Three ways I helped myself have an easier life
I’m midway through a year of self-discovery. In my mind, I guess it started the day I left my company and full-time job of 15 years in July last year to get certified as a professional coach, and culminates on my birthday – this year, my 40th. There’s been a lot of reflection. A lot of self-compassion. And a lot of doubt, but I’m slowly beating the doubt into the shadows so that I can live more fully, more at peace with who I am and how I want to express that in the world. I have a long way to go before I become the next Brené Brown, but I’m enjoying all her writing and ways of being, and am enjoying spreading my own version of self-compassion and self-acceptance in my corner of the world.
Three things I started doing really changed my life, and although they’re small on the surface, they make such a difference to my days, my weeks, my months. All of these things reduce my stress level in big ways. They are, in no particular order:
1) Setting my watch (and clocks) to show the correct time. I told this one to my husband, and he looked at me in total confusion. “I don’t understand,” he said. “What time did it say before?” “Aha,” I replied. “That’s it – exactly! Why would it have showed anything other than the correct time?!”
I explained what had been going on…for years. I used to set the time on my alarm clock to a little bit fast, so that when the alarm went off, I knew it wasn’t really the time I needed to get up. This was not only not a gentle way to be to myself, it was actually really hard and confusing! The mental calculations that needed to go on just as I’d been awakened from a delicious slumber were exhausting! This was the type of dialogue I had with myself, my barely-awake self, in the darkness of the early morning: “Oh, wait, it’s not really 6:17, it’s actually 6:12, so I really do have another 5 minutes, and so when I hit the snooze button again in another 10 minutes, I will still have another 5 minutes before I really really need to get out of bed.” Can you see how hard I made this on myself?!
I did the same with my watch, setting it only so slightly ahead of the real time, but still fast. The time it took me to calculate, when looking at my watch, to recall how ahead of the actual time I had set it, pretty much ate up any implied “savings” I had fooled myself about building in.
Or in the morning, frantic to get myself and two small children out the door, the stress of trying to remember which clock was correct – was it the one on the microwave, or the oven? Because they were always displaying something different, and I just couldn’t remember which was right. I was basically screwing with myself and making things so much harder than they needed to be. Now, the time on my watch, and the time on the oven, the microwave, the wall clock, my phone – they all display the correct and actual time. And it feels like I have oxygen as opposed to being slowly being pushed underwater.
2) Booking my next hair appointment as I am paying for the haircut I’ve just received. The bigger part of this is actually finding two amazing people who cut and colour my hair and with whom I love to go chat while the hair part is happening. I had never in my life had a consistent hairdresser, and had marvelled at those who had found this holy grail. I used to notice, about a week after my hair had gotten too long to tolerate and my roots were baring their ugly dark side – often right before a big event where it would have been a real advantage to look my best – that I needed an appointment. By then, I had spread myself so thinly, in preparation perhaps for said event, to find a time that I could actually get myself to a salon, so I’d end up going any old place during my lunch hour, never finding someone who stayed in the same place for long enough for me to build a relationship with. Now, I have found that, and it is truly life-changing. I know exactly when my next appointment is, I won’t move it for anything, and it’s booked for right about the time when I need a real pick-me-up. I walk out of the place feeling 10 times lighter, and also knowing the exact date when I’ll get that same feeling in about 8 weeks.
3) Registering to have my train ticket get an auto-top up when I go below a certain balance on my travel card. The old me used to miss trains and tubes all the time as I stood in line waiting to add money to my travel ticket, when my balance had crept down to something like £0.30. That might have been enough to get into London in Victorian times, but it’s certainly not enough to get there in 2016. So I’d be standing in the line, bouncing on the balls of my feet, just knowing that I wasn’t going to make the train because I didn’t have enough money on my card. And then working out how many emails I was going to have to write to tell people I’d be late, working out the impact of this lost 15 minutes in my already crowded day. I had enough money in my bank account, so why the hell didn’t I have enough money on my travel card – where it needed to be?! I finally registered for my ticket to automatically top up every time the balance falls below £20, and my stress levels related to travel have probably more than halved. Nothing is perfect (especially me!) and I still time my arrival on the platform quite finely, but it’s soooo much better. The silly thing is that it was totally easy to do, and it just took me many years too long to do. But it’s done now, and I love it.
So, as you’re coming to the end of this, you can see that nothing here is, as they say, rocket science. It is about the brain, though, and removing any of those factors that essentially cloud our clarity, clog our prime thinking, and increase our stress levels. I made three small changes that make my life a lot more easy. I know what time it is, when my next haircut and colour is, and that I have enough money on my Oyster card to travel into London and back without my doing anything more than getting to the train on time. So easy, so life-changing.
What little things have you done that have worked for you to make your life flow a bit more smoothly? I’d love to hear them in the comments. Or if you read the above and thought, “I can’t imagine having these problems,” appreciate that you are a superstar at organisation! And, I wish I’d had this chat with you twenty years ago…
In the meantime, I hope that you also find as many ways as you can to be kinder and gentler to yourself. You really deserve that, and much more.