Friday, March 30, 2012

"You're too old for that"

I think that is one of the saddest things to hear a parent tell a child.

A trick I've learned on achieving goals

This year I've made more progress on achieving my goals that I have in the past, and I think it is partly due to a very simple idea.

I wrote out all my goals for the year in a Powerpoint slide, saved it as an image, and then made this image the desktop image on my laptop.

Now, I see this image several times a day, and this constant reminder helps keep me focused on the goals.

One of my goals, for example, is to get out and run 100 times. For about two months I wasn't running, but faced with this daily reminder, in early March I got my sneakers on and hit the streets. Since then I've run 16 times, and now I'm on track to meet that goal.

Another goal has been to read more fiction. I originally set my goal as to read 6 novels over the course of the year. Not very ambitious. For a couple weeks, I made no progress. Then I started listening to audiobooks, and I have already met the goal of 6 books, so I upped to goal to 20 for the year.

Technically, it is simple to do. I show here the image as it appears on my desktop, and I've also included a downloadable PPT file that you can use as a template. To make it fit your own screen size, check your screen resolution, and then adjust the size of the PPT page to match that ratio. (Go to Design/Page Setup and play with the margins. If your screen is 1200x800, for example, you could make the page 12x8 inches.) Then save the PPT, but "Save As" a jpeg. Then go to your desktop: Right Click / Personalize / change desktop background.

From Personalized desktop

Goals template -

How to get the most out of a Master's degree

A friend from abroad just got accepted into a Master's program at a prestigious School of Education. I wrote up some thoughts on how she could get the most out of the short, nine-month program. I've sanitized the letter of personal details and posted it for download here:

How to get the most out of your masters degree -

How to quit refined sugar

Over the past couple years I've been working to improve my diet.

This has been a goal for much longer, but only in the last two years have I been successful at making changes.

Following the guidance of Leo Babauta, who blogs at Zen Habits, I've taken a gradual approach, and worked on changing just one habit at a time, rather than trying to change my whole diet at once.

I started two years ago by changing what I eat for breakfast. I used to eat pastries, muffins, bagels - food that would fill me up with a fistful of simple carbohydrates and then leave me hungry two hours later.

I changed my breakfast routine to a bowl of oatmeal every day. Even though I'm often rushed in the morning, it is rare that I can't find the time to have a bowl of oatmeal, because it is so easy to prepare. Just 1/2 cup of oatmeal and 1 cup of milk in the microwave for 5 minutes. I put it in the microwave before my shower and by the time I'm out of the shower, the oatmeal is ready.

The oatmeal coming out of the microwave is boiling hot, so I add frozen blueberries to cool it to eating temperature. I will then add sliced banana, sliced strawberry, ground up flax seeds, or possibly pecans.

Changing to oatmeal was an important keystone habit, because it helped cure me of the bad habit of wanting to snack in the morning. Oatmeal fills you up, but then it seems to keep you feeling satisfied for a much longer period, so I don't feel the urge to eat until lunchtime.

I focused only on changing my breakfast meal for about 3 months. Now it is a habit, and I don't even think about it.

Then I changed what I eat for lunch. I used to eat a slice of pizza, a sandwich, typical lunch fare. I changed that to eat a salad every day, with only oil and vinegar dressing. This is the easiest way that I've found to make sure I get several servings of vegetables every day. Also, like the oatmeal in the morning, the salad fills me up, but keeps me satisfied until dinner. No urge to snack in the afternoon.

My newest dietary habit change was giving up refined sugar two months ago. The idea had been in the back of my mind since reading the NYT magazine piece "Is Sugar Toxic?" in April 2011. I should emphasize that I've had quite a sweet tooth. In the past, my wife could not leave a container of ice cream in the freezer since I would consume it. I had a hard time moderating my intake of sweets, and could easily eat half a dozen freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies, or even the whole batch.

I didn't make the decision to quit sugar until we had dinner with a friend. She told us that she and her husband had gone on a 21-day detox, giving up carbs, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.

Giving up whole grains didn't make much sense to me, but her example of giving up sugar inspired me to quit refined sugar the next day. I haven't had refined sugar since: no candy, no desserts, no chocolate, no sugar in my tea. I've probably had some sugar, slipped in to processed foods like pasta sauce at a restaurant, but for the most part it is completely removed from my diet.

I know that one approach to reducing sweets is to allow oneself one treat per week. For me, that would be much more difficult, because it preserves desserts as something appropriate to crave. I have found it far easier to just release refined sugar from my consideration set. I haven't felt any cravings at all, and I've accepted that dessert is just something that I won't eat in the future.

The benefits:
+ Lost five pounds in two months
+ Swings in energy level throughout the day seem of far smaller magnitude, or non-existent
+ Less long-term risk of developing diabetes
+ Greater sense of control over what I put into my body

I'm not sure if I would have been able to quit refined sugar two years ago; probably not. Already, with oatmeal in the morning and salad for lunch, I had much less craving for simple carbohydrates.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

NYT article: What if the secret to success is failure?

An article in the NYT well worth reading.

The article asks:
What can schools do to build character?

Flag counter

free counters