Okay, Year three—or Year seven, depending on where we start counting—of figuring out how to build a sustainable life worth living, let’s go.
This morning I was thinking to myself, “Why am I still doing this?”
And realised after some reflection that I’m still doing this, “Because it’s working.”
Seems pretty straightforward but I’m going to let it serve as a reminder no never take things for granted and to assume there’s plenty of lessons left to learn.
It made me think a lot about the mindset change I’ve been going through as a consequence of what is now a life-long journey of continued self-discovery by learning about, measuring, and managing my well-being.
At first, I was very much in a reactionary mindset, always going from one mental fire to another. As I become more reflective my approach to the fires changed, I started observing them, asking what caused them. Once a more present state of mind was possible, I would often stay in the fires instead of reacting to them at all—learning which ones needed my active attention and which ones simply needed acknowledging.
Now, the past year has been about trying to move into a more anticipatory mindset and it’s hard. I’m struggling a lot with staying present in the moment, whilst being vigilant for those sparks that usually cause new fires and addressing them gently so that they don’t.
I suspect, this is a practice that, like all others, I simply need to practice more.
I’m still doing all of these things because they’re working—I shouldn’t fool myself to think I no longer need them.
The well-being questions
- Are you physically active?
- Do you have mature mechanisms for coping with life’s ups and downs?
- Do you enjoy fulfilling relationships?
- Do you enjoy a healthy weight?
- Bonus; Are you learning?
Am I physically active?
TLDR: Yes. I didn’t manage to increase my steps but despite a pandemic, I kept it pretty consistent. And did some semi-regular strength and resistance training.
Last year I concluded that I had been physically active but wishing I was more consistent with strength and resistance training.
I decided to focus on increasing my steps a little and getting back into strength and resistance training, with once a week being enough.
I looked at the data from last year and I walked an average of 10,685 steps (or 8.21 km) a day.
With a total of 3,901,561 steps (or 2,996 km) last year, I did walk less than the year before but I’m still happy with this amount.
Considering I lived through a pandemic and started self-isolating—losing my twice-daily walk to work—before the UK went into the first of its many lockdowns, I’m actually very happy with this.
I also managed to squeeze in recurring but infrequent 5-minute bursts of strength and resistance training.
So overall, not too shabby.
Focus this year: Continue with rough steps-goal and finally rehabilitate my fucked-up knee enough that I can get back into running.
Do I have mature mechanisms for coping with life’s ups and downs?
TLDR: Yes but I need to get a therapist again to continue developing my coping mechanisms.
Last year I concluded that I had developed better coping mechanisms but still needed more practice.
I decided to focus on developing more of them and strengthen the existing ones.
After deciding that I still enjoying using Daylio as my go-to mood-tracking tool, I expanded my scale from 5 to 10 moods last June.
I suppose one must be serious sometimes. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Looking at data from my Daylio, my average score of 4.25 (up by 0.03 from last year), makes my average day, a Good day. And as the breakdown shows, last year was pretty consistent with the year before:
- 107 Fantastic days
- 79 Great days
- 129 Good days
- 16 Okay days
- 26 Meh days
- 1 Little bit crap day
- 5 Bad days
- 1 Shit day
- 2 Fucking awful days
Last year, I had a total of 331 Fantastic and Good days combined.
This year, I had a total of 331 Fantastic, Great, Good, and Okay days combined—cool, right?
My two Fucking awful days were both exceptional bad cases of migraines.
To continue coping with life’s ups and downs, I started compiling a few new resources this year to help me along the way, which I’ve titled:
- Mature Coping Mechanisms
- What does my self-care look like?
- In case of emergency (checklist)
They are all still works-in-progress drafts but I want to share them in case anyone else could find them useful as well—let me know if you want the drafts.
Sidenote: Considering my history with alcohol and substance abuse, I’m really proud that I only drank on 3 occasions and in moderation last year. For me, not drinking is clearly the better choice and I think it’s contributed a lot to my well-being last year.
Focus this year: Build healthy coping resources and continue to nurture a peaceful and anticipatory mindset.
