A better version of me

2016 was quite a roller­coast­er year on many parts. I’m grate­ful for sev­er­al things that hap­pened in my life, but I must admit that I let myself slip quite a bit while enjoy­ing only the good things with­out tak­ing some time to keep on improv­ing myself. While in 2015 I suc­ceed­ed at los­ing a lot of weight and estab­lish a dai­ly rou­tine, I let myself slip dur­ing 2016, some­thing I want­ed to get back on.

Several things hap­pened that pushed me to rein­vent my life on a lot of lev­els. First I start­ed to work as a free­lancer (I talked about this on my pro­fes­sion­al web­site (in French)), after 8 years work­ing in sev­er­al com­pa­nies from dif­fer­ent sizes and busi­ness. This wasn’t an easy deci­sion at all, in fact it was some­thing I was think­ing about for sev­er­al years but I didn’t dare to make the jump. 2016 brought me the “lit­tle push” I need­ed to take the final deci­sion. I’ll come back on this sub­ject lat­er on in anoth­er post.

One month ago, I decid­ed to get back on tracks and estab­lish a morn­ing rou­tine again. The first part was to get me out of bed as quick­ly as I could the morn­ing, while still feel­ing refreshed and awake. For this I have to thanks two things. First Sleepcycle, who mon­i­tors my nights and wake me up at the best time pos­si­ble (I’m still A/B test­ing my own life and play­ing with wak­ing up times to find the per­fect con­fig­u­ra­tion but it’s one hell of an improve­ment at the moment). Second was read­ing the Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and espe­cial­ly this quote :

I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to com­plain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was cre­at­ed for? To hud­dle under the blan­kets and stay warm?
 — Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)

While I still have trou­bles get­ting out of bed from time to time, I keep this as a nice reminder that every hour I spend in bed doing noth­ing is an hour lost I could have invest­ed in my per­son­al growth.

On top of that, I’m cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing a morn­ing rou­tine. For one month and half, I woke up ear­ly to do 40 min­utes of indoor bik­ing. During the last two weeks, I’ve switched to work on some exer­cis­es one day on two, fol­low­ing NerdFitness teach­ings, and start­ed to keep a Battle log in their forums to stay account­able (and this blog is anoth­er step in becom­ing even more accountable).

After those exer­cis­es, I usu­al­ly take some time to write down some morn­ing pages, emp­ty­ing every­thing that goes through my mind at the moment. Those pages usu­al­ly pack reflex­ions on the day before, but also feel­ings, dreams, … It helps me to start the day on a clean slate. Thanks to sev­er­al stoïc read­ings, I’ve also start­ed to do a Premeditatio Malorum each morn­ing to help me cope with the day. This helps me in my day to day jobs and help me improve my reac­tions and over­all stress.

I’ve also start­ed to prac­tice med­i­ta­tion every sin­gle day, thanks to Calm. During my life, I’ve always had trou­bles to keep my mind focused on some things and trou­bles going to sleep (falling asleep took me around one hour. Now it takes me around 10 min­utes), while pack­ing a lot of stress and ner­vous­ness (even lead­ing to a seri­ous case of ulcers). I’m cur­rent­ly on a 32 days streak and can say that my life has dra­mat­i­cal­ly improved : a bet­ter sleep, more calm, less bel­ly-pain and an enhanced focus capac­i­ty. I still have to work a lot on my stress and some burst of angri­ness (start­ing and end­ing the days on the road stuck in traf­fic doesn’t help), but I feel I’m on the right path.

Lately I’ve also tem­porar­i­ly sup­pressed two oth­er things from my life. Coffee, first, as I was feel­ing like I need­ed more and more of it to feel awake but that tak­ing more of it lead to trou­bles sleep­ing, bel­ly-pain, … I switched to tea and infu­sion and must say that for the moment I feel way bet­ter. Second is alco­hol. I’d like to men­tion that this is not a dry jan­u­ary attempt, but more a per­son­al expe­ri­ence I’ve been through dur­ing the last month. Every sin­gle time I took alco­hol in the last 3 months, I’ve exper­i­ment­ed extreme sad­ness, and severe depres­sion episodes the day after. So I don’t see it as a per­ma­nent ban, but except for very spe­cial occa­sions I’ve decid­ed to ban every “casu­al drinking”.

I’ve also changed my gen­er­al diet to sup­press every sug­ar (bye soda, sweet­ness, dessert, …), grains (gluten) and starchy foods (bye bread, pota­toes, pas­tas …) and increase my veg­eta­bles con­sump­tion (and made a recipe board on Pinterest). The first 3 days were quite hard, feel­ing real­ly weak and with a lot of headaches, but late­ly I’ve felt I had more and more ener­gy, so it’s quite nice.

Around 10pm, I usu­al­ly switch off every screen (TV screen, com­put­er & phone which are both using f.lux), and take a book to bed for the next 30 min­utes. This help my mind to slow down, breathe and enter a “going-to-sleep” mood. Good side? It helped me fin­ish already 7 books since the begin­ning of January!

I’m still work­ing on those things to devel­op pure habits (for this I have to thank Habitica) and refin­ing some parts, but I must admit that late­ly I felt real­ly good and ener­gized. I’ll keep post­ing about those habits and rou­tines and see how it goes and improve. But don’t hes­i­tate to get in touch if you have any question ;)

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Simon Vandereecken

Freelance UX Designer living in Brussels (Belgium), with a deep interest into philosophy, personal growth, self improvement, books, music, ... well in many things ! I use this website to write thoughts going through my head as well as ideas, observations and reading notes. Feel free to get in touch ;)