I was planning to do a post on New Year's, so Julia's WMW theme works out perfectly!
I don't make resolutions either. They've rarely stayed resolved. The only one I can think of that I've actually stuck with is reading a literary classic and a self-improvement/educational book for each trashy novel which I decided to do about 4 or 5 years ago. But I do make goals. Usually I wait to make them until the spring. Everyone gets tipsy and nostalgic around this time of year and thinks, man, another year's gone, and what do I have to show for it? Next year I'll do better. Next year, I'll lose 50 lbs. Yeah! And I'll go to church every week. Amen! And I'll stop being an aggressive driver. You know it! And I won't yell at my kids once! Uh-uh. And I'll write a blog piece that gets picked up by the media and turns me into superstar/millionaire! Woo hoo!!
But by the end of January, that new gym membership that made you miss a Sunday at church has lost it's luster, and you've only written about how you cut off the driver behind you while screaming at your children to stop fighting. And instead of trying again, you give up completely because you've already failed, and it hasn't even been a month yet.
My sister-in-law and I had a long talk about motivation and goals with respect to dieting and weight loss into the wee hours Monday night/Tuesday morning. She's a dietician and works for Skinny Gene, a non-profit dedicated to helping fight diabetes. The things we discussed really apply to all "resolutions" or goals. So I thought I'd share some tips in addition to my own dreams for 2011.
First, know thyself.
No matter what the experts say or the advertisements show, working out in the morning or buying a fitness video will not work for me. I am not a morning person. Even before I had kids and could work out in the morning (and did for awhile - 5:45am Jazzercise class), I just didn't get as good a workout. My body simply does not function at that time of day. And buying a video is a waste of money for me. I need external motivation. A workout partner, a class time, some kind of accountability.
Unfortunately for me, while evening is my optimum exercise window, since I don't get home from work until 6pm, by the time I feed the munchkins and put them to bed, do dishes and laundry and prep work for the next day, I have maybe 15 minutes to myself before bedtime. On a good day. Usually I miss my bedtime goal of 10:30pm by at least 30 minutes to an hour. Which sucks even more because at this stage in my childrens' lives, I'm usually awakened a minimum of once for about 15 minutes to a maximum of 3-4 times for up to 3 hours.
Last year I hit upon a brilliant solution - working out at the gym next door to my office over my lunch break. Perfect!!! But then I had Baby R, so when I went back to work, I pumped at lunch and/or took a short nap for the first 6 months. Then it was time for S to start preschool. Yay! Except her preschool is only half-days. So I use my lunch hour to pick her up and take her to daycare. Sigh.
So knowing all these things about myself, I have to avoid using them as excuses, and instead use them as a starting place. And I have to remember not to let other people tell me things like, "If you really wanted to, you could make time." Because everybody is different and no one can tell you what will work for you. They can make suggestions about things that worked for them, but only you know what will really, truly work for you.
Second, expect to get derailed.
A couple of months ago, I started Julia's pushup challenge, and I was so excited. It wasn't a major thing, but it was a little change, and I felt better about myself. And then at the end of October, we lost our daycare. And then the first week of November, I totaled our car. Life spiraled out of control. I couldn't focus on even that small of a task to do 20 pushups a day because I was consumed with bigger issues. November wrapped up and so did most of the drama. But suddenly, it was Christmastime, and I was completely unprepared and feeling behind the 8-ball. So I put the pushups aside for a little longer. I got really frustrated because I felt like I couldn't workout at all. But I didn't give up. I decided to accept the derailment. It wasn't a stopping point. It was a pause. Most people look at "dieting" as a stage in life. "When I was 25 I did the Atkins diet." "When I was 28 I did the cabbage-soup diet." It has a starting point and an ending point. But monitoring diet and exercise are an ongoing thing. You make choices every day with respect to them. I'm not ready to say, "When I was 35, I did the pushup challenge." It's not over. It's just on hiatus. And don't wait for a special day to start up again - birthday, New Year's, the first day of of the new "Psych" season. Look at your day and see if you can get back on track. And if you can, great. If not, try again tomorrow. Just don't give up.
