Beginners and Dabblers

There is a danger in comparing someone else’s outsides to your insides. You most likely will not like what you find – often because you are not comparing your proverbial apples to their proverbial oranges.

There is value in being a beginner, a dabbler.

The Beginner

Let’s say for example you work in a fast paced office in corporate America. You are wildly successful and everyone hangs on your every word, waiting to rush off and carry out your requests.

What would it be like to do a slow paced activity like Tai Chi or Qigong in the evenings. You only have to listen to you and the purpose is to move as slow as possible.

Spoiler – it may feel weird. Like really awkward. You may <gasp> not even be good at it.

Congratulations, you are a beginner.

The Dabbler

Or what about this – you know you need something different, something more. You are seeking out that change of pace so you borrow cook books and the special baking pans from the library. Then you join a Couch to 5k group the following fall. January comes around and you gather 4 teacher friends to start a book club.

All of these things are enjoyable and you want to keep poking around to see what else interesting might be out there.

Congratulations, you are a dabbler.

Beginners and dabblers can be found in components and pillars of Sustainable Productivity. Let’s break down each pillar to see how being beginners and dabblers can help us create a life we don’t need to escape.

Health and Fitness

Ever since junior high school, I had a goal of earning a full ride basketball scholarship to college. It was like a mantra: tuition, room, board, books, and fees.

There was little room for dabbling. I quit the golf team when it interfered with pre season conditioning for basketball. Track was tolerated because I lifted weights heavily (I was a thrower), which was good preparation for playing in the post come basketball season.

I accomplished that goal and let me tell you how much basketball I play now: ZERO. I don’t want to play. Not even H-O-R-S-E. Especially not H-O-R-S-E.

Today dabbling is playing well below average tennis with my husband on a Sunday morning. Or flubbing a drive into the woods with my in-laws (I swear I will be free one of these Fridays!). Swim races across the cove, bike rides, or hikes in the woods – none of which are at anything nearing what normal people call “fast.”

All of this is a pace I can sustain lifelong if I want to.

Mental Well-being

On the May 20th, the Edit Your Life podcast talked about editing stress out of hobbies (one of the components of the Mental Well-being pillar of Sustainable Productivity). One way to do that is to let go of perfection and embrace being a beginner. This means all the uncertainty and messiness of being a beginner. This is very evident in fabric crafts.

Let me paraphrase the comparison idea from the start of this message – don’t compare your backside to someone else’s front side. In embroidery, there is a reason that the back is often finished so you cannot see it. There is a hot mess going on behind the curtain. FOR EVERYONE.

Looks like nice, tight and even stitches, right? Don’t turn it over!!!!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I will save you from having to hear all of the times I had to rip out stitches or miscounted. Some of those errors are still in my embroidery. The list of rookie mistakes I have made in the name of hobbies is enormous:

  • Typos in every single one of my yearly family photo albums
  • Dead plants
  • Seams ironed the wrong way

You get the idea. But that is all part of the game.

Environmental Surroundings

Beginners and dabblers can make impacts to the Environmental Surroundings pillar of Sustainable Productivity as well.

My daughter is an artist and aspiring interior designer so we set her loose in her room with paints of all colors a few years ago over Christmas break. Some parts she knocked out of the park, some pieces did not get started.

My sister participates in a 365 day declutter challenge each year. Some items in the challenge she might tear through (junk drawer), while others are harder (storage bins with keepsakes).

It is in the trying that we create a life we don’t need to escape. Like we mentioned last week, it is chipping away at what isn’t David – even if you created the non-David that needs to be chipped away. Try something and see if it brings more satisfaction and ease to your environment.

Even if it is not perfect or perfectly executed.

Your Turn

Is there something you have been wanting to try or get back to? What small step could you take today to become a beginner or dabbler? Which interests you more – being a beginner or dabbler?

By |2021-05-31T16:31:27-04:00June 1st, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Compromise That Actually Works

Although I am an adult who understands life is not fair, I am desperate for compromise that actually works. In general I feel the way Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.”

I often field questions about how Sustainable Productivity can work in real life. I will bring you examples from real life – mine and my clients – in order to show how you can use the 3-step Sustainable Productivity model to create a life you don’t need to escape. I started wondering if I could find compromise that actually worked by using Sustainable Productivity in relationships.

