I’m not a morning person. On any given weekend, I’ll still be in bed at 10:30, with not much of a plan to get up. I’m like a perpetual teenager. The coziness of my bed is always better than an optional task like running, walking, reading, meditating…I like to think I’m just so fully present that I can enjoy my bed more than any self development task.
When I have to wake up for a flight, my kid’s school (6:05 am every weekday), or anything scheduled, I do it. I also understand that more restful sleep comes with consistency. I know this stuff, I used to teach my clients it all the time.
Lately, I’ve been reading the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. It’s reinforced how much we push beyond what’s natural in our hormones and life. I’m writing this in mid-November. Our time just fell backward, so it’s darker earlier. Squirrels are gather nuts, and leaves are dancing their way toward the ground.
Whether it’s Wintering or the Danish word hygge (a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture), I love the idea of slowing down. A sweater, hanging in my jammies all day…what single parent (or any parent) wouldn’t want that.
The past three years have been a tumultuous, roller coaster, of a shit show, that (how many metaphors can I weave in?) for my personal life. I hit the road in fall 2020 in a camper. I came home minus a spouse. Then my kid’s mom decided to stay on the road, so I get to be an almost full-time single dad. I’ve worked through divorce, a major medical issue over the last year, and a new relationship with my partner. I’ve watched my kids work through their new life with anger, grace, joy, confusion, and so many other emotions that I don’t think English has yet created a word for. In my brain, I can see why I need a break and am drawn to slowing down. The seasons and my story, scream that I should slow down and allow things to unfold.
Until this morning, I completely bought that version of my life. Slowing down = what Joe needs.
Then my alarm went off at 5:45 am, on a Sunday. In exactly 60 days, we check into a hotel where the restaurant options are booked 60 days in advance. If not, you’ll only be eating buffet the whole time. So at exactly 6:00 am, when reservations opened, I started booking. I had my priority list. I got everything I wanted and planned to return to sleep.
Instead, my mind went to, “What’s a sunrise like in November?”
Who is this guy?
It was still dark, so I returned to some morning routines from my uncoupling. These are like old friends that supported me during some of my darkest days. The I Ching or Book of Changes, Tao Te Ching, journaling, and meditating. Then I went for a walk and listened to Ram Dass and Michael Singer. The cool air on my face, my ankles cold because of wearing ankle socks (it’s like I just moved to Michigan, newbie move). I walked down to the water and sat and listened to the waves while the sun glanced through clouds. As I walked, it occurred to me that some of these habits might be good for me. Not as an “optimizing life” point of view, but just to make me feel good.
I’m not a guy that deals with big swings in emotions. I’m lucky that genetics have not pushed me into depression or anxiety. What I am prone to is trying to optimize my life too much.
My therapist once asked me, “What if you never found another life hack?” I just about had a heart attack thinking about it. Being efficient and creating the life I want is what has brought me happiness…or has it?
So often, I approach goals as if the outcome has already occurred. I see what I want and I do it. I want a stronger body, what’s the hack? I want to quiet my mind, what’s the hack? Who has done what I want to do, and I want to learn from them.
Not that there is anything wrong with this, but the outcome is always external. It is a specific KPI to achieve.
Rather, asking the question, “How would I feel if I tried this for a bit?”
So I thought about experiments, and this is where the challenge to New Year’s Resolutions come in. So often, we set a resolution and by January quit. We see this as another failure. But what if we just saw it as an experiment.
- Maybe exercise in a gym isn’t for you.
- Maybe dieting in that way doesn’t help you feel better.
- Maybe saving your money with coupons actually doesn’t work for you.
What if instead of New Year’s Resolutions, we had a New Year’s Experiment?
For example: How would I feel if for one/two weeks I did a couple of these things:
- Didn’t drink
- Went to bed by 10:00
- Woke up 30 minutes before my kids
- Meditated daily
- Drank 24 oz of extra water
- Did a one minute plank
- Gave away $10 a day to a stranger
- Gave up meat/carbs/sugar
Who knows, maybe a New Year’s Experiment might just lead to something different.
Check in with me in January and we’ll see if I’m still sleeping in on the weekends.
Joe Sanok is the Founder of Practice of the Practice, the award winning website and podcast that helps therapists build a thriving private practice they absolutely love. He’s also the author of Thursday is the New Friday: How to Work Fewer Hours, Make More Money, and Spend Time Doing What You Want