A New Life – 30 Days At A Time

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(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)

One of the positive effects of the worldwide pandemic is the potential for improvements in our lifestyle. Yes, what began as a necessity was soon accompanied by the realization that we can consciously choose to reinvent our life. Actually, this is not even the first step; it must be preceded by the realization that most of our life is composed of habits. We are not making deliberate, present-tense choices; we are being controlled by our habits. (Habits replace the need for thinking. Thinking is hard work; habits eliminate the need for thinking. Do you have to think about how to brush your teeth or button a shirt? No; these are habitual actions, performed without thinking.) We perform the same routines, over and over, often for years, without taking time to examine them or ask if there might be a better way. Likewise, our way of thinking is also habitual; most people are equally unaware that we have the ability to change how we think.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

For most of us, nothing changes, including our habitual ways of thinking, until something like a pandemic forces us to change. (Why should we want to change? It is much easier to just follow your usual routine, something that does not require thinking.) Now, rather than lament our lost lifestyle because of the pandemic, we should rejoice. Embrace the epiphany moment when we realize that we have the power to change. Now, we can carefully evaluate our habits, then decide if we want to continue living as before – assuming that is a viable choice – or if we should shift to a superior behavior by making a few changes.

In my case, such self-examination has resulted in several decisions about changes I wish to make. However, rather than make a permanent commitment, I am choosing to make changes for 30 days at a time – a 30-Day test, if you will. At the end of the 30 days, I can decide what to continue or what to abandon. Regular readers may remember when I stopped drinking coffee for 30 days a few months ago. It was a positive experience because it made me realize how much coffee I was drinking and also made me realize how habitual this was. Since then, I have returned to drinking coffee but not as much as before – and, now that I am much more conscious of it, with more enjoyment. It is now a choice with an alternative, abstaining, which I explored during the 30 coffee-free days.

I have been considering some other personal habits that I have evolved and maintained for years. Prompted by the excellent book 30 Days by Marc Reklau, I have begun to some new 30-day experiments. The first new 30-day test is to limit myself to three hours per day of digital time. Over the years, I had gradually increased the amount of time I was sitting at my desk, working on the computer. Too much screen time, too much time struggling with details and complications, and too much time developing swivel-chair spread. I also realized working on the computer inherently involves a certain degree of stress and frustration – because the dern things almost never perform as they are supposed to. In fact, there are times when I seriously believe that my digital devices are conspiring together to make me crazy.

Photo by free photos

However, when I limit myself to only three hours per day, I am forced to carefully choose which activities will be worked on that day. Prioritizing is critical. This time limit also emphasized the need for efficiency since I had only three hours available. A bonus of limiting myself to three hours of digital/desk time daily, is I have more time for other non-digital activities that have been neglected. Now I have more time for my family, for cooking and baking, for cleaning and organizing, reading for pleasure – and for going fishing! (I don’t always go fishing to catch fish. Although at least the possibility of catching a fish is a prerequisite, that is not my primary purpose. Often, I simply want to get out of the house and get some fresh air. While I am nominally fishing, I will also have my Kindle close at hand.) 

Another 30-day project is a little more personal. I have decided to forgo alcohol in any form for 30 days. (Note: Like my test with coffee abstinence, if someone invites me out for a drink, I will not decline. However, I will not drink at home. For inquiring minds, let me assure you there was no particular incident that precipitated this resolution. I have no health problems and I don’t drink to excess; I learned years ago about the consequences of that. However, I became a little concerned when I was evaluating my habits and I realized drinking had become a daily activity. In fact, I could not remember the last time I went any significant length of time without drinking. There is a fine line between a lifestyle and a habit. I wanted to be sure that my drinking was still a choice but not a habit. The easiest way to do this was a 30-day test period of abstinence to prove I can live without alcohol. (We have a saying in my American state of Missouri: Show me. That motto means: Don’t just tell me with words, show me with action. Or, as my father used to say, “Until somebody puts some money on the table, all you have is talk.”)

