My third self-discovery book of 2021 is Streaking: The Simple Practice of Conscious, Consistent Actions that Create Life-Changing Resultsby Jeffery and Jami Downs. I was excited to start this book for a few reasons. First, I was ready for something practical and less soul-searching (or should I say, soul-wrenching?). Second, Emily Aborn, a woman who I respect above most, recommended the book. Third, I’d heard the authors speak and found them to be authentic. And fourth, read the title again. The title packs a wallop of a promise. The book is 175 pages. Life-changing results in 175 pages? Hmmm.
The promises don’t end with the title. In the foreword, I read:
“When you make and keep promises to yourself, you build intrinsic value that is impervious to your circumstance or environment.” ~ foreword by Chris McChesney. [emphasis mine]
Before the first page of the actual book, the author say:
“For those who like to know the ending before reading the beginning: at the end of this book, you will have learned the laws that are necessary in order to bridge the gap between who you are and who you ultimately want to be.”
Before page one, the authors have laid out 3 promises that, if true, are exciting beyond measure. I’ve read a lot of self-help books in my life (hundreds!) and while I almost always glean something useful, I usually revert back to my “old”, but slightly wiser self. So I’m skeptical of Jeffery and Jami Downs.
But more than that, I’ve become cynical in my belief in myself. But not totally – I’m very proud of the progress I’ve made in many areas of my life. However, there are some gaps that I keep trying to fill and falling short. I’m skeptical of the promise, I’m cynical about myself. But I’m putting my cynicism and skepticism aside. I promised myself 2021 would be a year of all-in discovery. It’s April, I’m not throwing in the dang towel.
I highly recommend you buy this book. I’ll share some of the information, but the book gives you more guidance, relatable examples, and things to think about. You’ll gobble it up. It’s a $20 investment that is paying dividends and I don’t say that lightly.
The basics: You choose an activity (or series of activities) that you know will help you become who you want to be. You make this activity so simple that it is almost silly. You make it so simple that your brain cannot bother to argue. You write the activity down and mark it off every day. A simple activity, a recorded completion = a streak. It becomes a game of how many you can do.
Probably the easiest way to describe it is to share my current streaks.
I know what you are thinking. A sentence a day is not progress. I thought that too. Think about it, I was not writing in my journal at all. Now I’ve written 96 sentences – that’s 96 more sentences than I would have had. And, as you might expect, once I write that first sentence I usually keep going and write paragraphs. That’s great but it’s not my streak so I don’t hold myself accountable for more than one sentence. I am committed to consistently writing one sentence a day – that’s it. Silly. Simple. Doable.
Rather than think, “Crap, I’ve got to write in my journal,” I think, “Today, I will have written in my journal for 96 days straight.” If I can get to 96 then I can get to 97, 98, 99. I get to win every day by writing one sentence and reading one paragraph. I mean really, how simple is that? (One day, I did not want to write at all, so I wrote – “I don’t want to do this stupid activity.” – one sentence, done!)
Fifty words of my own stuff – so far this blog is 600 words. Fifty is laughable. Did you notice I said nothing about “good” words? I can write complete crap but as long as it’s my crap, I keep the streak alive.
My one paragraph of a non-fiction book has already led me to finish two books I’ve wanted to read but never found the time or the motivation. Notice, I didn’t say one “self-help” book. There is no rule except that it be non-fiction. I read a book about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. That’s non-fiction. Now I’m reading a book about the history of homo sapiens – one paragraph at a time. It might take me a year to get through it, but so what? One paragraph a day is better than no paragraphs ever.
“When you are winning every day, and, more importantly, seeing and feeling that you are winning every day of your life, you are motivated, excited, and energized.”
I wouldn’t have believed it. Has this made me want to write in my journal? Goodness, no. But I do want to keep the streak going. I want to make that mark and feel the jolt of excitement and energy. It’s worth it. I look forward to doing my activities so I can walk to my desk and make that X.
“It has changed me at a core level. Where I used to feel constant guilt, I now feel steady satisfaction; where I felt regret, I now feel relief; where I felt powerless, I now feel powerful.”
She’s right – I am so excited to watch my record grow. It’s a game I cannot lose.
On page 29, the Downs ask, “What areas of my life are important to me?”
I bet you have an answer for that without even thinking. At least a preliminary answer anyway. You know immediately the things you “should” be doing but don’t, or things you want to be doing that you aren’t. You can probably list five to ten before you read the next paragraph. Good news, you don’t have to have five to ten. You can start with one.
My first streaks (listed above) were super easy to determine. They are things I’ve been wanting to do – and feeling guilty for not doing.
In my drawer, I have no less than fifteen journals that I’ve started. They are pretty. I love to buy them and promise myself to do it. I know when I journal, I’m able to work out difficult emotions and solve problems. Because it does involve emotions, I kept moving the journal from one spot on my desk to another. Not anymore. I’m streaking!
I like to learn. I always have. But I wasn’t making time to learn stuff I wanted to learn. I was making time to read writing craft books but there are so many topics I find fascinating. With this streak, I have given myself permission – expectation – to read one dang paragraph. I’m streaking.
I know that when writing gets tough, it’s easy to find something else to do. Not anymore. I’m streaking.
Some of what is important to me includes being healthy, being a lifelong learner, and being a professional writer. These three silly, simple activities will bridge that gap.
The Downs were smart. They left the soul-searching/wrenching until Chapter 8. (There is a little bit earlier, but chapter eight is when we get down to business.) By the time I’d gotten to chapter 8, I was streaking away and feeling such success. Success made me want to do the soul-searching work.
“Most of us do not deliberately choose who we want to be. Typically, we follow the currents of life in whatever direction they carry us, moving left to right according to the flow. But to be exceptional at anything, you need to consciously decide who you want to be and then determine what you need to realize that choice. When streaking, you create ‘be statements’ to capture the essence of who you inspire to become, and then align your streaks toward that end.”
I know some of you are thinking you don’t want to be exceptional at anything. You are fine as you are. True. You are enough right now. Yet I know you want to be exceptional at something. Parenting? Grandparenting? Spousing? In-lawing? Gardening? Writing? Debating? Coloring? Friending? Cooking? Budgeting? Earning? Communicating? Loving? Sexing? Reading? Meditating? Hydrating? Walking? You have at least one “ing” in your life. What is it?
That’s a topic for next week. I’ve been soul-searching and will share what I’ve learned. I have not added any streaks yet because I want to truly identify my “be statements”. I want my “be statements” to be mine and not society’s. I’m not in a rush. After all, I’m writing one sentence a day in my journal. That one sentence will guide me to my “to be” statements. I’m almost there. I can feel it.
One last component of Streaking is creating a community. This one I have not bought into yet. I find that when I’m accountable to a group, my little defiant child rears up. I’ll let that component simmer a while longer.
Please buy the book. Maybe we can be a community?
Based on my short description of Streaking, what do you think? Dumb idea or genius? Does one simple activity feel ridiculous? Are you willing to give it a try?
We’ve all had things we want to do or know we should do. We commit and go in like gangbusters. Then our energy sags and we stop. What is one of those things? If I asked you to make a silly, simple activity towards that, what could it be? Remember, silly – simple – laughable. Are you willing to Streak?
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