Author: rob.odonohue

I had always planned to write about my experiences (or lack of) while going through the Dry18 challenge. I’d have a bit more time on my hands, so decided early on to keep a journal along the way! Initially, it was for my eyes only. When I put together the first 100 days piece, it was more for me than anyone else. I very nearly didn’t post it at all. I always tend to have that internal battle, the voice inside the head shouting at me, providing me with many reasons not to. I experienced the same sense of resistance before releasing podcasts or videos too sometimes. But, I can’t let that stop me, and I’m glad I didn’t again with that piece.

The response from it was, and still is, very positive. It’s always nice to hear from friends that it connected with. It’s also nice to hear from people you don’t know that it resonated with too. In many ways, that’ even more powerful. So, when Maddy Lawson, from Alcohol Concern UK got in touch, to say the article was something they’d like to share, I was delighted. It made it all worthwhile. Even better, Maddy asked if me I’d be interested in putting out a series of posts over the rest of the year on the Dry18 adventure. I was delighted to oblige. She suggested that I start with one that gives a bit more detail on my backstory and why give up alcohol at all. So, I put together the following piece to give some context on my ‘why’. I hope you enjoy it.


My relationship with alcohol has been what you might call quintessentially Irish in nature. I don’t drink Guinness (often), but ‘the drink’ has been part of my life for a long time.

I think I had my first drink at the age of 16. The guilt of breaking my confirmation pledge still sometimes floats into my mind (and has just now as I write this). For the first year, it was the occasional alcopop on a Saturday night (didn’t like the taste of anything else). Then one night, that all changed. I was introduced to whiskey. That was the first night that I got ‘drunk’.

For the following 23 or so years, alcohol has always been a part of my life – sometimes a big part. Too big. It was a prominent feature during my college nights (and sometimes mornings) in Galway. Throughout the rest of my twenties nights out, weddings, holidays, and any other social occasion always had a ‘session’ at the epicentre. Even sporting activities, like playing for my local football team, where you’d think getting and keeping fit was the main objective, had booze as a key component. We would often celebrate victories (and defeats) after the match on the Saturday, often into the Sunday, and I seem to recall a couple of Mondays too. Hardcore.

Somehow, I was able to juggle a busy work life with the busier social life and, for the vast majority of the time, I kept the show on the road.

I’m not hungover, I just got something in my eye!

While all this was ‘only a bit of fun’, the pain of the recovery after a heavy weekend, where I may not feel 100% again until Wednesday or Thursday, was outweighing the fun. That was a sign, but one that I mostly chose to ignore until I hit my thirties. I didn’t have the self-awareness to realise, or maybe the confidence to make the change.

Then in 2008, I did. Job cuts where I worked, with the Big Crash looming, gave me an opportunity to leave with a few €uros in my pocket. I hit reboot, moving jobs and cities. My relationship with alcohol started to change too. Sure, they say don’t run away from your challenges, but sometimes a change of environment does help. And it did for me.

Flash forward to 2017. I’d been living in Cork nine great years. I had settled in great with the city, the people and the culture. Work was fulfilling and I was in good place. I had made a lot of positive adjustments in my life, running half marathons, cycling and eating better. Developing a practice for Meditation was a big deal for me too. Lots more on that on the blog page.

Over the years, my relationship with drinking had softened but never completely stopped. There were still a few occasions each year when I’d drink far too much, and I’d feel demotivated and down for a few days as a result. As someone who loves to get the most of my time outside of work, being hungover on a Sunday had a double negative impact on my mood; not only was I feeling like crap as a result of the booze, I was missing out on getting good stuff done in my time off!

I had often contemplated going off drink 100%, but never been able to commit. But as my own life was getting busier, I just had no time for or interest in spending any time with a hangover. Developing Type 1 Diabetes at 35 was an additional wake-up call. I had a lot of incentives to make me want to quit. I just needed do some experimenting.

Dry January is a Great place to start!

First up was Dry January in 2017. That was a relative breeze. I came through with flying colours. I learned that going dry wasn’t so bad – the opposite in fact.

Then, on the weekend of my 40thbirthday in November 2017, despite great fun and celebrations, I knew there was gloom and doom lurking around the corner. After two days/nights ‘enjoying’ myself, I felt like enough was enough. As we wrapped up the Sunday night, my friend Richie and I started to pick into the ridiculousness of our boozing and how it would impact our mood for the next few days. Richie started to explain how he heard a guy on the radio the week before detailing how he had given up drink two years earlier.

