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  • Writer's pictureRobert Norton

New school year, new routine

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

A few years ago, I began to feel a yearning for quiet time. Eventually, it became an insistent, grouchy need. Given my demanding work schedule and my desire to spend time with my family, I knew that if time to myself was important to me, it was going to have to happen god-awful early. I began to wake up at 5:30AM to journal and read, a full hour before anyone else in my family woke up, long before anyone at work would need me. For years, it has been my most creative hour of the day, an incubator for my best ideas for work and parenting. But this year, my daughter's school bell rings much earlier and the drive is longer, making my precious hour impossible to pull off. The route does, however, place me at the lakefront which inspired me to combine my thinking time with my walking time. I'm challenging myself to walk the miles in silence to encourage quiet contemplation and creative thought. When I attempt a new habit, I always use a science-based mental strategy developed by German academic and psychologist Gabrielle Oettingen called WOOP. Dr. Oettingen's research shows that simply visualizing changes you want to see in your life can be counterproductive, often leading to negative feelings and poorer performance. But when you also acknowledge potential obstacles and create a plan, it can lead to lasting positive change. It's simple; it stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacles and Plan.

  1. WISH: What do you wish for that is reasonable, yet aspirational?

  2. OUTCOME: How will it benefit you when you fulfill that wish?

  3. OBSTACLES: What might get in the way of achieving your wish?

  4. PLAN: What is your plan to deal with the most likely obstacles?

Here's what mine looked like:

  1. WISH: I wish to incorporate consistent physical activity and quiet contemplation into my life and one way to do that is to walk in silence on the lakefront every day.

  2. OUTCOME: If I walk in the morning, I will start my work day feeling energized and grounded. I will have a break from the constant overstimulation that plagues me, bringing mindfulness into my morning and allowing my most creative thoughts to surface. This practice will be good for my brain, my mood, and my energy level.

  3. OBSTACLES: I'll get restless and want to cut the walk short to get to my to do list. I'll get great ideas, but forget them. I'll get bored and want to turn around early.

  4. PLAN: When I feel restless, I will remind myself that contemplation is essential to creativity and productivity. When I get creative ideas, I will make it into a game by assigning the thoughts to my fingers to remember them. If I feel tempted to skip, I will remind myself that this is a ritual to treasure and everyone in my orbit will benefit if I hold it sacred.

What new rituals do you want to create in your life that could use a little WOOP WOOP?


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