Ah, New Year’s. That magical time of year when even the most unenthusiastic of us becomes a go-getter. The time when we obsessively start scribbling lists of planned accomplishments for the year to come. So naturally I thought this would be the perfect time to resurrect Tales From the Litterbox. And in celebration of the new year, today’s topic is resolutions.
I generally try to avoid making new years’ resolutions. Now don’t get me wrong, in the past I too have made my well-intentioned lists, promising myself that this year will be THE year. Unfortunately my interest in these lists rarely lasts longer than the holiday leftovers in the fridge. So I finally stopped kidding myself, and figured I’m either going to do something or I’m not. I told myself emphatically that a to-do list isn’t going to encourage me. Lists are good for some things, like keeping track of items one often forgets; grocery lists, passwords, the monthly budget (in my case I use that term loosely). And as I get older I forget more, so always have several of these bad-boys lying around. But a list that requires me to accomplish unpleasant tasks like losing weight, exercising more, eating less junk food & spending less? This is a honey-do list from hell.
But it turns out that my list-free strategy didn’t work out so well for me last year. I basically spent the past year ambling along in haze of repetitive thoughts like “I really have to…”, “one of these days…” and “yep, gonna get to that one”, without actually accomplishing anything. So now, having run out of ideas of how to keep motivated, I am once again attempting the list of resolutions. To make this work, however, I realized that I would need to go about it differently. When I first sat down and wrote my list for this year, I instantly lost feeling to my legs and had to go take a nap. Now my resolutions are positive and will definitely improve my life if I succeed. But I started out all gung-ho, and after seeing the enormity of the items on my list, I just wanted to vomit. What I realized was that instead of setting myself up for guaranteed failure by focusing on lofty end goals, what I needed to do was to come up with a way to stay on track without overwhelming myself. And this is what I came up with.
I know what you’re thinking. Oh no, not another one of those daily self-love affirmations we use to convince ourselves we weren’t just fantasizing about smacking a coworker or fellow commuter. Trust me, I am the least likely person to come up with something like that. What “promises to myself” means, is that instead of treating my resolutions as giant, one-time tasks that should be completed by December 31st, I will be whittling them down to smaller, short-term goals that I can assign to myself each day. This will prevent the inevitable heart palpitations in trying to keep track of a huge, overwhelming list of objectives, as each day I will only have one thing to focus on. Now this doesn’t mean that my master list of resolutions goes away. I still have that list of final goals that I hope to accomplish by the end of 2017. But this list is now safely tucked away from sight, so I don’t have to look at it every day. This way I can concentrate on what I HAVE accomplished each day instead of what I STILL have to accomplish for the year.
So how does this plan work? Basically, every morning when I wake up, I give myself one goal or promise for the day.
“Today I promise not to punch anyone out on the subway.”
Okay, wait. That’s probably not a good example. Now, since I usually don’t go around thrashing people on the subway (I swear, I really don’t) this would be a pointless promise. It would require no real work or effort on my part. Plus the idea of this whole exercise is to keep the goals positive and doable.
“Today I promise not to eat any potato chips.”
Now this is a promise I think I can keep. It’s small, and not terribly life-
altering, so success should be easy, right? And it is in line of one of my year-end resolutions of shedding some poundage. Starting out with something like this may seem a little silly, but it is a good way to ensure early success. Of course it may not work for you if you aren’t a potato chip fan, and/or do not have easy access to any. Again that type of goal would be pointless. But you get the idea. By focusing on making and keeping only one small promise each day, I will hopefully be able to stay on track, and stay focused and positive. Once I have a few easy ones under my belt, I can move on to tougher promises that will have a bigger impact on my overall goals.
“Today I promise to go for a 3km run after work.”
This is a promise that can help me to reach my goal for 2017 of running my first half marathon in May. And even though I may twitch and cringe slightly when thinking about it (or crawl into the bathroom for a quiet cry), it’s still just one task I have to do for the day. That way, even if I fall down on some of my other plans for the day, like caving in and plowing my face into a bag of Lays, I will still be able to go to sleep knowing that I accomplished one step towards my overall goal.
Small accomplishments build self-esteem, and boost our motivation to continue and to succeed. Plus the additional bonus to this plan is that it satisfies both my competitive nature, and short attention span. Will I eventually fall off the wagon? It’s highly possible, but in the end that’s okay. Because I can always try again tomorrow, and hopefully this exercise will become a habit that I look forward to every day. And if making a promise to yourself is not motivational enough, try making the promise to someone you love. Promise your child, spouse or parent that you will do that one thing each day.
And now that I’ve imparted my beginning of the year wisdom, if you are tempted to try this plan for yourself, drop me a line or respond to this blog and let me know how you make out!
I wish everyone a very happy new year, and great success and happiness for 2017. And good luck with those resolutions – let’s do this!