If your life is perfect and there is nothing about it you’d like to change, stop reading now. If you’d like to change aspects of your life and how you live it, carry on reading.
You’ve heard of the 5:2 Diet. Well, this is 5:2 Your Life, by Kate Harrison (who also wrote The Ultimate 5:2 recipe book and The 5:2 Diet Book) And I have been 5:2ing my life with her book for the last three weeks. Oh yes, I have. And remarkably interesting it has been.
(Note: 5:2 Your Life also has a section on the 5:2 diet but I am not going to talk about that here. As someone with responsibility for young people, I would emphasise – and I know Kate agrees – that I do not recommend a restrictive diet for young people without medical supervision. Also I do not recommend fasting for anyone who wants their brain to be working well.)
Here are some things I am enjoying about 5:2 Your Life.
1. Kate and her book add up to a life coach who only tells you what to do 2 days a week. Hooray! BUT, the clever thing is that you find yourself thinking about the 5:2 stuff on the other days, too, so you are likely to make changes on all days. So, it’s life-changing by the back door. Clever.
2. It makes you think. And thinking is good. And the first things it made me think about were carrots and polycarbonate. Let me explain.
On the first day, you have to analyse your wishes/goals. There are various options for this and, typically, I created my own, an amalgamation of two of Kate’s. I started to write, in the present tense, about my imagined improved life, in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way. The first thing I wrote, because it was the first thing that came into my head, was “I grow carrots.” I do what? Yes, I grow carrots, apparently, in my improved life. Also, peas. I have a greenhouse, too. I grow lots of veg and fruit and I pick, cook and bottle it. I entertain more often and cook a lot more often. There was a lot of growing going on in my improved life, and this theme was quickly apparent.
This and the rest of my brainstorming led me to three areas to work on. 1.) My crappy working practices, so that I can a) have thinking time and allow creative ideas in and b) have a better work-life balance. 2) Health and fitness. (Part of which should come from point 1.) 3) To make much better use of our garden, so that I can grow more produce. It’s a huge garden but mostly sloping, so this is tricky.
Greenhouse? I discarded this idea as too expensive and also because our garden doesn’t have a suitable site. But I do know a fab joiner, and I have designed in my head a wood and polycarbonate structure which will let me grow tomatoes and bring on seedlings. So, carrots and polycarbonate. I have already progressed this plan and the joiner is coming soon. (Seed catalogues, here I come!)
The garden project fits perfectly with the other two challenges: working practices and health/fitness, because I can build gardening into my working life. It is an activity that allows creative thought, is good physical exercise and gets me off my backside. So, these were powerful and useful revelations.
3. Kate quotes Eisenhower’s “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” And this was certainly the case for me: I spent a lot of time on the first day constructing my own plan (because I’ve chosen the DIY option, which suits me but is more complicated to create) and subsequently not following it at all… But the act of thinking and planning was crucial, because it began to germinate (see what I did there?) ideas in my head. If I hadn’t done the planning, I wouldn’t have made any changes.
4. Many life-coaching methods are restrictive but this one is a supermarket of possibilities. You can pick bits you like and discard those you don’t – ideal for someone like me who doesn’t like being told what to do. Many of the techniques are familiar but that is an advantage.
5. 5:2 Your Life fits well with aspects of PERMA (Martin Seligman’s happiness criteria):
- Positive Emotion is likely when you do many of the activities, as many are explicitly designed to reward.
- Engagement is possible (and indeed encouraged) in some of the activities, such as the ones involving writing or drawing.
- Relationships are tackled in one of the weeks, the one about being more connected.
- Meaning is explicitly fostered as the whole philosophy surrounds knowing why you are doing this and what your goals are.
- Accomplishment – at first I thought this was a more indirect focus, but then I realised that 5:2 is heavily based on accomplishment, or working towards it. See my post last week on the Values in Action method of acknowledging accomplishments.
6. An important aspect of the 5:2 plan is reflection. At the end of each activity or after each week, you record your thoughts, what worked and what didn’t. I’ve found that really helpful. It only takes a minute or two. I’ve created a simple table in a Word doc and all I have to do it open it up, see what I said last time and add something with a new date. It shows me progress and means I can constantly adapt.
The 5:2 principle is manageable, practical (as long as you do the planning parts), sensible. Kate doesn’t preach or patronize; she’s very aware when some of the suggestions may sound fluffy to some; and her writing is succinct.
I’ll be carrying it on for much longer than the six weeks of the plan. I can see no reason why I wouldn’t, as there are no deprivations. And you can’t say that about a diet!
Carrots and polycarbonate, here I come.
There’s a signed copy of the recipe book for the 5:2 Diet to be given away as one of the three prizes in my first newsletter – but you have to subscribe (free) to be eligible.