Now, after only a week with no alcohol, I have already seen some changes. My sleep patterns definitely improved within two or three days. I am sleeping better, as in more hours and with fewer times to wake up in the middle of the night. I also feel better each morning when I get up. All this shows me that my body had become accustomed to alcohol almost every day. 30 days without alcohol will prove I do not have the habit, mentally or physically. At least, it will prove that the habit does not control me.

Photo by Gerd Altmann

What about you? What habits have become part of your life – perhaps over many years? What do you do every day without thinking? What habit have you made part of your routine without realizing it is a choice? Even more important, how might your life be changed – perhaps significantly improved – if you changed some of your habits? Everything we learned, we might have learned differently – and it’s not too late to adopt some alternatives.

In some ways, the 30-day test reminds me of the Benjamin Franklin 13-Week system of self-improvement. As a young man, Franklin developed a weekly rotation of certain traits that he considered most valuable for improving himself. You can find his entire list of thirteen as well as my personal list of desired traits in my book It’s That Simple. If you don’t want to buy the book, send an email to randy@randy–green.com and I’ll be happy to send you a PDF with the complete list and explanation of the Franklin system.

So, as I enter the second week of my joint 30-day tests (only three hours of digital time daily and no alcohol), I feel pretty good. It makes me wonder, however, what other physical routines and what other habitual ways of thinking should be examined in detail. In changing our lives, the Covid-19 pandemic has opened a window of opportunity. It can make us aware that we do have choices and that those choices are not permanent. 

Why not try it in your life? What habits or assumptions can you change or abstain from for 30 days that might lead to improved productivity or a healthier lifestyle? It’s only for 30 days; if you wish, you can revert to your old ways – but with the knowledge that it is now a choice.

P. S. In further reviewing my activities and attitudes this week, I found one other change I will make. This change will be longer than 30 days. For several years, I have published a new blog post article weekly; there have been very few weeks I did not release something new.

Now, upon examination, I find that the deadline of publishing weekly has become a major source of my stress – at least from sources I can control. Additionally, the time involved in publishing weekly means that there are many other activities and projects which I do not have time to do while I am working on the blog post. The opportunity cost is growing as I defer an increasing number of other projects to meet the weekly publishing deadline.

I decided that I would continue to publish blog articles but less frequently. Primarily, I want to reduce the stress that comes from trying to complete all of the many steps necessary to publish an article each week. Therefore, beginning immediately, I will plan to publish a new article every two weeks. I will see how a biweekly schedule feels. This change will allow me time for writing more thoughtful articles. But the greatest benefit I expect from this change will be to reduce the stress of a continually looming deadline.

Photo by Foundry Co

This is not meant to be a permanent change – although, perhaps it will be. Initially, this will simply be a test to see if my old system and my old attitudes should be adjusted to new realities. This is one more example of how we need to regularly rethink all our old routines and ways of thinking to decide if a change is warranted.

What about you? What is something you have been doing – perhaps for years – that needs to be reviewed… and perhaps changed? Maybe you should try changing for only 30 days to see what happens. As Marc Reklau says, you can rebuild your life by changing your habits. (I call it reinventing.) One or two baby steps a day – each day – will have a tremendous cumulative effect.

新生活–一次30天

世界性流行病的积极影响之一是,我们的生活方式有可能得到改善。是的,一开始的必要性很快就伴随着我们认识到,我们可以有意识地选择重塑我们的生活。其实,这还不是第一步,在这之前,我们必须意识到,我们的大部分生活都是由习惯构成的。我们不是在做刻意的、当下的选择,我们是被习惯控制的。(习惯代替了思考的需要。思考是艰苦的工作,习惯则消除了思考的需要。你需要思考如何刷牙或扣衬衫的扣子吗?不,这些都是习惯性的动作,不需要思考就能完成)。) 我们一次又一次地执行同样的常规动作,往往长达数年之久,却没有花时间去检查它们,也没有问是否有更好的方法。同样,我们的思维方式也是习惯性的;大多数人同样不知道我们有能力改变我们的思维方式。

