goal setting: unambitious, but consistent

How to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Long, complicated projects, or drastic lifestyle changes, are at risk of never being achieved or attempted because the jump from now to that seems unfathomably far. I have a method, though, that involves breaking down a project into daily, seemingly inconsequential, but achievable tasks. Keeping with this theme, let me first break down the method I used:

  1. Envision
  2. Define
  3. Do

First, have a vision for what you’re looking to achieve – an actual picture in your mind of what that looks like. For me, I wanted the easy, minimalist home life of my favorite YouTuber, Jenny Mustard – not necessarily the clean/white aesthetic, but the void of clutter and the air of simplicity. I wanted to drink water from wine glasses on the couch next to folded blankets.

Second, define the breakdown. For my vision, I figured I could best achieve it by decluttering my living space (organizing, decorating, etc, would not be my primary focus). I first considered where I was starting: I was a functional hoarder who’d saved everything from my high school track shoes to 7-year-expired dried oregano. With this in mind, how did I want to break down this monumental decluttering project into achievable, daily tasks? The difficulty for me was not as much the time it’d take to declutter, but instead the finite emotional energy of wrestling my aversion to “wasting” or “getting rid of something I might need.” What do I think I could accomplish daily, even on my worst day, that would add up over time? In 2019, I set a New Year’s goal to get rid of one item a day, for a year.

Along the way, I learned the most important part of “Do” was keeping it simple: today, what item will go? Some really good days I got rid of more than one thing, but on the harder days I didn’t let myself get overwhelmed and discouraged by making the task an harder than it had to be. For example, I often saved the task of deciding what I should do with the item – sell, donate, or throw away – for another day. This helped me keep my momentum.

I’m now on my 9th month (started my NY resolution in December) and the daily task I defined at the beginning has become a daily habit. Even better, this one good habit has sparked other good habits related to my goal of maintaining a living space. For example, I buy far less, since I know very well that, one day, I will have to deal with this item in the back of the closet – so do I really need it? Even when the year is up, and I’m no longer getting rid of something daily, I’m confident that the habit will linger in some form. Because I did it over time, and thought about it every day (even if for only 2 minutes) this one daily habit has snowballed into a lifestyle change.

In short, the method is about choosing a task that is very unambitious day-to-day, but will create a drastic change over time because of it’s effect on other habits as well as pure addition. Other possibilities:

  • For a vision of a Instagram-healthy-diet, the task could be changing nothing else but eating one vegetable a day (i.e. some carrots with your cheeseburger)
  • If you imagine waking up every day feeling fit and energized, the task could be moving 15 minutes a day, whether that be walking around the block, a serious workout, or anything in between.

I’m going to try this out for future visions as well, always considering where I’m at and defining a daily task from there: one that is unambitious, but consistent.

“go high,” not complacent

“When they go low, we go high,” said Michelle Obama to the 2016 Democratic Convention. It was a rallying cry then, but what does this really mean for us now?

What does it really mean to “go high?” It feels like a rush of spirit to hear, but we’re left hanging – there’s no guidelines or pamphlet for what “going high” really entails. An indiscriminate giving of patience, understanding, and compassionate education has not moved the boat. For the millions of dinner table representatives of a progressive America, there’s no playbook what to focus on, what to give energy to, and mostly, how to communicate in a way that fully captures “going high” without “going complacent.”

Democrats will win in 2020 if there’s a plan we can take to our dinner tables, Facebook feeds, etc. We need to define what is not in scope to focus on as much as what is in scope. Educating a historically racist Aunt Jane at Thanksgiving when she’s never shown a single ounce of interest in seeking truth, should be out of scope – or otherwise, not worth finite emotional energy. Crafting a narrowed scope definition is not complacency – it’s strategy.

Why is a communications strategy important for every day progressives and not just those running for office? Because our every day interactions with people we know mean more than anything they watch on TV from a Democratic candidate. How we frame these conversations and the spirit we bring to them (a spirit we must consciously preserve) – over time, creates a ripple effect.

There’s just enough people hovering right on the edge of stepping onto the dance floor. How do we communicate safety, trust, and the emotional embodiment of “going high?” The answer is not to backtrack on progressive policy, but instead to understand people vote on feelings, energy, and spirit, and not policy alone. We need to rise to this understanding and, for the people on the edge, who sincerely want to live as good and just, answer for them “how does a progressive vision make me feel not only secure, but more alive, more human, and more connected to my community and the country?” We need an actionable strategy for what it means to “go high” in this political climate, in our every day lives, and our every day interactions. We need a “go high” communications pamphlet in every progressive’s back pocket.

looking for a word.

It might be meditation, though I don’t really like the synonyms if I Google it: contemplation, thought, thinking, musing, pondering, consideration, reflection. Instead, I’m looking for a word that encompasses the exact opposite of that.

Today, I hiked Mount Quandary in Colorado. I’ve only done one other *real* hike before and nothing over 14,000 feet. It was hard – at a certain point, my whole world was reduced to the step in front of me, one at a time. Even on the descent, though physically less exhausting, my only thought was, “what rock should I step on?” a thousand times over.

Meditation must not be my word it if it encompasses grandiose reflections or is something that can only be done with incense, folded legs, and absolute silence. Instead, I’m looking for a word that includes anything (healthy) that pulls us out of the routine, the productivity, the responsibilities, or the ambitions of life (i.e. cooking a chana masala (mostly) from scratch, playing fetch with a German Shepard, summiting Mount Quandry, etc.) The state of being immersed in one simple thing, breathing or otherwise – can this be meditation?