I began Forward March (my annual self-imposed month of self-improvement) by making a chart of daunting tasks to tackle: Hours of English Study, Hours of German Study, Hours of Exercise, Hours of Music Study. I planned to award myself a shiny silver star sticker for each hour accomplished.
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Would you hem and haw over German grammar for an hour in exchange for a tiny sticker? Nope! Within three days, I’d scrapped that system and started thinking hard about what I really needed.
Here are some changes from my month:
- No more stickers or charting of Hours Spent on X. Nice idea, punitive results
- I stopped using the Apple calendar system. It’s ugly, it’s fiddly, and I like a longer record of past events.To replace my online calendar, I set up a modified Bullet Journal along the lines of the Couponing Mommy’s. Incidentally, I also discovered that some of those Bullet Journal symbols are handy for note-taking in other contexts
- I forced myself to socialize: a workout date with an acquaintance, a trip with a different acquaintance, sang with two choirs of strangers, went out for drinks on two occasions with two groups of acquaintances….Notice the absence of the word “friends”? Trying to change that.
- Spent eight days training to become an ESL teacher. This was fun, but exhausting; by the end I could barely force a smile, and I moved like a zombie for three days afterward.
- I practiced initiating important-but-uncomfortable conversations with my husband/roommate. Yes, it was scary and I stress-cried, but “a stitch in time saves nine” goes for relationships and not just socks. Facing little problems is easier than watching them devolve into big problems.
- I practiced checking in with my thoughts; “am I being fair? Unnecessarily negative? Am I veering into Crazytown again?”
- Finally found an English-speaking psychologist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy— and made an appointment
- Started using a free app called Good Habit Maker to send a customizable reminder message to my phone several times per day.I chose the phrase “is this good for Future Rebekah?” thinking that these reminders would catch me slacking off. More often, the messages caught me working hard. “Yes, phone!” I’d think, “this is INCREDIBLE for Future Rebekah— thanks for noticing!”
Lessons re-learned during Forward March:
- I need to try new things. Trying new things makes me nervous, but it’s also thrilling and I’m always proud of myself when I face fears.
- Procrastination feels terrible! It may seem in the moment like you’re making the fun, cushy choice by procrastinating, but anything you do while stalling is then tainted by Dreaded Tasks. Do the scary stuff first and get back to enjoying life.
- For me, growth and success have almost always been preceded by massive panic and/or sobbing. When I avoid self-improvement to avoid the panic, I start panicking over not growing and not succeeding. Since anxiety seems to be inevitable for me, I might as well make an effort to choose Growing Pains over Sloth Pains.
March is behind us now, and I started teaching on April 1st. I can’t take credit for that, but it’s pretty cool timing, eh? And what could be more humbling than starting in a new field on April Fool’s Day?
Some of you started Forward March projects of your own. Please tell us what you learned in the comments below.