对我们大多数人来说,什么都不会改变,包括我们习惯性的思维方式,直到像流行病这样的事情迫使我们改变。(为什么我们要改变呢?只需按照你平常的例行公事,一些不需要思考的事情,就会容易得多)。) 现在,我们不应该因为大流行病而哀叹我们失去的生活方式,而应该欢欣鼓舞。拥抱顿悟的时刻,当我们意识到自己有能力改变的时候。现在,我们可以仔细评估自己的习惯,然后决定是否要继续像以前那样生活–假设这是一个可行的选择–或者我们应该通过做出一些改变来转变为一种优越的行为。

在我的案例中,这样的自我审视已经导致了我希望做出的几个改变的决定。然而,我并没有做出永久的承诺,而是选择每次改变30天–如果你愿意的话,这是一个30天的测试。在30天结束时,我可以决定哪些要继续,哪些要放弃。老读者可能还记得几个月前我停止喝咖啡30天。这是一次积极的经历,因为它让我意识到自己喝了多少咖啡,也让我意识到这是多么的习惯。从那时起,我又恢复了喝咖啡,但没有以前那么多了–而且,现在我对咖啡的意识更强了,也更享受了。现在,它是一种选择,有一个替代方案,即禁欲,这是我在30天无咖啡期间探索出来的。

我一直在考虑其他一些个人习惯,这些习惯是我多年来逐渐形成并保持的。在马克-雷克劳的《30天》这本优秀的书的提示下,我开始了一些新的30天试验。第一个新的30天试验是限制自己每天的数字时间为3小时。这些年来,我逐渐增加了坐在办公桌前对着电脑工作的时间。太多的屏幕时间,太多的时间在细节和复杂的问题上挣扎,太多的时间在发展转椅差。我还意识到,在电脑上工作本身就包含着一定程度的压力和挫折感–因为这些该死的东西几乎从来没有按照它们应该的方式来执行。事实上,有的时候,我认真地认为我的数字设备正在一起密谋让我发疯。

然而,当我把自己每天的工作时间限制在三个小时之内时,我就不得不仔细选择当天要进行哪些活动。确定优先级是至关重要的。这种时间限制也强调了效率的必要性,因为我只有三个小时的时间。将自己每天的数字/办公桌时间限制在三个小时的好处是,我有更多的时间进行其他被忽视的非数字活动。现在我有更多的时间陪伴我的家人,做饭和烘烤,打扫和整理,阅读消遣–还有去钓鱼!(我并不总是去钓鱼)。(我并不总是为了捕鱼而去钓鱼。虽然至少钓到鱼的可能性是一个先决条件,但这不是我的主要目的。很多时候,我只是想走出家门,呼吸一下新鲜空气。当我名义上在钓鱼的时候,我也会把我的Kindle放在手边)。

另一个30天的项目是比较个人化的。我决定在30天内放弃任何形式的酒精。(注:就像我对戒咖啡的测试一样,如果有人邀请我出去喝酒,我不会拒绝。但是,我不会在家里喝酒。对于好奇的人,让我向你保证,没有任何特别的事件促使我做出这个决议。我没有健康问题,也不会过量饮酒;多年前我就知道了这样做的后果。然而,当我在评估自己的习惯时,我开始有点担心,我意识到喝酒已经成为一种日常活动。事实上,我不记得自己上一次长时间不喝酒是什么时候了。生活方式和习惯之间有一条微妙的界限。我想确定我的饮酒仍然是一种选择,而不是一种习惯。最简单的方法是进行30天的禁欲测试期,以证明我可以不喝酒。(在我的美国密苏里州,我们有一句话。Show me. 这句格言的意思是。不要只用言语告诉我,要用行动告诉我。或者,就像我父亲常说的那样,”除非有人把一些钱放在桌子上,否则你所拥有的只是空谈”)。)

