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#Flourish40, Take Two

Last year I tried out this idea for a little project. I called it #Flourish40, tried to do too much, and failed. This year, I’m going to try again. The idea is pretty simple, and fundamentally unoriginal: to do things differently for forty days and forty nights. It’s Lent, but as I’m not Christian, I feel weird calling it that. And although I appreciate that the emphasis of Lent, typically, is of abstaining or demonstrating self-control for a period of time, I’m actually more excited about focusing on trying to be a better version of myself for six weeks. Then I can go back to being a bit shitty for the next ten and a bit months, and feel contentedly smug along with it.

Also, six weeks is supposedly a great amount of time to make or break habits. Which is neat. Hashtag yay for behavioural science insights that I proclaim without any actual reference to any actual study.

This year then, I’m thinking of restricting myself to doing three things:

  • giving something up that inhibits my flourishing
  • doing something new, or more of something old, that boosts it
  • taking a different approach to my normal one.

The problem is, I’ve got a lot to choose from. And another problem is that I’m really bad at choosing. And ANOTHER problem is YAWN I am boring MYSELF with my self-improvement load of CACKALACKY.

  • giving something up that inhibits my flourishing
    • eating chocolate every day
    • eating sugar every day
    • watching House of Cards and True Detective and all other possible box-sets every day
    • saying cackalacky
  • doing something new, or more of something old, that boosts it
    • seeing friends more
    • keeping track of my receipts so that I don’t have minor panic attacks on a regular basis
    • being more tidy in general—this is more to boost my husband’s flourishing than mine, but we all know that doing things for other people does stuff for us
    • possibly saying cackalacky actually
  • taking a different approach to my normal one:
    • when making a decision, ask myself “What is the KINDEST way?”
    • in the improv spirit, try to always say “Yes, and…” rather than “Yes, but…” or “No…”
    • actually factor in how much time it will take me to get somewhere, so that I get there on time

I like that whole “new approach” idea. I like all of them. But blah blah BLAH and also all this is cheating. Too many things. I won’t remember them. I’ll fail. I am encroaching on Holier Than Thou territory which is my non-Christian IDEA OF HELL. I don’t want to be that person. I am that person. A little bit. But no. NO. I don’t want to be. Take me away. Away.

Anyway.

I’ve realised over the last few weeks that I’ve been poddling along these three or four years with a lot of support but not much guidance. This is a genuine realisation. I’m done with Striking Out.  I want some guidance! I want to raise my game! To feel admiring of someone, awestruck, desperate to impress them. Is this what happens to the irreligious in their thirties, do we all suddenly start yearning for a mortal to idolise?

Well, here it is. And it so happens I’ve come across a fair few extraordinarily brilliant women in the past few months (here’s where I get to name check Dame Mary Marsh and Charmaine Eggberry, and I even got to meet Stella Creasy MP recently too, who was so un-grip-and-grin-y that she nearly almost had me contemplating  a career in politics). But, if I set one of THEM as my idols, I’m a bit of a nutter. A creep.

So actually, here is what I’ll do. I’m going to give myself one task for the next 40 days. And I’m going to assign myself one idol. That idol, after much reflection [two minutes], is going to be [DRUM ROLLLLLLL] the awe-inspiring Michelle Obama. Relatable, but far away enough from my league and location for me not to feel like a creep; suitably fallible but also fierce and strong AND funny. Boom.

Whenever I’m stuck on a choice, I’m going to ask myself: What Would Michelle Do?

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Example:

“Do I buy this Double Decker for the train ride home?”

WWMD?

“NOT buy this Double Decker. Instead, buy a banana. And possibly tell some kids about it.”

I think I can remember that. So here’s to #Flourish40, Take Two. If I can get to being a teenytiny-eth of the greatness that is Michelle O, with less of the wankiness that filled my first #Flourish40 attempt, I will have flourished and then some. Goodbye mediocrity, hello michellety.

I did just write that.

If you’ve got thoughts on how YOU can boost your levels of flourishing over the next forty days, or on whether you think I’ve just hit another personal record low,  please post comments below or tweet me (@eugenieee). I’d love to know.

Bacon bagel

The #Flourish40 framework

Bust pancakeYou’d think with a shake’n’bake pancake mix from Betty Crocker, things couldn’t go wrong on Pancake Day. But, oh. Oh, they did. Flapped and scrapped and scraggy and squashy. Ah well. Not the greatest of starts to my last day of languishing for the next forty. Goodbye bacon! Goodbye mindless browsing of Facebook! Goodbye Cbeebies! I’ll see you on the flipside of this, my little 40-day attempt at ultra-flourishing.

Quick recap: a number of little things recently inspired me to supercharge my flourishing. So I’ve set about developing a non-mind-numbing, hot-paced self-improvement programme for the next six weeks. In other words, it’s money-mouth time.

Yesterday evening, alone and a little cold (our heater had broken and I didn’t bother to fix it, it seemed fitting), I drew up a list of habits I wanted to change and activities I wanted to do. Yup, it was kinda a bummer. But I’ve also been a bit smug recently about some of the good stuff I’ve been doing (like lots of running, which for a non-runner is fairly impressive, well done me), so it was good to humble myself a little.

Bad habits list

Instead of mulling on the fact that I’m a bit crap about quite a few things, I spent a long time figuring out how to create a beneficial, achievable habit-busting and habit-boosting framework for the next forty days. I wanted to gamify my life a bit, but not too much that it would feel contrived. That’s a tricky balance to strike. And I wanted, more than anything, not to turn into a psycho, zealous, holier-than-thou bore. Goodness knows if I’ll manage that. But I’ve come up with some sort of plan, including my daily three strengths I want to focus on. And I’m here sharing it with you, so you can get involved too, should you so wish. Download the aptly-titled Flourish40 pack (either as a Word doc or a PDF) and see what you reckon.

The framework

  1. I write down a list of habits I’d like to change. I try to frame them all positively, and for each one I try to think to myself why I want to make those changes. For example, “I’d like to spend less time looking at screens, especially when my kid is about because it would be better for both of us if we interacted more.” I also note down a number of activities I’d like to do that I currently don’t. Such as, “I’d like to read more than two books a year.”
  2. I review my list of habits and activities and try to group them.  I decide to focus on improving three of Spark+Mettle’s strengths each day, and then to have a weekly strength theme too.
  3. For me, my habits break down into things around food and nutrition, things around spending quality time with others, and things around getting my life in order. I attributed ‘mettle’ to the first (food and nutrition) because I need a whole lot of grit not to eat meat for 40 days. The second one was more obvious, it was all about positive relationships. And the third I labeled ‘agency’ as getting my stuff in order will help me stay in control of where I’m heading.
  4. I break these habit-busters down into three achievable goals, and note down each day if I haven’t reached them. The aim is to get a clean sheet each week, for six weeks. Here are my daily three.
  5. With the activities, I whittle them down to a list of ten things I would like to do each week, that I currently don’t. I decide over the course of each week how I’ll go about doing them, and how to tie them back to the week’s theme. For example, my first week’s strength theme is ‘spark’, so I figure my book for the week will be Ken Robinson’s “The Element”.
  6. An alternative way to go about the activities is to write down each new activity on a piece of card, and then pick one at random each day. Some might take a few days or hours to complete, some might be really quick, so I could note that down too. But with a kid, spontaneity needs a little more planning. So this isn’t going to be how I roll. But it would be a lot of fun. Especially if you got other people to come up with activities for you.

For me, it all kicks off tomorrow. Right now I’m off to scoff my bacon bagel and watch the Simpsons and ignore my dogs.

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