The power of habits: is what you doing today contributing to your tomorrow?

Carinthia, Austria // own photo
Carinthia, Austria // own photo

 

Do you live consciously and are aware that even one small everyday decision might change your future? Or are you just letting your days go by? Have you ever reflected upon your daily routines? If so, what were your findings? Have you got rid of an unnecessary habit? If so, how has it improved your life?

The above questions are worth pondering about, even though the conclusions of such self-conversations might make you feel uncomfortable. If you want to be successful in life, regardless of how you define ‘success’, it is valuable to reflect upon such matters and give honest answers. Because both you and I want to be in control of our lives and not let the circumstances, habits or other people control us.

I want to live my life with full awareness therefore I often reflect on and evaluate my everyday routines. I also often ask myself: ‘Is what I am doing now going to bring me closer to achieving my goals?’

I believe in the power of everyday habits and routines. Firstly, once we develop a habit, it becomes our second nature and we don’t really need to think about it, we just do it automatically. Secondly, every little step made every day takes us closer to where we want to be – and what a great feeling that is: knowing that every day you can do something to positively affect your tomorrow!

My current habits

Here are some of the habits which I have developed over the years and which I am proud of:

  • I put things away. Also, as soon as I purchase a new item, I find a place to store it. I make sure that everyone in my family puts things where they belong, after each use. Such a system helps us avoid mess in the house.
  • I clean my closets on a regular basis which helps me live a fairly decluttered life.
  • When I was about 10 years old my Mum taught me how to crochet, knit and mend clothes. Since then I have been repairing not only my own clothes, but also my friends’ and my relatives’. Whenever the damage occurs, I repair it straight away. This habits helps me avoid unpleasant surprises, like discovering a broken zipper on a pair of trousers I want to wear when I am just about to leave the house.
  • I save up. I always have. This habit helped me, for example, to make a down payment on my house.
  • I use my commute time (about 1 – 1.5 hours every day) wisely. I either do something useful for my career (participating in webinars, taking online courses, studying and reading) or do something for my pleasure (watching films). For me, fiddling with the phone or staring out of the window is a waste of time.
  • I often think of my career and reevaluate my professional goals. I keep a document where I write what I would like to do next and which steps I need to take to get there. For me, it is very useful to have a plan like this, and I learned that writing things down helps me visualise my aims and makes me feel accountable for them. Thanks to this habits in the past 3 years I did four courses, including coaching, project management and marketing, and I am planning to learn more.

Some things I want to try

I enjoy reading about habits of successful people and here are some routines I want to try and see if they would work for me:

  • As cruel as it sounds, I want to try to get up at 5 a.m. on week days. I work full time, I commute, and I have a small child. After getting back home from work I don’t have much possibility to do anything creative on my own so this would give me an extra hour just for myself to read or to write.
  • I would like to start a journal. Maybe 5 a.m. would be the perfect time to start writing down my thoughts?

 

It is important to realise that changing habits is a process and that implementing new habits takes time. While we might not always enjoy where we are, our habits can lift us and take us to new places. On the other hand, you might be enjoying what you do today, but if I told you that you would be in the same position in 10 years’ time, would it make you feel content? Is this contentment valuable enough to last your lifetime?

What are your daily routines that bring you closer to your life or career goals? I will gladly ready about them in the comments.

If you would like to read more about everyday routines, you can check one of my previous posts here.

 

Inspiration #4

inspiration
Vrångo // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • Here are some interesting thoughts on using technology when on vacation. I agree that technology might be disruptive and I rather spend my summer holidays without it.
  • I am a bit too old to call myself a ‘millennial’ but am totally into living a simpler life with less stuff. Here is a Washington Post article explaining why a younger generation might be loosing sentimental attachment to things.
  • A story on how becoming a minimalist can change your life for the better.

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

Summer minimalism – a rough guide

A beach on the Costa Blanca // own photo

 

I am super excited today because it is officially the first day of my summer holidays. We have no specific plans at this point but I already know how I want to spend the summer, no matter where I should find myself. So here it is, my rough guide to enjoying the summer time while staying true to a minimalistic way of living. All the tips come from my experience.

Summer sales

Yay, summer sales! Well, I am already done with sales shopping this year so no more time wasted (yes, wasted) in the shops for me. A few years ago this time of a year would mean spending hours walking around the stores in search for nothing in particular. I would end up buying things that I didn’t need, didn’t really like, and, as a result, didn’t wear or use much. Wrong size, wrong colour, or wrong shape didn’t matter as long as they were justified by a lowered price.

