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Thriving Mindfully

Category: The Power of Everyday (Page 2 of 2)

What I learnt by taking up the ‘Power of Everyday’ Project

“We are what we repeatedly do.”
“Each day is a day of decision.”
“He is rich who owns the day.”
“Each new day is a blank page in the diary of your life.”

Most of us have read similar lines at some point in our lives, gotten motivated for a while only to gradually slip back into inaction.

When Sreenath started his ‘Power of Everyday‘ project, I had been through this cycle a hundred times over- to the point where instead of leaving me inspired, every variation of these aphorisms was reduced to a feel-good bromide.

However, long before Sreenath formally announced the project, I had seen him reap benefits of maintaining self-discipline. So it was inevitable that when he invited his readers to join him, I would be among the first guys to respond.

I am guilty of being slightly disorganized and sloppy about certain areas of life. A full-time job has made me gradually fall in the trap of living day-to-day, rather than maximizing each day to make progress toward interests that are closer to my heart.

I don’t think I am alone in feeling dazed and unplanned on certain days. Life is busy. Breaking out of the uni-dimensional routine of our days is a perennial struggle. My willingness to play a part in Sreenath’s project is a result of my optimism that we’d all benefit from staying mutually accountable to each other about the way we live our days.

For my first month of this challenge, I decided to choose three fairly simple and realistic everyday tasks-

1. Wake up before sunrise

Success rate- 19/30

In my college years, I had identified waking up early as one of the keystone habits– a habit that is precursor to the
development of other good habits. However, I have had a long history of failed experiments of waking up early for more than two weeks consecutively.

In order to sustain this habit, it was important for me not to have this seem like a mental and physical ordeal. So, I decided to make this a fun exercise by taking up an implicit, one-sided, and undeniably juvenile competition with the Sun.

2. Do the 7-minute-workout

Success rate- 21/30

At the start of the year, I resolved to run five half-marathons by the end of the year. My second half-marathon of the year was scheduled on June 24 and I was terribly unprepared. Working for long hours on some days of the month made it harder for me to run as frequently as I should have. The 7-minute workout was a significantly less time-intensive exercise routine to maintain my stamina. While nothing could replace a good morning run, this was a decent substitute and it helped ensure that I completed what could arguably be one of the toughest terrains on the Indian marathon circuit with marginal unease.

3. Compose a simple melody everyday (14/30)

Success rate- 14/30

Practicing technique and scales has always been one of my major aversions. To resume practicing more efficiently, I needed to go back to the reason why I picked up my first guitar- to play tunes. Those dreaded arpeggio patterns and the ghastly chord voicings took a back seat, and I started focussing on humming simple melodies over various chord progressions everyday. I failed more often than I succeeded in this endeavour, but this was the most rewarding activity of my day.

Where I failed, and what I learnt?

It’s pretty evident from the numbers that I was wildly inconsistent.

I learnt that developing a habit is mainly about momentum.

Momentum is created or destroyed every day with the first few decisions I make. For example, I went on a 10-day streak on all three tasks, but once I missed waking up early a few days in succession, I couldn’t create a respectable streak.

The biggest problem I encountered was when I woke up late or started my day off wrong, which put me on a downward spiral for the rest of the day.

Most of all recognized that my willpower works pretty much like a muscle. On days where I was exhausted after utilizing my will-power in responding to a plethora of e-mails and answering to unnecessary phone calls, it was harder for me to come back home and sit with my instrument to come up with a melody. On those agonizing work days, I found myself noodling mindlessly on my guitar instead of engaging myself in a focussed practice session.

With all the down sides, I had the opportunity to learn a lot about myself in the process.

This month, I am expecting some stressful days at my workplace and also planning to initiate a side project which would take up most of my time. Thus, keeping with the idea of setting realistic goals, I am deliberately not over-exerting myself and taking up any new goals for this month.

While I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped to be, I am taking solace from the fact that at least I have put in place a system of tracking my progress and keeping myself accountable here.

