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  • Raven James

Finishing What We Start

If you've been following this blog long enough, you may know that it has its ebbs and flows. I will be the first to admit that I haven't always been consistent with a posting schedule.


I've heard it said on more than one occasion that: the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. For a long time, I thought that this was just an exaggeration. How could that even be possible?


However, one thing that I have noticed about myself over the last couple of years is that when I feel myself lacking or falling behind in one area of my life, a lot of times I'm also not doing my best in other aspects. This isn't always attributed to "big" things either. In fact, I would say it's the little things that matter and set the tone for the day's tasks.


For example, even though I'm typically more diligent about it, there are days where I don't make the bed. A seemingly small choice in the morning that barely has any meaning actually sets the tone for the day. "Well, it's okay if I don't make my bed today....it's alright if I just leave those two dishes in the sink....I haven't done any reading today, but maybe it's okay if I skip it this once.... I know I said I would go to this event but now I don't particularly feel like it."


There are more examples but what here's what I'm getting at: big doors swing on small hinges. By starting my day with not finishing a small task, I set the tone for the rest of the day: the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. Even on the other side: I've noticed that the days I do take time to make the bed and straighten the room, I tend to finish my other tasks as well. I have a completely different mood set for the day.


A Reader's Bad Habit


I have always enjoyed reading. As a kid it was definitely one of my favorite activities and I would devour multiple books per month. This love for reading continued into adulthood. But at some point, as I started to battle with anxiety and depression, my love for reading began to dwindle. I found myself struggling to finish books and, even though I would be excited at first, at some point my interest would fade and I would leave the book only half way done.

The end result: I have more unfinished (and some not even started) books on my bookshelf than I care to admit. Somehow they became pretty displays rather than actual books (though I'll admit, some of these books are so pretty I don't even want to mess up the bind by reading them). It's as if I had the image of being a reader rather than actually being a reader.


Making a New Habit


Something a friend told me not too long ago is that when we want to experience growth/increase after being idle for so long, a good method is to shock our system. But what exactly does that mean?


For me in this example about reading, it means setting a goal and creating habits that will help me move towards it. I'm going to go from reading every once in a while to reading everyday. In fact, I decided to challenge myself by setting a goal to read 80 books in 2023! Some may look at a goal like that and ask:


"But isn't that just going from one extreme to the other? Aren't you setting yourself up for failure and disappointment if you don't read 80 books this year? You were nowhere near that number last year!"


Setting this "shock to my system" of a goal isn't actually about the goal. I honestly don't care too much about reading 80 or more books. However, what I actually care about is creating new habits that are in support of that goal. Here are a few ways I'll be doing so:

  • I take the train for my commutes to work. Instead of just listening to music, I can spend that time reading.

  • In place of time spent scrolling on my phone, I can replace that time with reading.

  • In place of time spent binge watching on a streaming service, I'll use that time for reading.

  • I can keep a couple of books in my car in cases where I may go somewhere that requires me to wait for a service.


By creating this goal, I'm actually gearing towards a plan to change my habits so that they can better support the goal. Not only will I increase the likelihood of actually finishing all these books, but I'll also be reducing the amount of screen time I have during the day. I leave my work laptop only to have my eyes on my phone, iPad, or television. And more often than not, these aren't productive uses of my time. Besides, this may be the push I need to complete all the half-dead books I have in my collection! There are also ways to keep track of my reading and keep myself accountable, like joining online reading groups or using apps like GoodReads and StoryGraph.


Reading consistently can help increase your brain power. Just like jogging can help your cardiovascular system, reading can help increase your brain's memory function and ability to concentrate. Along with improved memory there's also: increase in one's ability to empathize, increased vocabulary, help to alleviate stress and depression, and help prepare for better sleep.


This doesn't just apply to my goal with reading; it can also apply to any other goal we may have for ourselves. I guess you could say that my goal isn't actually to read 80 books, but to do things that make me more mentally healthy and productive. Because by doing well with this one thing, I'm actually setting myself up to do better with everything else.


As I've said before, I want this to be about enjoying the journey and learning along the way. So while this is about finishing what we start, I don't want us to be bogged down by the idea that hitting the goal is the only way to "finish". Finishing means that, throughout the process of going for the goal, we experience more wins and more highs than we do losses or lows. The losses and lows will happen, but we don't have to stay in them. If I make the decision to read during my commute instead of scroll through my phone, that's one win for the day. And if I continue the rest of the day like that, I'll have experienced more wins than losses for the day. Feel free to comment and share what you would like to work on this year. I would love to know what you have in store to create a better habit!


Thanks for reading,


-Raven




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