现在,在仅仅一周没有喝酒之后,我已经看到了一些变化。我的睡眠模式在两三天内肯定有所改善。我睡得更好了,因为时间更多了,半夜醒来的次数也少了。我每天早上起床时也感觉更好。这一切都告诉我,我的身体几乎每天都已经习惯了酒精。30天不喝酒,就能证明我没有这个习惯,无论是精神上还是身体上。至少,它将证明这个习惯没有控制我。

那你呢?哪些习惯已经成为你生活的一部分–也许是多年来的习惯?你每天都在不经意间做什么?你有哪些习惯已经成为你日常工作的一部分,而没有意识到这是一种选择?更重要的是,如果你改变了一些习惯,你的生活可能会发生怎样的变化–也许会有显著的改善?我们所学到的一切,我们可能会有不同的学习方式–现在采用一些替代方案还不算太晚。

在某些方面,30天的测试让我想起了本杰明-富兰克林的13周自我提升系统。作为一个年轻人,富兰克林制定了一个每周轮换的某些特质,他认为这些特质对提高自己最有价值。你可以在我的《就是这么简单》一书中找到他的十三周清单,以及我个人的理想特质清单。如果你不想买这本书,可以发邮件到randy@randy-green.com,我很乐意给你发一份PDF文件,里面有完整的列表和富兰克林系统的解释。

所以,当我进入30天联合测试的第二周(每天只有三个小时的数字时间,而且不喝酒),我感觉还不错。不过,这让我不禁想知道,还有哪些身体上的常规,还有哪些习惯性的思维方式需要详细检查。在改变我们的生活方面,科维德-19的流行为我们打开了一扇机会之窗。它可以让我们意识到,我们确实可以选择,而且这些选择并不是永久的。

为什么不在你的生活中尝试一下呢?在30天内,你可以改变或放弃哪些习惯或假设,从而提高生产力或建立更健康的生活方式?这只是30天的时间,如果你愿意,你可以恢复到以前的方式–但要知道现在是一种选择。

P. S.在进一步检讨我本周的活动和态度时,我发现我还会做出一个改变。这个改变的时间将超过30天。几年来,我每周都会发表一篇新的博文文章,很少有几个星期我没有发布新的东西。

现在,经过检查,我发现每周发布的最后期限已经成为我压力的主要来源–至少是来自我可以控制的来源。此外,每周发布所涉及的时间意味着,我在写博文的同时,还有许多其他活动和项目没有时间去做。随着我推迟越来越多的其他项目来满足每周出版的最后期限,机会成本也在增加。

我决定继续发表博文,但频率降低。主要是,我想减少因试图完成每周发表文章所需的众多步骤而带来的压力。因此,从即日起,我将计划每两周发表一篇新文章。我将看看每两周一次的计划感觉如何。这一改变将使我有时间写出更多有思想的文章。但我期望这一改变带来的最大好处是减少不断逼近的截止日期带来的压力。

这并不意味着是一种永久性的改变—-虽然,也许会是这样。最初,这将只是一个测试,看看我的旧制度和旧态度是否应该适应新的现实。这又是一个例子,说明我们需要定期重新思考我们所有的旧常规和思维方式,以决定是否需要改变。

那你呢?你一直在做的事情是什么–也许已经做了很多年–需要重新审视……也许需要改变?也许你应该尝试只改变30天,看看会发生什么。正如Marc Reklau所说,你可以通过改变你的习惯来重建你的生活。(我称之为重塑。)每天一两个小步骤–每天–将产生巨大的累积效应。

One Reply to “A New Life – 30 Days At A Time”

  1. Hi Randy,
    Happy to read your new blog.
    Your idea is wonderful, I am considering my lifestyle those days. I realized that I stay up late and get up late, and I am used to live with normal routine and tired of thinking, so I spent too much time on playing phone and watching TV. While these things make me unhappy and hollow. I eat take out food everyday rather than cooking for myself.
    It’s useful to read your 30-days changes, I will try to do it. Firstly, I will start to cook and get to bed early.
    Your lifestyle is meaningful, and hope for your new blog.
    Bonnie

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