Sunday, September 26, 2010

Six Ways to Make Living with Yourself Easier

I like shopping at In Season Local Market to support both local sustainable agriculture and a local small business. The meat is fantastic, the eggs are from pasture raised chickens and everything is sourced from within 250 miles of the store. I also have even been known to pick up a burger and a shake at Sonic, not sustainable or healthy.

The idea of living small, locally and sustainably inspires me. But I have have a desire to see the world and love flying around in jetliners. And getting a pilots license is on my "bucket list".

I ride my bike to work sometimes. But I love driving my little A4.

These are just a couple of the dichotomies that I struggle with on a regular basis. Why should I bother with shopping at In Season occasionally if I'm going to consume unsustainably most of the time? How can I be serious about wanting to move into a smaller dwelling and use less energy if I also want to fly off to Spain, South Africa and New Zealand?

Well, unfortunately I am not perfect. However, I have implemented a couple of strategies to help deal with my inconsistencies:

Just admit it - Like anything else, the first step to dealing with a personal foible is admitting it's there. I've listed a few of my dichotomies here but not all of them. I hope that I can admit to and sort out all of them as they are discovered.

Do your best - Approach everything you do with the attitude and expectation that you will do the best that you can. I like to run. Some days I feel like I can run forever; like I'm running on a cloud so I run longer and faster. Other days, I feel sluggish, like I'm wearing cement shoes and running in three feet of water. But I get out and run anyhow - slower and shorter because that's all my body has to give at the time. Or I rest, because that is what feels right at the time. If you always do your best, then even though everything you do may not be of the highest quality you can be satisfied that you have given the best you had to give at that time.

Don't get discouraged - When you haven't done your best, don't demoralize yourself. It's water under the bridge. It's spilled milk. It is what it is. I rode my bike to work a dozen times during Bike to Work Month (which is in June in Denver). I think I've ridden it to work only a dozen times since then. But that's surely no reason not to ride my bike to work on Monday. Every day is a new day, a blank canvas on which to create your best you.

Make progress - Establish a big goal or purpose to aspire to and then set intermediate objectives to work towards and then make small very achievable targets that you can hit regularly. Running the Leadville Trail 100 is another entry on my "bucket list". Right now I generally run about 5 miles for my "long runs". That's a far cry from 100 miles, so I'm going to schedule a 10k, then a half-marathon, then a couple of marathons, then a 50-miler, then a metric century and then I will run the Leadville Trail 100. It's clearly a long-term goal. But for now, every week I need to run 2 times. (I also hike, road ride, mtb ride and will pick up yoga again to round out the necessary fitness.)

Accentuate the positive - Congratulate yourself when you hit a target. Celebrate when you achieve an objective. When I shop at In Season I feel good about supporting local agriculture and a local small business and I feel like I'm doing something to work towards my purpose of living more sustainably. I pat myself on the back when I do so. When I cook the amazing products I've bought at In Season, I love the flavors and textures of the food that are just plain different from what you get at the local supermarket and I revel in it.

Keep exploring and learning - A year ago, I thought the farmer's market was a place to buy tastier produce than I from the supermarket. Now I understand all kinds of other reasons why buying locally sourced products is better for me and for everybody else. And each time I learn a new reason, I become more passionate about my purpose.

So, undersand that we are not flawless and that we will have conflicting thoughts and desires. Then implement these strategies to help you live with and sort through your inner conflicts.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Art of Consequentiality

This one suggestion from The Art of Happiness perfectly sums up everything I hope to learn and convey through consequentiality.

We tend to take small things too seriously and blow them up out of proportion, while at the same time we often remain indifferent to the really important things, those things which have profound effects on our lives and long-term consequences and implications.

In other words "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff", which in my experience many people do incessantly. But, importantly, rather than following with some version of "... and it's all small stuff" HHDL suggests that we should be mindful of the important consequential things.

Now all we have to do is figure out what's the small stuff and what's the really important stuff.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life Balance

Photo by S. Brumley
The human body has an amazing ability to physically balance itself. When you consider that we're all top-heavy, the number of unconscious tiny adjustments that our body has to continuously make based on an unceasing flow of information from multiple bodily systems is mind-boggling. Luckily all of the cognitive development we need for physical balance are established instinctively when as a young child we learn to sit up, walk and run.

If only it were an instinctive part of growing up to learn Life Balance - work-life, emotional, social, financial and spiritual balance. Achieving Life Balance is a requires a conscious effort on our part. Otherwise we may find that we're working to live or an emotional wreck or a social outcast or in financial trouble or without spiritual direction.

However, we can't focus too much on any one aspect of our life or the others will get out of balance. I used to spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. I was out of balance and doing became an aspiration for me. I started doing more - spending my free time in the mountains running, cycling and backpacking (a rekindled love affair from the past). And I began accumulating backpacking stuff thereby reversing course in my campaign to reduce the stuff in my life. I was happily doing all these things and felt as though I was moving towards "happiness".

But backpacking isn't about stuff, it's about walking and being in the moment in the wilderness. I had allowed myself to become preoccupied by the equipment aspect of backpacking. While that didn't detract from the wonderment when I was on the trail, it consumed my time off the trail. When I should have been reading, writing, contemplating, running, cycling, meditating and playing my violin I was online reading about how to shave grams off of my pack. I had become too focused on one aspect of my aspiration to do and let all of the other important dimensions of my life and things I wanted to do languish. While this hasn't made me unhappy - and actually I feel quite happy - it hasn't moved me appreciably towards happiness. Nevertheless, it has advanced me to a revelation that will keep me on the path:

Life Balance is essential to Happiness

How do you maintain yours?