For the past few years I have been wiser, and this year I am particularly proud of myself. I purchased a few items that I had had my eyes on for a while, including a woollen spring/autumn coat (60% off), a suede skirt (also 60% off), and a black leather wallet (66% off). At the point of writing this I am not planning to hunt for more bargains.

Shopping while on vacation

… and spending time in shopping centres buying a lot of stuff we don’t really need. I am not saying shopping is essentially bad, but what is the point of going to a different place and locking yourself in a shopping gallery instead of being out and relaxing? Also, all these stalls on the way to the beach – ahh, these can tempting and not easy to avoid. My advice – don’t even stop there unless you want to end up purchasing tones of plastic toys for your child, another pair of cheap sunglasses, or the ‘latest-trend’ bikini for yourself. You don’t need those, nor does your child need that third plastic spade.

If I want to stay true to my values and not to come home with a moral hangover I don’t use holidays as permission to spend recklessly. Yes, I do spend more money in the summer but I would rather get nice memories or small tokens to remind me of the wonderful time I had. This is what I exchange my money for:

  • Going to a nicer restaurant and trying a new dish.
  • Going on an excursion.
  • Buying some local food that I can bring home, preserve and enjoy at a later time (i.e. Italian ham, Spanish cheese, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, local wine).
  • Buying locally made craft (i.e. a ceramic salad bowl, a vinegar bottle).

Sometimes, I also bring back recipes and I try to recreate the dishes we especially liked.

Spending money in a smarter way

I try to find a balance between not spending too much money and yet not missing out on what a place I visit has to offer. I don’t want to come home broke after a two-week holiday and I don’t want to feel there was more I should have done, seen or experienced. So how to find this balance?

First of all, I realised that we don’t need to eat out every night. The deal is: one night out and one night in. And since I enjoy cooking, there are usually fresh local foods to use, and the apartments we stay at often have a balcony or a terrace, we can still have a great meal in wonderful surroundings.

The other tip is to resign from breakfasts that the hotels offer (the holiday deals often include breakfasts and other meals for extra price). Instead, we either prepare breakfasts ourselves, which costs the fraction of the hotel price, or we find local places to eat out (and this is also a rather inexpensive option). Last time we went to Mallorca, we would take a 30-minute walk by the beach every morning to go to a local cafeteria that offered amazing tomato toasts (2 euro) and delicious coffee (1,5 euro). We would do that nearly every day and we still talk about these walks, the quiet beach, the cool breeze and the toasts, of course.

Travelling light

Every time when I visit my sister and she looks into my suitcase, she is surprised that I pack so little. The thing is that I can pack mine and my daughter’s belongings into one average-sized suitcase. I have learned one thing: not to take too many clothes and not to take anything ‘just in case’ (well, this does not apply to some medicines, especially when you are travelling with a small child). My stand is that there are always shops so should I desperately need something, I can always buy it. I don’t think this has ever happened, though.

I don’t pack 3 smart dresses ‘in case’ I am invited to a party. I don’t take 3 pairs of long trousers ‘in case’ the weather changes for the worse. There is no recipe what to take and what to leave but it should be fairly easy to figure out for yourself based on your experience. Really, have you ever used all the things that you packed? So no, don’t take things ‘in case’ and enjoy the pleasure of travelling light.

Summer relaxation

… is what the summer is for. The holidays wouldn’t be great without proper relaxation and rest. It is a summer post and maybe relaxation should be mentioned as first. But then the focus of this post is how to be minimalistic so it comes here.

I am a person who needs to learn how to relax better. I have tried several ways and methods, and here are the ones that help me switch off best:

  • Dot-to-dot books for adults are my fairly recent discovery. Having tried colouring books for adults last summer and realising it is not for me, I kept on exploring. And then I found dot-to-dot books by Thomas Pavite. What I especially like about his books is that unless you check the inside of the book cover, you don’t know what you are drawing. What a great way of spending hours with a pencil in your hand! And I warn you: dot-to-dotting can be addictive.
  • Reading is absolutely the best way for me to relax. And what could be best then reading a great book in the sunshine? Right now I am into biographies and autobiographies. A couple of weeks ago I finished John Cleese’s autobiography (‘So, Anyway…’) and can recommend it – what a great style of writing and a great sense of humour.
  • I also like lighter summer reads. My favourite author is Jane Fallon (i.e. ‘Getting Rid of Matthew’, ‘Got You Back’). I have just read her latest novel (‘Strictly Between Us’) and am in search for a good easy summer read. Do you have any recommendations?
  • Playing with my child used to be one of the chores until I rediscovered the joy of behaving like a child (well, sometimes!). So now we have a bunch of activities that we both enjoy. We do drawing and painting, we cut paper, we dance and sing, and we try gardening. I also started to make clothes for her dolls. This is something I used to do for mine when I was about 8-10 years old.
  • Cooking is not new to me but finding out that I really really like it, is. A few times a month I try a new recipe with more or less success. Some of the dishes make it to our regular menu while others are never tried again. I just like being in the kitchen, chopping and mixing, and waiting for the final result.

