On Consistency: An excerpt

An excerpt from the book Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking:

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

What a Stanford Professor Does After Peeing: My Experiment with Tiny Habits

B.J.Fogg is a Professor at Stanford University, USA and an experimental psychologist by education. He studies about behavior changes.

More importantly, he does 2 push-ups after he pees. ‘And I promptly wash my hands after that,’ he says.

What is Tiny Habits?

‘Doing 2 push-ups after he pees’ – is part of Dr.Fogg’s self-experiment on building ‘Tiny Habits’.  It has helped him lose 25 pounds. Fogg’s Tiny Habits program is one of the first useful techniques I learnt to build a habit. He runs this 1-week accountability program to help you learn the patterns of forming new habits.

How Does It Work?

It requires you to build the habit around an intuitive framework.

“After I ____, I will ________”

Rather than relying on our unpredictable will-power and motivation, Fogg’s method builds on a natural process of habit stacking. It basically has 3 components:

  1. Habit: Find the tiniest of the tiny steps of a habit you want to build. For example,
    • If you want to start an exercise habit, start by doing 2 push-ups.
    • If you want to start running, start by putting on your running shoes (not run!).
    • If you want to get the habit of reading, start the tiny habit of reading a sentence, etc.
  2. Anchor: This is the key to this method. Find a trigger/ cue – an already established action or a behavior that the new habit will follow. For example,
    • After I pee…
    • After the phone rings…
    • After my feet touch the ground in the morning…
    • After I put my key on the hook… etc.
  3. Celebration: Follow your tiny habit with a personal cheering that you do for yourself on accomplishing the tiny habit.
What I Am Going To Do After I Pee?

For quite sometime, I have been trying to master the art of habit formation. I struck goldmine when I explored and experimented with B.J.Fogg’s Tiny Habits program. I have enrolled myself in the June 01-05 program. (You can join here). Yes, I have made my own secret plans to do 2 squats after I pee. Not just that, but 2 more other things.

After I pee, I will do 2 squats. After I wake up, I will do 2 push-ups. After I go to my office, I will find my water bottle. 

Find Your 3 Tiny Habits

For more Tiny Habits inspiration – look here. I made my own long list of Tiny Habits (with ‘After I do ___, I will ____’ format). B.J.Fogg (or his coaches) personally reads and emails to all the Habiteers enrolled in the program. You too can enroll for the upcoming program from June 01-05. All the best for your experiment with Tiny Habits!

Jyotika, A New French Law and My 3-Year Old Niece

What does a French Law, a crazy taxi-driver in Kolkatta and a new flick starring Jyotika have in common?

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Recently we made a trip to Mamallapuram and when we were returning in the evening, I apparently felt the change in the weather right when we were crossing Sholinganallur (signalling the entry of urban area). The transformation of the weather was so evident that my uncle and aunt who were visiting Chennai from Coimbatore for the summer holidays said it out loudly.

I was taken aback when my aunt told me that their 3-year old little daughter said, ‘Verkkuthu!’ (which means sweaty) for the first time to her. She wasn’t exactly proud of it, neither was I happy about it.

Recently France has passed a law making ‘Green roofs’ mandatory compliance as part of any new building construction. And a week back I read about the news on a taxi with rooftop garden. And didn’t Jyothika, in the movie, ’36 Vayathinilae’, discovered herself by rooftop gardening.

Now do you see the connection. There is something blooming here!

Previously I wrote about living a simpler life. I am guessing, roof top gardening and other alternative practices is something that we must explore seriously on.

While back I collated an potential features of a green house using mind mapping. Though it sounds like a dream, the technology is already available with us to make it a reality.

1. Green Energy: First and the most know concept of a Green House is sourcing energy from renewable sources of energy like Solar & Wind Energy. Reducing the cost of power grid by aiming for decentralized energy production and using energy efficient instruments like CFL light bulbs can also be included in this.

2. Green Food: Being conscious of buying locally grown food (to avoid loss due to food mileage), better still growing one’s own food are another set of features.

3. Green Cooking: Using solar water heaters, gobar/ bio-gas for cooking are better alternatives

4. Green Water: Harvesting rainwater, recycling water and using water use efficiency systems like double-geared flush and WUE taps are some examples

5. Green Sanitation: Reusing/ recycling dry wastes like paper, plastic, metal and composting wet wastes (domestic/ kitchen wastes) are ideal features. I have heard of Ecosan toilets also.

6. Green Design: Theoretically, there seems to be lot of discussion on Sustainable Architecture, Bio-designs. Hopefully, we will see more of it soon in reality.

I hope, we will be able to adopt, if not all, at least of few of these practices in our homes.

As for my niece, she had left to Coimbatore. The first thing she asked her mom the next morning is, ‘Can we go to mama’s home?’ I hope I will give her more than enough reasons to welcome her to Chennai.

If you have any ideas or practices that you already adopting at your home, kindly share it with me. I will be glad to hear of such practices.

4 Proven Strategies to Make Habits Work for You

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

– Aristotle

Our life is composed full of habits – both good and bad.

There is huge gap between ‘What we know’ and ‘What we do’. We simply fail to create the necessary discipline to convert what we know to what we do. This is what I call the intention-behaviour gap.