This is a wonderful project and doing this experiment has reinforced the idea that all I need to do stay happy is become very, very good at living each day. I would like to extend Sreenath’s invitation to his readers in choosing a simple task that you’d like to do every single day and experience the progress first hand, just like I did.

I hope to see you guys again at the end of July.

Cheers,
Aalap Vyas

 

What writing everyday taught me about being a better person

A few days ago, one of my friends asked me a question that I had never confronted myself with.

‘How do you manage to write a blog post every day? What’s the most difficult part about it?’

I thought about it for a while. And I realised, writing a blog post is not the most difficult thing in the exercise. It is writing the first few lines of the blog post that’s most challenging. Once you’re past the first few lines, the blog post fashions itself.
All I have to do is get past the first few lines. Once I am past the inertia, it is a breeze.

The same is also true for physical activities. I remember the toughest phase of my bicycle trip to the mountains to be the first half an hour of the ride.
Once your body is warmed up, you don’t even realise you’re bicycling. The process just happens on its own.

Extrapolating further,
I wonder if the same is true for the more human qualities one wishes to embody.
We all wish to be better human beings.
We desire to be more loving, more accepting, more friendly and allow ourself to have an open heart.

But if we think of starting to embody these qualities all through our existence, the task, however desirable, seems to be far too daunting.

How do I have such an open heart full of love all through my life !’ one would wonder.

But there is a way of thinking that makes the task much easier and accessible.

Say you wish to be more compassionate and loving.
Don’t think about being compassionate and loving all through your existence.

Just start to be compassionate and loving in the present moment.

Once you are past the barricades you’ve built around your heart, the task becomes easier and but natural.

Of course, this has to be practiced every single day with solemn awareness.
Just how I choose to begin to write and get past the first few lines every single day.

Before you know you will have a continuum of existence, full of the qualities you always wished to embody.

Open your heart and ask,
What quality do I wish to imbibe.
And start.
Everyday.

You will realize your better self with every glorious sunrise.

To your undeniable growth.

 

 

The Power of Everyday (June-July)

Every month, I take up a few activities that I feel passionate about and decide to do them every single day of that month.

This is part of ‘The Power of Everyday’ project where I investigate the value of focussed and deliberate practice on the mind , body and soul.
Last month, I had the following activities that I promised to do every single day of the month-

1) Practice Yoga Every single day (19/30)

2) Daydream and Journal about it (19/30)

3) Practice Ear training for 10 mins everyday (6/30)

4) Write and Publish a Blog everyday (14/30)

5) Celibate (30/30)

As you can see in the brackets above, apart from staying celibate, I had quite an abysmal record with the other activities. Much of it can be attributed to bicycling in a challenging part of the world. I could not blog for 8 days straight because there was no internet connectivity in the Laddakh Region. And on most days, I bicycled for 10-11 hours a day in the mountains leaving me completely exhausted to do anything more.

But I learnt a lesson in the process.
There is grace in confronting your own failures.
By writing about where I failed and why, I am reflecting on how I could avoid the situation in future.
Even if three people read this blog entry, I am accountable to them after all !

But what gives me happiness is the fact is that I am excited to start the new month with the next edition of ‘The Power of Everyday.’ I have the company of a few friends who have chosen to take up this consistency challenge and commit to doing a few activities close to their heart every single day of July 2018.

Now, without further ado, I must share my daily goals for this month.

July 2018 Goals

1) Wake up before sunrise and write a Haiku (succinct poetry) about it every single day

2) Write and Publish a blog post everyday

3) Refrain from anything that comes with packaging and collect all the plastic that you produce in the month

4) Practise Yoga Everyday

5) Celibate

6) Be acutely aware of your posture and correct yourself as you realise there’s scope for betterment

I have chosen the goals for the month mindfully this time around.

Three of the goals (celibacy, posture correction , packaging free existence)
Are awareness based goals. I don’t need to do anything new to accomplish this. Just a mindful existence will ensure I comply to these goals.

