Long before my Happiness Routine, when I was in high school, I woke up every morning at 6:04am. I would walk downstairs, grab a bowl, spoon, and milk (in that order), and make my way to the pantry for the Fruity Pebbles box.
There, in the same seat as the morning before, I would find my Sports Illustrated Magazine opened to the page I left off on yesterday.
At 6:40am, I would drudge back upstairs, shower, brush my teeth, and do my hair (in that order), then get in my big red mini van with my brothers at 7:04am. We’d proceed to school where I met my friends at the same table as the morning before for 10 minutes before I walked toward my first class.
I didn’t have an independent thought until 9:30 in the morning at which point I had already gotten up, dressed, fed, and attended a few classes.
About 40% of our daily actions are performed on autopilot. That means almost half of what we do everyday goes under the radar and unnoticed. Yep, you watch a lot more Big Bang Theory and eat many more Cheetos than you think.
That’s why the first step to changing your life is becoming aware of what the fuck is going on. It’s why when you’re driving along, and you see one of those digital speed limit signs that tells your speed, and then begins blinking rapidly because you’re going too fast, it causes you to hit the brakes. Awareness and mindfulness can get you in tune with the fact that 4 hours of television and 8 bowls of Fruit Pebbles really does happen.
In 2009, a group of researchers took 1,600 obese individuals and put them through a weight loss regimen. No, there would be no strict diet, no exercise program, no daily meditation, no particular amount of steps they were required to take within the day, and there certainly wasn’t any sort of juice “cleanse.”
No, all that was required was for the participants to write down everything they ate for at least ONE day per week over a period of six months.
At first, it was hard to establish this new habit. People would leave the house without their journals, or “forget” to write down that Snickers bar at 2:36pm. But then, as the habit began to stick, weird things began to happen – people began to notice patterns and tendencies and change their behavior. They began to plan healthy dinners, or provide healthy buffer snacks at times they new they would start to crave that Snickers.
Six months later, people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.
Recently I started tracking all of my expenses in an Excel document, that’s right, old school baby. As I was going though my tendency to ball out like there’s no tomorrow, I noticed I have spent $100 at Chipotle so far this month and a ridiculous amount at Walgreens. Why am I at Walgreens so much??
With this new awareness, I have learned three things about myself: 1) I like convenience (Chipotle is fast, easy, and walking distance from my house) 2) I hate cooking and then the cleanup that follows and 3) I have been consuming way too much beer from Walgreens or whatever the hell else one buys from Walgreens.
Because of this I have done a few things differently this week:
1) I made a huge pot of Bison Chili – I cooked one time, and now all I have to do is put it into a bowl and heat it in the microwave.
2) I made a rule to only buy beer on the weekends
Bam. My wallet is getting fatter as we speak.
In his 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace shared this parable:
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, ‘Morning boys, how’s the water?’ The two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
He goes on to explain that a majority of lives are compiled of things we don’t notice. “The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline… The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”
Once you become aware, then you can consciously chose how to think, act, and be in the world. You can choose to not eat Fruity Pebbles anymore, you can choose to deliberately watch one episode of The Big Bang Theory, and you can alter your behavior to make Bison Chill and stop pounding beers during Monday Night Football.
Become mindful, and you can become deliberate. You can begin to live on purpose. You can begin to truly create your life.