So, as this conversation developed, both Richie and I started to play with the idea of going off drink. Before we knew it, the idea of a Dry18 was born. Both of us are pretty stubborn so when we make a commitment, we tend to stick with it. We added in some financial incentives that a charity would gain from if either of us were to break. The bet, even though made after numerous pints, gave me a lift.

And so it came to be, that, at midnight on 31 December 2017, Dry 18 officially came into being. It felt right. I like to set goals at the start of every year and try to make them SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timebound. This one had all of these ingredients (even if my friends and family questioned the ‘achievable’ part). Plus I had a big incentive: zero days wasted in 2018 as a result of a hangover.

Testing SMART Goals to the limit

While the goal was exciting, I was under no illusion that it would be easy. Jumping from 31 days in January to 365 days is a bit of a leap. But I wanted the challenge and knew it would be the perfect year to try this out. With huge optimism, and a clear plan of attack for the year in place, I was ready for 2018. Time to walk the walk.

The article is posted on the Alcohol Concern blog page also here.


Rob is a qualified Executive Coach. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. Rob is currently a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland.

Connect with Rob via,email, twitter, Facebook or his website.

Check out all the great work that Alcohol Research UK are doing here

The 11th April 2018 marked the 100th day of 2018! During that period, we’ve experienced (in Ireland at least) the #BeastfromtheEast 1, 2 & 3 (was there a 4th ?) and a winter that seems to have lasted for roughly 18 months. It’s not all been bad though. For me, it marked a milestone on my #Dry18 challenge. To go 365 Days without any beer, wine, or any other alcohol related tipple. I’ve had some positive new learnings and experiences too. So, I decided to mark the first 100 days of the journey with a retrospective on what I’ve learned since I had my last sip of beer (at around 8:32pm) on 31st December 2017. With #DryJanuary in 2017  being a relatively easy month, I decided to over 10X that and go for the full year. I felt I knew what to expect. I was still curious to see how though the first few months would turn out to be. In no particular order of significance, here are 7 stand-out observations and learnings.

  1. The forbidden fruit (in this case drink) must NOT be tasted!

First off, I’m still on track. Over 100 days done. I’ve learned I can do this. I was very staunchly no-beer from the outset. I even considered non-alcoholic beer off the table at the start of the year. But after consulting with  my #Dry18 partner, Richie McCaffrey, who felt non-alcoholic beer was ‘ok’, I allowed it. You’re probably thinking ‘it’s non-alcoholic’ but there is still a trace of a percentage in some of the ones out there. A barman reassured me that there was a similar amount of alcohol in mouthwash. These guys know what they’re talking about. So, while there have been a number of times that the temptation was there, at no point did I give in. I now know I can do this. Well, the first 100 days part at least.

  1. We talk about drinking A LOT!

When I wasn’t on a self-imposed alcohol ban, it never struck me how often alcohol or drinking comes up in conversation. It’s just not something I was that aware of when it wasn’t off the table. But, when you’re dry, you begin to hear how intertwined it is in conversation and how much it’s a key part of socializing. Maybe I’m stating the obvious. It’s certainly amplified when it’s off-limits. It’s somewhat analogous to the situation you might find yourself in when looking for a new car. You identify a model that takes your fancy. One weren’t aware existed before. Now you have this awareness of it and, ever since, it’s the only car you see on the road. They are, literally, everywhere. Ok, what is called the ‘frequency illusion‘ maybe a poor analogy here, but my learning is that drink is still very much engrained in our consciousness. It may have been even more focal 10 years ago. Before the coffee shop boom, the pubs, instead of Starbucks, were busy on a Tuesday evening. That’s progress I guess.

  1. Three Perspectives

So, I have to be clear. At the point of starting out on the #dry18 challenge, I considered myself very much in control of my alcoholic consumption. Much more so than I was 10 years ago. So, going into it, my reasons for doing it were more to squeeze more out of my days and weekends than to detox. However, so far, it’s been very interesting to see what others reaction to is has been. I’ve generally observed three responses.

The most common reactions was a raised eyebrow and a sense that the person I was talking with might have thought I had a problem upon hearing I was ‘off the drink’. At which point, I’d find myself having to give a detailed explanation as to why I’m doing it. I noticed I was having to be explicit and clarify that I didn’t have a drinking problem. That seemed to be the default place many folks were going to when hearing I was giving it up for the year.  The irony here is that I’d never been more in control of alcohol intake than I was leading up to the crafting of the bet.

