Once upon a time, about three months ago, I wrote a post on this very blog about how silly it is to wait until December 31st to start making resolutions for the New Year. Way back then, my plan was to find a meaningful way to give back to the community. And I did – sort of. But today, I’m back to my original quest, and I suppose that quest is for self-improvement.
Here I am, on December 30th (at least I’m a day early, right?), thinking about what I can do differently in 2010. As I said in September, every year this list looks just about the same. Eat healthier. Go to the gym. Blah, blah, blah.
This year, I’m hoping to try things a little differently. So here are a couple strategies I’ve devised to make my list of goals for 2010 a bit more attainable.
1) No vague goals. Making a list of ambiguous plans like “lose weight” or even “lose 10 pounds” won’t cut it. Even though the “10” makes it semi-specific, it doesn’t outline the strategies to see it through.
A better resolution would say, “In order to lose 10 pounds, I will stop eating junk from Ronna’s candy bowl at work, visit the gym at least 3 times per week for 45-60 minutes of cardio and weight training, pack healthy lunch four times per week instead of wasting money and eating the fattening crap they’re selling in the Loop, and stop ordering Pad Thai delivery because it’s HORRIBLE for you.”
2) Find ways to reward yourself for a job well done. Sitting at the doctor’s office flipping through a beat up copy of Glamour, I stumbled upon a great idea. Make yourself a reward jar and drop in a quarter for every good decision you make.
If you’re thinking about sitting on the couch all night with a bowl of ice cream while watching the Biggest Loser but decide to watch it from the treadmill at the gym instead, pop in a coin. Or if you eat a handful of almonds instead of succumbing to the tempting treats in the kitchen at work, contribute a few cents more. Once your good decision piggybank accumulates enough change, you can buy yourself a treat – like a new pair of jeans in a brand new size!
3) Post that list of resolutions – everywhere! My 84-year-old Nana has had two very cute signs on her refrigerator for at least 20 years. One says, “Those who indulge bulge” and the other says, “Little snacks mean bigger slacks.” Now I think that if I reach my eighties, I will certainly indulge every so often, especially if I still have my Nana’s figure, but the idea is a good one.
Take that list of resolutions, and print it out in bold bright colors. Put one up on your refrigerator and one in your pantry. Post one on your desk at work and one in your car. Make it your cell phone background. Engrain one in your memory, and if you want, give a copy to your closest friend or family member and ask them to hold you accountable.
You could even blow it up poster-size and tape it up above your bed so you can dream about it each night. OK – maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But seriously, the more reminders you can give yourself, the easier it will be to reach those goals.
4) Speaking of reminders, here is a great resource: http://www.43things.com. Now in the world of social networking, I’m not one for posting my every thought and feeling in my status update or tweeting about what I ate for lunch. But while 43 Things may seem like another cliché networking site or micro-blog, it’s not.
On their website, the creators write, “We believe that the very act of writing ideas down helps you answer the question, "What do I really want to do with my life?" and puts you on the path towards accomplishing it.”
On the website, you type your goal into the blank, and using the example above, I typed in “Lose 10 pounds”. When you hit enter and then click the link, you’ll see that right now, there are 5,960 people online who feel the same way. Once you add this goal to your list, you have a lot of options – you can blog about your efforts, read advice from others trying to achieve the same goal, or my personal favorite, write a periodic reminder email that will be sent your way, automatically, as frequently as you like. Here’s an example of one of mine:
Dear future self,
I'm reminding you about your stated goal on 43 things, to "stop biting my nails". QUIT BITING - it's disgusting, unattractive, unhealthy, unprofessional, and it's been too long! Enough is enough!
Your past self
Now, while losing 10 pounds isn’t one of my resolutions, quitting this gross nail biting habit definitely is. In fact, it’s been my resolution for over 10 years.
So here is the 2010 version of my annual resolution: no more nail biting. Strategy: finding alternative ways to channel stress, quit chewing my cuticles, let my nails grow to the tips of my fingers and maintain them there. Reward: manicures every two weeks and polish changes on opposite weeks. (Also serves as strategy, since I haven’t the faintest idea how to maintain pretty nails). Reminders: posted at my desk and next to my bed. My husband, my friends and my co-workers all know to call me out, and now all of the Oy! readers do too.
And as for 43 Things, I just updated my email settings to daily reminders, so someone, even if it’s just my “past self”, will pester me about it every day.