Sometimes finding the jet stream or seeing an old challenge in a new light be like this:
You browse through (last week’s edition of) Time Out London because better late than never.
You see an article titled “Eight Bloody Brilliant London Book Clubs.”
Before you can even finish the bloody article, you’ve already started the google search “Rebel Book Club” - the editors pick for Best Book Club for non-fiction fans.
Within 90 seconds, you’ve decided that you will apply to join.
You shove the website under your husband’s nose and he says, “Why would anyone pay a monthly fee to read a book?”
You meekly say something about community and cocktails, but then within 90 more seconds, you have a new plan that involves printing out the library of 48 book titles the group has already read.
Armed now with the list so you can read like thinkers & doers, you pull up an app you’ve already paid for called Blinkist to start getting the book summaries. After all, you are a doer even if you have chosen to lay forth and conquer.
Since it’s too early for a cocktail, you make yourself a second cup of coffee, wish for a donut, and settle in to the first book summary: Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth.
You are intrigued enough by the key messages of the book to send your Economics major son a WhatsApp about the book suggesting *he* read the full thing.
Since you need to set your sights on something more doable than building an economic system that encourages growth while also preserving the environment, you move on to the second book summary: Atomic Habits by James Clear.
And there it was. The actionable thing I wasn’t actively looking for but needed to hear.
The main idea in Atomic Habits is that small changes in behaviour done over time can have a big impact. The author described it with this analogy: if a pilot of a plane taking off from LA to NYC decided to move the nose of the plane 3.5 degrees to the south - a change so small that it would not be felt by passengers - at the end of the flight, you’d be in Washington DC not NYC. Small change, big impact.
Patience then is having confidence that though you may not be seeing immediate results, you know you are on the right trajectory. Habits are one way to get yourself on that trajectory. I may still jiggle in the middle but I’ve got enough of a habit around exercise that should I stay the course (and manage my chocolate intake), things will eventually firm up.
Things however have not been looking so good in regard to my getting any closer to having a basic conversation in French. With a French home, car, and bills to pay, I have an incentive to learn. I have plenty of learning materials. I have had fits and starts with using them but absolutely no habits that have stuck. I have tutors - who can’t charge me - living in my house. But I have had this massive mental block. “Bordeaux, we have a problem. We can’t figure out how to take off.”
Since the whole point of personal growth book is to do something, I decided to apply the principles described in summary on Blinkist to my challenge of learning French. The first thing I did is reframe my goal. It’s no longer “Learn how to speak French,” my first goal is “Learn how to be more comfortable and not panic when someone is talking to you in French.” Along with a more realistic goal, I’ve set a smaller daily habit of 10 minutes a day and bundled it with my use of my laptop. Now when I fire up my laptop, I made a rule that the first thing I force myself to do is go to one of my paid online programs and listen to one audio conversation in French with subtitles, on repeat, for 10 minutes. That’s it for now.
We are still in the very early days but another thing they tell you to do is to us trackers, make contracts or in my case - write about it - as a way of making you more accountable. I was telling my youngest son about my breakthrough and he said: “Isn’t that just common sense?” Probably. But dude, I wanted to tell him, sometimes you need to travel a curvy road, take a pass on a Rebel Book Club, and relax into something you kind of knew but didn’t know how to start.
It seemed apropos that todays’ conversation included this: “Ah ben ! Ce n'est pas simple, hein. Mais on essaie.” Translation: “Oh well ! It's not simple, is it ? But we try !”