The other three goals (Yoga, Blog writing , Haiku at sunrise) are creation based goals. I will have to invest time into doing these things every single day.

This month I have a good balance between the awareness based and creation based goals.

It has always been a wish that more people take up this experiment with me. If you have a habit in mind that you’d like to form, take it up as a daily goal in ‘The Power of Everyday’ project.
I’ve had friends take up a few projects of their choice last month and they have learnt a lot about themselves and the process of cultivating habits in the process.

Would you like to join us?

Leave a comment below with your goals for the month in July 2018’s Power of everyday experiment.

I promise you,
There’s great learning in the exercise.

I’ll share my progress on the 11th and 21st of July and have a concluding post on 1st August where I share what I learnt from the experience and announce the goals for ‘The Power of Everyday’ project for August 2018.

Looking forward to hear about your goals for July 2018.

Best,

Sreenath

 

 

 

Lessons from watching 31 Sunrises

As an effort to sensitise myself about the unfolding mystery of dawn, I challenged myself to wake up every day before sunrise and write a page about it. To step it up even a bit further, I wrote the whole page with my non dominant left hand.

Since I have been traveling in the month of May, I had the fortune of witnessing sunrises at varying latitudes, longitudes and altitudes. I was at beaches, piers, highways, temples, in bustling cities and rustic hinterlands. Witnessing and documenting the experience of sunrise at all these places has been a great creative journey.
Today, I wish to share what I learnt from the whole experience, which was part of ‘The Power of Everyday’ project for the month of May.

My learnings :

1) The Sky has a Personality

No two sunrises were ever alike. I feel it holds true for ever since the sky has existed. Most of us wake up inside a house and never get to witness a sunrise, but believe me, even if you watch the same sky from the same place on two successive days, they would be quite peculiar.
The sky is alive.

2) We have become color blind

For as long as I can remember, every single landscape drawing of a little kid in school has a blue sky.
But if one takes initiative to watch a sunrise with a kid, they’ll be mesmerised by the range of colors exhibited in the sky. I would only come up with newer descriptions of colors, just when I thought I had exhausted my imagination. Such is the splendor exhibited in the sky.
I had to compare the shades in the sky to popcorn yellow, cashew white, Bunsen burner blue, misty Clementine, scarlet red, princely purple etc.
The experience truly enlivened my imagination.
We should all spend some time transcribing colors of the sky !

3) The Celestial Game

We have grown up to believe that the sun ‘rises’ in the east. But in reality, it is the earth that turns from east to west and experiences night and day in the process.
While watching a sunrise in rural Thailand, I imagined it to be not just ‘sun rise’ but also ‘star-set’.
The countless twinkling stars are outshone by the might of the sun. With the rising sun, stars disappear.
I would see Venus set every morning in the North-West horizon, as the cresent moon rose, only to be obliterated by daylight.
All of a sudden I would see a morning not just as sunrise. I got sensitised to more celestial phenomenon.

4) Clouds- Unsung Heroes

Clouds are the true painters of the sky. The most mundane sunrise I’ve witnessed was one where there wasn’t a cloud in sight. And the best sunrise I experienced was at a sunrise point at Samet Nangshe in Thailand, where I could see a storm in one part of the horizon and spent clouds hover just behind the behemoth of limestone piers as the sun rose. It was one breathtaking experience.
Clouds scatter and diffuse sunlight, infusing the sky with hues of their lively imagination.
They’re the true painters of the canvas of the sky.

5) Sounds

The transition from the buzz of insects at night to the rousing awakening of birdsong is a lesson in dynamics for a musician. A simmering symphony of nature orchestrated by the sun’s inevitable advent.
I always wondered what the birds sang about in the morning. Then one day, I realised, maybe they are just singing in surprise of the daily unfolding of colors in the sky. Encrypted in their song are reams and reams of passionate poetry.

