Changing Habits

I haven’t written anything in three days and for a good reason: I was with my students on the grade 5 Outward Bound trip in Mindo, Ecuador.

Although Mindo is only 2 1/2 hours from Quito, it has a completely different climate than the capital city. Mindo is in the cloud forest and has a subtropical climate. In other words, it gets really hot during the day, cooling down a bit at night and in the early hours of the morning. Normally it rains quite a bit in Mindo, but we were fortunate that it only rained once, during the night, while we were all tugged away inside our tents.

So, after having written something almost every day for the last month – at most I skipped a day here and there – I realized how easy it is to go back to a habit of no writing. And, the thing is that there were the odd moments during the day when I could have sat down to write. I just didn’t do it. I’m trying to think why that was. Maybe it’s because I was in a different environment with students. But, this doesn’t make sense since there were four guides in charge of students throughout this experience. Teachers were there mostly as chaperones.

Was it because I was with my two teaching partners? I didn’t want to be on my phone a lot or appear nerdy even though no one would know what I was doing. No, that wasn’t it. I could have also written inside my tent right before going to sleep or in the morning before breakfast. Either of those times would have been opportunities to reflect on the day’s activities. But, it didn’t occur to me to do that either. Really, there’s no particular reason for why I didn’t write.

Nevertheless, I am being so insistent on trying to figure this out because I am realizing how easy it is to break down good habits and slip back into less desirable ones. In fact, the first time I realized I hadn’t written anything since the day we left – three days ago – was when I got home yesterday. Not once did I think about carving out a few minutes to write. And, when it did cross my mind, it was a fleeting, rather than an urgent, thought.

This is very profound to me though it may seem silly to others that I’m dwelling on this so much. It’s profound because I am always trying to develop and maintain healthier habits and have never really examined how or why I haven’t been very successful in the past.

Sometimes I try to do too much and am disappointed when I don’t follow through. I guilt myself about failing and then in order to avoid unpleasant feelings, I push the failure out of my mind, instead of using it as an opportunity for reflection and growth. That way I don’t have to try again. In fact, I can reinforce my feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough. I now know this is a copout. I need to be courageous and admit I made a mistake or slipped a bit, be kind to myself, and try again.

Now, that I’m cutting myself some slack when I don’t always follow through on the changes I’ve made since the start of 2016, I’m able to continue with an exercise regime that I enjoy; watch my food portions and stay off sweets more; write every day; stay off social media more than before; take moments throughout the school day to touch bases with my students one-on-one; and be more patient with my youngest child.

And, of course, I stick to these new habits because they work. I feel better. I’m less anxious. I’m more productive. I’m being ambitious – my one little word (OLW) for 2016. I’m more content. I’m more present.

Not bad for a Saturday morning.

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