Well I’m delighted that so many of you are embracing Project Happier – everyone I talk to seems to like the idea of making small improvements rather than huge changes. The trouble is that it’s hard to keep change going. We’re only in the second week of January and I can already feel myself being pulled into the Slough of Despond – not the literal Pilgrim’s Progress sense of guilt for my sins (I don’t have much time to sin) but more a 21st century feeling of exhaustion from the ‘always on’ culture. Anyway thankfully because of my blog and the fact that I have all of you on board with me, I’ve been thinking about how to make sure that any changes I introduce stick.
Creating good habits
The obvious way is by creating good habits and therein lies a problem. Popular culture has it that it takes 21 days to form a habit but I think we all know that isn’t the case. When you look into it, recent research has shown that it’s actually more like 66 days and for some people it takes even longer. So, you need to choose what you want to change carefully because it’s going to become a project. The good thing is that knowing it takes at least 66 days means you don’t have to feel fed up because it doesn’t seem to be working – change takes time so be kind to yourself along the way. The research also showed that it doesn’t matter if you slip up a few times either, as long as you stick to the plan most of the time you won’t have done any damage.
Reading this has helped me to understand why following Slimming World’s diet works for me better than any other I have tried. It is a ‘way of eating’ that you unconsciously adopt after a while so that you end up making the right choices automatically. Every so often I blow it (Christmas, holidays) but I know if I go straight back to a group and get my head back on track it will be fine. I put on 8lbs over Christmas which shocked me but I’ve now managed to lose 5 of them because I’ve got myself back into my good habits. By the way – I’m not gloating, I’m just telling you this because a week ago I was beating myself up for all the chocolate I’ve eaten and spiralling into a “can’t do it” mood. I want to encourage you by showing that you can make change if you take the first few steps.
Now, as you know, Project Happier has been inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. I’m now reading ‘Better Than Before’ which she published before Christmas and guess what – it’s all about creating good habits. I’m about halfway through and I must admit I’m finding this one a bit of a slog, I think it could have done with a lot of editing. However, it did give me a lightbulb moment at the beginning when she defines ‘the 4 fateful tendencies.’ The premise is that we all have a ‘type’ that will affect how we develop new habits. They fall into the following groups:
These are people who meet both external and internal expectations or obligations. This means that if they say they are going to do something, they do it whether it’s a promise made to someone else or themselves. They are very rare and it must be great to be one although Gretchen says that they often overwork because they don’t prioritise expectations, they simply do everything.
Obligers are similar to Upholders – they will always meet external expectations but not internal ones. So for example, they will never miss a deadline or break a promise made to their children but they will easily break a diet or an exercise plan if they are doing it privately. I am largely an upholder and now it all makes sense!
As the name implies, Questioners will always question expectations before they commit to them. This means they are good at meeting internal obligations because they are driving their own agenda but will only agree to external ones when they have decided that they make sense.
Rebels resist all forms of expectation – outer and inner. They resist all rules and any kind of self control but act from a basis of ‘what do I want to do?’ They are self driven which can appear selfish but isn’t if you understand their motivation.
If you can work out your fateful tendency, you can use it to drive your plans and work towards habits that will stick. Mr MC and I had a long car journey this weekend and as well as finally doing our New Year Life Audit which was even more helpful than I thought it would be, we defined our fateful tendencies. It turns out that I am an Obliger with hints of Questioner and he is an Upholder with hints of Rebel which explains why we sometimes just can’t agree on the way we should approach things.
Anyway, because ‘Obliger’ is my dominant pattern, it has helped me to understand why I lose weight much faster if I have to go to a public weigh in than just monitor myself on the scales. It explains why I can go to a class at the gym but I find reasons not to go for a workout on my own. It also shows why I have managed to keep up with my blog when the novel I spent a year researching is still languishing in a computer file with only 2 chapters written. I am now going to make myself publicly accountable for the things I want to achieve which is why I need to choose them carefully.
