Mini Habits for Living into Dreams

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I’ve had a long standing fantasy of living off the land, and when I finally arrived at age 42, living on 6 acres just outside Melbourne I thought I had made it. 

The fact that I had three kids under 9, a partner who worked in the city full time and had no interest in or aptitude for the outdoors, let alone gardening or animal husbandry, was no impediment to my imagination. In fact practicalities of almost any kind had very little to do with my dreams.  

After growing veggies for a few seasons, I wanted to grow meat.  The first sheep we killed and ate turned my 12 year old son vegetarian, so dairy products became my focus.  Cows were too big so it was goats, yes, that’s what we needed. They could clean up weeds, keep the grass down, provide milk and delicious goats cheese and of course soap.

So on a calm Saturday afternoon in late spring, four human kids and I drove out to somewhere in the Dandenongs to pick up two goat kids. They were a few days old and incredibly cute.  There was a girl for milking and making cheese and soap, and a neutered boy to keep her company. 

They’re six years old now and I can look out the window and see them, sunning themselves in the paddock specially built to contain them, and nary a drop of milk nor a sud of goat soap has been produced. They are untetherable, unmovable and unmilkable, (On the plus side, they are pattable, loveable and laughable.)

The point I’m trying to illustrate here is the great yawning gap between the life I imagine and the life I live. 

But I have cracked the code, a code that works for me at least.  

This new way of working has turned around that gap, and created momentum, steady regular momentum, moving me towards the life I want to live. 

It comes in the form of mini or micro habits.  I first learned about this listening to a podcast where Stephen Guise the author of ‘Mini Habits’ was being interviewed.  

At the time I had a daily target of writing 1000 words, which, for three months I managed to average about two or three times a week, until eventually the idea seemed so remote and removed from the trajectory of my life, it fell by the wayside, resting amongst the litter of a thousand other unfulfilled plans. 

Stephen Guise talked about having a daily habit of writing not 1000 words but 50 words.  He had on his daily to do list not ‘workout’ but ‘one pushup’.  He explained that the idea is to set a goal that is so minimal you can’t not do it.  He had read books, written books and become fit all through mini habits. I was intrigued and relieved. Could I really fulfil my dreams of writing, 50 words at a time?

Around the same time I heard about the daily habit tracking app Way of Life.  This is a phone app where you list the daily habits you want to create or break and then you keep track of them. I put the idea of mini habits together with a tracking app and I now have a consistent, effective, productive daily routine of meditating, journaling, reading, creating, working, gardening, walking, and exercising. 

I have adapted and adjusted the list and my process over the last 6 months until it works for me.  I love the reward of checking a task off with a big green tick. If I don’t get to a task I prefer to click the neutral grey ‘pass’, rather than the stark red cross.  My list is so long I probably only finish every task one day a month, but thats fine by me, all tasks are kept in mind and motion, and if I find there is no energy for them I take them off the list.

What I love about this system is that I am living into the life I want for myself.  I love to garden but overwhelm and life easily get in the way and I start to scurry past the veggie patch with its oppressive weeds.  Now with a 'Ten minute garden' on my daily list, I feel connected to the garden and I chip away at it. 

It's the same for exercise.  Even if I do five minutes of yoga a day, I can tick it off, feel a bit stretched and there is momentum towards the life I imagine, where yoga is a core part of my daily routine.

And this blog was written a bit at a time over a week.

I no longer fantasise about living off the land, but inch by inch, day by day, I am closing the gap between how I wish I was living, and how I actually live, between moving towards my goals, and feeling overwhelmed by them.  

If this idea gives you hope, start with one tiny thing, so small you can’t not do it, something that you want to be living into, build it into your day, tick it off and begin the journey to the life you imagine. 

If you already have a routine, practice or process that works for you, I’d love to hear it, and it might be just the right idea for others reading...