Summer decluttering

The other way I use my time off is to do extra decluttering at home. Amazingly, I always find things to get rid off – and this is another reminder to not buy more things when on vacation and to carefully consider every potential purchase.

My plan for this summer is to reorganise our walk-in closet and my daughter’s wardrobe. I want to try on every piece of clothing I own and to let go as many as possible. The same goes for my daughter’s clothes. She grows so fast now that I need to do regular reviews of her garments.

It may sound strange but decluttering is my way of relaxing. I really like cleaning, organising and decluttering – it just calms me down.

What summer tips do you have? How do you relax best?

 

How to fill every day of your life with more purpose

purpose
Öresund Bridge // own photo

 

How often do you feel that you don’t have time for anything? That the life you live everyday has little focus or little purpose? That all you do is wake up, go to work, come back, do some chores, go to bed, wake up, go to work and so on? That all weekends are spent on catching up with some housework and not even on catching up with friends or spending time relaxing?

And how often, when you complain to your friends about not having the time, they would advise you, ‘Well, you just need to MAKE the time’. Easier said than done, right?

At times we all experience the feeling that the real life is happening somewhere next to us. The good thing is that such situation can be improved by introducing some changes. Some of these changes could be so small that they might seem insignificant at first, but when introduced on everyday basis, with determination and consistency, they can have a huge positive impact on our lives. And, obviously, no change can happen without thorough reflection that allows you to identify what and how could be improved.

If you would like to fill your everyday life with more purpose, do the following exercise. I am going to guide you through the process of redesigning your day using the GROW model (you can read more about this method in my previous post here).

Redesigning your day using the GROW model

I suggest that you assign some time, find a quiet place and give yourself the luxury of reflecting on your life. Take a piece of paper and answer the questions below in writing. You don’t have to answer all the questions, and you can mix their order within each category. However, it is important not to mix the order of categories.

Goal

  • How do you want your ideal day to look like? Write everything down, and be as detailed as you feel like.
  • How do you want to feel in the morning after waking up?
  • How do you want to feel when you are at work?
  • What do you want to do when you come back from work?
  • What would your favourite activity after coming back from work be?
  • How do you want to spend your weekends? With whom?
  • How would you feel if could live every day close the your idea of a perfect day? What would it mean to you?
  • What everyday activities would make your life more meaningful and make you feel that you are getting closer to reaching your goals?

Reality

  • How does your average workday look like?
  • How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Why?
  • What are your morning routines?
  • How do you spend your working day? Be detailed.
  • What do you do when you get back from work?
  • How can you describe your evening routine?
  • How do you relax?
  • What do you do when you have nothing else to do?
  • What do you do, on everyday basis, to achieve your goals?

Options

  • What is stopping you from living your ideal day every day?
  • What routines have you tried to change and why?
  • Why were/weren’t you successful?
  • What could you do to improve your day at work?
  • What activities would you like to do after work?
  • What hobbies would you like to pursue?
  • What else could you do in your free time?
  • Who could you ask to support you in improving your daily routines?

Will

  • What small changes to your daily routine could you introduce as off tomorrow?
  • What small changes would be the most effective to put you in your best mood every morning/afternoon/evening?
  • How much time are you willing to spend everyday on an activity that can help you reach your goal/goals?
  • What one improvement in your daily habits would have the biggest impact on making you feel that your day has a purpose?
  • What else?
  • When can you start implementing the changes?

I hope that after you have gone through the above questions you should be able to identify what even small changes can do for you. Congratulations, you have just made the first step into filling your days with more purpose and into living more intentionally!

The key to truly experiencing the changes lies in staying consistent. Always think this way: you make choices every day, and you know that your choices come with consequences. Do you want to live more fully and intentionally? Then make the right choices, stay focused and be consistent. And remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day; it takes a lot of time, effort and determination to improve.

What changes in your day are you going to make? What improvements have you already made? Please share in the comments.

 

Let go of the things you cannot influence

influence
Varberg // own photo

 

How many areas of your life can you influence?

I will now try to list the aspects of my life that I have a lot or some control over.

