It was just something I did to try and give myself a bit of momentum when I thought that’s what I needed. But it developed a life of its own, opening my eyes to things I hadn’t seen before. Changing my life in the process.
In the beginning…
The catalyst was pulling away from a business relationship that had absorbed me for a very long time. Suddenly, when I was no longer spending at least an hour a day on the phone with this person, meeting potential joint clients, delivering work with them and turning up for monthly meetings that involved a bigger group of people again, I noticed I had a lot of white space to play with.
At first that was somewhat scary. I had my personal OD and coaching clients of course, and so it wasn’t that getting business per se was an issue. But the whole split opened up what, in the beginning, felt like an open wound.
What was I going to do to fix it?
Habits as an alternative to goals
My knee jerk response was to think that I needed to logic out a new direction for myself, create a list of new goals, develop a project plan, and manage the shit out of it. I’ve been masterful at that. Something gets on one of my To Do lists and I have the appetite for it, it’ll get done alright.
But that whole approach didn’t feel right for some reason. Not any more. In fact it felt it was time to see things a new way.
By a series of magical coincidences, I came across Jamie Smart and the stuff I was writing about last week on The Three Principles. From reading his book and then doing his training, I had some massive insights about myself, two of which were:
That, even though in that moment I felt quite directionless and exposed, I was okay. Nothing about the circumstances of my life or work could change that.
Then, clarity can’t be forced. It’s something that comes in its own time.
I began to see that this gap was actually an incredibly creative space, and decided to play in to it.
Still, I’m not really one for sitting around doing nothing, and it occurred to me that, while I continued to work with my existing clients, I would also use some of the spare time I had to do some of the things that were important to me but that had till then perhaps been relegated to the fag ends of my busy work days. Things like exercise, creative writing, healthy eating…
Next it occurred to me that I was going to upturn the applecart of my life entirely and, instead of putting work first as I have done over the years, I was going to put wellbeing first. And dare to see what happened as a result.
But what might putting wellbeing first look like?
Habits emerging from wisdom
That’s when the idea of creating daily habits emerged. I could – and did at the time – put logical reasons round why it made sense to direct my energies into habits. But in truth I just went with a feeling.
So, in the beginning, I went with things that resonated with me. Not things that I had to discipline or somehow force myself to do, that were punishing in any way, or that would be very hard to instill. Things that were simple. Easy.
The first ones were immediately clear:
- Daily writing (I wanted to be a writer, yet wasn’t till then allowing myself to write creatively on a regular basis)
- Maximum two cups of coffee a day (I love coffee. But more than 2 cups a day knocks my whole energy off)
- Maximum two glasses of wine a day (ditto)
- Drink two litres of water a day (since I feel so much better when I’m well hydrated)
- Bed before 10pm (I am a sleep monster, and even on days when I’m up at 6am, this gives me 8 hours sleep a night)
On the writing front, I struggled to begin with. What to write? Where? Another person I admire, Steve Chandler, has this ethos that if you don’t know where to start, “start anywhere”. I decided that it was less important whether I wrote here or elsewhere, or what I wrote, than that I wrote at all. And so I started a private journal. Wrote there daily, if I wrote nowhere else. Sheer top of the head stuff, which in turn prompted unexpected thoughts and ideas of their own to come forward.
Just keeping with these simple things over the course of those first few months was energizing in a way that I hadn’t expected. Keeping with them brought some truly unexpected shifts.
One thing I hadn’t anticipated was a huge insight around integrity. It simply came to me that, the more I kept my commitment to myself to honor my habits, the more I was in integrity with myself. The more my actions and my intentions were lined up, the truer to myself I felt myself becoming, and the better connected to myself I felt.
I began to feel like I was taking myself seriously in a way I never had before.
Not that I have become a slave to my habits. They’ve kind of become like my best wishes for myself. Love for myself in action.
It occurred to me early on that there was no room here for any judgment of success or failure. There’s just noticing. Some days I can tick the box on all my habits. Others I can’t. But every day is its own day.
As I’ve changed and learned, I’ve had new and fresh insights about what I needed to do:
- Exercise three times a week (I feel better when I exercise and when my body starts to feel well and strong)
- Eat protein at breakfast (I can maintain my energy so much better if I pay attention to what I eat for breakfast and make sure I get a big dose of protein: quinoa, yogurt, eggs…)
- Meditate 20 minutes daily
The benefits to me have been immense. First, I feel really well and my energy is good, my thinking feels much sharper. I dropped a lot of my need to strive for stuff; I came to really value simplicity.
On the health front, I upped the anti big time on nutrition and sorted some long-standing problems I’d been having with IBS and energy.
But I guess I couldn’t have anticipated where all of this would take my work. I’d had visions at one point of developing a huge social media presence off the back of which I’d develop a whole series of coaching type products. And I’d had a site which for a long time had good traffic and was quite high on the Alexa rankings. But it began to feel like a burden. The more I turned up for my existing clients, the more I really valued the work I already had and instead of trying to create something different around all of that, decided to hone in on what was most working there and articulate that as my offering. You can read more about that here.
Getting that clear allowed me the discernment to ditch the darling that had been my old website, and recreate this site. It’s audience? Primarily the people I currently work with, have worked with in the past, or may work with directly in the future. And, if you’re reading and you’re not yet one of these, then that’s cool – it’s good to have you and if you like this make sure you don’t miss out on future posts by giving us your details here.
Oh, and last summer I started putting some of my more creative writing stuff online too, over on my own name domain site. It was in the process of doing that that I had the discover that I want to do memoir writing.
Well, again, I could come up with a smart, logical answer. But the truth is it makes me feel good to write. I write it well. I enjoy writing from feeling.
That spills over into how I feel about life in general. How I turn up in relationship to Steve, my family and friends.
Which in turn spills over into how I turn up for my clients. I think the best coaching and consulting work is done, not through technique, but through a heart connection. It’s so easy, I believe, in the business world to forget about that.
Habits as a way of creating inside-out change
Who would have thought that all of this would have come from following some simple daily habits?
Certainly not me. But now, with the proviso that you allow the habits to choose you, my big sense is that they can be a powerful way to boost your wellbeing and indeed to change your life.
So, over to you. What resonates for you in all of this? What wellbeing habits have you tried to instill? With what results?
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