Bulletin board with title "It's January...Time to Get Real"


Bloggers get real about New Year’s Resolutions

Most of the good bloggers I follow are writing about New Year’s resolutions—how to make them, how to keep them, how many you should make, and even more effective alternatives to the traditional resolutions. Here are three of the best articles I’ve read so far this year, and they each approach today's “get real” theme in different ways:

  • Daphne Gray-Grant wrote on her excellent Publication Coach blog “Here’s a non-resolution that could change your writing life (but it’s worthwhile for non-writers too.) She cited research from New York University psychologist Peter Gollwitzer whose simple idea about effective goal setting involves talking to ourselves with “If/Then” statements such as these given in Daphne’s post:
    • If I haven’t exercised by 9am, then I must go for an hour-long walk after lunch.
    • If I want to spend time on Facebook, then I must write for 15 minutes beforehand.
    • If I’m going to watch TV, then I have to read 20 pages in a book first.

The well-researched details about why this is an effective strategy were fascinating.

  • Michael Hyatt’s Your Virtual Mentor blog can always be counted on for no-nonsense ideas to get more out of life. He wrote, “How Not To Make New Year’s Resolutions: 10 Ways You Might Be Sabotaging Your Own Success.” Avoiding these ten mistakes, he believes, will put you in the small 8% of those who succeed in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. They include:
    • doubting your success
    • failing to learn from—and let go of—last year’s lessons
    • establishing unrealistic goals
    • failing to challenge ourselves
    • failing to attach deadlines to our goals
    • setting unspecific goals.
  • From The Art of Simple Blog, I enjoyed Kat Lee’s piece, “Trade in your resolutions for this one thing.” For the article’s young author/mother, the “one thing” was making her bed every day. It led to other good habits and made a huge difference in her day and her home. Her point, however, was not to convince readers to make their beds. It was to point to what psychologists call “keystone habits.” Citing the work of Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, she sums it up: “We change our lives the same way we build a bonfire. Start small until it catches and add to the flame bit by bit…Building a simple keystone habit that’s too easy to quit guarantees you’ll reach your goal…Slower is better than never.”

It’s time to get real

If you’ve known me any length of time, you know I believe in the power of hopes, dreams, goals, and love. I see God’s miracles in every sunset, blossom, and snowflake. I believe in you—and me— and our potential for making a difference in the world.

January, for me as for many, is a time of fresh starts, big ideas, and great potential in the personal, professional, and spiritual aspects of my life.

But…

If living for 65 years has taught me anything, it’s that being unrealistic about myself and what I will do to improve myself or my life often leads to a sense of failure more than accomplishment. Instead of letting this discourage me, I’ve been thinking a great deal about alternative approaches and trying my best not to delude myself. I'm not likely, for instance, to get up at 4 am so I can have two more hours of quiet time in my day. But I might get up at 6 am instead of 6:30. I'm not likely to increase my daily step goal from 10,000 to 14,000, but I might increase it to 10,500. What works for me might not work for you, but in the spirit of encouraging you and putting a stake in the ground for myself, here’s what’s on my mind.

My journal cover

My journal cover showing my three focus words

I’ve chosen focus words to help me make better choices and decisions.

From my fabulous PinkCoattails Mastermind Retreat two months ago, I chose three focus words to guide me throughout this year:

  1. INSPIRED. I want my life to be inspired and guided by God’s Holy Spirit, not just my own initiative.
  2. FLOWING. I want my life to be flowing. If it doesn’t flow, I'm either on the wrong track or proceeding at the wrong pace.
  3. IMPACTFUL. I want to make a difference by encouraging others, through teaching and example, to embrace the power of connection and live more wholehearted lives.

Before taking on a new project or client job, saying yes to another request, or making any big decision, I will ask myself whether it feels inspired, flowing, or impactful. If not, I’ll either set it aside or decline to pursue it.

I’m getting real about the negative role of stress in my life.

By most standards, my life is not stressful, but after two months of intentional reduction in my self-imposed demands, I’m having fewer headaches, and the chronic pain I’ve long endured in my knees and hips has drastically reduced. It’s time to get real about differentiating between what I can do and what I should do. I’m going to embrace business creativity coach Laura West’s wonderful saying: “Say NO more often and YES more fully!”

I’m scheduling time for what’s really important.

For me, that’s time with God, time with my husband John, time with my children and grandchild, time with my mother, time for my writing (blog writing, book writing, and note writing) and time for walking and being outdoors.

I’ve already sent my mother a list of dates for a monthly “girls’ day” she can count on for my undivided attention. I’ve blocked off a day each month for my husband so we can plan some fun activities and day trips. Before the end of January, I will coordinate dates later in the year to visit our grown children in New Mexico and Texas. Most days, I’m not going to schedule meetings or obligations outside the house until afternoon so I can prioritize my “quiet time” with God, my writing, quality conversation time with John over breakfast, and at least two of my five miles of daily walking (Yes, I wear a FitBit). These will be my keystone activities.

The many other activities of my life—church and community work, client jobs, and household tasks—will have to fit in around these top priorities. I’ve already identified a couple of activities I’ll drop entirely because I’ve realized they don’t fit the criteria embedded in my three focus words.

I’m embracing the “Better Than Before” mindset.

I loved Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I reviewed it on my blog last year in a post called “Habits, Good Or Bad: They Impact Our Happiness.” My review covers a lot of her take-away points, and if you’re interested in cultivating better habits or dropping bad habits, I think you’ll enjoy it.

I have embraced Rubin’s notion that absolute goals can be stressful and unattainable, but if we continually strive to be “better than before”—more financially secure, healthier, more productive, more connected—a year from now than we are today, even just a little, we are more likely to make progress. This approach requires some self-examination and monitoring, but for me, it feels infinitely more do-able than other approaches.

Getting real is not the same as thinking small

You want to get real, but this should never involve discouragement or a diminishing of your hopes and dreams, even if they seem unattainable right now. I pray regularly that my mind and heart be ever open and willing to expand to whatever my Creator has in mind for my most wholehearted life. Right now, I’m taking time—and lots of long walks—to just be quiet and reflect on what that might look like in the year ahead. And right now, it’s looking a lot like I’ll be dropping some activities from my life to make room for those activities that move me closer to my ideal wholehearted life.

So what’s in store for you in 2016?

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? If so, have you found any tips or tricks for accomplishing them? Do you think you can “get real” about them? What are your hopes and dreams for the year?

Please share in the comments below. You’re welcome to leave a URL or information about a project or initiative bubbling up to the top of your priority list this year.

Happy New Year, and please stay tuned for lots more here at Heartspoken in the way of encouragement, connection, and tips for living your most wholehearted life.

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