Let’s start with my health. I know that I can influence my physical health by making the right food choices and by exercising. I can also influence my psychological well-being by staying positive and by deciding how much I let others affect how I feel.

I can make decisions when it comes to my career. I am able to educate myself to make well-informed choices when it comes to my professional life. It is only up to me to decide to take on another course which might advance my career. I might as well choose to be idle and enjoy comfortable life without professional challenges.

I can influence my appearance. I can choose what I wear. I can choose my haircut. I can choose to have the right amount of sleep not only to be healthy but also to look well-rested. Or I may decide to sabotage my health, well-being and appearance by going to bed late. It is up to me.

I can decide, or rather co-decide, how to bring up my child, bearing in mind that my current choices will affect her future. The way she sees herself, what she eats, how she spends her time – my choices will shape her as a person.

I can control how and with whom I spend my time. I can choose to hang around good friends who are truly pleasant to spend time with and whose company enriches me. Or I can decide to surround myself by a large number of random people whose company is fun yet doesn’t bring much value. The choice is mine.

I can decide what I think of myself and of others. I can shape my opinions. I can change my opinions should I feel like it. It is only me who decides what my thoughts are.

I can decide what I eat for dinner. I can decide which route to take to work. I can pick what to eat for lunch. I can choose whether to watch TV or to read a book. I can pick my internet provider and my mobile company. I can choose my partner. I can choose to leave him.

I cannot choose what others think of me. I cannot decide what other people decide – it is just up to them. I have nothing to say when it comes to my sister’s choices – it is her life. I cannot decide who wins the next election, even though I do vote. I have no control over the stock market and over the world economy. I have no influence whether the wars end sooner or later, or f they end at all. I don’t have much to say when it comes to political decisions; it is just out of my hands.

There are already so many choices I am making in my life every single day. There are so many areas I CAN influence. Why would I be wasting my energy on anything that is out of my control?

So here is my mantra: identify what you can control and then focus on what you can influence, change and improve. Let go of the rest.

How do you feel knowing that you don’t control it all, and you don’t have to? Let me know in the comments.

 

Inspiration #3

Inspiration
Smögen // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

  • Some thoughts on gratitude written by one of my favourite bloggers. Too often we take things for granted; haven’t you noticed how impatient you get if the webpage is loading for 2 seconds too long? We forget how privileged we are having more than our basic needs fulfilled.
  • ‘Living on One Dollar’ is a documentary made by four American students who decide to experience how it is to live on one dollar per day. They spend two months in a small village in Guatemala, fighting hunger but finding a lot of inspiration. You can find out more about this and their other projects on their website. The film is available on Netflix.

Do not forget to check my previous posts with inspiration:

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

The art of letting go – how to accept changes?

letting go
Smögen // own photo

 

Letting go should come naturally as is an integral part of life, isn’t it? Life goes on, we move places, people come, people go, we change jobs, we evolve. Yet, we often desperately try to hold on to the past. Somehow we find it difficult to just let go – of people we met, of objects we own, of events that already happened. Why is this? Wouldn’t it be easier to accept the fact that the past is the past and to move on? How to learn to let go? How to overcome the fear of missing someone or something you decide to leave behind? I believe that a slight shift in attitude could help with letting go and not feeling regretful.

I have met many fantastic people in my life and have experienced countless wonderful moments together with them. I have met and lost a few really close friends in the course of my life. I am not in touch with most of these people and I haven’t got the slightest idea about where they are and what they do. Do I miss them? In a way. I think about the fun times we shared and the great talks we had. Do I regret that that we lost contact? Not really. I still keep those great memories and am thankful for having met all these people. Of course, it would be interesting to meet them again at some point, but then, on the other hand, I do meet a lot of people who bring so much value into my life that I don’t really miss these connections any more. What is the key for me here is changing how I view the past: I focus on the past experiences and how they have enriched me rather than on the friendships I have lost. Learning to let go starts with accepting that changes are, indeed, an inevitable part of everyone’s life.

The other crucial factor in learning to let go is, in my opinion, patience. Changes take time and we cannot rush them through. It is a process and it takes the time it takes. I am still learning how to let go of missing my ‘old life’, that is the time before my daughter was born. Becoming a mother has been a gigantic change and I feel I was very little prepared to this. To be honest, I am still going through the process of changing how I see myself and how I view my role as a mother. Obviously, it is difficult just to shift my attitude after thirty-something years of not having to be responsible for another being. But I understand it is a process, however frustrating it might be, and it is not going to happen overnight. And yes, I do miss the independance and the spontaneity but in the monents like these I remind myself how much value my daugher has brought into my life, and if I were to choose, I would choose having her again, without a doubt. Acknowledging the change and accepting it are the first steps. Being patient with yourself and allowing yourself sufficient time to deal with the change is another one. No one says it is easy, but I am saying it is possible, just be patient.