The second most common response was it’s just a bad idea in general! To deprive yourself of a relaxing wine or beer over a meal or at the weekend doesn’t make sense to a good section of those I know. When you’re in control of it already, why deprive yourself? Fair point & one I’m probably in most alignment with now!

The third and final category turned out to be more frequent than I expected. Those that think it’s a great idea and have confided in me that it’s something that they’d love to do themselves. It’s probably the stage of life many are at. Around the 40 mark and keen to curtail or stop drinking altogether. That the downside or after effects outweigh the upside of a few drinks being the general view.

It’s been interesting to see these different perspectives. Even in this short time, I’ve become a lot more relaxed saying ‘no thanks, I’m on the dry’, without having to give the backstory. Progress for sure.

  1. Freedom through Commitment

For the last 22+ years, my self-imposed ban probably lasted 4-5 weeks max. Prior to Dry January in 2017, I hadn’t abstained much. So, going into the start of the year, I was interested to see how this experiment would play out. What I’ve learned about my own decision making over the last few years has played out again with this challenge. It can take me a long time to make a decision or commit to something. Especially when it’s a big one. But once I made a decision, and also opt to tell everyone I know about it (whether they care or not), it really ups my level of accountability to it.

This has been very true for #Dry18. Without question, I’ve had a few really shit days so far in 2018. Days that would have, in 2017, 100% lead to a bottle of red wine in the evening, just because I could. No real justification needed either. With that choice off the table, I just had to look for an alternative activity to focus on. Which I did. That has been a big learning. Maybe validation is a better word.

  1. St. Patricks Day Overthinking! 

Probably the most notorious day in the Irish drinking calendar is that of our patron Saint, Patrick. The 17th of March is typically the day where a large percentage of our population celebrate. It’s a day for the pubs and a lot of Guinness or whatever your favourite tipple might be. Some even manage to get drunk twice in the same day. So, it was to be expected that I’d see this as the first big challenge to my 2018 sobriety.

As it transpired, this St. Patrick’s Day was to be a 4-pronged attack. I had a Friend’s 40th Birthday to attend. If that wasn’t bad enough, the location was to be Galway. Anyone that has been to the city of the tribes knows that it’s not a quiet place. Finally, to really put the icing on the cake, the Irish Rugby team were playing their last game of their Grand Slam winning 6 Nations against the old enemy England. Kicking off. At 2:30pm. On St. Patricks day. The 4-leafed clover was complete. Arriving in Galway in time for the match kick-off meant I had a solid 10 hours in packed pubs ahead. I had this already played out in my head as a big struggle!

My anxiety levels were at their highest in the minutes after arriving into the packed pub before the game started. In truth, even when I was drinking, these initial moments would always have been somewhat uneasy. Being more on the introverted side, a crowed bar in the early afternoon would make me a little edgy. In the past, I’d have masked this with a couple of quick pints in the first hour to ‘settle in’ to the atmosphere. That was the norm. This time around, I had a couple of non-alcoholic beers, and started to chat one-to-one. I must say the placebo effect of just having what looked like a beer in my hand helped. As the day progressed, I was expecting a lot more push back on being the ‘non-drinker’ of the group. It wasn’t to be the case. It was proving to be easier than I’d expected. Come 6pm on St. Patrick’s day, you start to see the first wave of drunkenness emerge. Many out since noon start hitting the wall. It was a sight to behold and was nice to be on the other side of that for a change.

As the night came to an end, and after switching from zero percent Pauliner to Apple juice, I decided to make what’s known as an Irish-Goodbye! As I left the pub, the party was still in full-swing. I had survived the day. Survived might be too strong a word. I enjoyed a lot of it to be fair. And had made the effort to be there for my mate. We all are keen to do the right thing and keep everyone happy. But it’s key to make sure you’re happy first. Nobody else really can do that for you. I had built up this day in my mind for a few weeks as the first real big test! I am often guilty of overthinking things and this one of these occasions. Anyone could try to hide away for a year but then that wouldn’t really have tested out the experiment. Galway on St. Patricks day could be considered an extreme test. But it was one I learned a lot from.

  1. The Fear still exists.  Just way less.

As I’ve progressed in years, my resilience or ability to recover from a night out or an ‘all day session’ that many of us have been on, has taken many steps backward. You might remember the time when you could socialize two nights at the weekend and be fresh on the Monday. Well, for me at least, those days/nights are long gone! Over the last few years, one night out would take me a few days to recover, and it would need to be a Friday night, so I’d be able to fully function again by Monday. Physically, I’d be pretty ok. Emotionally and Mentally, I’d be fragile. What is known as the fear is just not fun at all. So, I was very much looking forward to not experiencing this phenomenon in 2018.

