I have to...

One thing that I set out to do with the blog a few months ago, and that I´ve kept doing since, is writing a new post each week. As you can imagine, sometimes I find it harder than others to keep it up... I usually write during the weekend, when in theory I have more time, but then in practice, it´s not unusual to get as far as Sunday evening without having written the week's post, as it happened today. And at the end of the day, tiredness and laziness start to show up...

woman typing on laptop

But hey, here I am, writing, as it couldn´t be any other way. Tiredness and laziness are going to have to wait for another little while.

But how do you achieve that? How do you get to keep up a habit when that moment arrives, the moment when you don't feel like doing it at all, and instead you feel like skipping it?

One option is resorting to willpower, as we very often do: you remind yourself all the reasons why "you have to do it", you beat yourself up for wanting to skip it, and you force yourself to do it even if you don't feel like it. After all, you "have to do it", right?

Yes, that option will probably work, at least at the beginning, but at the cost of giving you a hard time (and you suffer it twice: when you beat yourself up, and when you end up doing it without any motivation). So then in the long run, how can you stay strong and keep up the habit if you see each step as an obligation? How can you not stop feeling like doing it?

Maybe the trick is to make it look not like an obligation, but something we have decided to do ourselves, because that's the reality - even if it's something that somebody has imposed on us, if we have committed to it, it's because we have accepted that commitment, for whatever reasons.

In cases like this, it may be useful to ask ourselves what we made that commitment for. And please note I'm saying "what for", instead of "why"; the "what for" makes us look forward and find motivation, while the "why" leaves us looking back, searching for justifications. If we continue with the example of this blog, I keep writing a post every week to nurture my most creative side, to keep the blog alive and not let it be forgotten again, and to share my thoughts and experiences, in case they other people find them useful.

Then, once we have remembered the "what for", and it's clear in our mind that the habit is worth keeping, we can use some language tricks to flip that perception of obligation, simply by choosing the right words, inside our heads as well as outside.

I recently heard in a conference that if we say "I have to..." or "I must..." whatever it is, the simple fact of thinking like that already stresses us out and demotivates us, because we don't usually like being forced to do things. On the other hand, if we swap it with "I want to...", then our brain accepts it much better, and we feel much less resistance.

But what happens when we don't feel right saying "I want to"? The speaker offered a third option for that particular case: just saying "I'm going to..." without getting into whether it's something I want or something I have to do. I'm doing it, and that's all. No need to mull it over, it's time to do it, which is what I tell my youngest daughter when she fights back something I ask of her :-)

And, as a final point, something else that helps me a lot is knowing that the biggest resistance that I have is really towards getting started, towards breaking that inertia that I feel before I begin. Then once I'm on the task, in this case, writing, I know that I really enjoy it, that the ideas keep coming with little effort, and that after finishing I feel really happy for having published an article once more.

What about you? What tricks to you use to stay motivated and keep up your habits?

Conscious songs: Imagine

This morning I heard on the radio that today would be John Lennon´s birthday, he would be 81 years old today. Let´s remember him with this song, which I find both beautiful and profound: Imagine.

And please, even if we have listened to it a thousand times, even if we think we know it by heart, today let´s give ourselves the luxury of really paying attention to the lyrics, immersing ourselves in their meaning, and closing our eyes to imagine how it would feel to live in such a world...

And then, if you feel like going a step further, I propose that you consider which sentence is the one that impacts you most, that confronts you most, and reflect on it a little, because in order to achieve that world that we imagine, everything starts within each one of us :-)

And I leave you with this quote, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that´s also very relevant to this topic:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Conscious songs: The colour of hope

Continuing with the conscious songs theme, let me tell you about another song that cheers me up and motivates me every time I listen to it, this time in Spanish.

It's Color esperanza (The colour of hope), by Diego Torres, and it's dedicated to those of you who are facing a challenge right now, whether it's something that you chose yourselves, or something that came to you for whatever reason (and there's always a reason, although we don't always see it right at that moment).

This video includes the original song, with lyrics in Spanish, and also a translation into English. There are some sentences I would have translated differently, but hey... Perfectionism aside, I hope at least the gist of it is understandable :-)

Room to grow

Today I´m sharing with you this poem by Khalil Gibran, which I remember hearing years ago at my friend Araceli´s wedding, and which has kept resonating more and more with me since then:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of your be alone,
Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

How beautiful, especially that last line... Let´s give ourselves some room to keep growing with life, flourishing from that seed within us, without casting shadows over each other.

Starting over

They say each day is an opportunity to start over… And yes, that´s true, but it´s also true that there are certain times of the year when it´s easier to get that feeling of a clean slate. For example, when a new season starts: the days change in length, the weather also changes, and we take the opportunity not only to renew our wardrobe but also to adapt our habits to whatever is appropriate at that time of the year.

And one of the changes in season that most impact us is the beginning of a new school year, which in both Ireland and Spain (where I live and where I come from, respectively) takes place in the month of September.

"Back to school" written on a black backboard

It´s a moment where I usually feel very energized, ready to start new projects, create new routines, and get settled again after a change of scenery during the summer.

