Month: February 2014

The Benefits of a “Get Better” Mindset

99u.com has a great video up showing, with data, the many benefits from the mindset of continuous improvement. It’s 25 minutes, but will feel like 10… Heidi Grant is a great speaker.

tl;dw: measuring against your past self instead of others and phrasing goals, plans, etc as “let’s see if I can get a little better every time” will result in:

  • increased interest and enjoyment,
  • deeper thinking,
  • more creativity,
  • increased persistence, and
  • superior performance.

(And let’s face it, getting better is just plain fun!)

Let’s see if embedding works:

In case the embed doesn’t work for you, watch it on their site here.

Feb Experiment: Be Still

purple-castI’m behind in writing about this, but my February experiment was more or less thrust upon me when I broke my hand.

I had just put in my notice at trinket the day before to spend more time helping Maddie. We needed to double down on her therapies to try to get back on track after a recent weight drop; per Einstein we couldn’t just keep doing the same thing and hoping for a different result.

But even those therapies only take so many hours per day, so I was already facing the possibility of having some slack time — which is always a challenge for an engineer.

As you can probably guess, I had been compiling a mental list of projects I might tackle in bits and pieces whenever the girls didn’t need my help. Some things I want to build, some things I want to learn, and some things I’ll be writing about in future months…

Then the purple cast happened.

Go go go…

My first instinct, actually, was to press ahead with my projects, hand and all… anything to avoid that maddening feeling of being idle… but landscaping with one hand is a just not an efficient use of time. (Writing is far slower as well; but I still want to do as much of it as I can — I learned that much from my January Experiment.)

yoga-pose

But a nagging thought started to form around the fact that I was so opposed to having idle time. Why do I find it so challenging? I decided that I need to find out, so I reshuffled my monthly experiment plans and February, thus far, has been the month that I am doing my best to just be.

(Yes, those are my abs.)

I am no expert on meditation, and unlike most of the time I haven’t taken the time to read up on it at all thus far. This isn’t meditation, actually… this month’s experiment is far simpler… I’m merely trying to catch myself whenever I start to do something to “distract” my brain from the here and now.

First-world Distractions

I’ve never had any real interest in TV or Facebook; but I can easily while away hours reading up on science, technology, psychology, even history and politics… and while I’ve learned some interesting stuff, it has been totally without intention, and isn’t advancing the cause.

What cause? That’s part of what I’m trying to figure out, actually… and I’ve realized that this constant mental motion is hindering that quest.

The Goal

On the surface this might sound like I’m just trying to cull a few time-wasters from my week. But it’s much more than that, to me. Soon I will set about creating the next chapter of my life. I want it to be intentional, and crafted to maximize happiness on several different planes (me, family, community, perhaps world) as things go along. But I have always been fuzzy about my direction, and before I start down another path, I want a clearer picture of something. Not where I’m going, exactly, because that will change… rather I want to be clear on what happiness looks like — otherwise how can I be confident that I’m creating a life well-lived?

So this month whenever I find myself compelled to research some intriguing but non-essential fact on Google, I shut the computer and look outside instead. Whenever I enter a new room, I try to actually look around and see it. I’m trying to share more of what’s in my head, in order to be less inside my own skull and more present.

So by the end of February, I hope to get to the place where I can just be still and fully present for an entire hour. 

It has not been easy at all, so far — but already it’s been worthwhile.

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(Image credit MeditationMusic.net)

Feeling like a 3-year-old

broken handLast Tuesday I quit working at trinket.io. The next day I broke my hand. Unrelated.

The timing is somewhat ironic though; I quit to help out more with Maddie’s continuing medical issues, and this definitely makes it harder to help.

Given that I’m very right-hand dominant, it’s been an enlightening week.

It turns out there are literally dozens of things that you think you have mastered — but you have actually only mastered doing them with one particular hand. Brushing your teeth with the wrong hand, for example, is awkward but still very possible. Hammering a nail, on the other hand? Almost impossible.

Eating with the wrong hand is odd; it feels almost like trying to handle a fork with thick leather gloves on.

But the one that really made me laugh was trying to use a knife.

This morning Sydney (age 3) and I made a PB&J sandwich together. And we were equally bad at it!

Handling the knife left handed, specifically… you just don’t realize how many subtle hand movements go into the simple act of spreading peanut butter… all the little angle changes… the pressure has to be just right… one slip either way and your either glomming it on in huge dollops or leaving bare spots.

It sounds annoying, but it was actually pretty amusing. And in fact it has been a nice week of mindfulness — I’ve paid far more attention to the little everyday things, since I’ve been forced to tackle them with the dexterity of a 3-year-old.