Fewer Better Things is about the process of change. It’s the journey of growth from being a mindless producer and consumer of things, people, and planet to becoming a mindful creator of what really matters to ourselves, other people, and the world.
It’s about making a bigger impact with less. It’s about turning the tables in our favor and realizing the enormous power we have access to by using our time, money, attention, and technology with intention and focus to become better and wiser.
Creativity is the biggest force of change we have and I believe we can change anything we really want to change, from personal beliefs and behaviors to the world around us by daring to think differently. We can even change our personality (temperament) and identity (social construct), something that just a few years ago was pure science fiction.
So what can we not change about ourselves? Certain physical and mental personality traits. We are born into a body and a mind that create different opportunities and challenges. But we have full influence over how we leverage our bodies and minds.
It’s about how we design our choices and habits.
When I arrived in my surf town I was homeless and lost. I was transitioning from being a digital nomad which was my identity for many years to becoming a local surfer and writer. Then the pandemic hit and I had to take refuge in a roadside motel.
It feels like ages ago today but was only 21 months ago. The Great Pause gave me the opportunity to shift direction, create a better lifestyle, and begin new positive everyday habits. And, I have to admit, I had doubts then about how much I could grow but I was proven wrong as great habits are the superfoods of a healthy existence.
I’ve been fortunate to having lived in a lot of different places around the world. I have learned the power of new environments and experienced the great privileged of starting from scratch many times. Moving to a new place can be scary but it also allows you to change identity and lifestyle, to grow when no-one else is watching.
Everything that we do during our awaken 16 hours a day are just habits. From when we get up in the morning to how we take our coffee, how we dress, how we get to work, how we do our work, where we go for lunch, who we hangout with et cetera. These habits then define our identity. Example: If I write every day I’m a writer.
During those early days of the pandemic I envisioned a new identity: local, active, creative, fit, grateful, curious, experimental, outdoorsy, self-sufficient, and growth-oriented. I imagined myself writing, working out, reading, surfing, growing food, reflecting, and learning in harmony with myself and everything around.
The secret to creating positive habits is to make them obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying (read James Clear’s excellent book Atomic Habits). I began biking every morning which forced me to get up early and stop drinking alcohol. I had my workout gear hanging on the bike by the door. I also put a banana next to the coffeemaker which I filled with coffee and water, ready to go as soon as I woke up.
There is no magic number of days when a new activity becomes a habit. It’s all about frequency through realistic scheduling. The only thing that matters is showing up, even if it’s only for a 15-minute ride. So I biked every weekday morning until showing up was the only thing I knew. The few occasions when I didn’t show up I felt that I let myself down and that didn’t align with my new desired identity.
Once biking every weekday morning had become a solid habit it took another six months before I could see any real results. I had to change diet and eat twice as much food as normal as I have a very fast metabolism. The first couple of months I lost weight but once my body got used to my new eating habits, the biking, eating, and sleeping worked together and I could start feeling and seeing the growth.
Just to give you an idea: After a few months of daily biking and before I had gotten the diet right I lost 8% of my body weight. Since then I’ve gained almost 30% in weight. I keep track via the Wyze Scale where I get weight, body fat, muscle mass, and body water data by weighing myself twice a week. But these are just a few short-term metrics, the long-term goal is to improve overall strength, flexibility, and wellbeing.
I’ve since applied this habit building strategy on everything I do:
Getting up at 5 am and getting to bed at 9 pm
Writing a few hours every day
Learning and practicing languages
Keeping the shack organized (something I didn’t have to when I lived in Airbnbs)
Growing a garden (fruits and herbs for now; veg starting January)
Reading one book per week
Surfing a few times a week pending wave conditions
Working out five out of seven days
I’ve chosen a slow, active, and creative lifestyle close to myself and nature. I identify with the surfing community but also with the writer, mindful technology, and the world traveler and explorer community. I’m less stubborn and more open-minded, less careless and more responsible, less restless and more patient. The list is long of the personality traits I’ve been fine-tuning or changing.
To solidify my new identity and make a clear cut with the past I went to LinkedIn and deleted all my old roles (editor, publisher, product manager, startup entrepreneur, managing director, lecturer et cetera) and only kept Writer for Fewer Better Things. I summed up my whole academic and professional career in a few sentences in the About-section. It felt very empowering to shed the past that I am no longer.
I’ve made all these changes and I’ll keep making them cause I’ve learned the power of showing up 1 percent better every day. It’s a never-ending journey where I’ve learned to design and fall in love with the process that eventually will deliver the desired results. Most importantly, the actions I take everyday are only for my own pleasure and personal growth in harmony with people and planet. And that’s more than enough!
PS. A favor: I’m applying for the Substack Grow Fellowship and would appreciate if you could like or even comment on the posts that you have enjoyed reading. I’ll know if I’m in the first cohort of 10 writers by the end of the month. Thank you!
Next member-only edition will be published on Wednesday, November 17, 2021.