Two Big Questions on My Mind

I have a lot of questions. Many of these are of the existential what-does-it-all-mean variety that I suspect I’ll never have answers to.

But, for the purposes of this blog, I generally have two big questions that I’m trying to learn more about:

1) What are the ways that nature can enhance our health and happiness?

I think we generally have intuitive sense that nature is good for us, that it’s good to get fresh air, to go for a walk, to get a way from it all. As I dig more deeply into this subject, it’s amazing to learn just how good spending time in nature is for people and for entire communities. In many ways, it’s the perfect antidote to our many of our modern problems, including stress, busyness, and disconnection. Time with nature can reduce anxiety, improve creativity, and boost immunity to diseases like cancer. It can lead to longer lifespans and provide inspiration and a sense of belonging.

2) What are some practical ways to spend more time with nature?

With all of those benefits, it seems clear that many of us could benefit from spending more time with nature. But how to we realistically do that when we feel busy and overstretched? Where do we find time in the day to go outside when the rest of the world is increasingly inside? I struggle with this as much as anybody—even living rurally and being a moderately outdoorsy person, I still have plenty of days where I don’t spend any time outside or connected to nature. This is why I’m interested in  finding ways to experience ordinary, everyday nature as I am in planning big, wild adventures.

That’s where my mind is these days, so I hope that you’ll come back and learn more with me!

Are you a woodpecker or a hummingbird?

Have you found your passion yet?

I haven’t, and it’s super-annoying.

Across many of the podcasts, websites, and books that I enjoy, there is a seemingly constant focus on finding that one thing that captivates your attention, sucks you in, and takes you along for the ride.

Call it your passion, your purpose, or your calling—call it whatever you want—once you find and unleash it, you’ll know exactly what to do with the rest of your life.

Perhaps this sounds ridiculous on the surface, but then so many people—including folks like Steve Jobs—talk about it so, well, passionately that it’s hard to dismiss the idea. And so I got sucked in and spent a long time wondering: What’s my passion? What’s that one lovely, magical idea that makes my soul sing and that I’ll pursue to the end of the earth?

I spent a few years looking. I didn’t find it, and that was dissatisfying. There just doesn’t seem to be one big, all-encompassing thing that I love more than anything else.

The author Elizabeth Gilbert knows her passion—to write—but after years of telling people to follow their passion, she realized that there were people like me that just didn’t get it. And so she came up with a great analogy that describes this divide.

There are people who know their passion, the one thing that really captivates them. These are the people that can focus day in and day out on that one single thing, diving deeper and deeper. There’s one thing they want to do and they love it. These people just hit that one thing over and over. She calls these people jackhammers because of this singular focus, but I’d rather call these people woodpeckers.

Why? Because she also points out that there is another type of person, whom she calls hummingbirds. Rather than keep hammering (or pecking) away at one single thing, these people have a much broader set of interests. They float over the landscape sampling a variety of ideas and cross-pollinating the various things that they find.

(Some people are using the term multipotentialite for this roaming set of interests. But while I agree with the idea, I can’t quite get behind the term. I’d rather be a hummingbird.)

Now, instead of telling people to find their passion, she tells them to follow their curiosity. I like that idea a lot better! I can’t embed the video, but you really should check it out here.

Via Oprah

What about you? Are you a woodpecker or a hummingbird?

Rethinking Resolutions

Happy New Year!

I’ve already mentioned in my previous post summarized my places of 2016 that I have a tendency to hunker indoors and get introspective this time of year. Usually I’ll break out my goals from last year to evaluate how things went and then plan for the coming year. This year, I’m shaking up my approach on planning for the upcoming year.

The past few years, I’ve developed a list of about 5-10 goals for the year. Sometime in mid-December I think about what should be on the list for the following year, and I write these down on an index card that I keep in my journal.

My success rate has been about 60 percent. My school-nerd self would call that an F. 😦

Last year I also made some quarterly goals, with a similar mixed rate of success (and failure).

