few of the blog posts on this website. This is because life gets in the way, yes; but also because I spend much too much time in my mind, ironing out halfway-good blog post ideas and then discarding them in a figurative wastebasket. It is overflowing with figuratively crunched up balls of paper. (Possibly some pieces are floating down in a confetti of ribbon-like scraps, figuratively.) And while I want to ensure that my posts are relevant to readers and, well, good, maybe there is more value in trial-and-error practice than I realize.
(2) Cook. This is possibly the most direct way you can translate ideas into tangible, beautiful, unique, and above all, useful content. Everyone needs to eat. I highly recommend perusing through the Smitten Kitchen website and also treating yourself to a nice cookbook. I know I will be experimenting with lots of food this year.
(3) Make art. And I don’t mean legitimate art. I know people whose job it is to paint or to take photographs, and I will not pretend to have the skills that they do. However, I believe that a little bit of creativity can make life better. I have a large chalkboard in my kitchen for recipes, handmade calendars, and ad hoc doodles. There are art kits that will let you paint Van Gogh pieces on a little canvas with an outline of Sunflowers. I’ve already discussed jig saw puzzles last year in this post. And everyone has a camera – a dedicated device, or one on their phone. When I see something beautiful, I take a picture. This makes me go through life carefully. Maybe doing all of these things is not the most pragmatically useful concept but it is emotionally fulfilling to alter your environment in small, beautiful ways.
(4) Do things for other people. It is a good sentiment to be a well-wishing and a nice person. But I will challenge myself to do something to prove it. We have lots of charities and volunteer opportunities to choose from. If I think students should push themselves to learn real life skills and professional presentation capabilities, I can always help judge a competition that encourages these skills. Communities (locally, regionally, globally) would be stronger if we lost some of the bystander effect and realized that individual actions do count towards the greater good.
There is a good point in the argument that we all live inside ourselves more so than we ever did before. There are incentives to do so: we can showcase what is “inside” us through social media websites, blogs, and instagram accounts. There are fewer incentives to follow through on the thoughts we express to actually prove that we really do subscribe to them. This is because everyone else won’t notice: they are also busy crafting their image on those online platforms that are not real life, not where actions take place. Perhaps this is overstated, but it illustrates the idea.
Let’s change this one decision at a time. I think people and their intentions are intrinsically good. If this is true, and our actions follow our intentions, there might be some great things ahead.