149.5 and Counting

I’m going to live another 25 years.  This is according to the 2012 CDC Mortality report.  Oh, sure, I realize I could die earlier or later but I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m a fairly average guy.  So, if I stay true to the average, I’ll live to be 76-years-old.  That’s 25 years from February.  I just penciled it in on my Google Calendar and decided to make some plans for the big day.  Specifically, I don’t want to go out with a whimper. I want to go out on top of my game and in top form.

As a result, I’ve decided that I need to get some things in order.  I need to get my life in shape.  I need to get some things done. I wouldn’t call this a “Bucket List” as much as a “Get Your S–t Together List”.  For instance, I can’t imagine being over-weight for the next 25 years.  I want my hair to be just right.  I have so many books that I need to read.  I have things I need to tell my nieces and nephews, my friends, my family.  I have skills I need to perfect and talents I need to hone. I want a tattoo of an otter eating a clam on my left calve.  You know, the important things.  And twenty-five years isn’t that long, so I’d better get busy.

I thought I’d start by making the good things of life an integral part of my being; like eating good cheese, tasting fine wine, appreciating classical music, and understanding The Blue Man Group.  This way, I’ll carry these skills, qualities, and perfected characteristics with me to the grave.

I’ve always heard it takes 30 days to form a habit.  So, given the 25 years remaining in my life, at one habit a month (minus the last month when I’ll be busy dying), that allows for 299 new habits to be formed and in place by the time they put me in the ground.

The problem is that new research (How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Lally, et al) indicates that habit formation isn’t cut and dry.  It can take as little as 18 or as many as 254 days to form a habit.  On average, it takes 66 days to form a habit for most people.  This means that my goal has to be paired down to a mere 149.5 habits acquired before I die.  I’m only going to be half as great as I’d hoped on the day they finally pull the plug.  But that’s okay…I can live with that…actually, I can die with that.

Also, Lally’s research reveals that some habits are easier to put in place than others.  This makes sense.  For instance, if I decided to wear only polyester for the next quarter of a century, I simply need to replace my wardrobe by shopping at GoodWill, requiring only 7 shopping days and a $42.35 investment.  Easy.

However, if I want to learn how to Mountain Yodel as perfectly as Roger Whittaker, we’re looking at many 10’s of hours of practice and some significant financial resources just to get to the Swiss Alps, let alone the cost of Lederhosen.  While I have great aspirations, I’m also a realist; specifically, I realize that the Mountain Yodel thing is nothing more than a pipe dream, even though I’d look great in Lederhosen.  I’ve already started on the polyester wardrobe but this may not take me in the direction I ultimately hope to go (the same with the Blue Man thing).  In short, I need to create realistic goals and work diligently to achieve them.

Therefore, I’ve started a list of important habits to form that will pay big dividends and make my life happy and whole for my remaining 25 years.  So far I have only fifteen items on my list but it’s a work in progress.  Heck, I have 66 days between habits to come up with a few more.  Why rush it?  Here are my first 15:

  • drink 64 oz of water a day
  • Become the crazy uncle that everyone always talks about (start with the hair:  note picture above)
  • read 30 minutes a day
  • solve the problem of world hunger by feeding one person a day (may take longer than 66 days)
  • pray 30 minutes a day
  • write 500 words a day (submit to 12 writing competitions by end of year)
  • eat more fruit
  • work on art 30 minutes a day – learn to paint and draw more than cartoon faces
  • 100 sit ups every morning
  • 20 push ups every morning
  • walk 2 miles every day
  • research recipes and make one amazing type of food a week (Julia Child’s style) – start with banana bread
  • say kind words or nothing at all
  • practice silence & solitude without falling asleep
  • work in the yard every day for 30 minutes

You may have more than 25 years remaining in your life, or you might have fewer.  Either way feel free to join me in adding habits that transform.  Who knows, perhaps if we all strive to be better people before we die (or at the very least becoming the crazy aunt or uncle), we’ll be happier both in the end and along the way.  It’s worth a shot.