Planned Preoccupation Check In

Happy New Year!

The new year is always a time for reflection, so let’s have a check in. I started this blog in the summer of 2015 and have cultivated 6 new habits and achieved 2 specific goals.

Writing

I have not been as strict about daily writing as I was with my initial habit. There was a point where the weekly posts were starting to cause me some anxiety so I took a few breaks over the course of the year. I want my energy focused on the habits themselves, not on this blog which should support the habits.

Meditation

Even though I don’t sit and meditate intentionally everyday this habit has helped me to manage my stress more effectively. I often focus on my breathing and clear my mind before I go into a meeting, or respond to a contentious email.

I have also completed 2 Headspace packs since I started this habit, and have the Motivation pack teed up as we dive into 2017!

Smoothies

I’ve got a freezer full of smoothie packs. It’s difficult to start the morning with a frozen drink when it is below freezing outside, but it’s still our quickest breakfast option. I also learned that if I freeze my ingredients on a baking sheet before I put them in the freezer bags they don’t turn into a big hunk of ice and are much easier to blend. So I’ve got that going for me.

8WW Meals

I have not kept up with this habit very well at all. I am often reminded of the Sharma quote, “knowing what to do and not doing it is the same as not knowing what to do.” Here’s to better food choices in 2017!

Spanish

This was the only habit I failed at during the initial 66 days, but it is the one I have kept up with the best since then. My mom started using Duolingo to learn Italian, and it is fun to check in with each other on our progress. I also have so many friends who try to engage my new found Spanish skills that I feel compelled to keep going!

Random Acts of Kindness

A great thing that came from this habit was learning about the generosity of my friends and family. Once I started talking more about philanthropy more people started sharing their good deeds with me. It has been a wonderful learning experience.

The structure this blog provides also helped me to organize our move to Red Wing and to get my Project Management Professional certification. Action planning focused my efforts and I was able to achieve my goals.

The support, suggestions, and encouragement you have provided in the comments have been invaluable! I am excited to continue on this journey of personal development, and know that 2017 will bring great things.

Here is a sneak peak of my next habit…

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Care to hazard a guess?!

Spanish Saturday – The End

DuolingoOwlAccording to Doulingo I am now 35% fluent in Spanish! I have also earned enough Lingots to give my owl some sweet new digs! The rest of my action plan has not fared so well…

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 70/66 days of practicing Spanish
  • 0/1 Pimsleur Spanish audio-book completed
  • DONE – 2/2 Spanish movies watched
  • 6/10 Spanish children’s books read
  • DONE – 3/1 Spanish podcasts reviewed
  • 0/1 Spanish meet ups attended

Grade: F

Incentive: I have NOT earned my News in Slow subscription yet.

Lessons Learned: I am still learning that summer is a rough time for personal development. I am proud of the progress I have made, and love the Duolingo app on my phone. But I do know that I could have done much better. Rather than focusing on my lack of progress I am going to redouble my efforts and continue improving my Spanish language skills.

One Month Goals: Complete the rest of my existing action plan!

Any words of encouragement are certainly welcome in the comments I as I work to achieve my goals!

Movie Madness: Spanish Films

I am a huge movie buff so I wanted to use films to improve my fluency in Spanish.

PP_YTuMamaTambien

Y Tu Mama Tambien (English Subtitled)

This Oscar nominated film is not my cup of tea. I made it to the pool scene where the two friends are masturbating together and gave up. The dialog was hard for me to follow even with English subtitles. They spoke very quickly, and there was a lot of voice over narration. I was only catching flashes of dialogue. I decided to go a different route in my second attempt.

 

PP_Hotel_Transylvania_2_posterHotel Transylvania 2

Since I had a hard time with a “real” Spanish film Clayton suggested that I watch Dora the Explorer instead. He thinks he’s very clever, but he did inspired me to watch an animated film dubbed in Spanish. Dubbed live-action movies are distracting because of the disparity between the voice and facial movements, but cartoons just approximate mouth movements. Diction is also much better with voice actors. Besides a kid’s movie is on par with my proficiency level.

Bonus Movies!

PP_AntMan PP_Avengers PP_Interstellar PP_RATF

When we were on our cruise the television in our room was set with Spanish subtitles. I read loud the Spanish translations of Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Interstellar, and Ricki and the Flash. Comic book movies are well suited to foreign language development. You get the benefit of new vocabulary words, idioms, and simple sentence structure with very few dramatic monologues.

Through trial and error I have found 2 new ways to help build my Spanish skills. There is a great selection of cartoons on Netflix that have been dubbed in Spanish, and if I watch a movie I’ve already seen I will add Spanish subtitles. When I am more fluent I would like to try watching a foreign film for native speakers again.

Please share your favorite Spanish movie in the comments so I can start a to-watch list.

Spanish Saturday – The Middle

I think this is the first time I have dreaded an midpoint review. Ah well, time to face the music.

