Thursday, January 4, 2018

Resolutions for 2018 - How to meet your goals without losing heart

I know what you are thinking. "Geez, Jordan, when are you going to get back to writing about books?"

I know, I know... but the end of the year always makes me reflective, which I guess isn't unique, but with cold days, long nights and my enthusiasm for the 2018 year, I can't help but write a few posts on the topic of self-actualization and that drive to improve yourself and to make yourself a person you can be proud of. It's something I've been thinking about more about this past year. I'm not sure if it's reflective of the hostile political climate we live in, and therefore the only thing I could change was myself, but this topic was something I mulled over nevertheless.

There are hundreds of articles, blogs and lists about New Years Resolutions. Most of them are click bait-y, some are the same tired "tips and tricks" we've all read before, and finally, some are genuine think pieces designed to encourage you and help you.

I'm not going to claim I "figured out" how to meet your resolutions, or that I have newly discovered information about "beating the system" or anything else those articles claim. I don't want to lecture you either! I only have to offer my own experiences and what worked for me, and hopefully, together, we can continue the journey in improving ourselves, our lives and the lives of those we love.

1.  Reflect on your year (or several years)

The first step is always the hardest. It's easy to just pluck a random goal out of thin air and declare that's your resolution, but it's just setting yourself up to fail. I did the same thing and got nowhere. Then a few years ago, I started making myself look back on my choices, and evidently, track where I started in the beginning of the year, and how I ended up at the end of the year.

At first, it was pretty superficial (moving schools, buying a house, saving money, etc. ) but then I started really looking at my actions, choices, relationships (family, friends, husband) and my overall happiness. What went great this year or the last few years? What worked out that was surprising or unsurprising? Was I happy with the choices I made this year? How would it have been better? Is there something or someone in my life is causing me happiness? Am I making myself unhappy?

Reflecting and then taking the time to be honest with yourself is always good exercise. I usually ask myself questions, but others make charts or graphs, or even pictures of how their year went. 

2. Look at your future (6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc.)

The second step can also be pretty hard. For some people, planning for the future can be therapeutic. You are the type of person who has a planner, create bullet journals or use a calendar... but for others, the future is a vague, foggy place that doesn't have much meaning, other than the fact that it has to happen sometime.

Whether you are a planner or, not so much, still take the time to look at your future. What are some things you hope to accomplish? What do you hope to experience, to do or to see? It can be a bucket or a wish list, but I also encourage to think about other goals as well, such as a promotion or going back to school. For this step, no goal is too small or too big, because you are looking at different points of your future.

3. Asking yourself the question: Am I where I envisioned myself at this moment in time? Am I who I envisioned myself to be? Am I my best self?

These are lofty questions, but stay with me. You looked behind you, and then you looked ahead of you. Now, look at where you are standing and ask yourself the questions above. You're right, we can't ever really predict where we are going to be at any given time. For example, if you had asked me those questions in 2009, I would have told you, "of course not!" because that February, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Who could have predicted that?!

But once we dig a bit deeper, I think you would find that there are certain things we envision for ourselves at certain moments, like being happy in a relationship, or actively improving your relationship with your parents, or being successful at a job you enjoy. There are certain quality of life items that we want to have, and it's time to have that honest conversation of whether we have it or not, and then once we've had those conversations with ourselves, commit to taking the steps to make that happen.

4. Deciding on a (or several) goals

Hopefully by now you haven't just raged quit my blog post and you are still with me. I hope you were able to look at your past, your present and your future, and be honest with yourself. No one else has to know but you.

When you think about how to answer the questions in number 3 about what you have or are lacking, it should naturally lead to thoughts what you want to improve upon in your life. Like the future reflection, it can be a broad picture of the kind of person you want to become, but now it has to narrow down a bit.

Think about overarching goals that can span between a few weeks to several years. Some examples might be: you want to be a better friend, or cut your spending, or work on your savings, or take that trip to Europe like you've always wanted, or start eating healthier, or finally lose the college weight, or start a business, or fund raise for a cause you care about. Write them down. That can be your bucket list, your vision board or bullet diary.

 5. Decide on an attainable goal that can be met this year

This is a doozy, because what about all these wonderful goals you've already came up with? Put those to the side for now, and let's work on just one. The reason for that if you are anything like me, you need a win, and you need something that is challenging, but attainable, to boost your confidence and help you take on other goals and projects.