What I’ve learned here has been interesting. In the past number of years, I would have blamed a moody Monday or even a terrible Tuesday on an excessive night out over the previous weekend. I’d give myself an extra hard time over those days and resolve ‘never again’ and all that goes with that self-defeating attitude. Since the 1st of January, I can now say that sometimes the Mondays or Tuesdays (or even Wednesdays or Thursdays) can still be tough. Never full on fear but still be dotted with anxiety, stress and mild overwhelm. My default, in the past, was to blame it on partying at the weekend. This would/could spiral into self-defeating territory again. Now, with that variable out of the equation, I’ve concluded that it’s ok sometimes not to feel ok. That’s part of being human. Bad days will come. Just accept it and move on.

  1. Win the morning with the rule of 3!

Over the years, wasting mornings, days and time in general has become a big annoyance for me! The older I’ve become; the more appreciation I have for the time I have and how much I can get done with it! So, without doubt, one of the benefits I was expecting and looking forward to with zero days wasted during 2018 was that of increasing productivity and learning new things.

In the last few months, I’ve been able to stick to my morning routine without fail. This has been hugely satisfying. Not only have I been able to get up at 6am (5am for April as it’s the April Challenge), I’ve developed a habit of getting real/deep work done every morning before leaving the house for the day job. This really sets me on fire for the day ahead. I’ve developed a habit, which I’m calling the rule of 3, and it’s paying great dividends. 3 tasks before leaving the house. 2/3 are typically the same and one varies. Like writing this! This has been a big win. Consistently getting stuff done and winning the morning.

#Dry18 is my BHAG for the year (check out my post on goals for the years from December here) and, as I finalise this piece, I’m well into the century. Overall, I’ve been surprised at how smooth it’s been to cut it out. Not easy but totally worth it! In the vast majority of cases, I’ve received great support and words of encouragement. I wanted to challenge myself, first and foremost, to see what life, especially nights out and social events, would be like without any alcohol as the focal point. I wanted to learn or maybe re-learn how to actually have fun and enjoy myself when I’m out completely free of alcohol. It’s been an eye-opening experience so far. Almot 1/3 of the way through, and with the summer sunshine, beer gardens, cold cider, vacations, and many more temptations coming in the next 100 days, I’m sure new challenges and learnings are ahead! Maybe it’s a good thing after all that Ireland didn’t qualify for the World Cup in Russia!

One nice observation that has come in just in the last couple of days is that I seem happier. Much like meditation and it’s benefits, I think others close to you see changes before you do. Upon hearing it, and taking a moment to process it, I would have to agree. That would be number 8 and probably the most important if I could dare include it.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something from it too!


Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. 

Connect in with Rob on the socials or via email on the links below:

Email   Twitter  Facebook  Website

Subscribe to the Rob of the Green Newsletter Here

You’ve set the alarm clock 20 minutes early, and, as soon as it kicks fully into gear, you jump out of bed with a clear intention and laser focus. ‘I’m doing some mindfulness this morning,’ you remind yourself and reaffirm that ‘it’s going to be great!’.

The night before you’ve done the prep work. You’ve identified a nice quiet room, or at least the perfect space in one, already set the heating to come on so it’s not too cold, and you feel like you’re ready for what is to come – nothing less than blissful, in the moment, calm stillness!

You enter the room and ready yourself. You’re sitting up, holding a good posture, or, even, lying down, but focused (you’ve read or heard from a previous meditation guru that both were ‘allowed’). You’re determined. All Set. Ready to do some real good meditation.

You pick out a nice short 10-minute guided meditation that you were recommended. All geared up to really get ‘into the moment’, to ‘concentrate on your breathing’, and just ‘be’! For the next 10 minutes, you’re going to totally let go. No doing. No rushing. Just you and a blankness. Tranquillity. Nothingness. The instructions begin, you close your eyes, take a deep breath in…….and…you’re there!

Cue internal dialogue….

“Breathe in….breathe out…..

breathe in….breathe out…..

breathe in……this is going great…breathe out….oh I forgot to put the wash on….oh…damm…

breathe in….breath out……breathe in…breathe…out….aaaah…my back is sore….I need to move….oh…I’ve lost it….

breathe in….breathe out……..maybe I’ll start counting…..breathe in……1….breathe out….2……breathe in….3…breathe out…..4…..oh can’t believe it’s Sunday morning already……where did the weekend….I must..ahh…

breathe in…4…was it 5?? breathe out….this so hard…why can’t I do this properly…..I’m useless at this……ahhh”

Does this look/sound a little familiar? If so, don’t worry. It’s pretty much what’s going on in my own head, nearly all the time when I meditate. You’re not alone. Self-commentary is normal. Especially so when you start out.

