It’s that time of year again. Time for us to make a list of awesome New Year’s Resolutions that we will, 1) forget about by January 15th, or 2) never stood a chance to begin with. If you’re anything like me, you get tired of making these empty promises to yourself every year, only to be riddled with guilt when the next year rolls around and you’re with pen in hand, writing down the same things. It’s time to get new perspective on the age-old idea of making resolutions. They shouldn’t be reserved for the New Year, but for the sake of making things easy for you in 2014, we’ll go ahead and stick with January 1st as the day of making change, or amends, but mostly change.
1. I am going to work out every day and lose 30lbs by March.
No, you’re not. With the best of intentions you’ll hit the gym steady for the first week of 2014 and then life will get in the way. Instead of making huge plans for yourself that you’re likely to not fulfill (which increases feelings of guilt and depression) make obtainable goals for yourself. Set the bar low, and if you exceed it – good for you! If you don’t go to the gym at all now, start off with going two times a week. Don’t set any weight loss goals until you see how your body responds to the workouts and you get a better idea of how much exercising you are willing, or capable, of doing. This way you are working out for the betterment of you and not for a dumb number on an electronic box. Try this 14-day Yoga and Empowerment course to lose weight and gain confidence.
2. I’m going to quit smoking cold turkey.
Try again. For most people, cold turkey is a figment of your imagination. Smoking is no joke and the addiction, depending on how long and how frequent you smoke, is not an easy one to kick. Trust me, I quit one year ago. Take preventative actions to knock your New Year’s Resolution out of the park. If you’re serious about quitting there is a cocktail of things you can do to make this your reality. Mid-December, start cutting back. Instead of 20 cigs a day, try 15. Instead of 10, try 7. As you approach the New Year continue to cut these numbers back. Prepare yourself mentally (and the people around you) that you are dropping the habit altogether come 01-01. This means with your next cup of coffee, fight the urge to light up. Smoking is just as much habitual as it is mentally and physically addicting. Get nicotine patches or gum to help you through those first tough couple of weeks of 2014. If you don’t want the nicotine at all, try sucking on a jolly rancher every time you get an urge. If you’re mega weird like me, cherry tomatoes could fit the bill, too. In case you need a nudge in the right direction, this self-help guide to addiction could help you successfully quit, too.
3. I’m going to get out of debt (or save money for once.)
This gem makes my list every year. And every year I ask myself, why didn’t this happen? I’ve figured it out, well, kind of. First, for debt, I always look at it as a whole and it scares me so much that I don’t look at it again – all year. Like, holy cats I owe $10,000. Instead of seeing it like that, break it down. Think, okay, this month, my goal is to pay $200. That way, when you pay that $200, you feel accomplished. Tackling this massive burden piece by piece is going to make it feel more manageable and that is the key to getting rid of it once and for all.
If you don’t have debt (or do and aren’t worried about it) and you’re just aching to have a nest egg for the first time in your life, there’s an app for that. No, seriously. Mint.com is a great tool to use to create a budget to get you in line. I get a text every Friday reminding me of my credit card and bank account balances, when things are due and if I went over my bar budget. It’s annoying to be reminded right before I’m about to go out, but it definitely makes me think twice about spending. Need some extra help goal setting? Master the art in goal setting 101.
4. I’m never drinking again.
Mhmm. We all say that after ringing in the New Year, a night filled with guzzling who-knows-what and subsequently praying to the porcelain god. No need to go straight edge. Truth is, you’re going to still kick back with a glass of wine, and go out partying for your best friend’s on a Friday night. There’s no sense is warding off the drink altogether. If you need motivation to cut back then save going out for the weekends and one day a week. If that’s still too much, tell yourself one day a week you’re allowed to let your hair down. Don’t bash yourself for having some beers with friends on football Sundays – it’s okay. The point here is to make realistic goals and realistic expectations for yourself. You know you. You know how much you drink, why you do it, etc. Challenge yourself if you’re serious about cutting back, but don’t just ban it from life forever. Keep in mind, if you’re a part of the resolution number one group, cutting back on drinking is going to just help you feel better about your health. It’s hard to get to the gym when you’re sweating out last night’s PBR’s.
