2 steps to daily improvement

I have tried various self-improvement techniques. Adopting Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Creating an account on HabitForge. Following Leo Babauta’s advice to start with one goal at a time.

These methods worked for me temporarily, but I ran into problems with each. Instead I found my own solution that has been working for me for a few weeks that I think carries the potential to last me even longer.

It’s very simple.

At the beginning of each day, I open my planner and write two things at the bottom:

1. :)

2. :(

Following my simple happy and sad faces are reflections on the previous day:

1. :) My greatest success

2. :( My weakest area that needs improvement

Throughout the day I focus on maintaining the best and improving the worst. Although my “worst” has repeated, it has yet to do so in consecutive days. Likewise, without meaning to do so, I have consistently managed to have a unique “best” each day while still maintaining the “best” from the previous day.

My method involves daily resolutions that balance the positive and negative, and overall, encourage improvement, the potential of each day.


Losing the Onsight… OF LIFE.

In climbing, when you lead a route without any rests or falls the first time you try it, you earn the glorious achievement of having “onsighted” the route. You do this by preparing beforehand: getting generally more physically fit, practicing climbing, building up technique, and studying the route before getting off the ground.

Once you start to care about onsights, it can be a bit of an obsession. You don’t climb routes you know you’re not ready for because you want to save it for when you can do the onsight. You don’t watch people climb routes you haven’t onsighted because you don’t want to learn the “beta,” because if you copy what someone else has figured it it’s cheating.

And perhaps most frustratingly of all, if you start a route preparing to onsight it and take a fall, you lose motivation and momentum you built up and have trouble continuing.

This sort of happened to me on Tuesday, when my goal was to climb a 6b clean – it was more of a personal goal than something that would actually matter as a statistic, because it’s different indoors and doesn’t carry the same weight as a route on real rock. I was fine until I got to the Big Scary Overhang, felt my fingers sweat and my arms go all wobbly and called “Take!” for a rest. Once I called take that first time, hope of completing my goal of doing the route clean was lost. So I climbed up a little bit more and called take again. I could have probably finished the route with one take, but I had lost the chance at completing my goal, so to a certain extent, I gave up.

My mornings are usually solid: I get up at seven and have a structured plan to ease myself into my day in time for a lecture in town at ten. Having nothing on my calendar until eight this evening – which never ever happens, by the way – I slept in until nine. When I woke up I didn’t follow my usual routine. I did get some tasks done, but didn’t feel like doing work, so instead watched “Gossip Girl.” While for the most part my day hasn’t been too unproductive, it doesn’t feel like it’s going perfectly, and it’s that point in the afternoon in which I want to prioritize relaxation so that I can get a good start for tomorrow.
Then I figured out the problem:

I blew the onsight of today, and have therefore stopped giving it my all.

What is this obsession with perfection, start to finish? Why do I only feel accomplished when I get it right from the start? Well, when I do something right I gain emotional momentum, certainly, but it isn’t nearly as influential as the negative emotions of not gaining that momentum.

Every moment should be given the priority and significance of a new beginning – why wait for the new year, the next month, day, hour-on-the-hour to start fresh? For some reason it’s hard to start something new without the commanding strike of midnight, the freshness of a clean notebook on the first day of school. Make that start now. Not the next time the clock lands on an even number or the next time you wake up. Even though I’ve lost today’s onsight, I’m still climbing.

I’m Supergirl and I’m Here to Save the World

When I first watched The Princess Diaries I must have been no older than ten. And at that age films about high school appear SO DIFFERENT than they do after having been through high school. The characters looked so old and mature and cool. Ten years later and one and a bit years out of high school and Lily blends into Miranda the super cool middle schooler from Lizzie McGuire and Michael – who used to be The Coolest Guy Ever – has about two lines because he’s just that awkward and unfortunately, so is his formerly-deemed-awesome haircut.

But I still love it. For nostalgic reasons, I love the cheesy early 2000s soundtrack (Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter), the combat boots, the scooters, the chunky flip flops, the excessive hair accessories…for more serious reasons, I love Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews. In the past year I’ve become quite the Anne Fan, and after seeing her all grown up it’s fascinating to return to her charming debut as Mia and seeing her as distinctly Mia. There’s a bit of Anne Hathaway in there but ultimately, she has the character down in a genuine, unique way. And I love Mia Thermopolis. (“I’m a synchronized-swimming, yoga-doing, horseback-riding, wall-climbing type of girl.” Yes, by the way, for once climbing is accurately portrayed on film, however briefly!).

Now Julie Andrews is also brilliant as Queen Clarisse. The perfect blend of regal royal and super hip grandma. Watching this now, a lot of the transitions are choppy, a lot of the sound editing is fake, and there’s a whole lot of corny. But Ms. Andrews pulls it together with sophistication and depth throughout. What a rock star.