Choose a goal that you've written down, and then scale it down even more. We thought in "generals," then more concrete plans, but now we want to limit ourselves to what is actually attainable in a year.

I'm going to use the most popular resolution - losing weight, more specifically, losing 20 pounds. The reason I'm using this one is because a lot of people fail miserably by the end of January, feeling terrible and defeated. I'm also going to use it because after a few failed starts, I finally achieved the "losing weight" resolution.

 6. Start before the New Year, and start slowly.

You've chosen that goal, highlighted it, circled it and committed to it, and now have made your resolution. "It's my new year's resolution! I'm going to start this on January 1st!" You happily think to yourself in December.

Stop. Just Stop. Don't wait to start your goal, no matter what it is. For example, if it's losing weight, don't take the opportunity to eat whatever you want now because you have to give it up in January. If it's trying to save money, try to take inventory of what you spend (presents included!) before, during and after the holidays. Even if it's a week before the new year, it's still a start. That way, you are starting to develop a habit of being mindful of your goal.

7. Rethinking your goal; instead of something to obtain, it becomes a lifestyle change

This goes hand in hand with 6. Work yourself up to the resolution with the intention that it is a lifestyle change. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, do research on how to best do that for your lifestyle. I am Type 1 Diabetic and vegetarian, so naturally I leaned towards low carb, but also vegetable heavy foods that I can eat.

The reason for that is that in order to meet your resolution (goal), there needs to be an change internally, and the idea is that it's not a superficial thing you are going to half-ass at the start of the year, but something in your life that you want to change permanently. Taking the time to research (preferably before the start of the year) and seeking out support groups and inspirations will also help you commit to the new lifestyle or habit in your life. 

8. Taking your goal and turning them into actions

You've gotten into the mindset, you've started off slowly and you've done your research. Now it's the time to actually turn that goal into actions that you can realistically do. Going to the gym 7 days a week and eating really cleanly when you haven't been to a gym in years is setting yourself up to fail because you will get burned out very quickly.

It takes time to reorder your thinking, not to mention losing weight is HARD WORK. If you decided to stand up for yourself, or learn a new skill, it's still HARD WORK. Doing too many things at once is overwhelming and guaranteed to not follow through.

So, turn your goals into small actions. What do you want to work on first? If you want to change your eating habits, replace soda with water or tea. Instead of getting fries every time you go out, get a side salad (dressing on the side) instead (and sneak a few fries if you go with a friend). If you want to work out, take 1 class a week to start, and keep the momentum going!

9. Set up a support system 

Getting help from other people is really beneficial. We aren't in this world alone, and any support we can muster to stay committed to our goals (and not punk out when it gets tiring and hard) will propel us forward to being that person we want to be. That support can look a few different ways, such as friends, spouses, support groups and even online message boards. For instance, r/loseit, r/motivated and r/progresspics on Reddit is one of my favorite places to go when I'm feeling down or I feel like I've lost my way a bit and I need a pick me up. 

If you are on the shyer side, or maybe there are people in your life that are less than supportive, a diary or a notebook to write your thoughts and feelings in can also be beneficial. I keep one in my purse and also write down notes when I'm having a good or bad day.

10. Celebrate your success and understand your failures

We are all going to have really good days along with really bad days, and the most important thing to remember that life doesn't stop because you've eaten 10 cookies at a staff luncheon because you didn't want to talk to anyone. Sure, you've went over your calorie count for the day, and if you haven't eaten sugar for a while, you'll feel awful afterwards, but that's life. We are going to make mistakes and make choices we aren't proud of.

We have to get up, dust ourselves off, and move on. Along the same vein, we should also celebrate when we do achieve our goals and not be ashamed of following through with what we wanted to do. Just a side note: if you decide to lose weight as your new year's goal, don't reward yourself with food. Find things like experiences, or even buying things, or even paying yourself as a reward if you need one. I paid myself for the first half of the year in my savings account every time I worked out, and my savings account is much more full now!

Final Thoughts 

These are just some thoughts I've had about the new year, and what I've done to personally achieve some goals that I've set for myself. I hope it was encouraging and beneficial, and wasn't too much like lecturing (which I hate!). What new resolutions do you have for the new year? What strategies and tips do you try to utilize to stick to your goals, for new years or otherwise?

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