Before writing this piece this morning, I completed a 20-minute meditation session. It’s mid-February 2018 and, for the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve been experimenting with a new technique. New for me, but one that’s very much a mainstay in traditional meditation practices. A chanting based meditation (yes, I’ve gone there!!). I set myself the goal of sticking with it for the full 31 days of January. I know it takes time to get ‘into’ the practice when you change around what your approach is. I’ve decided to continue with it for a while longer just to really give it a good go and see if it’s for me or not. It was difficult, at first, to get into the chanting part, but that self-consciousness and embarrassment fades away quickly…after a few sessions anyway. Ok, maybe 10 sessions.

Prior to starting into this morning’s session, I set the intention to take mental notes during the sitting and log the random stuff that came into my mind during it. While it’s not something I’d advise to do on a regular meditation, for the purposes of this research, it was fine! The thoughts are always going to come in any way, so it was just about looking at them for what they were and take note.

So, while I silently, and at some stages, out loud, chanted the Ohms & Ahms during the 20 minutes, I made an extra effort to be aware of what thoughts, images, and sounds did come to, and pass through, my awareness. Straight after, I tried to recall as many as I could and brain dump these. The results are below, in no particular order. My own internal commentary or dialogue flowed something like this:

“Right, focus on the Ohm…..Ok, I’m in a new sitting position now….

back to the Ohm….I don’t think I like this position…I need to get my back straight against the table…..

back to the Ohm….ok that’s good. I can still feel the pain in my left hip but that’s better…maybe I’ll focus on the pain part as I heard that is a good thing to put your attention on….

back to the Ohm…….this is going to be a busy week…..god my mind is wandering again…..wouldn’t this be a good thing to write a blog piece about….

 ok back to the Ohm…….I must get that Q&A email back to Pat…..that event was good yesterday…….Meryl Streep was great in ‘The Post’……god I’m wandering again…..

 back to the Ohm…….I can’t believe I’ve been doing this type for the last 4 weeks…..is it having any benefit??…..I think I prefer the silent meditation with just breathing and following your breath….god…lost it again…

 back to the Ohm……I wonder how much time is gone….I’m settled in now…my hip isn’t sore…….what time is it?……on I’m going to really concentrate now on the ohm and count to 50 while I do it…..

 back to the Ohm……how far did I get??…god…I lost it after two ohms…….Rob..that’s your ego giving you a hard time….relax….I can feel muscles in my face are tense….what about my back?……aaah..

 back to the Ohm…….”

See just how busy my mind is too! My monkey mind jumping about from place to place. You get the message!! Writing out the above really shows me (and hopefully you) how much is going on in the mind when you observe it. The ‘back to the Ohm’ piece for me was when I realised I had wandered or strayed from the focus point. Which, as you can see, was happening very regularly and within seconds of each other. Literally.

When I started out a few years ago, the above chatter was definitely there, and frustrating. But in a different way. During most of the 10-minute sittings early on in my practice, I noticed I’d wander away from the breath a few times during it. Yet, as the weeks and months went by, I started to notice more frequent wanderings. This was a source of great frustration for me. It seemed like I was regressing rather than ‘getting better’ at meditation. What was happening? What was I doing wrong? Was I a failure? Was it just not for me?

In actual fact, it was the opposite. In those early sessions, I wasn’t aware I had wandered off that often, mainly because I had predominantly just been thinking about the day ahead, the day just gone by, or in some cases events that happened years ago that I could do nothing about now. It really is funny that stuff that we think of when we start to notice it.

Actually, I was spending very little time just being present and focused on what I was doing right there and then. Instead, I was lost in my thoughts. Not really being mindful at all. The fewer ‘back to the breaths’ essentially meant I was just day-dreaming with my eyes closed.

‘I finally figured out how to do this. It only took me 2000 years!’ Buddha (not actual quote from the Buddha)

The big lightbulb moment for me came when I did some online searching to see if I was unique with this sense of frustration. I found that it’s was actually quite normal. What I’d been experiencing was a common ‘complaint’ for newbie meditators like myself. It makes total sense when you’re made aware of it. As a benefit of the regular practice, I was catching my wandering thoughts quicker than before. Instead of being lost for minutes, it was for just seconds. So, the 50 ‘back to the breath’ connections instead of the 25 was progression! 100% better if you wanted to put a measure on it. It all made sense. Maybe there was something in this after all!

