The Relentless Search For Balance
Twenty Minutes to Eleven
My most recent post of eons ago, I wrote of my journey that began in the early months of 2020 of developing new habits; tasks performed daily in increments of 20 minutes each day. I slapped the tongue-in-cheek title “How I Changed the World,” due to a rousing motivational speech by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven. Prior to viewing the speech, I had read the book 5 Things Successful People Do Before 8 a.m. by Terri Savelle Foy. Needless to say, this proved to be fodder to cancel my couch potato life and strive to accomplish a few goals. But never before 8 a.m. It is not for lack of trying: I am, after all, a retiree!
It doesn’t really have to be 5 things; it can be as many or few as habits one wants to form. The commonality between the most successful ones, according to Mrs. Foy, choose exercise, meditation or prayer, and reading in 20 minute increments. This is referred to as the golden hour. (I noticed there is no mention of where coffee places, first or after, but I place it first and foremost!) I chose to include the habits of writing and tracking things I am grateful for each day.
But I made changes to that schedule in 2021. As stated in my previous post, I learned of forming habits in shorter time frames. I assume this for people who like to brag about the tally of mini habits they keep each day. Based upon that theory, I made a decision to reduce the minimum time to 11 minutes. It was an arbitrary number pulled from the thin, gray air of winter––the January doldrums.
I began my new system thinking I had relieved myself from some imaginary and self-imposed burden. (I am slowly realizing that I have a time-management problem.)
Yet something I had not accounted for began to manifest the very first day. Chalk it up to the Middle-Child Syndrome. Yep, the drive to achieve beyond that of an older brother and a younger sister in order to get NOTICED. Allow me to digress.
Growing up, it was futile to try to outdo my brother; hard as I may hindsight has revealed I was only kicking against the pricks, as Apostle Paul was fond of saying. Being the baby, almost literally, my sister was the “cute one” as she so dutifully reminded anyone is earshot. I guess Mom and Dad (God rest their souls) thought so too. I was reminded every Christmas when brother got something shiny and new like a red bike, sister got a pretty pink blanket while mine was diaper yellow color, or a 3-foot-tall deaf and dumb doll. I was not the I-want-a fake-baby-kind of little girl. My imagination spectrum did run in the vein of making plastic babies come alive, no matter how tall or short.
So what was going on with to 20 to 11 switcheroo? One should be overjoyed to know time commitments down from 20 minutes to 11 minutes to be freeing. The problem is pure and simple; the old it’s not good enough mindset. The backstory (a semi-fancy word meaning to digress) is that my childhood report card grades were always honor roll worthy. If I got a B+, Dad always ––and I mean every stinking time––asked why it wasn’t an A. If an A-, why not an A, if an A, why not an A+? The memo was loud and clear: my work was never good enough. I’m sure my father was completely unaware of the silent message transmitted. I think his motivation came from a place that didn’t want me to get “too big for my britches” as these types of things were often said. He wasn’t my loudest cheerleader. But again, I digress.
For me, the simple solution of extending time beyond those 11 minutes never seem to quite work out. I tried that a few times and went to the far-beyond side like into the evening. Ok, that’s pure hyperbole. You go too far, a complaint I have heard a few times. It has been a frustrating and vicious cycle of searching for balance.
It wasn’t but two days into the new time that I realized 11 minutes of exercise isn’t going to profit the body much, so that I did relent and returned to 20-minute sessions. The dirty little secret is that I really don’t exercise every day: usually 4 days of the week. SHHHH!
Reading and writing sessions were difficult to adapt because when the timer sounded, I was just getting to the meat of the story––time to quit. Torn between patting myself on the back and that inner monologue “this isn’t good enough” created major tension. Why is that stupid, self-incriminating voice in my head?
Guilt and self-condemnation because I did not carry out each task for 20 minutes? Unbelievable. Who sets the bar? Oh, yes that’s right: I did. Who lowered the bar? Hmm, let me think. 11 minutes wasn’t good enough with or without self-permission. Does this perception relate back to that not-quite-good enough, middle-child syndrome? Or is this phenom much more sinister? Probably. I suspect I am not the only one to deal with this, and why therapists are making lots of money. And I realize I may have unconsciously passed this onto the next generation. Sorry, kids!
I went back to YouTube and viewed the original motivational speeches that inspired me to buy the book about 5 habits, etc. I have my tube settings set to auto play the next video and low and behold! It is titled “Goal Setting: 11 minutes that can change your life.” Fed up with it all, I chose not to watch that one but feel free.
I did mention previously that I would report on a goal for 2021 to form the habit of eating dinner at the table, just like the old days. That lasted about 7 days. Why? Because the OLD habit was so ingrained in my mind that the pure comfort of the Lazy Boy Reclining love-seat proved too powerful that I just plain forgot. Try again in 2022.
After working through the many drafts of this piece, I have come to the conclusion that maybe less IS more. Maybe it’s true I am my own best psychiatrist. And maybe, just maybe, it is better to do and develop habits NO MATTER if 20 minutes, 11 minutes or 5 minutes. Some famous film character once said “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Admiral McRaven’s Rousing speech: