Refocusing – week 4

Hey, hey, hey, it’s been another seven days! That means the first month of my “Refocusing” is behind me. So, how’d I do?

Progress report – week 4

As always, I’m going to give myself a grade on each of my goals individually, then summarize my overall results.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

Oh, I’ve sucked pretty hard at this. Like last week, I’ve been diligently stretching, but getting outside for a walk (or really anything you might call “exercise”) just hasn’t happened. I’m filled with “I don’t wanna!” and the cold weather hasn’t helped.

I’ve giving myself a D, here, and I really need to do better.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

I’m crushing this goal. I’ve stayed under my calorie limit, I’ve been eating much healthier food, and haven’t felt at all like I’m starving myself. Also? My recent stomach trouble seems to be a thing of the past. Awesome all around.

I totally get an A+ for this goal.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

Nailed it! No slips, no days off, I’m rocking everything about this goal.

An A+ for sure.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

This is another goal I’m just completely crushing. Every single day in my house there’s lots of hanging out, playing games, and just generally enjoying each other’s company. I’m really happy I put this goal into the mix, because it’d be very easy for me to focus on all my other goals while ignoring the people around me. Having this goal here means that just isn’t happening. In fact, I’m spending more quality time with others than I have in years.

Another solid A+.

I will create something every day.

Not doing so well with this goal. That’s partly due to me just not being in much of a creative mood, but mainly I’m just not making enough “room” to be creative. I’ve done a little writing here and there, but I just haven’t sat down, pushed aside the mental clutter, and really worked at anything.

I’m giving myself a C here, because I have done some stuff, but I’m nowhere near where I should be.

Results

What should I lead with here? The fact that I feel pretty much amazing all the time? The fact that I lost another five pounds this week, bringing me down to 236 from 251 a month ago? Or the fact that I once again had a week where I slept for a full eight hours every single night?

All that stuff obviously rocks, but I think the thing I’m happiest about is the fact that my anxiety issues are gone. Gone. I don’t mean a little bit less, or easier to handle. I mean I haven’t had an ounce of anxiety, dread, or panic in over a week.

I can’t remember having a week like that, even once, in the last decade.

And all of this taken together, these various and awesome bits and pieces, have made me more patient, less frustrated, and the sort of happy that’s hard to put into words. I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m absolutely thrilled about how things have been going so far.

So how are you doing?

Refocusing – week 3

It’s now been three weeks since my “Refocusing,” and this one’s been complicated. First by the lack of a well-formed, fifth goal, and second…well, let’s just say that trip to the hospital disrupted things just a bit.

But how’d I actually do?

Progress report – week 3

As always, I’m going to go through my goals one by one, give myself a grade in each, then wrap it all up with an overall assessment of how I fell.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

Yeah, I sucked at this one. I stretched every day, and even walked home from the hospital on Tuesday, but I basically just slacked off. It’s the cold, mostly. And the wind. I’m a major league wimp when it comes to going out in the cold, and I really have to get past that.

Still, I’m giving myself a C here, instead of a D. Why? Because I frickin’ walked home from the hospital!

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

This goal? I’m still kicking its butt all over the place, though not quite as much as I have been. I babied my stomach for most of the week, and that meant dialing down the amount of veggies I consumed. I subbed in things like brown rice and tofu (yes, really), but my body’s really been feeling the lack of green goodness. Still, I held to my calorie count and what I did eat wasn’t unhealthy by any means.

Solid A, here.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

I didn’t meditate either Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesday because I was in the ER, and Wednesday because my stomach was still hurting bad enough that I didn’t think it was possible to get anything at all out of meditation. I held to those “related practices,” though. Not quite as successfully as the previous two weeks, but I did what I needed to do.

I’m giving myself an A- for this one. Yes, I can be excused for the mid-week distraction, but a slip’s a slip and it deserves some recognition.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

I am totally crushing this goal. I’m spending a lot more time with my family members and having more fun doing it. For example, Alex and I spent much of this last weekend playing Magic: The Gathering and watching Stranger Things.

This is an A+ all around.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

I will create something every day.

I’m officially dinging the “photography” goal in favor of a new, “create something” goal. So, what’s this new goal about?