The purpose of this short piece was really to give you just a little window into my own busy mind and to show that these random thoughts are absolutely normal during a meditation session. In fact, if you’re not having these or not aware of them, you might be doing something wrong (or you’re just naturally approaching enlightenment). The key learning here is to know that this is normal. That when you sit and attempt to be for the period of time you’ve given yourself, these thoughts will come and go. Another learning for me, that I didn’t believe at the start, was that you’re not really in control of your own thoughts, despite that fact you think you are! We don’t control our thoughts…..if we did, then why are you thinking of a Pink Elephant right now? Thoughts are easily planted by others or by your own subconscious.

So just let them come and go, detach and be aware. And don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Stick with it, make it a habit, don’t set your expectations too high, and see how things develop over the first few months. Hopefully knowing this, especially in the early days, will give you some relief and silence the negative self-talk a little bit too.

I really enjoy writing these pieces and sharing them in the hope that others read, enjoy and even get some tangible benefit from it. I absolutely encourage feedback, comments, and additional ideas or suggestions to add to what I said. I have developed thick skin so don’t be shy!

Thanks for reading,

Rob

—————————–

Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics. 

Connect in with Rob on the socials or via email on the links below:

Email   Twitter  Facebook  Website

Subscribe to the Rob of the Green Newsletter Here

Hand Dryer Meditations

Getting into the ‘now’ with a vooom or whoosh!

Yes, that is a picture of a hand dryer! And over the last year or so, I’ve discovered that they have an unintentional secondary purpose.

I’m still not sure exactly how to spell out the sound they make. Some might say ‘vooom’, or maybe more like ‘whoosh’. They all don’t sound the same for sure. I conducted research and they run at different decibel levels so that’s probably why. But, for me at least, they all have the same additional benefit, regardless their brand or the key (okay more like noise) at which they produce air. They have become a really useful meditation trigger for me, helping to get off autopilot and return back into the present moment! Before you pass judgment (mindfulness is all about being non-judgemental by the way) and think I’m crazy, please let me explain!

Ok, so you might have managed to carve out ten to fifteen minutes in the morning to sit, breathe and be mindful using some form of meditation that works for you (if not, have a read here as it might give you some pointers on techniques to start with). You’re finally making progress and developing a daily meditation practice. Well done! You’re off to a great start each day and that’s the basis for the habit to develop.

However, finding the time during the day to have micro-meditation bursts is something you can’t seem to incorporate. One of the most common complaints I hear from those new to meditation, and even those more advanced, is that they would do it more regularly but they forget! Or that they can’t find a suitable place or time to do it during their busy day.

I would meditate more often but I keep forgetting to!

One of the challenges I find, and others I’ve talked to, is how to remember to meditate or take a few minutes, or even seconds, out of your day on a regular basis, to be more present. It’s definitely not easy to get into this habit, especially when we’re racing around, constantly distracted, jam-packed with meetings, appointments, and always doing, doing, doing! I get it, 100%. For me, this was the next hurdle I had to overcome in my own developing meditation practice.

During some Mindfulness training I attended a couple of years back, the presenter talked about this challenge and gave some very practical examples that stuck with me (thanks, Grattan Donnelly). Hearing a text message ‘buzz the phone, the sound of a crow ‘caw, or the sound of a car horn ‘beep, were just three he shared as possible triggers that anyone could use to bring about a momentary pause in what you’re doing and just be for a few seconds. This resonated with me. It was something I was experiencing at the time. I kept forgetting to take a few seconds out during the day. Yet there are countless opportunities all around that could act as triggers. All it needed was a little bit of awareness to realize it, and some guidance.

So, in the weeks that followed, I made a very conscious effort to identify some triggers that might work for me. Which ones would make me STOP, get out of my own head for a few seconds or minutes every day, and just BE. I started to experiment. After some trial and error, I found one that has stuck.

I was in the office, running from one meeting to another, and looking to squeeze in a toilet break. I was consciously taking a few breaths while washing my hands (which can be another powerful trigger) and then placed them under the hand dryer. Then boom! It hit me full on. The instant whoosh/voom (I’m open to a better word here – please advise) struck me. By concentrating on the noise for those few seconds, I was right back into the now, I had stopped thinking and was just focused on the there and then! It was pretty instant and one I hadn’t identified as a trigger during the experimentations over the previous few weeks while seeking out test triggers.