Action Plan Progress:

  • 42/66 days of practicing Spanish
  • 0/1 Pimsleur Spanish audio-book completed
  • 0/2 Spanish movies watched
  • 1/10 Spanish children’s books read
  • DONE – 3/1 Spanish podcasts reviewed
  • 0/1 Spanish meet ups attended

Grade: C

Lessons Learned: With back to back vacations I have not made much progress on my action plan. Since I was travelling internationally I also didn’t have ready access to my Duolingo app so I had to improvise. I’ve also slipped on my weekly check ins. At this point it is fair to say this has been my worst showing with a habit to date.

That is in direct contention with the fact that I am really enjoying this habit. The Duolingo app is well built and taps into my competitive streak. It also helps that I have a good support group of people who are familiar with the language. While we were cruising my friend Ed would randomly quiz me on my Spanish vocabulary, and everyone was very understanding of my playing on my phone while we were at port.

I am learning perseverance with this habit. Things aren’t always going to go exactly as I planned, but it’s okay to adjust course while trying to stick to a commitment you made to yourself.

Pertinent Podcasts

Even though I don’t have a 3 hour commute anymore, I still try to make time for good podcasts. There are some great language podcasts out there so I sampled the ones with the best reviews. The podcasts below are listed in order of preference.

Spanish Obsessed

In each episode Rob, an English man, and Liz, a Colombian woman, have a short conversation. They translate the conversation and give you an opportunity to speak along with them. Each lesson is approximately 10 minutes. If you sign up on their website you can see a full transcript of the conversation.

I found it helpful that they don’t just focus on the exact translations, but also discuss the intention of the phrase. Also at the end they have a bit of fun giving you options for different phases or words you can use in the same scenario.

News in Slow

I could only listen to the beginning of the episodes without a subscription, but I like the samples. So much so that I am going to change my incentive for completing this habit. Once I hit my 66 days, I am going to sign up for the bronze subscription!

Right now I could only follow bits and pieces of the episode, but I think once I have a better foundation this site will really help improve my Spanish skills. If you’re further along than I am I would definitely check this podcast out.

SpanishPod101 

I was not impressed with their website. You have to sign up immediately and there is a hard sell right up front. Once I finally got to listen to the first lesson I found Fernando and JP engaging. Their use of practical scenarios like starting you off in a grocery store is a fantastic idea.

They also do a great job of breaking down the sample conversation and analyzing the vocabulary and grammar. The sessions are very short at 5-10 minutes.

I am going to stick with Spanish Obsessed for the time being, until I reach my goal and purchase a subscription to News in Slow. I liked SpanishPod101 but I’m not going to invest a lot of time in it right now.

Do you listen to any great language podcasts? Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Meditation Monday Check In

It’s been a little over 6 months since I finished tracking my meditation habit. Now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the progress I have made.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • DONE – Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Aborted – Attend a Tai Chi class
  • BONUS – Practice Tai Chi on the Xbox One

Headspace:

Self-Esteem

The were 30 sessions in this pack and it was broken into 3 parts. In the first part we focused visualizing a calm blue sky, in the second part we visualized a bright light filling us, and in the third part we focused on letting our mind be free. I liked the last section because I experienced such a feeling of weightlessness and calm when he would say “let your mind be free and do whatever it wants.” It was more about creating a sense of calm and contentedness rather than trying to counter negative self-talk with positive self-talk. A neutral outlook is really what you are going for. Clayton seems that way naturally and I am trying to emulate him.

Focus

Another 30 sessions broken down into 3 parts. The exercises help you to practice focused flow by honing in on different parts of your body throughout the sit. You are supposed to carry the practice throughout the day and it is easy to pick up at random intervals.

Generosity will be my next pack. That will round out the series options, with Relationships since I have done one from Health and Performance.

Book Breakdown:

This book is broken down into 3 parts. Breathe! You Are Alive focuses on mindfulness and awareness in the small acts of life. The idea of smiling through out the day hit home with me, and I have made an effort to smile more to myself.

Transformation and Healing is about the benefits of mindfulness in healing difficult states. And Peace is Every Step is about the connection between inner peace and peace on earth. This book is short and sweet and full of wisdom. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Tai Chi:

After our move I discovered there are no Tai Chi classes in our small town. Rather than making a special trip up to the cities just to meet this goal, I decided to find something else that would allow me to practice Tai Chi on a regular basis. BodyWisdom is available thru Xbox Fitness and it tracks your movements with the Kinnect. I think this is a great alternative to an actual class, and as I learn the poses I plan to practice in a more serene area.

As I continue to practice meditation I find setting goals toward it is not in the spirit of the habit. I want to lessen my stress levels and enjoy a more peaceful state, not feel pressure to get it done. That is why I will not be setting an future action items. I plan to just enjoy the serenity that comes with a sit.

I’ll leave you with a one time use code for a free month of access to Headspace for the first person to enter it!

Gift Code: REW15-469237

Language Learning Tools

I chose Duolingo for my Spanish habit because I used a beta version for German a few years ago. I really liked the user interface, and since then they’ve come out with a great phone app. Below are some other online learning tools that seemed worth exploring, listed in order of preference.