Now think about your possessions. Do you have too many unnecessary items at your home? Too many clothes you don’t wear? More kitchen utensils that you need? Storage boxes full of books/DVD’s/childhood toys/unused Christmas decorations lying somewhere in the attic? Do you have difficulties parting with these items? Why is this? Do you keep them out of guilt, or maybe you think you might use them one day? Do you keep a lot of objects for sentimental reasons?

I don’t have any problems with letting go of physical objects and I rarely ever regret getting rid of things. I know that I can always find a replacement should there be a need (it hasn’t been the case, though). I also realise that I don’t need to be surrounded by an extensive number of items to bring back my memories. Shifting the focus have enabled me to get rid of things.

To summarise: let’s remember about the good times, let’s accept and welcome changes, let’s deal with the changes by shifting our focus, and let’s try to be more patient. I believe by following these steps we will learn to deal with letting go.

What can you let go as off now? Let me know in the comments.

 

New Year’s resolutions

Dirt jumping in Göteborg // own photo
Dirt jumping in Göteborg // own photo

 

Why would I be writing about New Year’s resolutions now, as late as in mid-April? Because in my opinion New Year’s resolutions don’t make much sense.

Do not get me wrong, though. I think that making resolutions and then, hopefully, following through with them is a great way towards self-improvement. On the other hand, I just think it is pointless to wait with making a resolution until a new year starts, a new month commences or a Monday comes. If you a ready for a change then go for it now! Don’t wait, and don’t use the time left to a proverbial Monday as an excuse to carry on with an unhealthy, unproductive or unnecessary habit.

The best time to make your next resolution in not in 8 and a half month’s time, it is right now. And even if you made a promise to yourself to change one of more of your routines on January 1st this year and haven’t followed it through, grant yourself another chance. And another one if you still aren’t successful. And yet another one. Stop beating yourself up, stop feeling guilty and instead be your own best and most generous friend. And be persistent.

There are quite a few techniques that can support you in staying motivated and focused on tasks. One of the tactics to make you feel more accountable for own resolutions is sharing them with others. So here is the list of my own resolutions which I am going to start implementing from tomorrow on:

  • more considered and better planned shopping, including groceries, home decorations and clothes (I think I am much better but there is still room for improvement),
  • better planned meals (I am not good at eating regularly),
  • better planned days with more time for relaxation.

My plan is to use this blog for updates on how I am doing. I hope that making these small changes will improve my well-being.

What are the small changes that you could make in your everyday routines? I will happily read about them in the comments.

 

Excess prevents us from living a meaningful life

Vrångö // own photo
Vrångö // own photo

 

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to wake up every morning with a sense of purpose and meaningfulness? I believe that I am not the only one who often ponders about how to live a meaningful life. And while I haven’t come up with a satisfactory answer yet, I have found out that excess prevents me from living the life I want to live.

A while ago I started to declutter my house. I have found out that there is always something to get rid of and, surprisingly, I very rarely miss the things I throw away. I feel that my space is better organised and it gives my a great pleasure to be surrounded by things that I truly like and that add value to my life.

The same goes for other aspect of life. These days I am rather picky when it comes to the books I read and the films that I watch, which might not be easy with such an overwhelming choice. But I know myself quite well and I base my choices on what I truly like, and I always consider the value a book or a film can add to my life. Obviously, I count pure pleasure as one of the top values.

My social life has changed dramatically after having a child. Not having much time to meet my friends made me think about the quality of all the relationships I have had. Nowadays I prefer to spend time with people who are very dear to me. My family is the most important to me, then come some close friends. I often say ‘no’ to social gatherings because I make a choice to be with the people who I value the most. To me, excess of people in my life would distract me from being with the ones who are the most meaningful.

I have discovered that having focus is extremely important to me as this helps me to weigh options and make better choices. I am not a hedonist; I just like to feel that I live my life intentionally. I like to have a goal, or even better multiple ones in various areas. Having goals helps me steer away from any form of clutter which allows me to accomplish my aims sooner.

What is your excess? What prevents you from living a more intentional and more meaningful life?

 

Inspiration #2

Sunset // own photo
Sunset over Göteborg // own photo

 

A handful of inspirational articles:

Do not forget to check my previous post with inspiration:

What inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments.