A couple of weeks back, I had lunch with my friend, Kathy. We try to catch up every 2–3 months. She has been following my blog. So, she knew I’d been feeling overwhelmed. As always, she was patient, loving and kind as she listened to my woes. She stressed the importance of taking care of myself and being gentle with myself. In other words, cut myself some slack and be okay with not accomplishing everything I want to do. Figure out the priorities and let other stuff go. The question is How do I do that?
Kathy gave me a newspaper article. The article was titled “A balanced life: productive people hit the ‘Sweet Spot’ without being busy.” The article interviewed Christine Carter, the author of the book “The Sweet Spot: How to find your groove at home and at work.”
The book teaches you how to achieve more by doing less! It shows you how to find that balance in your life where everything flows smoothly. Life’s sweet spot is the optimum combination of factors that produces ease and happiness rather than stress and exhaustion. Sounds awesome!
The Sweet Spot Formula
Ms. Carter has a formula for finding your sweet spot:
The Sweet Spot = Take recess + Switch Autopilot On + Unshackle Yourself + Cultivate Relationships + Tolerate Some Discomfort
According to her, in order for people to flourish in their life, the ratio of positive to negative feelings should be 3:1. I’m not even close to that.
I’ve been digesting this book slowly, trying to implement things as I go, so I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet. But, here are some highlights that really resonate with me:
- Sketch out a draft of your routine – By defining a routine and sticking with it, there are less interruptions.
- Form habits to take the effort out of your daily tasks.
- Play offense – what do you need to do to succeed and how are you going to overcome obstacles that derail you?
- Throw ambition out the window – don’t make your goals grandiose. Be okay with doing even a little bit.
Trying to retrofit my old life in with my new life
I realized as I was reading the book that I’ve been trying to fit some of my old habits into my new life, and chastising myself when I couldn’t make it happen.
12 years ago, I was single and didn’t have any dogs. Both my parents were alive and healthy. I was solely responsible for exactly one person … me. That meant that I had ultimate control over what happened or didn’t happen in my world. Back then, I went to the gym every morning Monday – Friday before work. I either lifted weights, did a spin class or swam laps. It was a healthy and happy habit complete with a wonderful crew of gym friends. My life was my own and I could tweak it the way I wanted to do the things I wanted to do.
Fast forward to today and my life has changed quite a bit:
- I married a wonderful guy 5 years ago
- I have 2 dogs
- My mom passed away back in 2007. Now, my dad and my brother are more dependent on me.
These days, I have significantly less control over my life because now there are external factors that I cannot control. Couple that with my natural “take care of everyone and everything” tendencies and you get stress and overload. There always seems to be something that comes up that keeps me from doing the things that I want/need to do.
Planning for the obstacles
When Bryce has a bad night and doesn’t sleep, I let that derail my entire day. The things I plan to do that day (e.g. workout and write) are tossed aside and I’m left feeling frustrated for not having done anything. I have no backup plans for how I would handle a poor night’s sleep. With my plans unraveled, I am forced to ad lib my day.
So, rather than having a single plan: “Get a good night’s sleep, get up, and go to the gym, or ride my bike.”
I need to have multiple plans to accommodate various contingencies:
- Get a good night’s sleep, get up, and go to the gym, or ride my bike.
- Get a decent night’s sleep, get up, and walk the track.
- Get a horrible night’s sleep, do my “this is better than nothing 10 minute workout.”
AND, most importantly, be okay with the fact that I was only able to squeeze in what I could because of obstacles I faced.
Forming habits to take the effort out of our daily tasks
In her book, Ms. Carter writes “Habits take the effort out of our daily tasks: they are the ultimate form of ease. We do what needs to be done without having to will ourselves to do it.”
For example, my nightly routine before I go to bed is to:
- Brush my teeth.
- Floss my teeth.
- Wash my face.
- Rinse my mouth with mouthwash.
There is no brain power used at all. I’m on autopilot when I go through my nightly routine. Now, imagine if we all can turn more of our daily tasks into habits. Imagine how much more at ease we can be!
I plan to continue reading and implementing suggestions from this book in hopes that I will find my life’s sweet spot.
I think this book really lines up well with my personality:
- I love the idea of forming habits to put some of my tasks on autopilot.
- I also love the idea of planning out my routines and adding contingencies for those inevitable obstacles that arise.
Both of those things totally gel with the logical, organized person that I am. After having read just 1/4 of the book, I have found that just small implementations of things she has suggested have put a glimmer of hope in my mind replacing the pessimistic dread I have been feeling for the last few months.
Question: Do you have a 3:1 ratio of positive feelings to negative feelings in your life?