Rookie Mistakes

So what isn’t working? When I look at various ways that people set goals, I’m falling short on some basic elements:

Making Dumb Goals: I hate acronyms, but the concept of SMART goals is seared into my brain. It’s a useful framework, and I don’t use it nearly enough as I should. It’s much easier for me to accomplish a goal to complete a certain race on a certain day because it’s so specific, whereas, I don’t make as much progress when I set vague goals like “blog most weeks.”

Not Buying In: Sometimes I set goals because I feel like I should have them. But I don’t fully buy into them and so I’m not successful. For example, I know that doing a few triathlons a year helps give me a little extra boost to swim, canoe, bike, run, and do other active things more often. Building on this, I entertained a goal to run a 10k at a certain pace, hoping that I would be inspired to improve my running (my weakest part of any triathlon). But since I don’t love running and because I hate running at an uncomfortable pace, I failed to be inspired by the running goal and dropped it almost immediately.

Forgetting Everything: It’s good that I write my goals down because just the act of writing them down increases the likelihood of success. But then I typically to put them away, forget about them for several months, and fail to make progress. Then, months later, I dig them up and think something along the lines, “Oh, that’s my goal. Why am I not doing that? I should be doing that!” and then put them away for another six months. Then in six months, I repeat the whole thing over again.

A New Approach

This year, I’ve spend a lot of time trying to develop a better plan for 2017 so that I’m doing cool things and those things are in better alignment with becoming the 90-year-old, spry, badass little old lady that I want to be someday.

I’ve been digging into great resources, but I’m not sure what to do. Do I set 7-10 goals like Michael Hyatt recommends? Or follow Gretchen Rubin’s advice to work on habits? Or think about my future performance review like Laura Vanderkam does? These are all cool ideas, but I’m not sure which is best for me—and keeps me from overthinking everything!

So I’m doing what generally works for me:  I made a list. It’s essentially a list of “Things to Do in 2017.” It has about 45 items on it now, and I’ll revise it throughout the year. For the most part, I don’t think of the items as goals or resolutions. I’ve categorized them this way:

Experiences I Want to Have: This includes things like vacations, my two fav triathlons, and other adventures. I’m usually pretty good at making sure these things happen (like going to Copper Harbor or camping), so this is mostly a matter of putting these on the calendar.

Habits/Routines to Cultivate: Like many people, I struggle with things like wanting to eat better and move more. These are always the hardest things for me to make progress on because they need to happen day in and day out, even when inspiration and motivation wane. I’ve identified a few to start with and will see how that goes—I suspect this will be the hard part.

Things to Try: There are at least a handful of things, all of them outside, that I want to try and evaluate whether I want to do them more often. For example, I want to go fishing on the lake now that we have the cottage there. This list is small, so I am wondering if I need to make a bigger attempt to try new and more exciting things. But for now, I’m okay with being boring.

Things to Do: I have a long and varied list of things that I want to do. This includes some mundane adulting that I need to do this year (revisit retirement and insurance, for instance), community service efforts (helping at some Keweenaw Land Trust events), and several outside projects for the garden and property (make room for oak trees!).


That’s my plan for 2017. What’s yours? I’d love to hear about it (and cheer you on)!

A Three-Day Weekend Full of Outside Time

I had a three-day weekend with lots of outside time, but I didn’t take any pictures. Doh!

After work on Thursday, I did a short outdoor workout. Then, because it was gorgeous outside in the evening and rain was in the forecast for Friday, I spent an hour in the garden. I enjoy gardening in the evening, and need to remember to do more of it next year so that I keep my weekends free. I wrapped up my gardening before dusk, quickly packed my things, and went out to the property to sleep outside on Thursday night.

