Tag Archives: Challenges

Finding Time to Relax While on Vacation

ImageThere’s something beautiful about a quiet, empty common area

I’m amused by the existence of this post.  It seems counter-intuitive that one would need to relax while vacationing in paradise, doesn’t it?  I’ve somehow managed to keep myself fairly busy this whole time, and it’s time for me to slow down.  Between the farm work that comes with WWOOFing, online classes (I’ve doing both an entrepreneurship course, and a “Rhetoric II” course), trying to maintain a blog (I know that the rest of yall are probably rolling your eyes, but I had no clue how much work this thing takes!), and rushing about trying to cram as many experiences as possible in to my time here, I haven’t been doing much breathing.

Today was especially busy.  We started early to avoid the heat as much as possible, but we still had a large harvest that kept us busy until mid-afternoon.  Afterward I had an essay to write, notes to take, and some information that I’m reviewing as a favor to the owners of the farm.  Toss in a bit of cooking, cleaning, dealing with the various social obligations that come with a communal living situation, and the hours just disappear.

I’ve decided that I’m going to relax now.  I think I’m going to start by maybe having a glass of kava, and hitting the sack.

Good night, yall



Taking a Deep Breath of Ocean Air

ImageI just had a very interestingly timed conversation- just as I was about to start typing.  It was short and to the point, but after yesterday’s little panic attack, it’s comforting.  A gal that I’m casually seeing- North Carolina massage therapist (NCMT) told me (and is telling me as I’m typing) how she’s back from having just diffused a situation.  A new WWOOFer was apparently a little stressed, and, in here words, “tripping.”  She mentioned how it wasn’t a big deal, and how she’d caught herself tripping out and stressing a few days before when she was snapping at me.  She then went on to say that everybody does it.

I have a habit of rolling my eyes when she talks about her intuitive feel for people, and understanding of human nature- especially when she drops full sized generalizations like “everybody trips out.”  The eye roll came, and I quipped that I hadn’t had a freak out yet.  Her was response?  “You and I are different.  Yours is going to be quiet and in your head.”  Yesterday came back to me, and I realized that, as much as it bothers me to admit it, she’s to some extent or another correct.

I had my little freakout yesterday.  I hadn’t put much thought to it today, but that’s probably because I managed to get it out of my system.  I panicked under the stress of a new environment, let the tension build up in me, and had a private meltdown last night.  It’s liberating knowing it for what it is, and even more comforting that I’m not the only one experiencing it, even if it manifests itself in different ways with different people.  I’m a little more ready to face the future and world.

Have any of yall ever had minor meltdowns or travel stress from a new environment?  How’d you deal with it?

Making Willpower in to a Habit


Making Willpower in to a Habit

I often find myself at the bookstore when I’m in between appointments without enough time to go home or without another errand to accomplish. Recently I stopped by Barnes and Noble and picked up a few books to read. The information that I found in one has made a huge difference for me already. The book is “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.

Covered in this wonderful book is making willpower in to a habit. This sounded a little silly to me at first, but upon further reading it seemed viable. I’ve been implementing it for a couple of weeks now, and the results have been astounding. The diversity of applications makes this even more appealing. I’ve used it for both thought process and physical activities, and it has worked wonders, especially for destructive thought processes that I’ve struggled with for well over a year now.

Duhigg cites a Scottish study involving older patients recovering from hip or knee surgery. The physical rehab necessary is difficult and painful, and many people forgo it entirely because they simply don’t have the willpower to push through. In the experiment, a control group was given a pamphlet detailing their rehab schedule. The experimental group was given this same booklet, but in the back were thirteen additional pages, one for each week, with blank spaces and instructions: “My goals for this week are __________ ? Write down exactly what you are going to do. For example, if you are going to go for a walk this week, write down where and when you are going to walk.”

The results? “The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not. They had started getting in and out of their chairs, unassisted, almost three times as fast. They were putting on their shoes, doing the laundry, and making themselves meals quicker than the patients who hadn’t scribbled out goals ahead of time.”

Upon examining the written plans, it was found that not only were they detailed, but they covered how the individual planned on the dealing with their “inflection points.” One example was a patient, knowing that he would be in agonizing pain any time that he went to stand up to go to the bathroom, who wrote in his plan that he would automatically and always take his first step, removing his immediate access to his seat, and therefor removing the temptation to sit back down.

It was also found that there was often reward at the end of the difficult task, providing encouragement to repeat it. In the case of the man previously mentioned, he kept a bowl of M&Ms at the bathroom door, and allowed himself one on the way in, and one of the way out. Rewards are necessary to develop a habit. According to Duhigg, “Our brains are wired to take patterns with clear rewards, and make them into automatic reactions.” Without providing yourself a reward, you will never be able to develop of habit- the task will remain an act of sheer willpower. We all know how well that works out over the long haul.

So, how do we implement this in to our daily lives?

