A Philosophy for Making Healthy, Goal-Oriented Choices Easier
I moved from Minnesota to California in 2014. Only what fit in my 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix made the move with me. I filled an SUV three times with trash bags for donation or the dump. More than 70 percent of everything I owned was gone in two weeks, but when I got to Calfornia, I felt free. The absence of all that stuff helped me let go of who I was and make a new start for myself.
Simple rules and designs can create an environment that makes healthy life choices much more organic. You can make rather painless (albeit somewhat inconvenient) changes to architecture a life that will suit your goals better.
Here are rules and designs I created for my goals:
To watch less TV, design the space so the television goes second.
After some time in our new Denver apartment, my boyfriend and I realized our TV watching went way, way up. I was reading and writing less, and my boyfriend wasn't playing his piano. Looking around the room, I realized that we had organized the furniture so that the first and central space you walked into was the TV area. The dining table (which is where I work and write) and the piano were tucked away in corners of the room. That Sunday, Igor and I totally rearranged the furniture. You can see in the photo below that the dining table and the piano are now the centerpieces of the living area. And I'm happy to report that our TV watching has decreased significantly since. So, you want to promote a particular habit in your life? Design your space so what you want to do more of comes first.
To feel lighter, don't buy a lot of stuff.
The credit for this one goes to my boyfriend. Igor doesn't buy shitty stuff. Nonshitty stuff lasts forever and comes with a guarantee. Therefore, nonshitty stuff is expensive. Naturally, you can afford to own less nonshitty stuff and make darn sure you actually need it (none of that I'll use this someday or I'll put it somewhere). Because you'll have less of it, you actually need to really like it and you will need to really like it for a long time. So, if you buy more nonshitty stuff, you will own less stuff in total that you actually really like that actually works how it's supposed to. Imagine that? Coming from a background where I had to make due with what I got, this was revolutionary to me. And wow does it make you feel lighter. (Also, it's probably better for the environment that you plan to hold onto what you purchase, i.e. fast fashion issues.) A tangible example is the fountain pen Igor gave me. Normally, I lose a pen a week, but I love this fountain pen and it's really nice, so it's been more than a year and I still have it.
To eat healthier, don't buy unhealthy food.
I love ice cream so much so that growing up, my brother had a whole bit to tease me about this sugar romance. When I buy ice cream at the grocery store, I know my self-control will be really, really low once I'm home. So, I don't buy ice cream at each grocery shop. It's a once and a while treat. I also only buy salt and vinegar chips when on vacation (like in the photo below from a vacation in Joshua Tree) because I know that I don't understand the phrase "I'm full" when they are around. To help me eat healthier, I'm super conscious about buying anything unhealthy (mainly desserts, prepackaged meals and snacks) at the grocery store. Often, I'll buy a high cocoa percentage chocolate bar to have around the house for dessert. While I enjoy chocolate, it's not my weak spot. I can have it around and not feel this temptation to eat all the time. So the lesson is, don't unnecessarily tempt yourself. Shut it down before it can even begin.
To read more, stare at a book shelf.
We moved the bookshelf from the living room to the bedroom. I stare straight at it from the bed. This means that I have a constant reminder of all the books I'm wanting to read at least twice a day. It's kept me much more motivated to pick up a book and put down the phone. Give yourself constant reminders in your home design.
To achieve your goals, create a network of accountability support.
Growing up pretty fiercely independent, this is something that has taken me a long time to get on board with. Just as you can create a space in your home to write or play piano more, you can architecture a network to keep you accountable to your goals. I have a goal to write a blog post once a week and my brother has been keeping me accountable. When I haven't "handed it in" he gives me a call and is like "where is my blog post?" I actually really, really need this. After nearly a decade between four blogs, this is the most consistent I've ever been in posting. I've also recently found a counselor to help me with my mental health goals, which is proving so effective. And of course, I have a little web of close friends who I know will be there to cheerlead me in healthy choices, give me a shoulder to cry on and guide me spiritually through challenges (one of many soul sessions in photo below). So sometimes, what you need is to weave a network of awesome people (paid and unpaid) that have your back. As the wise Maya Angelou wrote, "Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone."
To stay healthy, keep designing and rule making.
In all honesty, writing this blog post makes me realize that I haven't sat down to think critically about this in a long time. Thinking over my goals, the habits in my life and ways I can set rules or designs to help me change them sounds like difficult, messy and unenjoyable work. Motivational speaker Lisa Nichols talks about how to reach your goals, you need to get used to feeling "inconvenienced." Taking time to rearrange furniture, telling the grocery store cashier you won't be buying the kettle chips after all or dealing with the guilt you get when your brother calls you about missing a self-imposed deadline are just as inconvenient as critically thinking about new designs and rules. Yet, these "inconveniences" will make reaching health goals much more convenient.
So, cheers to more inconvenience! 🍻