During a typical day at work, in between meetings, or whenever nature requires it, I’d walk to the restroom. It’s funny, as most of the time, on the walk to there, I’d be still processing the last call, meeting or conversation I had and would do this stroll mostly on auto-pilot. But, as soon as I put my hands in/under the dryer (depending on the design), and the unmistakable sound kicks in, I’d be back in the room. Since identifying this as a trigger, it’s become more and more powerful as the months passed. Much like other types of meditation practice you do, or any practices you do for that matter, the more you do it and more you connect with it, the stronger it becomes.

Much like other types of meditation practice you do, or any practices you do for that matter, the more you do it and more you connect with it, the stronger it becomes.

The common hand dryer has become my trigger. One that works for me. Who would have thought that a Dyson Airblade, a xlerator, or a World Series A Grade would have been such a multipurpose and zen-like device? (FYI – I am not sponsored or affiliated to any of the aforementioned devices but I’m open to offers if any of their representatives would like to get in touch – email address below) It’s working for me numerous times during the day. It’s just an example of one of the many possible triggers that are around you that could be useful as you develop your own micro-meditation practice each day.

Over to you!

I’d love to hear what your own triggers are? Or if you haven’t already identified one, I hope this gives you some ideas as to what they could be! Make a conscious effort to identify a trigger and stick with it for a few weeks. It will become a habit and could be a great benefit to you during the busy day.

I really enjoy writing these pieces and sharing them in the hope that others read, enjoy and even get some tangible benefit from them. I absolutely encourage feedback, comments, and additional ideas or suggestions to add to what I said. I have developed a thick skin so don’t be shy.

Thanks for reading,

Rob

About the Author:

Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and other topics.

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Consider the two options below for a goal I’ve set for myself in 2018.

A) No Alcohol for the entire year of 2018

or

B) Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers!

I’ll leave that sit there for a bit and return to it later.

So, it’s that wonderful time of the year again. Time to lock in on 2018 goals! In truth, I’ve been in brainstorming & planning mode for a while. Now it’s a matter of breaking them into categories and critically looking at which of them are really worth doing, which align to my core values, ensure they will be of benefit to myself and others and, lastly, which are challenging enough to take on!

This was the first year in which I was quite public about some of my personal and professional goals. The subject cropped up a good bit in the weekly podcast. I’ve also posted some articles in the last few months that touched on goals I set for myself in 2017. This was by design in lots of ways as I definitely believe that, by putting them out into the public domain, my own levels of accountability to them has increased, in a good way for sure.

Looking back at the 2017 goal list, I’ve completed almost all of the big goals. Buying a house, releasing 50 podcasts (originally the goal was 30), completing a diploma in executive coaching, spending 100+ hours in coaching sessions, sticking to a pretty strict fitness programme, forcing myself to get up at 6 am on weekdays and meditating every day have all been mostly nailed during the year. One final goal was to spend a week away around the turn of the New Year. This has been one I’ve failed on for the last few years but managed to make it happen this time around (I’m writing this from Sunny Gran Canaria – sorry!). Overall, I’d rate the year from a goal perspective at around 8/10.

Why only 8/10?

Well, two reasons. I don’t think it’s possible to get a 10/10. It would indicate perfection and that’s not a thing in my view. I’ve taken the perspective in recent years that striving for excellence works better. It keeps things moving forward, focuses more on the journey, with less pressure and more enjoyment. The other reason I’m around the 8 mark? Due to multiple failings on a goal I set out last December, one I blogged about intermittently during the year, appropriately called 12 challenges in 12 months! Bit of a mouthful but pretty self-explanatory. I endeavored to either stop, start or increase a specific habit or activity each month of 2017. The first of which was a Dry January with a total alcohol-free month as the goal. This started the challenge off with a tough one considering I probably had not gone a full month without at least one beer since the age of 18(ish). That said, it was the month that I was most successful. Surprising even myself.  Februarys challenge; to resist reading work email on my phone/in the office before 10 am daily. The hoped benefit here was to instead focus on productive deep work prior to getting caught up in the email time warp the usually began from around 8 am. I didn’t think this would be harder than the drink ban! It started well but fell off a little towards the end, however it did start me on a path to where I now don’t have work email on my phone at all – that’s a big achievement and has had a very positive impact on my productivity in the mornings. Some of the other months were quite successful (one was to go with my intuition more for decision making – I bought a house this month) but others I failed miserably at (some bulging disc issues so running 5km every day for one month didn’t happen & I didn’t swim 20 times another month to name just two). Overall, the challenge was an experiment but one I really learned from.


