It’s a well known fact: If you don’t use it, you lose it. While recently in Malaga, we spent time everyday “practicing” our Spanish, something which although I studied for about 12 years – I am not so great at anymore (ahora yo hablo un poquito y mas despacio). To be fair, between the four of us, we could cover the basic requirements needed to get around in terms of reading signs and understanding very basic conversational language. But as we struggled to formulate cohesive sentences and relied heavily on “Spanglish” or pointing, we reflected on the fact that it is much more challenging when you have to yourself communicate in another language as opposed to reading or even listening to someone else speak it. It’s when you can articulate thoughts clearly that you start to demonstrate command of a language. And since then I have been considering how the same is true in many other scenarios beyond linguistics. After all it’s much easier to admire and appreciate a great work of art than to create it yourself and it’s not nearly as daunting to listen to music produced than to actually be one singing or involved in the recording or publishing process. To really master a skill or to learn something new we have to get our hands a little dirty as opposed to passively consuming or simply observing it. There are so many times when I think I have just encountered some new revelatory information only to find out that if I go back and check my notes – I actually learned this lesson once or twice before. We have to find ways to apply the things we are learning, because not only does practice make perfect, but practice also makes the information stick. To a large extent we learn by doing.
In Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better, he deep dives into some of the key areas which influence productivity and performance through analysis of various case studies and interviews with experts of that particular quality or domain. It’s not only interesting and informative, but also inspirational. And even better, I love the way that he ends the book with a discussion on actually absorbing the data, applying the insight provided throughout, and making the case for the argument that we learn by doing. This is a secret that the best teachers have known and understood for ages, but I think that the call to action here was a great reminder of how we can actually take the inspiring messages that we encounter to the next level. He writes, “the people who are most successful at learning – those who are able to digest the data surrounding them, who absorb insights embedded in their experiences and take advantage of information flowing past – are the ones who know how to use disfluency to their advantage… They know the best lessons are those that forces us to do something and to manipulate information. They take data and transform it into experiments whenever they can… When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data… If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you’ll be more likely to apply them in your life. When you find a new piece of information, force yourself to engage with it, to use it in an experiment or describe it to a friend – and then you will start building the mental folders that are at the core of learning.” By finding ways to engage with whatever it is we are learning, we increase our command, depth, and breadth of understanding. We learn by doing.
I really like theory and knowing things just for the sake of knowing them. However, I can’t deny that finding ways to practice the things that you’re learning and using the knowledge you’re gaining is tremendously impactful. For example, I spend a lot of my free time reading and researching which I love. But since starting this blog almost a year ago (!), the opportunity to write about the things that catch my attention and new ideas or concepts I’m learning about, gives me a chance to consider them more deeply and to apply the information. Along with the impending one year blog-iversary, the end of June will mark the completion my year long Happiness Project. My Happiness Project has been one of the most transformative things I have ever done. I am indeed immeasurably happier because I have invested so much time in learning about the topic itself and the activities which have shown to be effective contributors to authentic happiness, while learning about myself, what I like or don’t, and then also getting rid of the guilt or remorse about the things that I don’t like which I “should” or what’s popular or has worked for other people. It’s generated a robust reading list and sent me searching for more insight into a variety of fascinating topics. But of course more impactful has been the opportunity to learn by doing and over the past year, I have implemented and incorporated countless (ok real talk – 40 total year to date) ideas into my literally everyday life by setting specific resolutions and forming strong, healthy habits. I know creating flow experiences makes me happier, so I prioritize barre, writing and reading, some of my most consistently flow-producing activities. I have learned that I am someone who derives a lot of happiness from setting and working towards goals which is why I am especially excited about the work that went into and the results that come thus far from obtaining my Whole30 coaching certification. I know that some of my big goals in the future require some cold, hard cash so maintaining a budget and saving money has become one of my past times.
And in addition to passion for all things happiness and positive psychology related, I, of course, can’t learn enough about nutrition, wellness, and the power of food as a medicine. I really do believe that it starts with food and so I continue to invest my energy into learning new ways to apply that belief and what I am learning in the kitchen. And just as with learning any new skill, there is some trial and error and not every recipe is a winner. But I would argue that’s not necessarily true in this case! These Whole30 Spinach & Artichoke Turkey Meatballs with the Lemon Cashew Alfredo are SO GOOD. Bursting with flavor, easy to make, and oh-so-tasty!
- Raw Cashews 1 cup (125 g)
- Head of Garlic 1 each
- Juice of ½ Lemon
- Avocado Oil 1 TBSP
- Water .25 cup (60 ml)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Avocado Oil 2 TBSP divided
- Medium Yellow Onion, Minced 1 each
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 3 each
- Baby Spinach, Roughly Chopped 1.5 cup (250 g)
- Egg 1 each
- Ground/Minced Turkey
- Artichoke Hearts, Diced 1 14.5 oz (400 g) tin/can
- Almond Flour 2 TBSP
- Garlic Powder 1 TSP
- Red Pepper Flakes .5 TSP
- Salt .5 TSP
- Black Pepper .25 TSP
- Soak the cashews in a bowl of water just to cover for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
- Roast the garlic in the oven by heating the oven to 350 F / 180 C. You'll cut off the tips of the garlic bulb just to expose and then place inside a small square of aluminum foil. Drizzle a little avocado oil on top and then wrap the garlic tightly in the foil. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Once finished, drain and rinse the cashews and place into a high speed blender or food processor
- Peel the garlic cloves and place in blender along with the lemon juice, avocado oil, and water.
- Blend until smooth and creamy, adding a small bit of extra water if needed, about 1 TBSP at a time.
- Set aside once finished.
- In a medium skillet, heat 1 TBSP of avocado oil over medium high heat and sautée the onions until translucent (about 5 minutes) and then add the garlic cooking until fragrant, about 1 more minute.
- Add the spinach to the pan and cook about one more minute just to wilt, stirring to combine.
- Then in a large bowl whisk the egg and add the turkey, artichokes, almond flour, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Next add the onion, garlic, and spinach mixture to the bowl and stir well to mix.
- Heat the remaining avocado oil in the pan again and then scoop heaping tablespoons of the turkey mixture into small, meatballs. There should be roughly about 20 total.
- Place in the meatballs in the pan and allow to cook on all sides, rotating every 3 minutes for about 12-15 minutes total or until cooked through.