In order to earn a grade here, I need to create something each day. That could be taking photographs, drawing, writing a poem–it literally does not matter what form the “something” takes, just that I apply my creative energies to something specific, in a tangible, measurable way each and every day.

Since I’m trading out a goal here, I’m not giving myself a grade for the “five-slot” this week. I am giving myself a great big F in following my instincts, though, because I knew the vagueness in my original goal was going to be a problem and I could have saved myself a lot of mental grief if I’d just trusted my gut.

Results

Between the time change and the stomach stuff, this was a rough week for sleep. Add in the lack of veggies and this is the tiredest I’ve been since I started all this. I’ve been a bit slower to get started in the mornings, and there were a couple of days when I really wanted to take a nap. That said, it’s perfectly understandable that I’d feel this way, and I’m still nowhere near as tired as I was before.

Still, this bit of tiredness has made it somewhat difficult to accurately judge things like my mood, level of stress/anxiety, or overall happiness. I feel pretty good, but I think everyone gets a little “worse for wear” when they’re not sleeping properly. There have a been a couple of times this week when my patience has felt a bit thin, but fortunately those times were brief. And let’s be honest, here: it is (once again) perfectly understandable that I’d be a little “off” given the week I’ve had.

As for my weight? I lost another three pounds this week. That brings me down to 241, ten pounds lighter than when I started. I still have a long way to go, but I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll make it to my “primary target” weight of 180.

So, yeah. Still hanging in there and basically loving it. If I can up my veggies, get some more exercise, and adjust to the existential horror of the time change, I should be pretty good next week!

How are you doing?

Refocusing – week two

Well, the second week of my Refocusing (as I’m calling it) has come and gone. Let’s see how I did.

Progress report – week 2

Once again, I’ll break down my progress goal-by-goal, then write about my overall results and feelings.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This went much better than last week. I stretched every day, and got out for a “power” walk five out of the seven days. The weather was still a factor, but I’m working on getting over that.

I’m giving myself a B- here. If I don’t get out for a walk, I could at least stretch again. And I haven’t consistently hit a full hour yet.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

Rocking this one harder than last week! Didn’t go over my calorie count even once, and I added a daily multi-vitamin to the mix. I’ve also taken steps to diversify my diet a bit more, so I don’t get into a boring rut that feels like punishment.

This is A+ territory. I really don’t think I can do much better.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

Totally nailed this one again. In fact, I can probably afford to spend a little less time and energy on this, and use those savings on other goals.

That makes this another A+.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

Doing great here, as well. I’m taking the earbuds out more often, and interacting with everyone. I still see some room for improvement, but I’m generally happy with how this is going.

Let’s call it an A.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

This one is a bummer. The point of this goal was to get me creating something every day. Instead, as I mentioned last week, I left it open and vague enough that I can spend my time doing everything but creating something and still call it good.

For example, I’ve been spending about half an hour on Instagram every day. That time totally counts as far as this goal is concerned, but apart from “popularity,” it’s really contributing nothing to my art. I have thousands of followers, get hundreds of likes on every photo I share from my archives, but haven’t actually taken more than half a dozen photos in the last couple of weeks.

That’s, you know, not good.

But that’s not all! Despite my best intentions, I’ve somehow managed to mentally box myself in as a “nature photographer,” and now that the flowers are dead and the leaves are off the trees, I’m having a hard time finding any sort of creative spark for photography. I really just don’t feel like pulling out my camera at all.

That’s, you know, really not good.

So, I’m coming back to this goal with a hatchet and a bad attitude. I need to scrap this vague-ass permission slip, and give myself a specific commandment. Right now, I’m thinking: “I will spend one hour a day creating something.” This puts the focus on doing actual, creative work, but also relaxes the photography restriction. I could write, draw, or craft for instance, and get credit for it.

Not sure yet. But since I started the week with the goal in bold up above, let’s grade myself.

Going by the letter, I have to give myself an A. But if I went by the actual spirit of the goal, this is as solid an F as they come.

Results

Once again, I’ve been in a great mood. I feel awesome, both physically and mentally, and lost another two pounds.

