Day 4: Life is Good

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Steady progress. In addition to regular cycling and stair climbing, did lots of lifting, scrubbling, grating, and even stomping (of heavy aluminum cans for the recycling bin) at my volunteer job at a restaurant. I am on my feet for the entire six-hour shift in the kitchen and I definitely feel like it’s better than the gym. Nutrition was also good. I almost ordered a dessert with my friend after work but remembered my very first goal and changed my mind.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Though I consider myself to be a pretty good home cook, working in a professional kitchen has really challenged me mentally and physically. Last night, I got to use a mandolin for thinly sliced golden beets for the first time, learn that lots of wine can make the most succulent pork cheeks ever and that an industrial kitchen oven comes apart for cleaning (with many parts that can pop out, so beware!)

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Happy to report that systems continued on without me even while I was away at work. All I had to do was leave a to-do list and husband and co. followed through with putting away their laundry, doing homework, wiping surfaces and even unloading the diswasher. Not everything was completed, but I was in total shock that anything was done at all. Magic!

Goal #4. Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Hygge-filled dinner with a dear friend at the restaurant after my shift. It was the first time for both of us eating out in such high style since like the late 90’s (I kid… Well, maybe not). And the food tasted extra amazing because I earned it through my volunteering.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Really got an opportunity to serve. Happy to scrub vegetables until my fingernails had dirt all under them, take trash down to the spooky basement, grate endless little mountains of ginger into a steaming cauldron of dahl and even pick up a 30 lb bag of donated organic bread for the restaurant after my shift was over.

Goal #6. Financial Independence

  • Mindless shopping was not an issue because I was too damn busy. Woot!

Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • Everytime I get the opportunity to volunteer at the restaurant, I feel inspired, uplifted and amazed. Benefits of working there include awesome camaraderie, a supportive community of people with similiar interests and values, free culinary education, and a lovely meal at the end of my shift. But I also get the satisfaction of knowing I am playing a tiny role in fighting against food waste (85 percent of the food they use is fresh, donated food that would have otherwise been thrown away).  The organization really benefits everyone involved, and I am immensely grateful for this opportunity.
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Day 3: Family-Teamwork Breakthrough

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Continued improvement. Went shopping for groceries and ignored the smell of just-baked Hanekams (maybe a personal first). Cooked myself meals and actually sat down to eat them. Taking as many stairs as possible, still cycling, plus have added a morning 1.6k walk with K to school.

Goal #2. New Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Yes. Pounded some new saurkraut, which will be ready in a few days. Spoke almost entirely in Danish with the staff at K’s dentist appointment.

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Home Run!!! Great turnaround from yesterday. G loved wiping down cabinets and crossing items off the to-do list. K got into vacuuming all the stuffed animals. Not even a hint of strife. I am honestly in shock that getting kids to help out could be so effortless. Also, shed some clutter (see Goal #5).

Goal #4 Quality Time With Family/Friends.

  • Home Run, Part II. Because of the aforementioned spectacular family teamwork, we managed to have a hygge-filled dinner complete with candlelight and discussion about what we liked best about each other. Amazing!

Goal #5 Help.

  • Did good. Gave away one of my vacuum cleaners to someone who needed it. Rescued a perfectly good Ikea metal trivet from the recycling bin and gave that away too. See more on that under Goal #7.

Goal #6 Financial Independence

  • Continued progress. Only bought groceries and continued to avoid the shawarma huset.

Goal #7 Gratitude.

  • I felt so many warm and fuzzies last night with my family, of course, because of our sparkly home and the resulting camaraderie from making it so together. But I had also had a bigger-picture reminder about all the privileges in my life. For context: When we moved here to Denmark, the only apartment we could find was pretty much out of our price range, but we took it anyway because the competition was just too fierce. Lucky for us, living in such a high-end complex meant the things we found thrown out in its recycling center were beyond amazing, and allowed us to avoid excessive spending on home furnishings. We have gotten Le Crueset cookware, tea sets, chests of drawers, elegant mirrors, Japanese carving knives, two sewing machines, lamps and yes, even the aforementioned extra vacuum cleaner, which I brought to the junkyard yesterday. Whenever I go there, I see many people, including whole families with young children, waiting for any kind of salvageable items they can sell for a few kroner at flea markets. I like to bring these extra things to them because it’s nice to help and see things not wasted. Moreover, they remind me that this extravagant excess is not normal, nor is it universally shared. And until it is, I really need to get off my fine salvaged sofa and help.
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Day 2: New Chore Systems Not a Hit With Kids

Goal #1. Fitness/Nutrition.

  • Result: Mostly a win. I ate no refined sugar or wheat, a big change from usual.  But I cycled far less than average (only about 8 kilometers) and did not add any more strenuous activity, so I felt a little let down.

Goal #2. Skills/Information/Creating Things.

  • Result: Mostly fail. Very little Danish practice and I did not attempt my third saurkraut ferment even though it was on my to do list. But at least I had a to-do list…

Goal # 3. Clean House/Eliminate Clutter.

