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Conscious Christmas

Last week I vocalized my first gripe over Christmas gift buying. It was a blustery day and I told myself after work I would venture out to the dangers of Princes Street to hunt for gifts and finally start checking people off the list. My friend’s response was not what I expected, “oh I stopped doing that years ago”…I had to ask for clarification, “yeah just one year, enough was enough and I explained to friends and family I would no longer buy Christmas gifts”.  Is it possible to find a balance and not over consume during the Christmas period, does a conscious Christmas exist? 

 

Manufactured Desires

I’ve never felt quite so jealous of someone else’s relief from such a trivial conundrum. I don’t think I ever considered the fact that you could just…stop. It made me question why we do it to ourselves? Perhaps it’s like everything in life, the virus of capitalism has leached onto everything. Instead of being content with giving one thoughtful gift we are plagued by thoughts of ‘I didn’t spend enough’, ‘it should be more than one gift’, ‘what if they spent more than me’, ‘what if they think I don’t care’. None of these thoughts are very Christmassy and at the heart of it, your loved ones would never think such things of you.

 

“It is another of consumerism’s ironies that, although it functions like a mental trap, we often think of it as an escape.”  J.B. MacKinnon, The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves

 

Over Consuming Christmas

Personally, I don’t think I could take quite a drastic leap, and whilst I wouldn’t label my friend a Bah Humbug, I simply love Christmas too much to not gift give. However, I find myself extremely frustrated over the wasteful and excessive way we consume Christmas and we should definitely become more conscious over the Christmas period. Consumerism and the environment go hand in hand, the more we consume, the more we produce, the more we waste. It’s times of the year, like Christmas, where we should definitely be consuming differently, and not as much.

We’ve all had our fair share of Christmas presents where their only purpose was to generate, at best, a 30 second laugh. They then spend the rest of their life in a junk drawer, or collecting dust on a shelf only to end up in the bin or at a charity shop. I see gift sets from chain retailers in the same light. Ultimately, you are paying for Christmas themed packaging which again…goes in the bin! 

So how do we all take steps to reduce wasteful consumption? Gag gifts can be a hoot, but can be sourced responsibly via charity shops or even ebay. No, your friend with a leaky gas pipe does not need a fart button. At all costs, avoid the boring, and frankly sexist, gifts for him or gifts for her sections. There’s a reason these types of gifts and gift sets dramatically fall in price post Christmas (it’s because no one wants them). 

 

Money, Money, Money!

British shoppers are expected to spend £4.4bn less on non-essentials – a fall of 22%. 

Without ignoring the elephant in the room, we are of course in the midst of a cost of living crisis. If unanimously we are spending less on Christmas, how can we also allow our money to have a greater impact on our local economy. Easy, spend it locally. And when I say locally I don’t mean Fort Kinnard because it’s down the road. Turn to our independent traders, local shops! Treat our friends and family to smaller gift parcels full of delights. Ultimately, these traders may not make it without our support. You may already be thinking about how these shops are too expensive, but again, perhaps we need to adjust our expectations for gifts. Quality over quantity! 

Yes you may be able to get more ‘bang for your buck’ by buying gifts from chain retailers, but think of how much further your money goes when supporting a local business. Not only does your lucky receiver gain a beautiful, thoughtful gift, but you actively supported our local economy. Without sounding ungrateful, I find nothing more frustrating than receiving a gift that I know I won’t use. I’m sure we can all agree that one thoughtful gift is far more wonderful to receive than a big pile of consumer goods that are eventually forgotten about. 

Do It Yourself.

There is always the calling that a DIY christmas is the way to go. Undoubtedly, with energy costs on the rise, a vat of homemade chutney may no longer be the answer we’re looking for. We can definitely be a lot craftier in our quest for gifts. Perhaps we also should stop frowning upon the idea of second hand gifts…When it comes down to it, what are the real differences between a charity shop book, and a new book? Or a toy? A scarf? I’d argue that the only difference is our disdain towards giving something that has had a previous life.

In reality, imagine the cost of purchasing a variety of toys, books and games for a child and simply rejuvenating it with thoughtful and crafty wrapping? Who doesn’t love a hamper?! There’s no reason the hamper couldn’t be made up of second hand buys… You can find some more ideas for this here

 

“Under capital’s growth imperative, there is no horizon – no future point at which economists and politicians say we will have enough money or enough stuff. There is no end, in the double sense of the term: no maturity and no purpose.”Jason Hickel, Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World

 

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way around these conundrums. Christmas gift shopping is already hard enough without jumping through extra hoops. Society screams at us to be more eco-conscious, to save local businesses and still please our loved ones. Nevertheless, we should consider what our favorite gifts have been. How and why did they spark joy or find purpose in your life? Consider the journey the gift will go on after it has been received. By applying a few of these thoughts to our gift giving this year, we will ultimately have a more conscious christmas! 