The time change is throwing me off a bit, though. I’ve been tired yesterday and today, but I’m not too concerned about that, as you can probably guess. I’ll adjust.

Likewise, my stress and anxiety is basically non-existent at this point. When I feel either begin to rise up, I’m able to quickly recognize it, and just as quickly adjust my thinking.

I can’t stress enough that I never for a second thought this Refocusing would have this kind of pronounced, instant positive effect on me. And while I realize I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to ultimately be physically (specifically, I have another 64 pounds to go), I have no doubt that I’ll get there, and much sooner than I would have hoped.

How are you doing?

A good start

Well, it’s Monday, so that means it’s time for my first weekly check-in.

Last week I wrote a post describing my five goals, which I chose to help me focus on my three highest priorities: health, family, and photography. So how did my first seven days go?

Progress report – week 1

I’m going to break things down goal-by-goal first, give myself a grade on each, then summarize any results I feel are related to all of this. You’ll see what I mean.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This has been a struggle, mostly due to the weather. We’ve had several days of rain, and the sort of wind which makes an umbrella useless. So getting out for walks (my go-to exercise) has been a challenge. But at least I’ve been stretching, right?

Ehh…sorta. It was really rough at the start. I didn’t stretch at all the first couple of days, and I honestly don’t know why. Stretching is relatively easy, but I just didn’t do it. It’s not a question of forgetting about it, I just…didn’t wanna. I finally got around to it on Thursday, though, and managed to stretch at least once a day ever since.

I’m giving myself a C on this goal, but only because I’m cutting myself a little slack due to the weather. I probably deserve a C- or a D.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

I’ve been doing really well on this! I’m using an Android app called “Fat Secret” to track my calories and overall nutrition, and it’s made me think long and hard about my food choices. I’ve been eating a ton of greens, choosing much healthier snacks (like baby carrots), and staying focused on my nutritional needs. I’m also drinking a lot more water and finally feeling properly hydrated for the first time in I don’t know how long.

That said, there have been a couple of times at the beginning of the week where I went a little over my calorie count and shouldn’t have.

This gets an A this week. It’d be an A+, but I really can’t ignore those little slips.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

I am totally rocking this goal. As I mentioned last week, these “meditation and related practices” are more involved than I’m comfortable discussing right now, but any way I look at this goal I am thoroughly kicking its butt.

That’s an A+, hands down.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

At first glance, I’ve been nailing this goal as well, and doing so for well in excess of an hour a day, but I have to keep something in mind. This goal isn’t about just occupying the same space, but really interacting with (and enjoying the company of) all my family members.

Sitting in a room, watching and talking about a show or a movie totally counts. Sitting in a room, listening to podcasts via my earbuds and phone, while everyone else is watching and talking about a show? Not so much.

I’m giving myself a B, here, because I’m mostly taking the earbuds out and interacting more often (and this weekend I hung out with the family a lot), but there’s definite room for improvement.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

I’m also kicking this goal’s butt, but only if you go by the letter and not the spirit of the goal.

In my case, “photography” is an umbrella term which includes taking photos, editing photos, posting photos, and reading/watching/learning about photography stuff. And I’ve certainly spent an hour a day (or more) doing some of these things, but the one thing I didn’t do hardly any of was actually get out and take photos.

That’s…not what I wanted. So, this goal might just be too vague. I may need to narrow my focus, narrow my definition of “photography” in this context. For now, I’m going to leave it worded as is, and I’ll try to maintain a better ratio of “taking photos” versus “everything else.”

In the meantime, I’m giving myself a B, here. I’ve absolutely done something photography-related for an hour a day, but I’m leaving an important part of the picture out. (See what I did there?)

Results

I haven’t felt this good, or happy, in years. Maybe ever.

For starters, I’ve slept well every single night this last week. Minus a trip or two to the bathroom, I’m getting good, deep, quality sleep and waking up feeling refreshed and alert. For a chronic insomniac like myself, that’s insane. I don’t think a week of sleep like this has ever happened to me before, at least not that I can remember.

Related: I’m not tired at all during the day. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve gotten tired in the early afternoon and just wanted to take a nap. This week? Not even a little bit. I’m alert, focused, and enjoying pretty much every waking hour.