  • Result: Mixed. I took an important first step in trying to get the kids to do more chores. At first, the to-do lists went smoothly, but things went awry when I  also asked my older daughter to also to sweep up the crumbs under her seat after dinner. The horror! I see now it was a little too much at once, but I am going to try not to give up because I have discovered my new holy grail: a permanently sparkly dining room.

Goal #4. Quality Family/Friends Time. 

  • Result: Mixed. Pleasant walk with K to her school in the morning and lots of joking and banter over breakfast, but less-than-pleasant exchanges over the chore issue at dinner. Will try to be a sweeter task master tomorrow.. grrrrr.

Goal #5. Help.

  • Result: Win. Nothing out of the ordinary, but I did cook everybody food from scratch, helped with homework and made our home look beautiful through vigorous cleaning. If that is not helping, I am not sure what is.

Goal #6. Financial Independence.

  • Result: Win. Same as yesterday. No frivilous shopping. Made all the family meals at home. Investing not yet an option.

Goal #7. Gratitude.

  • Result: Mostly fail. But I did cheer on the sun when it valiantly tried to break through the Danish haze.

Feelings on this project so far: I am definitely getting more done in general. I feel like my behavior is more deliberate and disciplined. And I now enjoy taking the stairs!

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Day 1: Rocky Start

Yesterday was the first day I spent thinking about my goals. I think the experience has helped me overall but needs a lot of improvement.

  • Goal # 1: Fitness/Nutrition. Result: Mixed. I put this goal first because it has been most neglected in recent years, with the big exception that I now cycle everywhere and have no car. I started the day off all wrong with a chocolate blackout followed by too much lovely pita bread. However, I did not sweeten my tea as usual and prepared myself a few meals with many colorful vegetables. I  also cycled to the airport today and about 33 kilometers overall. Finally, I took the stairs at every opportunity (we live on the 3rd floor).  So overall I would say my behavior was better, but I really must limit the sweets and white bread.
  • Goal #2: New Skills/Information/Making Things. Result: Mostly fail. I opted not to go to Danish class, though it was later cancelled anyway.  We are probably moving back to the U.S. in a few months, so I am struggling with motivation even though my goofily accented level  represents nearly two years of hard work. However, I started this blog, which is challenging.
  • Goal # 3: Cleaning/Eliminating Clutter. Result: Total fail. Utter chaos. Let’s hope my shame gets me going on this
  • Goal # 4: Quality Time With Friends/Family. Result: Mixed. Took a wonderful bike ride back from the airport with my husband. Read my girls more of Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days.” However, I also tried working on this blog while my youngest G wanted my attention. Ouch, the irony.
  • Goal #5: Help. Result: Win. I encouraged a woman from G’s school who complains about her miserable daily car commute to consider the amazing benefits of riding a bike instead.  She told me with absolute certainty that she would because she sees that it will not only save her money but also give her opportunities to exercise.
  • Goal #6: Financial Independence. Result: Win. No frivilous shopping. Made all the family meals at home. Investing not yet an option for us.
  • Goal #7: Gratitude. Result: Win. I noticed how easy it was to take G to school in the morning in our rickety old box cycle because over the break I had been using it to schlep both girls around to different museums. I felt amazed that my fitness could improve so quickly by just choosing the hard way a little bit more often.
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Seven Goals

I didn’t know I had seven goals when I wrote them down with my two daughters last night. I had actually just scribbled down bullet points with the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G on them in a little notebook, but my older daughter K asked me to count them. So I am counting them, and I am blogging about them in the hopes that I can make them count.

So here goes:

  • Goal # 1: Increase my fitness level and make nutritional choices that allow me to achieve the best health possible.
  • Goal #2: Challenge my mind by learning new skills and information
  • Goal #3: Create systems for keeping my home clean, well-maintained and beautiful, while simultaneously eliminating clutter.
  • Goal #4: Focus my full attention without distractions on the people who matter most.
  • Goal #5: Solve or alleviate problems around me if I can. Be a helper.
  • Goal#6: Develop habits of saving and wise investing to achieve financial independence.
  • Goal#7: Develop a gratitude mindset and recognize all the privileges  in my life.

I was inpired to do this last night while listening to a podcast with Seth Godin, whom I was unfamiliar with until yesterday. Even though I am usually put off by self-help gurus and entrepreneurs, several of his messages resonated with me and sounded heart-felt.

He reminded his listeners (or those of us privileged enough to have the time and resources to be listening to a podcast) that many people around the world are happier than us, despite only earning a few dollars a day. He then issued a challenge like, “What are you going to do about that?”

He also said that one of the most powerful ways people can transform their lives is to write down their goals and then each day evaluate  what actions they took to make them a reality.

This hit home for me because I have been thinking a lot about short-term versus long-term thinking. I think this article from Raptitude sums up nicely the advantages of embracing temporary discomforts and difficulties to make your life easier and better in the long-run.

So from now on, I will evaluate how my day went using these seven goals as a measure. Taking the long view is what I’m going to do about that, Mr. Godin.

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