Wonky's Land of Nonsensical Musings

Month: December 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

10 tips to make your Resolutions stick this year

Now for the post you have been waiting for (all twenty of you). I am going to give you ten hints that will help you make and maintain habits. These habits will o help you achieve results. You are going to make resolutions, to create habits, which will lead to your goals.
Not My Belly

1. Know Your Destination
If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t know how to get there. The first thing we need to do is to create a set of destinations. Start with a high level abstract outline of the results you want to achieve. I want you to think out into the future and think about what type of life you want to lead and what type of person you want to be. Keep it vague. I want to be healthy. I want to be financial secure. I want people to view me as competent.

2. Lay Out Your Path
In tip two we are going to lay out the practical milestones to get us to those destinations. The paths are specific goals along the path not the actual steps to reach those goals. Look at the vague destinations you laid out in tip 1 and make specific milestones that will help you reach those destinations. We are talking very specific goals. I want to be 170 pounds by Jun 1st. I want to be able to run a 5k by May 1st. I want to have zero credit card debt by Jan 1 2017 etc.

3. Pick Your Habits
Now you want to make a list of habits that will help you walk down the paths to your destinations. These habits will become you resolutions over the coming year. A habit is a reoccurring activity that you will make into an ingrained pattern of behavior. I will bring my lunch to work. I will work out five days a week at 7 am. I will wake up at 6:30.. etc.  Don’t worry about practicality right now. Just make a long list of all the specific actions you want to take to reach your goals.
4. Limit Number of Changes
Now we are going to start applying the things we learned from the second post in this series. One of the main reasons your New Year Resolutions fail is that you try to make too many changes at once. Also they probably aren’t particularly well thought out. You only have a certain amount of will power. You can only resist temptation so many times. The plan is to make changes habits so they no longer require as much energy. Since we can only work so hard on changes we are going to limit them to a couple/few/maybe one at a time.
5. Choose Complimentary not Contradictory Habits
If you are going to try and build more than one habit at a time, it is very important that you choose habits that compliment each other. Two habits that contradict each other will quickly use up your willpower reserve and most likely lead to failure. Don’t try and quit smoking and lose weight a the same time. Do try and wake up earlier and go to bed earlier. 

6. Know Yourself
This may take some time to figure out. You need to learn yourself and what can help you build habits. Let me give an example. Two people have decided to make the same habits: wake up early and work out a few days a week. Person A needs a reason to get up early. So they decide to wake up early and then work out. Person B is discouraged by the prospect of having to both put out the effort to wake up early and then put themselves through a workout. Person B plans their workout for later in the day.
7. Be Fine With Failure
You are going to mess up. You are going to eat over your calorie goal or miss a workout for a lamereason. You are going to blow your budget. Don’t take it to heart. Come back at the next opportunity and do the resolution. People have a tendency once they blow a goal to completely go off the rails.  If they go over the budget by ten dollars, they then go and blow a couple hundred. Just let it go if you mess up.
8. Establish the Habit
A commonly repeated refrain is that it takes a month to make a habit. This is not completely true. The length of time and effort it takes to build a habit depends on the habit being formed and the individual. Some take as little as a week to become ingrained, others can take months and months. So what I recommend you do is to pick two complimentary habits.  Then spend a month concentrating on building those two habits. After a month move onto working on two more habits. The habits from the previous months should continue without a whole lot of effort.
9. Re-enforce the Habit
As you go on working on new habits some of the old ones might flag.  It can be necessary to go back and work on an old habit. If you find yourself failing at a previous habit I recommend taking a week and concentrating on re-enforcing that habit that you’ve been blowing. For example, I was failing badly at a new habit recently when I realized that I had eaten out for lunch three times in a week breaking one of my old habits.  I shelved the failing new habit and spent a couple of weeks working on my lunch habit.
10. Know that the Hard Things are Hard
Some life changes are extra difficult. Anything that involves an addiction, whether physical or mental, will take more than just effort and habits to change. These things are completely different animals than just wanting to walk 10000 steps a day. If you have an addiction you are going to need much more and perhaps professional help than can be provided on a blog post.
More To Come
Tomorrow New Years Day, I am going to be posting a more personal post looking back at last year and looking forward to what I hope to accomplish in 2016. I’ll link to it here when the post is live. Check it out to see these tips being put into action.

TWTW: December 21st till 27th 2015 Christmas time and hospitals

As I have mentioned before, my Dad has health issues. On Monday he ended up in the hospital. As of my writing this on the next Monday he is still in the hospital.  We hope and pray that he will be home soon.