5. I’m going to “do volunteer hours”.
Pipe down there, Betty. Don’t sound so excited to give back. Instead of writing down a mundane “do volunteer hours”, think about something that really gets your juices flowing. What makes you tick? Are you an artist? Do you like the elderly? Are you a computer science guru? Volunteering doesn’t have to be dishing out gumbo at the local soup kitchen, either. It can be really engaging for you and for those you’re helping. If you like art, you can work with disabled kids and help them express themselves through paint. If you have an affinity for people grandma’s age, you can be a companion, which means going grocery shopping, cleaning for, or even taking (someone’s) grandmother to the movies. If you rather be on a computer, you can work for the Red Cross doing data entry (they have plenty of it, trust). Plus a million more options. Try picking something that you can fit into your weekly schedule. An hour a week will be great. Heck, even an hour a month and you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of us. Check out www.handsonnetwork.org to find some volunteer opportunities in your area.
6. I am totally going to learn how to play the guitar this year, or learn Russian. Or, basket-weaving, well, maybe the Oboe.
I don’t know if I’m riding solo on this one, but when it comes to the things I want to learn – the list is quite long. It can be easy to write down all these awesome skills you wish you had, and it’s another thing taking time out of your already busy life to commit to them. Choose one thing. Choose one thing that you’ve always wanted to do and put in on your list-of-hopefuls. Now, how bad do you want this? What is your motivation for learning it? How accessible is it going to be for you to learn this? Factor these things in and draw up a plan for yourself. If you want to learn guitar, tell yourself to take time to learn, say, two chords a week. This won’t require a ton of time, but after 3 months of doing this, you’ll know around 25 chords which is certainly more than enough to play a song or two, or 72. Same goes for learning how to knit, or learning a new language. Getting over these little hurdles is going to make you feel like it is possible and that’s going to fuel you to keep at it.
7. I will be more organized.
No matter how many times you say it, it’s not going to happen unless you take the time to do it. I’ve found that keeping organized is so much easier than getting organized. Once your desk has crumpled up papers on it, old fast food bags, envelopes begging to be sent, dying plants and more pens than anyone needs ever; it can be pretty hard to set aside an hour to clean it up. If you keep up with this by creating a daily routine of “tidying up” you’re really doing yourself a favor. Routines can become habit. So bite your tongue and keep it up and pretty soon you’ll be wondering why you didn’t start this years ago. You know they say that your environment is a reflection of your mind, and vice versa. If you are feeling scattered and overwhelmed, having an office that looks the same is a disservice to yourself. As motivation to keep this New Year’s resolution, think about how much more productive you will be, and with more productivity comes more time spent relaxing. This productivity booster course can help you manage your time, focus and get more organized.
8. Find balance between work, family and friends
This is probably the most difficult of all New Year’s resolutions made in the history of resolutions. Okay, that might be a stretch, but really. You’re in a routine, you come home every day around 5:30 from work. You have to cook dinner, do homework with the kids, clean-up, maybe get a word in edgewise about your boring day, get the kids to bed and start all over again. Maybe this isn’t your life at all and you just feel so out-of-whack and need to push the “restart” button. So. Instead of just writing down “find balance” (which we all know is code for: enjoy life more) and hoping that the gravity of the universe will sort out the rest for you – take the first step. Do you want to attend more concerts? Find some free live music in your town and go for an hour. No excuses. Do you want to travel somewhere this year? Take the family to a state park for the day. Do you want to find inner peace? Start with taking time out for number one, each and every day. I call this time my “me moments” or “m2” (me squared). If I don’t have at least one “m2” a day, something is very wrong. This could even be taking a walk to the mailbox with my favorite song playing on my headphones. These little moments of pure joy are going to benefit your overall well-being, balance and enjoyment of life. Here is a mindful guide to happiness – in just four easy steps!
9. I will finally paint the living room.
Sound familiar? You, along with every other person in the world, has a to-do list a mile long that you never cross anything off of – but you obsessively think about. Instead of making your resolution “I will do [fill in the blank]”, go out and get that paint. Boom. You’re one step closer to having that to-do marked off your list. If you leave that paint sitting next to the bathroom door – it’ll be a constant reminder to get off your behind and get it done. Life’s busy, but it’s not so busy that you can’t crack open a case of beer and spend the day painting with your friends and family. Plus, that’s like, a win-win. Right?
So there you have it. Your not-so-quick guide to getting out of the “I-never-follow-through-with-my-New-Years-Resolutions” rut. Now, armed with an outfit of tips and how-to’s, you should be on your way to a happy, balanced, debt-free, sober, accordion-playing, healthy and productive life in 2014. Go get ‘em!