Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Striving for excellence

One thing I tend to struggle with is my constant need to better myself. I'm not really a perfectionist, because I can let little mistakes go. But what bothers me is when I don't get around to everything I wanted to accomplish. Whether it's my goals for an evening (1.Cook dinner 2. Hang out with Shane 3. Knit socks 4. Clean apartment 5. Walk dog 6. Exercise 7. Finish reading that book 8. Play with cat....) or my goals for the year, I get disappointed with myself when I don't cross everything off my list. I create my own stress!
Logically, I know there's never enough time to do everything that I want to do. (Stupid needing to work for money! Grr.) Heck, there's never even enough time to do what needs to be done. (Have you seen my apartment lately? No, of course not, because I'd never invite people over when it's as messy as it currently is!) Or maybe it's just that I don't prioritize "needs" correctly? In any case, it's hard to be so hard on myself. And I know I'm not alone. Are you stressed? I thought so.
This is why I'm enjoying trying to focus on the little things. It's not about how much I can get done in one night or one week, it's about what I get done. I might not have gotten through my whole list, but I did manage to vacuum the carpet and look how much cleaner it is! I might not have done my full workout, but I did take the dog for a short walk and played with the cat. (I consider playing with the cat an ab workout, since I laugh so hard my belly hurts.) Focusing on what I manage to get done is so much nicer than seeing all the things that haven't been done.
Working this way, slowly and kind of lazily, I've checked quite a few things off my list recently. Of course, some of those things circle back around again (how can I need to dust again already?!) but some of them get done and stay done. (I cleared some stuff out of the dining room and it's so much more spacious and clean!) The list gets added to from time to time (thanks to the dog/gingerbread incident, we now have to shampoo our carpets) but that's becoming more and more ok.
So I don't exercise 6 days per week the way I *want* to. (I'm not sure that's the correct word for it, but it works.) At least when I do workout, I push myself to do more and be better than last time. And since I take the time off between, I figure I'm less likely to injure myself. And I actually enjoy my workouts now. I even laugh at the way the dog rings the bell to go outside every single time I start my workout. Two minutes into the warmup she apparently thinks, "Mom's not doing anything important. I'll ask to go out. And then back in again thirty seconds later! And I'll be the biggest pain about it that I can be." Rather than a nuisance, I love that the cat seems to recognize my stretches and comes over to join me. ("Oh dear, that's not how to stretch! Learn from the master. You're supposed to do it like this.") Because I've chosen when to workout, and I'm not cramming it into my evening as just one more thing that needs to get done, it's become a much more pleasant experience and I think it will be more of a long-term thing, rather than my usual "I finished that workout program, now back to sloth" attitude.
I have a yearly goal of reading 52 books. Every year, I tell myself that it's the minimum number of books I'd like to read. One book each week isn't so hard, right? Last year came in at, I think, 53 books. This year, so far I'm only at 46. But it's something I enjoy so I've made it more of a priority on my "list" for the next week or two (not a written list, just a mental tally), which is essentially like planning in mental breaks for myself. I've allowed myself the time to read as much as I want and it's lovely. I put it off nearly all autumn because there were "more important" things to do. And some of them were--"Annie", getting my classwork done, hanging out with friends--but sometimes I think I just dithered and wasted precious time when I could have been doing something important to me, like reading. (Honestly, my younger self would be so disappointed that I can only get in 52 books per year, rather than well over 100 the way I used to do. And to think that when I was younger I always thought I'd have more free time to read as an adult! The follies of youth.)
For 2012, I want to refocus my priorities. I want to figure out what's most important to me and keep going with it. All the rest can be dropped. Becoming more sustainable is still very, very important to me (less wasteful is at the top of the list) and so is saving money and spending locally, but for the rest I'll have to figure out what's really going to be on my list of accomplishments for 2012.

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