Anki – More than just a language tool, Anki can help you remember anything you need to study. It is an open source tool with a very simple interface, but that makes it easy to use. I’ve created a deck for Spanish vocabulary and my project management exam.

Busuu – Similar to Duolingo. Select a language and determine your skill level. Lesson 1 starts with greeting people. I like the quick tips that are interspersed in the lessons like what time of day to use buenos dias. There are also images with the words which is very helpful. A key difference is that with Duolingo there are pronunciation exercises where you speak the words and phrases, but Busuu is all written exercises.

Memrise – Again, similar to Duolingo and Busuu, but my least favorite of the bunch. Their user interface is not well done, and you only focus on a few words at a time. I prefer Duolingo’s approach of using phases to reinforce the vocabulary.

I am excited to start building my Anki decks, but will pass on the Busuu and Memrise in favor of Duolingo. Duolingo is free, no adds, and no upselling. Plus it’s working for me so far!

Have you tried any other online language learning tools? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Spanish Saturday – The Start

Hola amigos! I have become increasingly interested in learning a new language, and it’s time to turn that wish into a goal!

Habit: Practice Spanish on Duolingo for 30 minutes every day for 66 days.

Start Date: 04/17/2016

Projected End Date: 06/22/2016

Action Plan:

  • Practice on Duolingo
  • Listen to a Pimsleur Spanish audio-book
  • Watch 2 Spanish movies
  • Read 10 Spanish children’s books
  • Find a good Spanish podcast or radio show
  • Attend a meet up or find people willing to converse with me in Spanish

Incentive: A weekend trip to a fun locale where we can immerse ourselves in a Spanish-speaking community.

Lofty Goal: Attain enlightenment!

I took 4 years of Spanish in high school and some of my family members have a passing fluency. I figured my background with Spanish would make it an easier habit to dive into. I never gave learning a second language a shot in school, but I’m ready to take it more seriously this time around.

Ultimately I would like to become fluent enough in Spanish to add it to my resume. I’ve always wanted to travel more for work, and being able to speak another language will open new doors for me.

Follow me on Duolingo, and kick start your own habit!

Meditation Monday – The End

MeditationCover

I am happy to report that I haven’t lost any momentum after completing the initial 66 days of cultivating this habit. Now it’s time to pause and reflect on my progress so far.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – 72 consecutive days of meditating for at least 10 minutes a day.
    • 1,194.3 meditation minutes logged (~20 hours).
    • Average 17 minutes a day.
  • DONE – 66 daily photos taken of my meditation locations.
  • DONE – 2 books on meditation read.
  • DONE – 7 people connected with on meditation.
  • DONE – 3 classes on meditation attended.
  • DONE – 5 different meditation techniques attempted.
  • DONE – 10 weekly blog posts on developing my meditation habit written.

Grade: A+

Incentive: I decided against a meditation retreat, and choose to splurge on a spa retreat instead. I will meditate during my massage, manicure, and pedicure. Now that’s an incentive!

Lessons Learned:

“We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” – Dr. Brian Cox

This quote popped into my head today as I was trying to wrap up my meditation experience so far. It’s given me the opportunity to understand myself better, and by extension everything around me.

I continue to see improvements in my ability to focus and in dealing with stress. Morning meditation is especially beneficial in handling whatever comes my way throughout the day. A lot of the guided meditations I listen to also have suggestions for ways to incorporate your practice into your day, so it’s good to start early.

One surprise benefit to my meditation practice was that it made me better at quarters! I seriously wish that I would have practiced meditation when I was playing competitive sports, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a mental edge.

6 Month Goals:

  • Complete 2 Headspace theme packs
  • Read 1 new book on meditation
  • Attend a Tai Chi class

This has been a worthwhile endeavor and an excellent starting point for building future habits. I’m excited to find ways to stay on track and have already started a health theme pack with Headspace that will take me through another 30 days of meditation. Stay tuned for more on the meditation journey in the future!

Book Breakdown: Wherever You Go There You Are

This book has been on my to-read shelf for 2 years and I am glad that taking on this habit has finally motivated me to read it.

Kabat-Zinn’s best selling book is broken down into 3 parts focused on defining meditation, practical applications, and the spirit of the practice. The chapters are short and often accompanied by quotes and passages from other works on meditation.

It seemed like every time I picked up this book, I was able to apply the teachings immediately. I read the chapter Patience when I was experiencing a lot of anger and it helped me to detach from the storm of emotions.

This is also the third source that has touted the benefits of early morning meditation. I have been trying to sit first thing in the morning, but it has not been happening with any consistency. The chapter Early Morning has reaffirmed my intent and I will be waking up 15 minutes earlier everyday to listen to a Headspace guided meditation.

Not every idea or anecdote resonated with me. I am not a big fan of chapters ending with the phrase “Get the idea?” especially when my answer is no. But the topics are so varied and brief that the goal must be to get a better sense of meditation rather than to present a step by step guide.

Wherever You Go, There You Are does an excellent job of making the abstract concept of mindfulness accessible. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning the basic principles of meditation.

Would you like your own copy of Wherever You Go, There You Are? Simply leave a comment to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of the book.