Do I enjoy fulfilling relationships?
TLDR: I have fewer relationships now than ever before but I enjoy them a lot more. I need to work on myself.
Last year I concluded that I enjoy more fulfilling relationships than the year before but that it was still a work in progress.
I decided to focus on being kinder to my inner child. Embracing healthy relationships and strengthening the bonds with people who were already exhibiting the aspects I then understood the value of.
This is the area where I see the biggest room for improvements: on one hand, I need to learn what healthy relationships are, and on the other hand, I need to be an active participant in these healthy relationships.
I think I struggle with both.
Whether that’s reflecting on my role as a parent, life partner, boyfriend, friend, child, grandchild, coworker, sibling, or even ex-husband, I’m often in conflict with the person I wish to be and the person I actually am.
I don’t want to be anything else other than what I am. I can say that with passion. No regrets… Sir Anthony Hopkins
My problem with this quote is that I don’t quite agree with it.
I too, want to be what I am, but what I am, is a creature of change, a continuous consciousness experiencing, reflecting and affecting others, and I owe it to myself and others to do so with intentionality, direction and being interdependent.
Though I suppose all those roles are what I am to others, and I should really think a bit more about what I am to myself.
The first healthy relationship I should have had was the one with myself—but I didn’t so we’ll work with what we’ve got.
And that is a big work-in-progress.
And if my well-being impacts my relationships then the well-being of my relationships must also impact me, something which hadn’t occurred to me with such clarity before—in hindsight, this feels like it ought to have been more obvious.
As a consequence, I started asking friends, partners, and family the same well-being questions I ask myself.
And when an ex-girlfriend introduced me to the concept of relationship check-ins (R.A.D.A.R.), I jumped at the opportunity to explore this with multiple people.
Ultimately, last year, I ended more relationships than I started but also strengthened some of my most meaningful ones.
Focus this year: Love yourself for who you are today so that Future Carlos can love himself for who he becomes. Be unashamed in your love towards others.
Do I enjoy a healthy weight?
TLDR: Yes, I think I finally do.
Last year I concluded that although I think my weight is healthy, I was still struggling to enjoy it.
I decided to continue my healthy eating habits, maintaining my weight where it was, ±2 kg, and to chill the fuck out.
I still get up every morning, naked and halfawake to step on the scale and weigh myself.
I’m still shifting the internalised image of myself from a tall and skinny man to a tall and, well, not-skinny man. It’ll take time, probably decades, to change how I see myself but having healthy eating habits help towards this.
Doing another weigh-in on the very last day of the year, I weighed 74.7 kg with 13.3 % body fat in December 2020—which is very stable.
Focus this year: Reach my abstract 77 kg target and then chill out whilst maintaining 74±2.5 kg.
I reached 77 kg on 11th March 2021.
Bonus; Am I learning?
TLDR: Yes, but I need a system for reviewing my ignorance.
Last year I concluded that I was learning and loving it.
I decided to focus on continuing to read for quality (not quantity), making sure I alternated topics, took notes and read from minoritised authors.
Because I used to spend my commuting time reading, my reading time was cut short in mid-March when I stopped commuting and went into self-isolation.
In the end, I read 7 books last year compared to the 27 books of the previous year. However, the focus wasn’t on quantity so the question really is about holding myself accountable to my focus, so, “Well Carlos, did you?”
From a measly 11% (2018) of books by people of colour and white women to 33% (2019) and then to 57% last year, my author ratio has improved dramatically but I have plenty of unlearning to do.
I still have many areas of ignorance so will continue to read and believe the lived experiences of the authors I meet. I will continue to be critical of my own biases and inquisitive of the biases of other people.
Focus this year: Continue reading for quality (not quantity), make sure I alternate topics, take notes and read from minoritised authors. This is such a good focus that I’m not changing it just yet. Figure out a way to map my areas of ignorance.
Okay, Year four—or Year eight, depending on where we start counting—of figuring out how to build a sustainable life worth living, let’s go.