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Personal Commandments

It’s no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Gretchen Rubin. I love her books, her blog, her podcast and especially her personality framework. So much of the advice in her work has made my life happier, healthier, and more productive. It’s also inspired me to be more creative, and has given me many prompts to get me thinking. One of my favorite exercises I’ve taken from Gretchen’s work is to identify my personal commandments.

Personal commandments aren’t goals to accomplish or tasks to do each day. Rather, they are overarching principles to help me as I go about daily life trying to cultivate good habits and kick less-than-helpful ones. I love all ten (so far) of my personal commandments, and wanted to share the importance behind each one.

Be Sydney

This seems obvious! It’s important to be myself and accept my strengths and weaknesses for what they are. I like what I like, I care about what I care about, and I’m good at what I’m good at. I might as well embrace these things, rather than try to change them. Strengths are a muscle. We have to practice what comes most naturally to be the best we can be. There’s no use working hard at something I don’t really care about, even if it would be easier (or less nerdy) to care about.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

I can be a little bit of a perfectionist. It’s hard for me to be content. This commandment is a reminder to take action and do something, even if I know it won’t be totally perfect. Running five miles would be ideal, but two miles is still better than zero. Just because I can’t do something exactly how I envisioned doesn’t mean I should just give up completely (this blog, for example). Something is better than nothing.

Comparison is the thief of joy

My life is wonderful, just as it is. I have much to be thankful for. It’s easy to be jealous of that friend’s cool work experience, someone’s fancy new home, the awesome six pack of the facebook friend who suddenly got really fit. But I won’t get any closer to a promotion, a dream house, or a smaller dress size by comparing what I have to others. Being jealous and weighing my life against another’s will never get me anywhere good. Stop comparing. Be happy for others. Be grateful for my life, which is pretty great. Use that gratitude to inspire action.

Accept yourself and expect more from yourself

I can only expect great things from myself if I’m honest about what I have to work with. No good can come out of focusing on one flaw. Accept it, move on, and focus on what I can do. Then do it really, really, really well.

Don’t take it personally

One of my worst qualities is that I am very sensitive and easily offended. I am highly responsible, which can make me a pain in the ass. I seek gold stars and credit, and when I don’t get it I feel slighted. This commandment is to remind me that someone’s snappy email or petty grievance is usually not about me. There is no need to take it personally.

Utilize your voice with confidence and compassion

This is from an organization's strategic plan, and I love the line so much I took it as a commandment. It can be hard to stand up for myself or what I believe in. I worry about sounding smart, and sometimes I don’t speak up. This is a reminder to always speak up. If I speak with confidence and compassion I will be heard without having to yell and scream.

Work smarter, not harder

If something seems impossible, there is probably a better way to do it. It often takes less time to do the research into how to work smarter than it would to do a hard task inefficiently. This is true at work, and home, and in relationships

Just have coffee

A good reminder for when I’m feeling melancholy, as coffee always cheers me up. Also, a commandment to live by when there is a gathering with heavy desserts and snacks I’d rather avoid. Just have coffee - it’s still a treat, but without the guilt and calories.

Choose joy

It’s easier to find the bad than the good. See the good, and invest your energy into being happy. It pays to choose joy.

Be better

It’s easy to be easily offended, lazy, grouchy and combative. But I can be better. Whenever I’m in a bad mood or feeling resentful, I remind myself to be better. If I want to cheat on a healthy habit, I remind myself to be better. This simple phrase runs through my head several times a day. It’s such a short, sweet reminder to stick to the good habits that make me happy.

I love my personal commandments, and find them to be helpful in reaching my goals. Completing the exercise of finding and writing my commandments was valuable in taking a look at what is most important to me. It’s also just fun!

Questions: Have you tired writing out your personal commandments? Did you find it valuable? What commandments did you choose?

Book Review: Reading People by Anne Bogel

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