It rained Friday morning, so I spent the morning inside puttering around the house and cleaning. When it cleared up in the afternoon, I went outside to continue working in the garden. My garden wasn’t so great this year (more on that in an upcoming post), so I’ve been pulling up plants as soon as their productivity wanes Continue reading “A Three-Day Weekend Full of Outside Time”

Suddenly Slow

All of my first cars were stick shifts. I remember how sometimes I would be slowing down and have to shift into a lower gear, I’d do it too soon; the engine would rev and the car would jerk a little bit before the car slowed down to the right speed.

That’s what life has felt like this week: downshifting, a little awkwardly.

Sexy broke his ankle last week; he was playing baseball and ran into the fence while trying to catch a foul ball. He is handling it like a champion (I suspect I’d be so much more difficult if it was me), but he will be on crutches through July.

Me, watching my number 3 play baseball years ago.
Me, watching my number 3 play baseball years ago.

This means that our summer has suddenly shifted to an entirely different speed. Instead of fishing and mountain biking and kayaking, we’ll be spending a lot of time relaxing around the house. Any baseball games we go to this year (and in subsequent years, probably) will be for him to watch, not play. The first week has already been quite a bit different: Continue reading “Suddenly Slow”

A Handful of Goals for Summer

Since my list of spring goals worked out pretty well, I figure that I should do it again for summer.

Isle Royale
Perhaps its time for a return to Isle Royale this summer.

In the spring I focused on getting outside and building strength after a long winter. In truth, I don’t think I want to do much different this summer. I want to focus on playing outside, getting stronger (because I could have done more in spring), and eating real food. This is the list for approximately June 15 through September 15:

  • Garden a lot
  • Work on my Master Gardener project
  • Race the Copperman Triathlon
  • Strength train regularly (2-3 times per week)
  • Bike commute regularly (2 times per week)
  • Camp twice, at least once by bike
  • Eat only real food (give up processed food)

This is a pretty straightforward list. When I first made it, I couldn’t help but wonder, That’s all? Shouldn’t there be something bigger? Sometimes I can’t help but feel like I’m supposed to be doing more. Shouldn’t I be having big adventures? Continue reading “A Handful of Goals for Summer”

A Handful of Goals for Spring: Update

Near the beginning of spring, I set some goals so that I would spend more time outside and get stronger. I was tired of being cooped up over the winter, especially since I’b been sick for several weeks. I’m not that big on setting goals because it seems like I don’t always have a lot of success, but it worked pretty well this time. Here’s how it went:

A spring snow on May 14!
A spring snow on May 14!

Plant blueberries and raspberries

We’ve been at our house 9 years now, so it’s a shame that I didn’t plant berries years ago. Every summer I kick myself for not having planted them, especially raspberries because they are my absolute favorite and so expensive to buy. This year I finally did it. I planted 14 blueberries in the front yard, 16 raspberries in the back yard, and another 25 strawberries next to the house becasuse I had the space. Continue reading “A Handful of Goals for Spring: Update”

Two Reasons Why I’m Not Blogging Much These Days

I’ve been a bit absent on the blog the past few months, with my recent three-week gap being especially notable. While I’ve tried writing more regularly in the past, for the time being I’ve decided to post when I feel inspired to. And, honestly, that hasn’t been as frequently lately.

One big reason for that, perhaps the biggest reason why I’m not finding it so exciting to write here these days is that I’m writing a ton for work. I’m currently in the midst of working on four substantial documents: two massive reports that I’m lead author on, a chapter for another report, and a journal manuscript. I got one out the door last week and an hoping that I can do the same for another this week. So while I haven’t been writing here, I have been churning out a lot of words elsewhere.

But that’s not the only reason. The bigger reason is perhaps even more understandable: it’s finally spring. I haven’t written a post since my garden melted out of the snow and allowed me to start getting ready for another year.

The garden when it finally melted out of the snow, April 14, 2016.
The garden when it finally melted out of the snow, April 14, 2016.

I’ve been busy since then, putting all my new gardening knowledge to work.  Continue reading “Two Reasons Why I’m Not Blogging Much These Days”