 

A practical guide, things to remember whilst Christmas Shopping:

Quality over quantity. 

Reuse, recycle, do not fear second hand and charity shops.

Dedicate some time to look around independent shops.

Want to support some Tribe Members? Check out our Christmas Newsletter which features a gift guide full of ideas and gift cards. 

 

Share your thoughts and keep in touch by signing up  to our newsletter below!

Thanks for reading,

 Alice.

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Curating Habits

It’s all too easy to reflect on time past as lost or wasted, the consequence of losing time only becomes apparent during moments of guilt based contemplation. Guilt causes us to value lost time to a higher level than the time we still have ahead of us. But perhaps this perpetual way of thinking is too caught up in regret and therefore we continue to waste time rather than build sustainable change to obtain our desires and goals. It’s easier to overestimate the power of the past and therefore underestimate the value of small changes and habits to daily life. 

I had not considered the power of small habits until recently, this realisation came from an enormous change in the routine of my work life. I had spent the majority of my adult working life sacrificing a minimum of 40 hours a week to a physically and mentally challenging job. On top of that, I received my rota a week at a time, usually a day or two before the week started. The notion of habit and routine was impossible for me to obtain due to these constraints. The impact a lack of routine had on my physical and mental wellbeing was not unnoticed…definitely suppressed. When I think back to this lifestyle a quote from Bruce Tift rings true: “we don’t have to consciously participate in what it’s like to feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality.” I felt as though I was down a rabbit hole with no idea how to get out. I needed more good days. 

Personal time became a sparse luxury, when not at work I either needed to clean my flat, do laundry (AGAIN), or simply turn my body off and enter the abyss that is reality television. It wasn’t living, it wasn’t even surviving, it was simply existing. After having a sad and almost existential realisation that my work was the root cause of my unhappiness, changing my job became a necessity. Fast forward a year and two jobs later I finally found myself in a job that gave me TIME! Beautiful time! What did I do with this time?! I watched more TELLY! I mean…c’mon it was well earnt and a new series of Euphoria was calling my name. This didn’t last too long as I was well aware that this time could be better spent. Having said that, it’s just as important to know when to hibernate and recuperate.

 

“We often seem to dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.

 

The first small change that I made in an attempt to improve my wellbeing was to go to the gym. When I say I hated it, I really mean it. I hated the smell, the music, the sound and the look of the machines. Everything was monochrome and industrial. However, it became an important first step towards my ultimate goal. I wanted to become a runner. I knew I would never have the confidence to run in public without an improvement in my fitness levels. Even once I made it out of the gym and into the great outdoors, I kept running a well guarded secret. I wanted to protect my desire to run as far away as possible from the stigma of weight loss, this was not my goal and not my intention. I feared that outside opinions would push this unwanted pressure onto me and the public declaration of being a runner would skew my own vision.  

Why am I running? Metaphorically form the patriarchy, in reality for myself! Overestimating the importance of a defining moment is easy, it’s even more important to value small improvements that you create daily. Success and achieving a goal does not require massive action. For me, the reason I run isn’t to run a marathon, it’s to have time to myself, to listen to music, to be outdoors and see the seasons change…

Routine aided in me identifying as a runner, now I can’t imagine not doing it and i’m certainly no longer scared to say that I do it. James Clear prompts the celbration of identity as it is a form of intrinsic motivation, “It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.” Schedule the time and show up for yourself, routine will form confidence in your actions and they will therefore become sustainable and with time, unconscious. 

I felt that it was important to tell this story as it points out some fundamental things that first must happen in order to engage in positive lifestyle changes and become your ‘best self’. First, is your environment. This is both your home life and work life and acknowledging that a balance is needed. The second is motivating habitual practices in order to achieve a positive change. 

 

“Your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. The goal is your direction, not your destination. The goal is a mission that you are on, a path that you follow. Whatever comes from that path—whatever treasure you happen to find along this journey—well, that’s just fine. It is the commitment to walking the path that matters.” –James Clear: Atomic Habits

 

When you identify a change you want to make in your life, or set a new goal the most important part is to make it a manageable change. If you set a goal that is too impossible to reach, it is unlikely that you will achieve it. Instead manage ambitions into smaller goals, this will enable you to change habits and generate sustainable progression. An unattainable goal will cause you to fall possibly at the first hurdle and therefore instantly lose motivation. Your habits must also align with your environment, looking back now I would not have made positive and sustainable changes in my life without changing my working life. 