Project Happier – Progress
So, if we think back to our January focus for Project Happier, it was a prep month. We were working on energising so that we are in a good position to attack the 10 areas that come next (December is a recap month at the end). My January commitments are:
I’m not getting into the clean eating craze because I will be at risk of going off track and I know the programme I follow works. I adapt Slimming World to a clean eating model by refusing to do some of the things they suggest such as using Frylight spray which cannot possibly be good for you. I also keep it lighter on carbs. I will continue to go to the weigh-ins until I’m confident that I’m back in the habit of eating well so if I follow the 66 day suggestion it will be until the beginning of March.
I’ve signed back up to my old classes at the gym and I’m hoping my shoulder holds out. I’m doing Kettles twice a week, Pilates once and I’m trying Power Yoga next week as something new. Hopefully along with walking Gary this should help to get my body back to the shape it was in before my car accident which isn’t Elle Macpherson but it’s good enough for me.
So far I’ve failed at my plan to get rid of 5 items of clothing a week. However I have the incentive of a cheque to pick up at the local dress agency from my clear out before Christmas so I’ll do it on Friday and take a bag of clothes with me.
Now, I’m intrigued to hear how you’re getting on. I’m really grateful to Janet for raising the issue about replying to comments in the last Happier post and for the support from others of you. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it. Replying does take a very long time (and the need to reply is a constant niggle) but I do like to build up a relationship with you. Lots of you have become friends over the last couple of years and it’s because of our chat in the comments. It also helps me to know what you are interested in which gives me ideas for new posts. Maybe I’ll do group replies on some posts and individual ones on others. I’ll let you know but please, please don’t stop commenting and talking to each other. Not only do you bring life to the site and joy to me during the day but you also help to grow Midlifechic – every word you write helps it to be reranked by Google which means more women will discover us and join our community.
Outfits from the weekend
Moving on to a bit of life, one of the big things that I’m focusing on this year is joy and I’m going to be talking about it in much more detail in next month’s Project Happier. Anyway, an old friend who is also our eldest son’s godfather has a birthday that falls on 4th January which always strikes me as a really bad time to be born. He is a party person and has always gone ahead and celebrated regardless but I have usually wimped out because it’s January and he lives in the South. However this year it was his 50th and I decided that we needed to show him how much we value his friendship. So on Saturday we dropped the 2 younger boys off with friends and headed off on our 5 hour drive. As I mentioned above, we turned this into the perfect opportunity to do our life audit. Here’s an outfit shot for you:
White Company short sleeved polo neck; White Stuff long sleeved t-shirt; Boden high rise superskinny jeans; M&S ankle boots; White Company necklace (I’m concerned that the high rise superskinnies are not featuring in the new Boden collection, I was banking on a grey pair. In fact I wasn’t blown away by the new catalogue, I don’t know what you think).
The party was in a bar in Thames Ditton. It was brilliant catching up with our old gang, we danced until our feet were sore and then went to see the project that our friend and his wife have taken on. Their children have grown up and left home so they’ve bought a very run down house on Thames Ditton island which is literally an Island in the middle of the River Thames.
When we first visited in July they were in the early stages of ripping everything out. Since then, his wife has given up her marketing job and has done most of the work herself including building a kitchen and putting the ceiling in. Talk about girl power, I felt humbled by her achievements, she is tall, blonde and glamorous – not an obvious builder type. I don’t envy them at the moment as they’re camping out on their small boat whilst they plough on with the work which they’re obviously finding tough but I do admire them. I love the fact that they’ve reached midlife and they’re chasing a new dream. This is what I wore for the party.
And this is a much needed coffee at a service station on the 5 hour drive back yesterday, caffeine was required as the partying went on until 4.30am – it was definitely a joy filled evening but it hasn’t left me feeling very energised (!) However, I’m very, very glad we made the effort to go.
I hope you manage to find some time to uncover your ‘fateful tendency’ and that you use it for creating good habits for the energise section of ‘Project Happier.’ If we do this together we’re going to have a great year. Keep in touch.
Here’s the original Project Happier post in case you missed it