While I love going to the cinema and staying up-to-date with the latest Oscar contenders and sadly neglected foreign hits, there is nothing quite like watching old favorites with outdated displays of fashion, uber pop soundtracks, and the same loveable characters who have been living in the depths of my mind, waiting to be revisited.

And sometimes we need the reminder: Miracles happen.

Food Review: Atomic Burger Breakfast

At afternoon tea with Sara the other day she said that she loves Midnight in Paris because it reminds her of why she is her and likes the things she likes. And I was like, yes. That film does that, and that is what draws me to it so much that I’m considering seeing it in cinemas for the third time.

Atomic Burger, one of my favorite local restaurants in Oxford, provides the same feeling of comfort and understanding – dining there feels very Midnight in Paris-worthy me. This morning David and I enjoyed our first Atomic Burger breakfast experience. They have actual American pancakes – a rarity in the UK, and frustratingly so, as “pancakes” often means “crepes” here. Just…no! – so obviously we had to try them.

Atomic Burger is like a more genuine Disney World. It’s like Comic Con in foodie form. (David and I were so consumed by nerd culture that we had to watch The Big Bang Theory afterwards to fulfill the need to act as we ate.).

Since we were the first to arrive, promptly at 10am opening (still a late breakfast for me, but it was so worth the wait), we got our choice of any table. So we chose the one beneath Spider-Man.

The tables are simple but oh so casual comfort food cool.

And the menus is just as fun. All of the dish names refer to pop culture, and I seriously factor these names into my ordering process. David and I both went for Peanuts-inspired dishes: the Charlie Brown Buttermilk Pancakes and the Snoopy & Woodstock Pancakes.

While we waited for the food to arrive, we were entertained by the collection of nerdtastic stuff surrounding us and the TV screen that played clips from iconic films. Including The Jungle Book.

I also ordered a banana milkshake, which arrived with a curly straw and was SO PERFECTLY DELICIOUS. Definitely ordering it again. Look how happy I am.

And then the pancakes arrived. I hadn’t had proper pancakes in MONTHS so this was a momentous occasion.

Mmmm. They certainly served the purpose of fulfilling my long-term craving for pancakes. The portion size is also refreshingly manageable, which surprised me considering the massive burger portions, and the restaurant’s infamous Godzilla Challenge (which I WILL complete, and soon, in the veggie variety). I personally prefer fluffier pancakes, but these were nonetheless Tasty Tuesday-tastic.

Atomic Burger is quiet in the morning, although the staff is friendly and engaging as usual, and the atmosphere still shines through, even without the restaurant’s characteristic evening buzz of overcrowded chatter. The perfect way to start my work week, I’m definitely becoming a regular at the fantastic nostalgic Atomic Burger.


Hello again!

Last week became busy to the extent that blogging became a chore, so in the interests of preserving its enjoyment, I took a few days off. This morning’s tutorial ended my crazy work week, and to celebrate, I decided to take the rest of the day off coursework to relax and cross items off my piling to do list.

I was tempted to plan out the day at several points, but I let each temptation pass, instead agreeing to spontaneous Christmas decoration shopping, spontaneous fairy light-purchasing, and lots of spontaneous guitaring, singing, and, unfortunately, coughing (but also laughing).

On top of the day’s unexpected enjoyments, I took out my sewing kit and mended some of my clothing, and packaged up some online shopping for returns. These are the little tasks that lurk in the back of my checklisty mind every time I open my wardrobe or reach for a book on my shelf – the little constant reminders that there are more things to do that I haven’t done.

No longer! Very little is as satisfying as crossing items off a list, especially items that have been queuing for a while.

And now I have fairy lights to show for it. Even if there aren’t very many.


HALLOWEEK: My Role Model, Kiki

Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of my favorite films. It always puts me in a cheerful, optimistic mood, and it always makes me want to be Kiki.

Kiki and I have a lot in common, from our overeager enthusiasm to our sometimes unwarranted confidence to – obviously – our magical powers. Additionally she inspires me to work hard and to laugh a lot, to be kind and consider others first, to explore the world, seek new adventures, and fly higher.

Throughout her whole journey, Kiki has one outfit and lives out of one bag. She shops on a tight budget, and although she yearns for a shiny pair of new shoes, she comes to love what she already has.

Today I was proud to be Kiki (all day. lecture. tutorial. climbing.). It filled me with happiness and confidence – because it’s impossible to be dressed as such a cool person without feeling empowered.

(In my last-minute costume-assemblage frenzy my room was left a bit untidy)