It’s difficult to appreciate small changes and the creation of small habits because they do not matter in the moment. We’re all guilty of comparing ourselves to those who are already where we want to get to. It doesn’t matter how unsuccessful or good you are right now, the thing that matters is curating the time, environment and nurturing the habits. Once you’ve consciously made these decisions (and ofcourse stick to them), everything else falls into place. 

Curating your environment will expose many practical changes that ultimately lead to good habits and rituals. For example, I’m personally guilty of leaving my phone to charge on top of my ever growing pile of unread books. It’s as easy as charging my phone in a different room, by removing the distraction of a phone (and silly animal videos), maybe…just maybe, those books will get read! 

 

“Making a better decision is easy and natural when the cues for good habits are right in front of you […] be the designer of your world, and not merely the consumer of it.” -James Clear: Atomic Habits.

 

As we come into colder and darker months, it becomes even more important to consciously establish positive habits. Maybe it’s just as much about understanding the deep route of why you want to do something, or embody something? What does it bring to your life? I think without at least a curiosity to understand why, perhaps it won’t bring you the redemption you want it to. Is there a change in your lifestyle that you want to make? Ask yourself how you can create meaningful habits to build and shape your world. Write it down, break it down, enjoy the process of change and have more good days! 

 

“[Life] is a dance, and when you are dancing, you are not intent on getting somewhere. The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.”- Oliver Burkeman:The Antidote.

 

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Thanks for reading,

 Alice.

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This Year’s Compass

Your current and future identities are shaped by your habits

It has become quite popular to criticise New Year resolutions rather than make them. I get it. Resolutions can be superficial and have a high potential to make you feel worse when goals are left unmet.
 
Saying that, I enjoy the reset of the New Year, especially the reflection part. It is a great time to take stock, exhale and remember the pivotal moments and accomplishments on macro and micro levels. I do the Year Compass every year. 
 
Looking back helps root you in a place, gives you strength in a real way that is founded in truths and discoveries. It also makes you pause. Too often we are sprinting to some end, too focused on the goal to take notice of the victories along the way.
 
and famously said,
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
Read it again.
 
At first glance, it sounds like one of those confusingly obvious statements. Trust me though, it is gold and it has changed the way I think about setting goals, establishing habits and any New Year’s resolutions.
 
I understand how your habits are perfectly designed to deliver the results (or indeed life) that you have right now. It is a somewhat uncomfortable realisation, but it makes sense. Albeit, there is sometimes luck at play—both good and bad that can impact on your life too. Yet, for the most part, each habit we have is a step towards an outcome.  Knowing something and being able to change are two very different things.  Understanding that you want to build a system is revolutionary to me. The focus is not just on completing goals and that is where habits come into their own.
 
“Habits are a compound interest of self improvement.” James Clear 
 
First you start with identifying the type of identity you want to have. For example, I want to be a calm and confident person. What does a calm and confident person do? What are the systems in place to support me?  This is commitment to the process more than the goals. Goals can make you feel bad but a commitment to the person you want to be is more real.
 
I can ask myself “What would a calm and confident person do right now?” and find habits to support that. This is different than to set the goal of mediating for 30 minutes everyday. Because the focus is different, it feels different to me.
 
And you can be happy with yourself right now and want to keep growing.
 
“You must love the thing you want to change.” Jung
 

Looking through a pandemic lens- we have become different people

What does that mean in terms of identity and resolutions? The same pandemic has unequally impacted us, yet impacted us all in many of the same ways.
 
I have only begun to understand the impacts of the past couple of years. We are still in the mess of it so seeing all of the cracks is impossible.
 
In September 2020, the British Academy was asked by the Government Office for Science to produce an independent review to address the question: What are the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19?
 
” As history has shown us, the effects of a pandemic are as much social, cultural and economic as they are about medicine and health. Our aim has been to deliver an integrated view across these areas to start understanding the long-term impacts and how we address them. Our evidence review – in our companion report, The COVID decade – concluded that there are nine interconnected areas of long-term societal impact arising from the pandemic which could play out over the coming COVID decade, ranging from the rising importance of local communities, to exacerbated inequalities and a renewed awareness of education and skills in an uncertain economic climate.”- The British Academy
 
I feel overwhelmed when I think about all the unknowns. The only comfort I can scrape up is in how priorities and productivity feels different. We are more grateful for the small moments; like seeing a friend, going for a walk or having a great conversation. The productivity obsession has also declined, at least in my world.
 
I am holding on to the wisdom that vulnerability is the acceptance of imperfection coupled with the willingness to be flexible. This affirms the thinking that brokenness comes from inflexibility not vulnerability. I am also going to approach my resolutions differently. Who do I want to become and what would that person do regularly? The habits are steps towards the identity not an arbitrary goal destined to be too hard or never achieved. 
 
So 2022, whatcha got? I am going to build great systems to create the best year I can.
So take that. 
President Obama dropping the mic.
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