Ok, so now on to 2018 goals and back to the options I posed at the outset. As a reminder, these were:

A) No Alcohol for the full year of 2018

or

B) Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers!

You might be thinking neither sound good with 365 days without even a glass of wine. But if you had to go for one, I’m hoping you’d opt for B! Can you explain why? Did B feel better than A?

Both goals you could consider SMART, referring here to the goal setting methodology where the goal you set is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (it’s probably not smart, however – time will tell there). Up to a few weeks back, I probably wouldn’t have thought of wording an option B.

What is different between A & B is not just how they’re worded, but how they make me feel. Option A is very much a restrictive goal. Uninspiring, sounds very tough and can be termed as, what is referred to in the book Switch, a

”Black & White Goal” – Heath & Heath.

It’s very much all or nothing and doesn’t really connect in with much emotion. It’s not one to get excited about and that makes this one all the harder to get motivated by.

With Option B, however, I’ve tried to look at it a bit differently. I’ve asked myself what goodness will come out of doing this. What is the Why? What could make this more exciting? The overriding feeling that is driving me to achieve this goal is joy and satisfaction. Not to have any wasted Sunday mornings/afternoons that invariably follow on from a night out where a few too many IPA’s have been consumed. Another advantage of doing it would be the increased productivity that comes with a clear head. Again, taking great inspiration from the book Switch, I needed more than just a SMART goal.

‘SMART goals presume emotion, they don’t generate it’ – Heath & Heath.

The goal needs to connect on a more emotional level and make it one that is full of feeling and hits me in the stomach. This was something I wouldn’t have naturally thought of in the past when setting goals. I probably have always made them pretty clear and time-bound but, looking back, lacking in inspiration, maybe slightly boring and not so clear on the value or benefit. They were SMART but lacking some feeling. For a year without a beer, I definitely needed to get clear on the emotional win.

So #DRY18 (not sure if that hashtag will take off but feel free to use it) is my BHAGfor 2018. Thankfully I’m sharing it with a good friend (hang in there Richie, we’ll get through this) so I’m not doing it alone! It’s a lofty goal and maybe, being Irish and fond of the occasional night out, the antithesis of smart! But with it worded as Make each day count & Wake-up fresh in 2018, free of alcohol and hangovers, it sounds more appealing. It still sounds difficult and I know it’s going to be a challenge but I’m up for it. Serendipity had a role to play here too as if I hadn’t read the book Switch in the last couple of weeks (it had been on my to-read shelf in the office for the last 6 months), I wouldn’t have had the foresight to make the goal emotionally charged. That gives me further incentive to achieve it. The goal gods are smiling on me!

Some of the other goals on the radar for 2018 that I’ll state publicly include the 12 challenges in 12 months again. First up in January is a 5km every day! February, I’m aiming to learn to swim ‘properly’ and feel comfortable doing it (just purchased the total immersion book & DVD so going all in with this). No cell phone between 10 pm & 7 am, getting up at 5:30 am and giving Bikram Yoga a go are just a few others that are lining up to make the monthly cut. Other goals that are more point-in-time include completing a Masters in Q3/4 2018, a 10-day silent meditation retreat, running the New York Marathon in November (fingers crossed with the lottery), complete Season Two of the 1% Better podcast (that will include some live podcasts with an audience) and a few more besides. Sure, sharing these out are scary and exciting. Less scary than this time last year, however. That’s progress and knowing I might have a few folks reading this over the coming weeks really makes them more real.

How are your goals worded for the year? Are they SMART and in Black & White? Or in brilliant emotionally fuelled Technicolour? If you’re putting the final touches on your own 2018 goals, take a closer look at them to see if they’re SMART and are hitting you in the gut, bursting with feeling and emotion. It might be the difference between achieving them or not!

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re reading this a few days or weeks into 2018, it’s still not too late to set yourself goals for the month/year. Don’t use that excuse. It’s never too late. I’ll be updating on progress over the course of 2018 as the months pass by.

As always, please leave feedback, comments and even share some of your own goals for 2018 here. I’m also looking for more #Dry18 Buddies so feel free to reach out or coax a friend to buddy up with you! 

Email me – rob@robofthegreen.ie

About Rob:

Rob currently is a director of strategy and business operations with Dell IT in Cork, Ireland. Rob is a qualified Executive Coach and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, goal setting, meditation, and a host of other topics and areas of interest. Lots more to come in 2018.

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