Let’s face it – it is not that we are dumb or stupid to not know the difference between good and bad habits. We simply fail to acknowledge the struggle between the mind and the body.

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,”

– St.Paul

However, there is a way out. Here are few tips that helped me and probably would help you build some healthy habits.

  1. Start small: It could be as simple as ‘Floss one tooth’ suggested by a Stanford Professor, B.J.Fogg of Tiny Habits. Or trying starting your exercise habit by ‘Doing one push-up’ as suggested by Stephen Guise of Mini habits. I have been experimenting with a variety of tiny habits: doing 5-second stretches in the morning, building 2 minutes morning/ evening routines. It is easy to conquer and small wins is helping me built momentum to continue. Consistency is the key.
  2. Focus on one: Trying to conquer all at once is difficult – we all know it. But I learned it the hard way. I got greedy and tried too much in one shot. By narrowing my focus on just one habit at a time, I was able to concentrate. It helped me build some great habits:
    • I now got the habit of drinking a glass of water, immediately after I wake up.
    • I now start my work day at office (before I rampantly start checking my emails), by creating a daily to-do list.
    • I now drink at least a cup of fruit juice everyday.
  3. Schedule it: It is always better to allocate a particular time of the day to build your habit routine. When I started my habit building process, I realized the best time to build a routine is before I go to work or after I came back from work. For me, the 7 pm at night became my habit-building time. I have since then started including my exercise routine, daily meditation practice and writing everyday process during this time. So schedule your habit.
  4. Habit stacking: Just like most of you, ‘I forget to do it’ is the most common excuse I gave myself. Solution: Habit stacking. It is the art of queuing your new habit to an already existing habit.
    1. I will do meditation immediately after coming back from office.
    2. I will drink a cup of water immediately after I wake up.

After is the key word here. It is a great trick and use it to your advantage.

“Our greatest battle in our lives is the one between habit and knowledge!”

– Vedathiri Maharishi

I hope the tricks above will help you win in the battle.

Do share your wins in the comments below. I will be happy to hear your stories of success.

What is Your True Purpose in Life?

My Note: This is a guest post from Kim Baker of Spiral Spun.

Lover of simple living, Kim lives in UK with her two children. Writing for her, she says, is a way to explore, to discover and to be inspired – and also to let go of pain from the past and focus on the present. Besides writing, she loves to bake, garden and read books. I am really glad to have her guest post on my blog

I made a list…

  • to connect with the sacred in nature
  • to love my children
  • to learn and grow and help others to learn and grow
  • to take time to slow, savour and appreciate this one life
  • to write and paint and connect with others through these mediums
  • to live a rich deep creative life and inspire others to the same
  • to listen to birdsong, smell flowers, taste fresh tomatoes from the vine and linger in fields, forests and on seashores
  • to focus less on the abstract and get up close and personal to the actual, the real, the individual, the unique
  • to reconnect with growing things, with wildflowers and our wild selves
  • to get in touch with the essence of life, our intuition, the heart that beats in nature in rhythm with our own
  • to bring together those who wish to live a more authentic life
  • to live the life of the wild wolf woman inside and open my heart to others to join me
  • to encourage healing with words, pictures, word pictures, senses, inspiration
  • to live every moment as precious and sacred and bring the disparate parts of life together
  • to live with integrity and balance.
  • to make things, to use my hands building, crafting, growing, tending, nurturing, drawing, making, painting, writing, knitting, sewing, mending
  • to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, of grace and gentle caring
  • to see the lightness in the heavy and the heavy in the light
  • to take time every day to create and notice the little things
  • to work with nature to heal myself and others with nourishing whole foods, water and herbs
  • to connect with others in meaningful conversations
  • to let go of hurtful pasts and seek new beginnings and new relationships
  • to embrace the strong feminine and allow her to be seen in the world

… some lofty aspirations there, right?  😉

I think perhaps something that has been causing me problems is a cognitive dissonance between the person who wrote the above list – who comes from a more intuitional way of living – and a more rational me who wants to be seen as intelligent and worldly and fit in with the normal view of life… I don’t think this last me is really me at all, but rather the norms of society projected onto me. Maybe I could work towards letting go of that. When I think about and read through the list above, it feels good, it feels like me, it feels right.

In my own small world this fits and if I didn’t have to interact with others I would have no difficulty being this person. But I do have to interact with others and I am wary of expressing this part of myself. I sometimes feel like I am bleeding in front of people when I do this. It hurts and is uncomfortable. I feel their judgement. I feel embarrassed for expressing this more female way of being. This way of being is not thought highly of in our culture. A whole bunch of ‘should’s’ assail me… I should be more clear, more certain, I should back up my words with facts and figures and references, I should be sensible and think more not feel more, but that is not how I want to live.

Last week I got caught up in the whole election extravaganza in this country. I feel strongly about certain policies, I voted, I followed the analysis… I was devastated with the result. And angry and frustrated and a whole lot of other things. All of this is a strong contrast to the person I want to be. The person who wrote the above list.

It made me think about how we make a difference, and I think that maybe politics is the reaction to things people do and how they live, not the cause. Real difference is made, I think, at a much smaller level. At the level of people, and actions, interactions, connections and words… real change happens in small moments every day in the way we speak, listen, take action, learn, grow, appreciate and care.

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” 

~ Robert F. Kennedy