I love New Year’s. I really do. I love the new beginning that it brings. The sense of freshness. The opportunity for starting over. The problem is that I, like so many, get overly excited about this grand sense of a new leaf being turned, and I get overzealous in my resolutions. I convince myself that this year I really will do things like ” go 100% paleo on Jan 1 and never look back, or set up a Pinterest board with 365 days of organizing projects and complete one every day until my house is perfectly organized and spotless. Of course, reality hits sometime around January 12th or so and as the realization that my perfect year is already in jeopardy dawns, panic and backpeddling set in. I say things like “Well, it does take a while to change, so I’ll just let this slide and get back on the wagon tomorrow/Monday/February first. By the end of that first month I have eaten take out at least three times a week, accumulated countless piles of half-completed or just-started projects, and my house is in an even more disheveled mess than when I began. This, of course, leaves me with a sense of utter failure which in turn sends me spiraling into a vortex of negative self talk, frustration and defeat as I lie sobbing in the ghost of Pinterest past and wallow in the sea of take out bags and coke cans. I don’t know about you, but nothing about that seems very freeing, fresh or hopeful to me. I need something I can stick to, something that will give me even the smallest victories, because even a little success is sweeter than defeat. So I decided this year to make my resolutions doable by giving myself monthly mini-resolutions.
This year, in lieu big sweeping changes, I plan to embrace one SIMPLE change each month is four areas of my life: Mind, Body, Spirit and Home. I came to the idea from attending Juice Plus conference this past fall. A group shared how much incredible success they’d had encouraging their customers to embrace one simple, healthy change at a time, adding a new change each month. It occurred to me that I needed to implement this philosophy in all areas of my life. However, in the interest of not overwhelming myself, I narrowed it down to four key areas. You might say “Well, how simple is that, really, when you are making four changes a month?” My reply would be that compared to my usual alter-my-whole-life-in-10,002-detailed-steps plan, this is much more doable and sustainable. Here’s a sample of my first two months of changes:
Mind – Enroll in and begin psychology class
Body – Engage in 15-30 minutes of yoga or walking each morning
Spirit – Daily morning bible reading/quiet time
Home – Develop morning maintenance routine
So, you see, it’s all about eating an elephant here. How do you do that? One bite at a time, of course. I’m dividing my goals for the year into manageable bites, working around a theme of sorts each month. Mornings are my nemesis, so I figured I would tackle that in January, when I have fresh motivation. In February I am moving on to my evening routines. No, not every goal fits neatly into a box each month, but the idea is to group things together that make sense. It just gives me a better chance of success. Most importantly, I’m not just working on short term goals that I can check my box on. I’m consciously focusing on developing habits. In some cases I am setting smaller goals on the path toward large goals, such as completing my nursing school bridge program from LPN to RN. While we now know that the “30 days to form a habit” rule isn’t really true – actually, according to one study it supposedly takes about 60 days – there really is something magical about sticking with something for a month. Aside from providing a sense of accomplishment, it gives me time to focus on each new habit without the overwhelm of a total life overhaul. After 30 days, while the habit may not be fully ingrained, I’m familiar enough with it being a part of my day that I can add in something new without too much of a shock to my system. Then by the time I’m ready to add in the third challenge, the first is actually a habit, the second is familiar territory, and so on. Thus, my primary focus is on healthy habit building in a sustainable cycle. I’m setting myself up for a year of high fives and victory laps instead of self pity and secretly consumed chocolate cupcakes.
If you are interested in joining me on this tortoise’s journey, I’ve created a free printable for you to record your goals on! It’s pretty, it’s colorful and it’s motivating to have all your goals clearly defined on something aesthetically pleasing.
Download here>>> One Simple Change Chart PDF
So maybe, just maybe, with this new perspective, the only take out bags I find in my car will be the occasional treat I earned for a job well done and not the shameful reminder of my failed health plans. Who’s with me?