The early part of the week went by in a flash that I don’t even remember.

On Christmas eve I drove up to my parents.  I saw my Dad in the hospital and then went to have a our traditional Christmas Eve family dinner. The turnout was smaller than usual but the food was good.  And I met I big dog. Then went to visit my Dad again.

Christmas morning we opened presents. We got a new laptop for my mom to replace her really old and horrible one. She loved it. My favorite present was the amazon fire stick though the one I’ve used the most has been the k-cups. I visited my Dad again and then went to meet and make a new friend.  The new doggie. We hit it off immediately.  I have  new friend.
Doggie sleeping on me she wuvs me

I drove home on Saturday through the rain.  It kept raining. On Sunday it rained a bunch more.. It is still raining.. I read we got 6 inches of rain.   I am beginning to worry about flooding and I live on the second floor.

The Science of why your New Year Resolutions Fail

This is a re-written version of an older post and the second my series on habit formation and self improvement. I found the original version a little confusing.


Much of this post is based on a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. It is not a self help book. It is a book by a psychologist and a science writer. They delve into actual scientific studies about willpower, impulse control, etc. The birth of this science was a study often referred to as the Marshmallow Study. You can read the details at the link. The gist is that children where tested if they could resist a treat for greater reward in the future. At a later point, researchers went and tracked down the kids as adults. Almost universally the kids that had been able to resist the temptation had become successful and happy adults. This led to thirty years of studies and debate as to the role of self-esteem*, impulse control, upbringing, etc in success. I highly recommend reading the book. I am going extrapolate a lot from what I read and not go into the specific details covered in the book.

Two Concepts

Understanding two important concepts can really help us on our quest for self improvement. Our brains use up fuel or power to do anything. Habits are ingrained behaviors that take very little effort to continue and can be hard to break once established.

Our Brains Need Fuel

Our bodies take the food and drink we consume and turn them into energy. A bunch of other stuff also happens but that’s not important for my point. A  lot of the energy goes to power our brains. About 20% of the energy our body uses, gets sent to the brain. This is way more than any other organ. 

Every time we do anything with our brains we use up some of this energy. Learning a new task at work, resisting the temptation to eat a brownie, trying to win an argument in a meeting, these all take up the amount of available fuel your brain can access. We replenish that fuel through eating. Those snicker commercials aren’t far off.  You aren’t you when you are hungry. You have a harder time doing things and making decisions.  When and what we eat can help keep our brains stay fueled. Foods that release their energy slowly, such as nuts, can keep us going while sugar will give a quick but short burst of brain power.

This is why losing weight can actually be very difficult. You want your body to use the energy that it has stored as fat. In order to make this happen you need to consume a calorie deficit.  Doing this means your brain might not have the fuel it needs to help resist a doughnut at that early morning meeting. This in no way means weight loss is impossible. It takes some tricks and planning. 

The research points to two interesting caveats. There does seem to be an inherited amount of willpower. Some people are just born with more than others. Most importantly it can be trained like a muscle. They studied people who showed the attributes of having a lot of willpower. These people did things  that “flexed” their willpower.  Stand still for long periods of time hold you hand for as long as possible in a bowl of ice water will all, over time, increase your willpower. It seems that exercising your willpower makes your brain more efficient at using the available fuel 

Willpower can be described as a combination of the amount of fuel our brains have available and the efficiency in which it is used. 

Habits Conserve Brain Fuel


One of the most important things they found about successful, was that they seemed to use as little willpower as possible. They designed their lives around not having to use a lot of energy for the mundane thus saving their power for the important decisions and moments in the day. Many people in leadership positions who are making important decisions throughout the day do not pick out their own clothes in the morning. They either Steve Jobs  it and wear the same thing everyday, or maybe they have someone pick out clothes for them. I’ve taken to just lining up my work shirts in the closet and just going down the line each morning. Thus I use little to know brain power in the morning. 

Habits are simply behaviors ingrained through repetition over time. To do a habit takes little to almost no energy. In fact it takes a conscious effort to not do a habit you have formed. If you have made the habit of always brushing your teeth in the morning it will actually take more effort to not do it. Obviously, habits can be either beneficial or detrimental. You can have a habit of going over all the things that happened in a day that made you thankful or joyful, or you can have a habit of dwelling on all the things that made you made or resentful.

I am convinced of the need to create  conscious positive habits in order to live a good life.  In the next post in this series I’ll tell you about the practical steps I have chosen to take to create good habits.