The Background

When Bixby and I first started sharing a toothpaste tube, we had 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 Labs and 2 cats sharing 1100 square feet of house. We adapted the best we could – except for Bluesy, the cat. He moved out and adopted the neighbors after all 4 dogs had him cornered in the living room one day. To be fair, Bluesy generally started it.

But the rest of us did the best with what we had. The kids decided to sleep in one room and have the other as a playroom. Bixby and I purged mercilessly to bring two full households into one. This was Sustainable Productivity at its best – decide where the pain points are and make small, sustainable changes over time.

The Pain Point

Until one day when Bixby lost it. Over the toothpaste tube. He decided this was not something that could continue lifelong.

You see, in every couple, there is one who squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom and one who squeezes from the middle. There is a hilarious Instagram thread where my favorite couple Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach battle this issue.

My name is Susan S., and I am a middle squeezer.

Admitting my problem was truly only the first step.

I tried to change to squeeze from the bottom. It was not sustainable – I would forget or be tired at night and not care. I would be petty and grumpy and squeeze from the middle on purpose.

He tried to change and ignore my egregious behavior. It was not productive. You can only stuff your feelings down so many times before there is a blow up.

The Adjustment

They say marriages break up over dumb things. That seemed like a drastic adjustment to make for a toothpaste tube problem, but we could not continue with this pebble in the shoe of our marriage. The pain point was the tube. If we could make an adjustment about the tube, we would solve the problem before it grew into a bigger issue like, “You never listen to me” or “You know what bothers me and do it on purpose.”

So we bought a 2nd tube. Bixby kept his neat, tidy squeezed-from-the-bottom tube in his gross, messy drawer. I kept my blurt-from-the-middle tube in my Marie Kondo-eque box organized drawer.

Evaluate Progress

And we lived happily ever after. After meeting on Match.com 14 years ago and being quarantined together for 12 months, we are still each other’s weirdos.

By |2021-03-13T15:36:07-05:00March 16th, 2021|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

Willpower is a Myth

Willpower is a myth. I will say it louder for the people in the back – WILLPOWER IS A MYTH. There is no such thing as willpower.

In the August 3rd episode of her podcast “Before Breakfast,” Laura Vanderkam walked through why willpower is over-rated.  She reviews several ways to control your environment so you don’t have to rely on willpower. In today’s post, you can learn how to set yourself up for success by addressing what is in your control in each of the three dimensions of Sustainable Productivity.

Health & Fitness

I know that I should not eat a whole sleeve of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. There is no way that 16 cookies of any type are part of a healthy, well balanced diet. Yet, here we are – my “willpower” does not exist once the the package is open. Therefore, I need to set myself up for success and not rely on willpower to resist Thin Mints.

Source: Simple Pin Media

For me what Sustainably Productivity looks like is not buying Thin Mints except for when my nieces call me to place my annual order. I can’t keep them in the house. Laura’s podcast talks about other options for portion size, but those are not sustainable choices for me.

Mental Well-being

I have been trying to establish a morning routine as part of my Mental Well-being. This is not a new struggle – I have talked to you a little bit about this before. This has been particularly challenging because there has been very little continuity in my days this summer. Here is what runs through my head, “I have more free time than usual so I SHOULD be able to keep a consistent morning routine.”

Ugh, “should.” The ugly step-mother to willpower. Hear me when I say this again: There is no such thing as willpower. There are moods, poor planning, wrong choices, or bad timing. None of this is related to your ability to accomplish your goals.

Therefore, I take each day as its own and try again with the morning routine based on that day’s schedule. If it is raining and I cannot swim, I use my Plan B for the exercise part of my morning routine. If I have an interview and I cannot complete the whole routine in 1 block of time, I relax about the scheduling of it and do what I can, when I can.

Physical Environment

Is my house the only place where paper is hard to wrangle? From what I hear in talking to people, I think probably not. We needed a system to manage all the paperwork coming into the house. Again – willpower was not the solution. Would we really postpone starting family dinner so I could sort the junkman that came today? Does it make sense to prioritize bills just because I think I need to prove I have willpower?

Not. Sustainable.

So we set up a system to drop the mail in a cute bin from Target that sits on our kitchen counter. Then I deal with the mail when it works for me, not just when I think I “should.”

How can you create systems to solve problems you have been relying on willpower to address? Is there a nagging issue that you berate yourself for every time you skip it on your list or avoid on your calendar? I’d love to hear what you think about the idea that willpower is a myth.

By |2020-09-04T18:14:39-04:00September 8th, 2020|Sustainable Productivity|0 Comments

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