Column, Living the Dream

Choosing skiing, and my atomic habits

By Merisa Sherman

With each snowflake, with each storm, comes the chance to begin again, to start anew. No storm will be the same as the one before nor will any storm be the same as ones to come. Just as no snowflake is the same, neither is any snowstorm. With each unique storm comes unique challenges and adventures, but also unique decisions. It is these choices we make at the start of each storm that become our habits. And our habits, well, our individual habits, are what make us who we are.

By Merisa Sherman

If our habits make us who we are, then could we, in theory, use our habits to become who we want to be? To help us go from dreaming to actually living the dream? James Clear repeats Aristotle’s axiom, that “as it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” Clear also quotes Will Durant, who wrote in “The Story of Philosophy”: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Clear discusses ways to create new habits that move us toward the greatness for which we strive. These tiny, minuscule changes in our daily lives can create exponential changes in our futures.

Once winter begins, I start my mornings by checking the weather and then packing my boot bag. I go through each item in order: two pairs of gloves, two neckies, two hats, extra long johns … you know the drill. Many of us pack our bags in the same way every day; the reliance on repetition calms the soul. My mind understands that by packing this bag, I am making every effort to go skiing today. Once the bag is packed, I go through my schedule, diligently find that small window that will make magic work.

That’s the habit. Packing the bag and then making the schedule is the system which enables us to achieve the habit. Any forgotten pair of liners and the whole system goes down. But the habit is the decision to commit to packing the bag in the first place. It’s super hard to not go skiing, even for a few runs, when you are driving around with a boot bag filled with everything you could possibly need. You can feel its presence, hear the locker sized bag sliding around in the trunk as you swerve through the frozen ruts.

Every morning, I choose skiing. Or at least to give myself every opportunity to have the chance if it comes available. I choose to drive around with a box full of skis bouncing around on the roof of my car and with long johns underneath my office pants. I choose to spend my lunch break on the snow, breathing the fresh winter air. I choose to absorb the beauty of the mountains and to notice the world around me. I choose the hard work so I can live my dream.

But I would never be able to go skiing each day if I did not develop the habit of packing my ski gear first. The temperature doesn’t matter, the weather doesn’t matter, the conditions don’t matter. Put the skins on the night before, Set the alarm, Just go skiing. Every morning I grab my boots off the dryer. I start every day by reaching for my ski boots. If that’s not living a dream, I don’t know what is.

Every Thursday night, when I was a kid, I packed a bag for Vermont. Before I went to bed, I made sure that I had everything ready to go skiing. I packed the same things, in the same order every single week. And when my parents picked us up from school on Friday afternoon, my bag was ready without a single item missing. It’s just that I didn’t develop the return trip with such attention to detail and the property manager ended up mailing me my book bag from where he found it in the Trail Creek parking lot. More recently, I skied with fogged goggles because I left everything in the bag after a rainy day and nothing dried out.

As the new year approaches and we seek to step out of the shadows of the past, we need to give ourselves the tools and develop the habits that will enable us to accomplish those annual resolutions. Every day. We need to remember that excellence is a habit. That leaking our dreams into reality is nothing but a habit. And habits are the tiny details that make up the day and define who we are. These atomic habits are the difference between another year like the past two or one that pushes us forward toward our own dreams. No matter what the future holds for you and your family, may you have more days on snow this year than you did the last.

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