*The Self Esteem Myth

The early chapters of the willpower book deal with the self esteem myth. There has been a prevalent belief for awhile now that if a person feels good about themselves they will perform better and actually be a better person. A series of studies in the late70’s/early 80s showed that successful people had high self esteem and the unsuccessful had a low self esteem.  It was surmised that if we elevated everybody’s self esteem performance would increase.

The same psychologist (not gonna bother looking up his name) who began the self esteem movement continued to study the issue.  By the 90s he realized he had made a big mistake. To simplify it, the people who were good at things had a high self esteem because they were good at things not the other way around. They found almost no improvement in performance based on increasing self esteem. In fact if people were below average at something and you increased their self esteem, they became worse at those things.

The Desire for Self-Improvement is Not Enough

This is a rewritten version of an older post from my series on habits. I hope to have the two posts I have already done rewritten and the third post up before the new year.

I once had a life coach. He quit life coaching after our time finished.  True story.

As a young student, my teachers would often write on my report card “has potential but doesn’t apply self”. I have described my life philosophy in many ways. I am an anti-perfectionist.  Why waste all the extra energy to get something perfect when you can do just good enough. I zenly describe myself as water flowing down hill. The water finds the easiest path to get to it’s destination. I have known people who always get gung ho about everything. They always try and make sure they do there best.  If something is worth doing it is worth doing to the best of your ability. To me that has always sounded like a whole lot of unnecessary work. This is all a long winded way to say that I am lazy.

The oddest thing about my life philosophy of maximizing laziness is my love of people who are excellent at things. Ever since I was a child I have loved watching artists work or wood workers produce things. I watched all those PBS shows.  Now I subscribe to a bunch of creative youtube channels. I marveled at the great things they created. I knew that all these people put in a great deal of effort and had spent years building their craft, but for some reason I unconsciously assumed that if you had a talent for something it was always easy.

This idiotic belief manifested many ways in my life. I wanted to play guitar but I would never sit down day after day to practice. I thought maybe I had some skill at painting.  I bought a starter paint set.  One day without any previous practice or preparation I sat down and spent twenty minutes trying to create a masterpiece. What I made ended up being a horrific disaster. I didn’t touch paints again for twenty year. In normal life this led me too look around in my thirties and realizes I hadn’t really accomplished anything in my life and didn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I decided that I needed to start living intentionally.  To try and be a better me while actually working toward larger goals. I tried to accomplish this by making lists of things I would do. Like New Year’s resolutions these were supposed to guide me to long term change.  I might stick to these new plans upwards of 2 to 3 days. I would often be full of resolve when falling asleep. Tomorrow would be different. I would make positive changes in my life.

About five years ago I decided to get really serious. So I started what I called the slackers Guide to Life. I even still own the domain slackersguidetolife.com.  I planned to get myself out of debt, be healthy, and live a creative and productive life. I encountered a problem in that I didn’t really have a plan on how to do that.  I decided not to buy anything for a year. I also planned to workout, eat right, and write everyday. I actually managed not to buy anything unnecessary for a year. Otherwise that attempt was mostly another failure.

Then I hit the big forty.  I realized it wasn’t a joke anymore. I had gone half way through my life. I decided to take a much more proactive and scientific approach to productivity, habits and success.  So I looked into what science tells us about goals etc.

TWTW: December 14th through the 20th.. WHAT DAY IS IT??

It was a normal boring week. Though I was the most productive at work I think I might have ever been.  I wrapped up a bunch of stuff for the end of the year. Over the weekend I finished the last of the Christmas shopping.

There was something odd about this week.  I kept not knowing what day it was. Wednesday through Friday I woke up each morning and lay in bed thinking “So nice it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work tod…. oh crap.”  The Saturday morning I woke up thinking I had to get ready for work. On Sunday I went to go to a local deli. I was confused when I got there because they were closed. They stay open to 6 on Saturdays and it was only 3.. Oh yeah it was Sunday.

Here is a funny Jobu story that I will try to convey correctly. Jobu was in the bedroom. He suddenly had a brilliant plan. He would sprint full speed out of the room and then jump onto the dinning chair and then onto my shoulder bag resting on the dining table.  Why? Because cat.  He sprints out of the room and jumps on the chair.. but he is going to fast.  He starts sliding off the chair. He attempts the second jump to the shoulder bag. He only manages to get his paws attached to the shoulder bag. Sadly for our intrepid adventurer he was still sliding off the chair.  In slow motion he starts pulling he shoulder bag off the table. Jobu fell back on the chair and the bag fell on top of him. He then fell to the floor and again the bag fell on top of him.  If I had filmed that I would so be making money on youtube right now.

