Passover Cleaning Your Life

photo_spring-cleaning1It’s a very busy time of the year for traditional Jews. We are cleaning like crazy trying to rid our homes of any spec of hametz–aka “leavened bread” before Passover which begins, Monday night, March 24th. That means cheerios on the car floor, crumbs in the couch, backpacks, and the dreaded kitchen. We will sweep, vacuum, wash, and scrub to make our homes “hametz-free” for 8 days.  All this may sound a bit obsessive, and it is, but  all part of “turning over” the house to Passover.  Call it Extreme Spring Cleaning.

At the same time, the rabbis caution that we shouldn’t focus completely on just the physical preparation: we have to prep ourselves. We need to get rid of the “spiritual hametz“–the parts of ourselves get in the way of growth. Think addictions. Bad habits. Negative thoughts that enslave us.

For me, personal hametz is an ongoing battle with perfectionism.  Perfectionism makes me my own worst taskmaster. And since Passover is a time of freedom and redemption, letting go of perfectionism is a fitting goal. (Notice I didn’t say “perfect” goal?) 

When I learned that Passover is considered another Jewish New Year, I figured it was a good time for spring cleaning your life.  If you didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions on Dec. 31st, maybe arrival of spring is a more meaningful time for you to make changes.  A non-Jewish friend told me she makes her resolutions in the weeks before Easter since that is a time for rebirth.  Another friend says he takes stock of his life every year on his birthday. What a great idea!

Do you have a special time of the year for renewal?

New Year’s Resolution Check-up–Are you still there?

March 8thWe are 67 days into the new year.  So how are your resolutions going?

Have you  made progress on the goals you drafted?  Or have you opted out already? If so, you have plenty of company. Researchers estimate between 40-50% of those who make them, fail.

Just after my wrote my last blog post, I noticed that everyone seemed to be writing, talking,or  tweeting about setting goals and resolutions.Turns out, it ain’t easy to form new habits and stick to our goals.  Why?

Human nature and our brains.

I found this research so fascinating that I’ve decided to pursue my Ph.D. (Productivity and Habit Development.) During the upcoming months, I be reading several books and articles on the topic of productivity, habits, and goals. Then I’ll recap my findings here just for you. I’ll try out some of the recommendations, too, and share my results.

The first book I recommend is Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Dr. Heidi Grant HalvorsonSucceed cover Dr. Halvorson is a speaker, psychologist, author, and expert on motivation.  She uses brain and social science to explain why some people succeed and some don’t at achieving goals in every day life. Dr. Halvorson writes in an engaging style and uses examples from her own life. She’s funny, too.

What I really liked about this book is that the author shows how conventional thinking about goals can sometimes be counterproductive.  For example, we hear a lot about the importance of visualizing–think Oprah–making dream boards, thinking positively, imagining our success.  The problem with this strategy, according to Dr. Halvorson, is that we don’t have a realistic picture of the steps we will take or the obstacles we’ll encounter along the way.  We don’t visualize how hard achieving our goal will be!

This certainly resonates with me as I think about the unfinished draft of my new novel that I thought I’d complete last summer.

In invite you to join my in my 2013 Ph.D program.  Please share your ideas, experiences and recommendations.

No New Year’s Resolutions For Me

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I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

I decided some time ago that it wasn’t a good practice for a recovering perfectionist. Like most people, I rarely kept them past March of the New Year. And then my inner critic would rise up and chastise me.  But, I do like the idea of fresh starts and self-improvement. So instead of giving up the resolution thing altogether, I’ve made some tweaks to this practice.

First, I look back at the previous year and ask myself: what worked and what didn’t?  I consider different aspects of my daily life: financial, relationships, teaching, writing, health, organization, happiness.  Then I make revisions–not resolutions.  I usually frame them this way:  Instead of (fill what wasn’t working, I will try (fill in the blank with a revision).

For example, I have a lot of trouble turning off my laptop before bedtime.  I know it disrupts my sleep, something I can’t afford to skimp on.  Yet I  find it hard to stop.  My excuse is that I need to finish “one more thing” or read “one more article”  or “respond to an email” before bed. Face it–the internet is addicting.

Instead of resolving never to use my laptop before bedtime , I’ve chosen four days of the week when I will try not to open my laptop after 8:00 pm. Notice I said, try not to? Yes, that may sound non-committal, but when you tell yourself you are NOT going to ever do _______, it is very likely that you will.

So I cut myself some slack.  I try out a new behavior that will improve the quality of my everyday life.

Revisions, as opposed to resolutions, tend to be more specific.  I’‘ll put a reminder on my calendar to call my brother every other Sunday so we stay in touch.  Research shows that when you make a specific goal with specific steps, you are more likely to reach it. That’s good news for me.

What didn’t work in 2012.

1. Trying to enter every writing contest I possible can.

Revision:  I will be more selective in the contests I enter and Limit myself to entering one contest every 8 weeks.

2.  Giving up my gym membership.

Revision: I will sign-up for a weekly yoga or dance class.

3.  Taking on too many outside commitments.  (This happens every year.  I have never succeeded in changing this behavior!)

Revision: I will consult with my family before accepting more commitments.

Get the idea?

If you try revisions this year, please let me know how you did.

If you are committed to making your resolutions–and keeping them, check out Gretchen Rubin’s helpful blog post on the Happiness Project.

Do you make resolutions? If so, how do you get them to stick?  calvin