  1. Write it down. Be detailed in your plan of action.
  2. Identify inflection points and write out how you’ll deal with them. Figure out what screws you up, and write out how you’ll deal with it. I’ve found that the plan for dealing with it doesn’t have to be complicated. The biggest key for me was being able to recognize an inflection point, and redirect my thoughts and actions toward my plan of attack.
  3. Reward yourself. This doesn’t have to be a huge reward. Sometimes huge rewards are just as destructive as the habit you’re trying to stop, like allowing yourself to binge as a reward for not skipping a workout. What’s been most helpful to me is focusing on the reward, telling myself that it’s a great reward, and then taking pride in having earned and achieved the reward. It’s amazing how powerful a single M&M can be when you take the time to think of it not as an M&M, but a trophy of your conquest, and a symbol of the hard work that you’ve put in to becoming a more complete person.

In my life, this has been most useful in helping me to deal with destructive thought processes. They used to eat at me daily, destroying my self esteem, getting the best of me for at least half an hour a day, and nagging at me throughout much of the rest of it. I often wound up distracted enough to forget about them for extended periods of time, but no matter how much I tried, they always returned. They routinely struck me in the mornings, right as I woke up, when I was too groggy to focus and force myself out of it. It wasn’t a pleasant way to wake up.

I went ahead and took the book’s advice to heart, and I’ve been doing pretty damn well so far. I wrote down my plan for thinking for positively, detailing the thought processes that I would avoid, and writing out the ones that I’d like to employ more often. I then identified my most common inflection points (mornings and rough work days) and what I’d do when the negative thoughts hit.

My method is simple. If I’m in bed, I sit up first, but otherwise this is how I deal with it anywhere. I identify it for what it is, and tell myself that I won’t be thinking that way. The complete thought goes like this: “A negative thought process is occurring again. I need to stop, and I will stop.” I then let the thought become like a balloon in my head, and “let go” of it, watching it float away, shrinking in the distance (a little trick of mindfulness meditation).

I immediately reward myself after stopping the negativity. This works in two ways: number one, it changes my focus to something positive, helping keep negative thoughts away; number two, it encourages me to keep going. My reward is the happiness that comes with overcoming this obstacle, and taking pride in myself for facing it, instead of cowering and letting it have its way. I bask in the warmth this achievement, and it’s better than any physical reward I’ve come across.

I’ve only been overcome once since starting this, and I was much quicker to regain my footing. I learned from my mistake and wrote down how I’d deal with the situation next time I face it. Rather than being ashamed of myself for the shortcoming, I’m confident that I’ll emerge victorious the next time we face each other, and I can’t begin to explain to yall how much this means to me. I hope any of you who’ve ever struggled with anything similar give this a shot. It’s worth it.

Here’s a link to where I picked up my quotes from: http://personalmba.com/power-of-habit-charles-duhigg/ .

For further reading, go ahead and pick up the book. Business, personal, you name it, there’s some way that this can be applied. Additionally, this is only a single point discussed in the book. There’s so much more to be found in it.

If yall have any questions, leave me a comment and I’ll respond ASAP. I’d other love to hear if any of yall have any tough habits or tricks for dealing with them.

Until next time.


And So It Begins

And so it begins.Image

It’s been a while since I last posted. That’s mostly because my life took a very interesting turn recently. Through rather serendipitous circumstances, I met a of couple of couch surfers who are long term, low cost travelers a few weeks ago, and they introduced me to WWOOFing (I’ll explain in another post to come shortly). We got to talk of travel, and I heard all of these incredible stories, and tips, and ideas for how to live the impossible dream that they were living themselves. After a couple of hours of good times, and seeing my interest, I was urged by one to say “Fuck it!” and get going immediately to see the world. I told him that I’d think about it, and we went our separate ways. While I consider myself to be spontaneous, and flexibility is one of greatest strengths (born out of necessity to compensate for several weaknesses) I wasn’t quite ready to drop the ‘ol F-bomb and dive head first in to the unknown.

Apparently life wasn’t having any of my shit, and decided to say “Fuck it!” for me.

Put simply, I lost my job just over a week ago. The company executives took the time to sit me down and explain the situation, and honestly, I can’t fault them for it. I was always temporary, with plans to leave Texas for California this summer as I begin pursuing my education, and my dream of Berkeley’s Haas school of business. After several projects were delayed, layoffs became unavoidable. We were lucky to have a crack team where I worked, and so any layoffs presented a real loss of talent. The difference between myself and the guy who still has a job is that I wasn’t a long termer, and it would be a crime to lay off a company man for someone who is going to be leaving shortly. As I said, I can’t fault them. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting though.

I’m a firm believer that every challenge presents an opportunity, and that a great challenge presents an even greater opportunity. It didn’t take much brainpower to see the potential here. I began doing tons of research, reading blogs, talking to people with experience, and then researching some more. My credit score is now better than it’s ever been, I have plane tickets to both Hawaii and Barcelona, the bare minimum essentials in gear, and three months of travel ahead of me. The future is looking bright!

If yall have any inspiration to share, any comments on making it through rough times, or tips of backpacking, I’d love to hear them!