And this year is no exception: on the contrary, I´m even more excited, as this year brings big changes in my personal and professional life (if there´s even a way to separate one from the other), and for once I feel like accepting the challenge of embracing uncertainty, of walking towards it instead of avoiding it… To be honest, I´m not too sure how it will all turn out or where I will end up, but I do know that it´s going to be a very interesting path, full of challenges and learning, and I can´t wait to get started :-)

Friendships

Back when I was in college, my friend Merche had a poster in her room that I liked a lot. The drawing was a very colourful cartoon of a group of animals, I recall there was a giraffe, an elephant... And the phrase that went with it read: "Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes"

As we go through life we meet a variety of people, we make friendships, we share periods of time with some people or other. And although we usually thend to look for persons with whom we have things in common, when we make friends who are somehow different (and there are a thousand ways to be different), that friendship ends up being even more enriching: it helps us to grow, widen our world and see other perspectives.

Some friendships are lost as time goes by, others stay, and others change and evolve along the years. And it's completely natural: neither you nor them are the same you were a year ago, or ten, or twenty, and sometimes each person's path goes in a different direction. But that doesn't diminish at all the fondness and the time you once shared.

And then thankfully, without apparent reason, there are certain friendships that are not affected by time. It doesn't matter how long ago we saw each other for the last time, or if we have lost contact for months, or even years... When we get to meet again, we get back that same old closeness, that same old joy and fondness.

I am incredibly lucky to have found a good few of those friends for which time doesn't matter. And this week I've been able to get together with a few of them. Thanks a million guys (and girls), you know who you are ;-)

Original by Dani&She

Back home

This week I'm writing to you from Cáceres, my home town. I'm back "home" for a few days, enjoying family, friends and the last few days of summer. And after the year and a half that we've had, I'm truly enjoying it, fully, without taking anything for granted :-)

I'm feeling a bit odd, like I'm at home but also away from home at the same time, as if things had changed while somehow staying the same... I'm a bit like this every time I come, but now even more so, with everything that's been happening during this time.

Searching for quotes related to this topic, I bumped into this one, I hope you like it:

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; you have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.

Cindy Ross

Rubber ducks

Have you ever been in a situation where you have a problem or a question, and simply by explaining it to another person, you find the solution yourself? And not because the other person did anything in particular...

In fact, “the other person” doesn´t even have to be a person at all. It can even be an object, like a rubber duck for example.

yellow duck toy beside green duck toy

And I say rubber duck because this is exactly the name that´s been given to this technique in the IT world: the rubber duck debugging method.

This method proves really useful when you´re programming and get stuck trying to resolve an error (or bug) that´s preventing your application from behaving as it should. The idea is to explain the situation to the rubber duck, and to do it in great detail because of course, the duck knows absolutely nothing about your application. So you have to explain the context, the exact problem you´re trying to solve, how you´re trying to solve it, the code you´ve written line by line… And very often what happens as you´re going through it with such a level of detail is that you suddenly realize where the problem is, and how you can solve it.

Super cool, right?

You might be wondering: ¿why a rubber duck? Honestly, I don’t know, maybe it all started out as a joke, but the truth is that this method is as useful as it is simple (once you get over the awkwardness of talking to a duck, or any other inanimate object of your choosing), and can be used not only for debugging code but for life in general.

I imagine this technique works so well because it forces you to take the problem out of your head and see it from the outside, from a different perspective, so you stop going about it in your head the same way again and again. Moreover, the action of going through it step by step and out loud helps you to focus on details that you may have overlooked before, that way increasing the chances of identifying the real problem and finding a solution.

What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? Perhaps next time I see a rubber duck in a shop, I´ll buy it to keep it here by my computer :-)

Conscious songs: Unwritten

When you´re listening to music, do you pay attention to what the lyrics are saying? I do it sometimes, and to be honest, I find all kinds of things in there...

Every once in a while I´m going to share with your the lyrics of a song I particularly like. Let´s start with Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield, I hope you like it:

Original lyrics in English:

Spanish translation of the lyrics:

Optional

A conversation that plays out quite often in our house, and one that you can probably relate to, is negotiating in a given moment what´s mandatory and what´s optional.

My daughter Alicia is the expert in all this, though her sisters are not far behind. When I ask her to do something she´s not convinced about, Alicia asks: “do I have to?”. And my answer, most of the time, is “yes”.

But not always. So she´s right to ask :-)

In fact, this is something that most of us should ask (ourselves) more often: this thing I have in front of me, this thing “I have to do”, do I really have to do it? ¿According to whom? What happens if I don´t do it, or if I do it differently?

Clearly, the answer can be a yes, it needs to be done, and it may still be yes most times, but it may also surprise us and end up being a no more often than we thought. Or we could come up with another alternative, an intermediate solution that´s even better than the previous one… By asking the question we allow ourselves to see the options, and we have more ability to choose.

Of course, whatever we decide, we have to be responsible and fully accept the consequences. But the key point is that we have options, even if we don´t always see them, even if we don´t always like them. But we do have options. And once we realize this, we can choose whatever we see fit, and “I have to…” becomes “I choose…”, and the burden becomes a little lighter.

Here are a couple of quotes that I love on this topic, as they go a step further, inviting us to choose how to relate to what is happening in our life:

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Buddha

This one I heard for the first time in a yoga class (thanks Carsun!), and felt it especially close when giving birth to my girls, before realizing that it can really be applied to everything in life, not only physical pain.

And this other one I only heard recently; it seems to me that it´s very fitting to the times we´re now living:

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.

John C. Maxwell

Now you choose!