Oh, and I’ve lost five pounds. And I’ve done it without starving myself or otherwise feeling hungry all day.

Combine all this with much reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and the fact that a lot of my little, nagging aches and pains (including my haunted neck) are becoming a lot less achy and painful, and…wow.

I never, never thought I would experience anything approaching these results so quickly. And didn’t really expect some of them (like sleep) at all. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of this plan, so I need to keep in mind that my results are probably skewed a bit due to optimism, but damn, son!

So that’s how my first week has gone. An overall grade in the B range, and huge positive returns for the effort.

Five things I’m doing to myself

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’ve recently been paring down the number of non-essentials in my life, as well as putting together a list of goals to work on so that I’ll be happier and healthier this winter.

And I thought now would be a good time to write this all up. But first, let me talk about “goals.”

Why most people’s goals suck.

I’m not a fan of most of what we’re taught about choosing and stating goals. For example…

  • Lose 10 pounds.
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Sell more copies of my book/knit caps/bits of jewelry.

These are the sorts of goals most people choose and commit to. And, in my opinion, they’re awful. They’re awful for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they commit you to a result but don’t describe actions you can take to get there.

By way of an explanation, compare the list above with this one…

  • I will walk 20 minutes a day.
  • I will take a Spanish class.
  • I will post about my book/knit caps/jewelry once a day on my various social media accounts.

These are the sorts of goals I like. You can see that each is designed to get the same result as its cousin above, but instead of simply committing you to getting that result, they commit you to doing something.

I have three priorities.

In light of the above, I decided to take two passes through all the assorted crap in my life. The first pass was to figure out what my top three priorities really are. The second pass was to choose goals based on those priorities.

So let’s look at my priorities first. In order, they are…

  1. Health
  2. Family
  3. Photography

Putting health at number one should be obvious. If you aren’t healthy (and I include mental health, here) then you’re not going to have much success at anything else. Your body and mind are the foundation upon which everything else in your life needs to be built.

Family comes next. My various issues often make socializing with anyone harder than it is for the average person, but whatever “social energy” I do have needs to go to my family first.

Lastly, photography has become increasingly important to me this year, and it’s something I think I have enough talent and passion for that I owe it to myself to see if I can turn it into more than just a hobby.

Now, just because something isn’t on this list doesn’t mean it gets no love. Rather, these are the things which get loved first. We all have limited time and energy to spend on things. So, think of that time and energy like water, and the things you spend it on like buckets.

Every day, you get a limited though varying amount of water, and you need to fill all of your buckets with it. Well, my health, family, and photography are the first three buckets I fill. If I’ve got water left over that day, great! I’ll use it for something else. If I don’t, well, at least I got the most important stuff taken care of.

I have five goals.

Next, I picked goals. Since “health” is my highest priority, and it encompasses both physical and mental health, I’m giving it the most attention. Specifically, it gets three goals all to itself. My family and photography each get one.

Here’s my list…

  1. I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.
  2. I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.
  3. I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.
  4. I will spend one hour a day with my family members.
  5. I will spend one hour a day on photography.

Most of these are no-brainers, and all of them describe either definite actions or set aside a definite amount of time. That said, two are a bit vague, and I should explain them.

First, my “eat healthier” goal doesn’t set a calorie count or describe the nutrition I want in detail. I’m not terribly happy with that, but I’m letting it slide for now, because I’m going to use a meal planner app to track all of that as I go. If the vagueness bites me, I’ll revisit it.

Then there’s “meditation and related practices.” I’m intentionally leaving it vague (ish) here on the blog (for reasons I’ve covered briefly before), but I’m actually going by a much more solid metric privately. For now, though, I’ve stated as much of that goal as I’m comfortable with. Besides, it’s a fairly decent description even in this slightly vague form.

Check-ins are coming.

I’ve decided that I’m going to do a weekly check-in, both as a way to keep myself motivated, and to inflate my post count here. Every Monday, I’ll run down the list, write about how I did, and how I feel about that.

Also! If all of this somehow ends up motivating you to do something similar, let me know in the comments.