Shortest Day of the Year

I believe this is the first time I have every blogged twice in the same day. I have written multiple posts on the same day but never posted more than one. I would have just tacked this onto the music monday post, but I didn’t think about it until later.

Today is the shortest day of the year. Sunrise was at 7:12 this morning and sunset at 4:31.  We got 9 hours 19 minutes of daylight. In six months will be the longest day of the month. Sunrise will be at 5:49 and sunset at 9:16.  They daylight will be 15 hours and 27 minutes. I got this information from a great site called gaisma.

The Earth is weird and things like this fascinate me.

  • Date Sunrise Sunset Length Change Dawn Dusk Length Change
    Today 07:12 16:31 9:19 06:41 17:01 10:20
    +1 day 07:12 16:31 9:19 00:00 equal length 06:41 17:02 10:21 00:01 longer
    +1 week 07:14 16:35 9:21 00:02 longer 06:44 17:05 10:21 00:01 longer
    +2 weeks 07:15 16:40 9:25 00:06 longer 06:45 17:11 10:26 00:06 longer
    +1 month 07:11 16:57 9:46 00:27 longer 06:42 17:27 10:45 00:25 longer
    +2 months 06:41 17:33 10:52 01:33 longer 06:14 18:01 11:47 01:27 longer
    +3 months 06:56 19:06 12:10 02:51 longer 06:28 19:33 13:05 02:45 longer
    +6 months 05:24 20:26 15:02 05:43 longer 04:51 20:59 16:08 05:48 longer
Date Sunrise Sunset Length Change Dawn Dusk Length Change
Today 07:12 16:31 9:19 06:41 17:01 10:20
-1 day 07:11 16:30 9:19 00:00 equal length 06:40 17:01 10:21 00:01 longer
-1 week 07:07 16:28 9:21 00:02 longer 06:37 16:59 10:22 00:02 longer
-2 weeks 07:01 16:27 9:26 00:07 longer 06:31 16:58 10:27 00:07 longer
-1 month 06:45 16:32 9:47 00:28 longer 06:16 17:02 10:46 00:26 longer
-2 months 07:11 18:03 10:52 01:33 longer 06:43 18:31 11:48 01:28 longer
-3 months 06:40 18:50 12:10 02:51 longer 06:13 19:18 13:05 02:45 longer
-6 months 05:24 20:25 15:01 05:42 longer 04:51 20:58 16:07 05:47 longer

TWTW: December 7th through the 13th.. boring normal week.#doggie

After the last two weeks being pretty exciting with traveling, holidays, family, and a musical this week settled into boring normality.   A few things did stand out

Computer problems

I had been having an intermittent problem with my desktop computer.  When I would be playing a game, the graphics would mess up.  The screen would be half one side of the game, or there would be lines through it. I would reboot and the thing would work fine again.  Finally while playing a game of Starcraft 2 the screen went wonky and then finally completely blank. No reboots could fix this problem. I took the cover off the case and  pulled out the video card. I built this computer about four years ago and I put in a pretty good video card. I paid about $300 for it at the time. When I looked at the card, I noticed that the fan had caked over with dust and fur. I guess that the card just overheated and burned itself out.  After some more testing to determine that my problem was the video card, I borrowed one from work and found another one I could buy on ebay with the money I had made selling things.

Did I mention I have been ebaying almost everything in my place 🙂

New Glasses

I have a very mild prescription for glasses. I don’t wear them most of the time. Only when I am driving at night or my eyes are really tired and I want to see the tv. About three weeks ago I realized I couldn’t find my glasses. I looked everywhere. I checked all the businesses I usually go to.  I checked all over work. I even looked in the tub that collects the ice from the ice maker. No dice.  So I scheduled a new eye doctor appointment for Wednesday. The new prescription was almost the same.
Because insuance only covers frames every other year. I picked out one of the cheaper pairs to buy. Though I went to a place that advertises one hour service I had to wait until Saturday to pick up my glasses. 

New Doggie

Speaking of Saturday, on that day, my friend from this sad post, got a new doggie.  Her name is Mazie Mae. I haven’t gotten to meet the new doggie yet but I hope she is sweet. 
Mazie Mae
The temperature all weekend stayed warm. It hovered around 60 most of the time. Even if it rained and was windy. I took a lot of walks.  On one of those walks I picked up pine cones from a neighbors yard to make my wreath extra fancy.
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