Third, make a realistic plan.
What I want my New Year's Resolution to be: Workout for an hour 3-4 times a week. If I make that goal, I will fail. I know this even before I start. Most people who set that kind of goal really know deep down that even though it looks good on paper, there's no way to make it match up with reality. But they do it because they think that's what they need to do. Actually, you need to decide what you really can see yourself doing if you're truly honest with yourself. When Julia started the pushup challenge, I realized that I don't need to do a full-blown workout right now. As much as I would like to, I just can't make it a priority. But I can find 5 minutes here and there throughout the day to do things. So I decided that's my first goal for this year. To get 5-minutes of exercise a day and build on it incrementally as I can. This is not a big discovery - trainers say it all the time. But sometimes it sounds hopeless. Five minutes a day won't make a difference, so why bother? You have to start somewhere. And by accomplishing a little goal, you'll give yourself more confidence and motivation to continue making small changes. And it really will make a difference. Think about how much environmentalists say a one degree increase in the average world temperature can change things.
That said, some goals need to be somewhat lofty. And that's great. But even lofty goals need steps to be taken to achieve them. So break it down into specifics. What exactly am I going to do "be a better mother"? Not lose my temper as often. Ok, great. How do I do that? Look at what are my triggers, and address them individually. 1. Sleep-deprivation (ok, not a lot I can do about that one, but I'll certainly try!). 2. Feeling unhealthy. When I can tell I'm getting impatient, I need to take those 5 minutes to get that mini-workout in. Make smarter food choices. If I'm grouchy because I'm hungry, eating a candy bar will just make it worse. Grab a fruit and some nuts instead. 3. Study my arsenal of child-rearing resources (I only have a dozen books on the subject) and select a tried-and-true method to use consistently. Or if that's failing, find a new one to utilize. 4. Take a moment to remove myself from the situation (when possible). Basically, just break it down so it's a concrete goal with tangible steps to take.
Fourth, set up an accountability system.
Whether you get a workout partner, ask your spouse to check in on you, track your progress on a program online, involve your kids or blog about it, do something you know will help keep you going when the going gets tough.
Fifth, make some easy, fun goals! If you are a list person like I am, you like nothing better than to see items checked off that list. I will put my list of goals on the refrigerator and mark them off as I accomplish them. One year, "Get pregnant" was on the list. There's a fun one to shoot for. :) And it was also fun to cross it off.
Sixth, keep the goals fluid. Some goals need a time frame or they'll never be accomplished. But some are kind of "bucket list" goals that can be shifted from one year's list to the next. Like we want to get a new master bedroom set. We were saving up for it. And then I totaled the car. So I'm not eliminating it, just moving it to this year's list. And keep adding to the list throughout the year. Just because it's the middle of August, doesn't mean you can't decide you want to learn to crochet before Christmas. Put it on the list. And don't be afraid to re-evaluate the list. If you get through November and you've tried to start to read "Gone with the Wind" once every month, but just can't get past the first 50 pages, maybe it's just something you don't really need to do.
With those parameters in mind, here are my goals for my life at this time:
- Find 5 minutes a day to exercise in some way.
- Find a new church home.
- Be a better mother: not lose my temper as often.
- Complete the blog improvements I haven't gotten to yet from Kludgy Mom's Back 2 School/Back 2 Blogging workshop.
- Create a new email account that is just for my blogging world.
- Find a support group for people with loved ones who have dementia.
- Take the girls on a train ride to St. Louis.
- Get a master bedroom set.
- Find a philanthropy the whole family can participate in.
- Clean the ceiling fans in our house.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
- Make a concerted effort not to use the desk in the kitchen as a dumping grounds for crap because it makes DH crazy.