New farms are exhilarating. The adrenaline is pumping, things are growing, and seeing your name on the local menus is intoxicating. Then you get to year three, and you realize that adrenaline is the only thing keeping you going. You realize you've been in crisis management mode for two years, and you can't really see a time when your life will return to a comfortable 5 day work week. Or 6 even. I realized this while chest deep in a snow drift while Jake was on a family vacation and out of cell service. I had already worked a ten hour day, I was about to spend Christmas alone, and my car wouldn't start. I still can't go through the bank's drive-through for fear that they will recognize me as the one who sobbed her way through a deposit transaction in 2015.
I felt trapped by my farm. I also felt depressed, alone, and incapable. Somewhat luckily for me, anxiety and depression aren't new and I had plenty of years of therapy to guide me. For me, the best medicine to incapacitation is movement. I just need to start doing something, and my head will start to clear. My move then, as is so often the case, was research. I got a book on habit forming because I thought an exercise routine would be just the thing to lift the winter blues. The most important thing I learned in that book was that goal setting is not the way to form a sticky habit. Think about it. If I decide that I want to start running every day, so I sign up for a marathon to motivate me, I will likely only run until I get to that marathon. Research shows that reaching a goal satisfies your brain, and without that motivator you won't maintain those good running habits. Instead, the author said that you should decide what kind of person you want to be, then do actions that you think that type of person would do. So, take the running example. If I want to be the kind of person who runs every day, what would I be like? I would probably have good running shoes, and maybe a reflective vest. I might also eat well because a runner is a healthy kind of person too. I would love running so much that I would probably set an alarm for before work and I'd jump out of bed and get going with the sunrise. I also wouldn't give up that special time for anyone or anything. Incredibly, if you start doing things to become a certain type of person, or to have certain personality traits, you will change. It's also really tough to achieve your own ideals, so your brain can be content to continue to strive for excellence.
This idea blew my mind. I loved it. So, I sat down and wrote out what kind of person I wanted to be. The list is enormous. It ranges from "successful farmer" to "someone who remembers friends' birthdays". When I come across someone who seems to embody one of my ideals, I do my best to figure out what kinds of things they do to be that way. For example, my friend Siobhan is amazing at sending thank you cards, something I'd like to be good at. I complimented her thank you writing abilities and she said that it's easy because she has a stack of cards in her desk and she writes a thank you right after receiving a gift. So I bought some cards.
These ideals are a wonderful place to start, but I noticed that without good habits they are impossible to implement. About five years ago I started working on improving my ability to make and keep new habits, and noticed that as my habits improved so did my happiness. Shockingly, so did our farm's profitability. I've now read dozens of books and listened to dozens of podcasts on psychology, habit forming, productivity, and business planning. We have a robust system for setting goals, identifying road blocks, and celebrating successes. We're on our way to my ideal of becoming a "successful farmer" because we're copying what other successful business owners do. We're working on habit farming, and I'm looking forward to sharing those resources with you all.
PS, I still have my bouts of anxiety, but the depression that used to be a constant threat in my life has not reared its dismal head since the snow bank incident.