6) We are losing our Sky

It was disheartening to witness a sunrise in India. Our bleached skies look pale and diseased. Every single day, we deprive ourself of the wonder the sky could be. Our actions are polluting the sky and if we don’t act soon, we will lose a priceless gift of nature.

Sometimes I wish,
If I Bicycle more, maybe there will be less pollution, and we might see one more star in the sky.
If a billlion of us choose to do the same,
Imagine how a sky with a billion stars would look like?

I hope we all take collective action, and reclaim the sky from our own doing.

Let us celebrate each sunrise with the same enthusiasm as birds and trees do.
And with each sunset, lose ourself in the infinity of the sky.

I leave you with that thought,
In sincere hope of fostering,
Existential awe.

 

 

The Power of Everyday (May-June)

Yesterday, I completed the second month of ‘The Power of Everyday project.’                        For those of you who haven’t read about it before, let me share a brief overview of the project.

The Power of Everyday is a project that investigates the effect of consistent deliberate practice on the body, mind and soul. Each month I pick up a few actions that I resolve to repeat every single day. In the end of the month, I reflect on the progress and learnings along the journey here on my blog.

Last month, I had five challenges to complete everyday-

1) To wake up before sunrise and write a page about it with my left hand (26/31)

2) Daydream for half an hour and write a page about it (25/31)

3) Practice Yoga every single day (25/31)

4) Celibate (31/31)

5) Write and publish a blog post every single day (30/31)

So how did I fare this month. In the month of April, I had a 100% success rate.
While I could not have similar success this month, I still learnt a lot.
I have mentioned in the brackets how many days out of 31 days of May was I able to finish the task.

The days I missed out on doing the tasks were mostly because of my peripatetic lifestyle at the moment. It is difficult to keep doing the daily tasks while being on the road, when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep at night.
Keeping that in mind, in June, I am only taking up those tasks that I can fulfil considering my current travel lifestyle.

I will keep sharing individual posts about what I’ve learnt from each of these experiments in the month of May over the next few days.

Meanwhile, I would like to share the projects for June for ‘The power of everyday project.’

Tasks for June :

1) Daydream and write two pages about it

2) Practice Yoga every day

3) Celibate

4) Write and publish a blog post a day

5) Spend 10 minutes on ear training every day

As you can see I’ve only added one new task this month.

I wish to be realistic and choose tasks that I can complete every day when I’m travelling.

This month, I wish to have some company in this project.

I invite you to choose a simple task that you’d like to do every single day and experience the progress first hand.

We all want to improve, don’t we?

Let’s commit to one simple task and take little steps to an evolved version of our self.

You can share your task for the month of June for ‘The Power of Everyday’ project in the comments below.
Let’s keep each other accountable and engineer our personal growth.

I look forward to know how you are challenging yourself this month.

In anticipation,

Your friend,

Sreenath

The Power of Everyday – May Update

Hello there!

It’s been 10 days since I’ve been involved in ‘The Power of Everyday’ experiment. I had the following five tasks I promised myself I would do every single day no matter what.

1) Watch the sunrise everyday and write a page about it with the left hand

2) Daydream for half an hour and write a page about the experience

3) Celibate

4) Practice Yoga every single day

5) Write and publish a blog post every single day

Ten days of the month have passed. I am happy to share that I have been able to accomplish all of these tasks, every single day so far.
It is challenging to keep up with it since I am traveling. I start my day with the first task of watching the sunrise and end it with writing an article and publishing it. While it is challenging to be consistent, once I finish the day’s tasks, that’s when I truly feel a sense of closure.

This challenge has put me in a frame of mind of ‘earning my sleep.’

Sometimes, I’m tired from a 7 hour day of bicycling and fall asleep as soon as I find shelter. But I wake up in the middle of the night and finish whatever is left before sleeping again. It might seem a bit too difficult from a third person’s point of view. But trust me, at this juncture, it is more difficult to not do these tasks.

I wouldn’t sleep well if I didn’t!

