It is 5:30 in the morning, and I just ate an oatmeal cookie. It was sort of my pre-breakfast warm-up snack. Or maybe my reward for surviving a terrible night’s sleep?
Either way, I can’t decide if I should feel proud or ashamed of that little early morning indulgence. I’m leaning toward proud because for years such a “cheat” would have sent me into a spiral of guilt. But I’m older now, perhaps a little wiser, and I suppose I just don’t care quite as much about the after effects of indulging a craving.
New Year’s Day has come and gone, and with each new year come new expectations. Truth be told, there is something terribly exciting about the new year. It’s ripe with possibility, and fresh motivation waits with the beginning of the calendar.
But new year’s can also bring on fresh stress, fresh guilt, fresh struggles, and an unwelcome sense of pending failure. Coming down off the high of the holidays can feel like a long tumble with a painful crash at the end.
It’s not always a delicate step down.
After all the hectic, joyful, perhaps a little stressful, chaos of Christmas and New Year’s settles down, we’re often left feeling more exhausted and overwhelmed than we are motivated and ambitious. Many of us even set goals knowing full well we will give up on them before February rolls around.
So how to do we balance our ambition to succeed with the reality of busy lives?
1.) Be Realistic
My first year of marriage, my husband did the expected newly-wed goal setting exercise where we wrote down one month goals, one year goals, five year goals, and ten year goals.
Not long ago, I stumbled across my list, written in the flowery handwriting of a twenty-two year old fresh out of college and high on love.
Write ten books before you turn thirty, and make the New York Bestseller list at least once.
I will be forty this year, and I will likely finish my fifth book just before the earth finishes that fortieth rotation. Only three of those five books have been published so far, and none have made the NYT Bestseller list, though one did win an award last year.
I would likely be a grave disappointment to that little twenty-two year old, but then again I have something now that she didn’t have then: perspective.
My goals were totally unrealistic. I was bound to fail because they were unattainable desires written by someone who didn’t yet understand how life really works.
Setting attainable goals for your new year will keep you motivated, and also give you the sense of accomplishment that keeps you engaged from January until December.
2.) Take It Easy
I say “easy” with a small amount of reverence, because while I believe that goals should be attainable, I don’t believe that we need to sell ourselves short.
There’s something beautiful about staring down a challenge knowing it’s going to take effort, and feeling confident that we can get there.
Pushing ourselves to get healthy, or to live on a budget, or to finish a project will likely never be “easy”, and who wants easy anyway? I had a mentor once who said “Worthy achievements are rarely easily attained.”
So when I say Take It Easy, I don’t mean that you should sell yourself short. No, you want to be stretched in the coming year, but offer yourself grace to get there.
I’ve been doing Crossfit for about three months now. One of my goals for the coming year is to be able to do ten pull ups. The problem?
I haven’t had the guts to even try one pull up. Three days ago, I decided I had to start somewhere, and so even though I was embarrassed, I jumped up on the bar and did three of the ugliest pull ups mankind has ever seen.
There was a significant amount of flopping and kicking my legs, and my chin barely made it to the bar, but it was a start. I could get discouraged by my utter lack of upper body strength, or I could keep pushing until it gets easier.
I’m choosing to take it easy on myself, and be patient while I work toward this fitness goal.
3.) Ramp Up Slow
This means just what it sounds like it means. Take your time. January is like the warm up lap in the race for the year.
Get your feet underneath you, fall back into the daily routine, and prepare yourself mentally for the months ahead.
Don’t hit the ground running so hard that you’re worn out by March.
4.) Set Goals That Excite You
What excites you in life? Is it watching your kids grow up? Is it your work? Are you a creative person who craves empty spaces in the day where you can make something out of nothing?
What makes your heart beat a little faster when you think about it?
Set goals around those things.
We all work better when we enjoy our work. This doesn’t mean that the work we enjoy is always fun or easy. Sometimes, my writing feels a little like trudging through quick sand with weights tied to my ankles.
But other times I feel such a high from the act of creating new worlds and developing characters that I can hardly sleep for thinking about it.
Getting in shape may not excite, but if being with your children fills you with delight, then set a fitness goal that keeps you healthy and alert so that you can fully experience life with the young ones in your house.
Find what sets your soul on fire and chase it this year.
5.) Make Space for Indulgence
All work and no play makes everyone a little dull, right?
Don’t get so wrapped up in your goals that you forget to enjoy life. Don’t just write down what you want to achieve in the coming year, but also write down why.
Why do you want to get fit?
Why do you want to finish that project?
Why do you want to eat healthier?
The why will keep you motivated toward your end result. But also remember that, every once in awhile it’s okay to take a step back and have a little fun.
Because really – what’s life if you can’t eat cookies for breakfast every once in awhile?
Talk to me: Do you set New Year’s Goals? How do you stay motivated to accomplish them?