It is fascinating to feel how the brain chemistry can be influenced by our decisions.
Inaction only leads to lethargy and depletion while being active and focussed surprisingly keeps you more energised and replenished.

I’m learning a lot through this project and am also getting better at the tasks.
I will keep sharing my progress every tenth day. I also hope it inspires you to take one little task that you’ve always wanted to do, one that might add value to your existence, and do it every single day.

Start small. You can choose to do it discreetly.

But, do it!
Even in failing, there are as many lessons to learn.
And the aim is always,
to be learning !

I’ll give another update in ten days time.
Until then, I wish you luck with your journey of harnessing
‘The Power of Everyday.’

The Power of Everyday

We have a tendency to set ambitious goals for ourselves. We would like to be the ‘Biggest’, ‘ Quickest’, ‘Smartest’ , ‘Youngest’ etc. at a particular activity that we let into our life.
While this pool of superlatives helps one set a clear goal, it doesn’t help with the journey along the way to realising it.

For instance,
Wanting to be the quickest sprinter in your school helps set out a clear goal, but doesn’t help much with the work you have to put in to achieve the target.

I believe goal setting needs to be visualised differently. One must aspire to do the smallest task he can do, every single day, to reach his goal.
In my experience, nothing is as difficult as being consistent at something.
One of the reasons majority of new year resolutions never make past the first fortnight !

From what I’ve learnt,
One must design ‘micro goals’. He must aspire to do the smallest thing possible to take him the shortest distance forward in the direction of fulfilment of his goal.

Consistency is the key.

As a writer, I make sure I write an article every single day. As a fitness enthusiast I do Yoga every single day.
The habit of being consistent at the micro task every single day is the surest way to achieve the loftiest of dreams.

This is one of the reasons why I started
‘The power of everyday’ project.
This project aims at investigating the effect of consistent, deliberate practice.

In the month of April, I had the follow three projects.

1. To write one foolscap page with the left hand
2. To write and publish a blog everyday
3. To practice Yoga every single day

I’m happy to share that I did all of the above mentioned micro tasks, every single day in the month of April.

It has been challenging at times especially since I am traveling.
For example, on 29th April, I wrote my daily left hand page on a roll of tissue paper when stranded in an under construction school at an island.
I’ve written blog posts at ungodly hours just so that I can publish them the next day at 8 am IST no matter what.
I’ve found myself asleep on the yoga mat halfway into a yoga pose from the sheer exhaustion of the day. I woke up four hours later on my Yoga mat, and continued on to finish what was left of the daily micro task.

What did I gain from this month of experiment?
My left hand writing is improving and I can write much faster than before.
I am getting better at writing and creating content every single day.
And because of Yoga, I am definitely fitter than how I was a month ago when I started the project.

But more than that,
The most discerning change is in the mindset.
I sense a subtle shift in brain chemistry that helps me be in a positive frame of mind. Finishing all the daily micro tasks by the end of the day gave a reassuring sleep every night. Trust me, it really feels amazing!

In the month of May, I am undertaking the following five daily micro tasks in ‘The power of everyday’ project.

1) Wake up bright and early and watch the sunrise everyday. Write a page about it with your left hand.

2) Day dream for half an hour and journal it. Every day.

3) Celibate.

4) Continue the daily Yoga practise.

5) Continue writing and publishing a blog post every single day.

As you can see, I have built upon my old micro tasks and added a few new ones.

I’ll share one post about the progress of this project and what I’m learning from it every week.

I would really enjoy if you join me on this journey.

Pick one micro task for yourself, that you are willing to do every single day. It can be the smallest thing that leads you in the right direction (Say, write one line every single day)
Focus solely on consistency.
Pick something easy that would seem ridiculous to not do.( One push up a day every single day?)

Share your micro task for the week in the comments below. Don’t hesitate.
We are only enabling each other’s growth,
with the smallest step possible in the right direction.

More on this in a few days.

Until then,
Keep at the micro task.

Let’s carry on the spirit.

To our collective evolution.

Best,

Sreenath

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