Category Archives: New Year's Resolutions

A soothing “log cabin” meditation to ease you into the new year

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An excellent resolution for the new year would be to add meditation to your self care routine.

If you can’t meditate every day, why not resolve to meditate on Mondays? Meditation Mondays — that’s easy to remember.

Meditation is so good for you! It can help you reduce stress, alleviate depression and anxiety, improve your memory and prep your mind for better decision-making. Many report that meditation helps them sleep better and make mindful choices. It can even build up your immune system! Continue reading

How to keep those 2020 resolutions

Do you write New Year’s resolutions? And do you keep them?

I have been writing resolutions for many years. I carry them with me in my purse in a mini photo album I bought for a dollar.

I make resolutions about changes I want to make in my life, of course. I also make fun resolutions about things I want to do; more like a bucket list. I make some that I know I can accomplish in a short time, and others that I know will take more than a year to achieve.

Every year, about this time, I look back and see what I have accomplished. I am always pleasantly surprised to see that I have achieved a lot of what I set out to do.

There are always ones I did not achieve and that is okay with me, because sometimes circumstance or other obstacles get in the way. What matters to me is that I tried.

I read that when you make a resolution over and over, that means that is an important goal for you, not a failure.

One thing I have learned that the more specific my goal was, the more likely I was to achieve it. You have probably heard of SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for goals that are

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant and

Timely (or time-bound).

So, my biggest resolution is to lose weight in 2020. The first thing I did was some research. I learned that to lose weight, I need to cut between 500 and 1000 calories through diet and exercise each day. If you I this, I can lose from 1 to 2 pounds a week. I was happy to learn this because I wanted to lose a lot of weight. But I checked with my doctor. She said my plan to eat only 1200 calories a day would not work for me because of my health conditions. She advised me not to dip below 1800 calories a day. Am I ever glad I checked with her! I had to accept that my weight loss would be more gradual. After doing research and talking with my doctor, I settled on a goal of losing 25 pounds in 2020. I felt this was achievable.

To write this as a SMART goal, I am going to say

“I resolve to lose 25 pounds in 2020. I plan to achieve this goal by eating green vegetables, reducing the amount of soda I drink and going to the YMCA to work out on the treadmill, elliptical trainer and weight machines. When I have lost 10 pounds I will start to take exercise classes, as well. I know I will be making progress on this goal by weighing myself each month. My monthly goal is to lose 2 pounds a month.

So, my goal is very specific. I know exactly how much weight I plan to lose. I know from my research that it is achievable. It is realistic — I already have a YMCA membership and I like working out on the machines. I set a schedule so my goal is time-bound. It is also timely because I happen to have more time to devote to my health this year.

Here are some more tips I learned about sticking to your plan.

  1. Get support. I can definitely use support to achieve my goal. This weekend, I met some lovely, like-minded people who are also working on goals. We are going to meet once a month to motivate each other. I can also use an app on my phone to track my progress and send me reminders.
  2. Focus on the mini steps on the way to the goal. As an example, for me, 25 pounds is a pretty big goal. Maybe too big. So, I need to focus on losing and keeping off 2 pounds in January. That feels less daunting. Then in February, I can focus on the next step. I break down my big goal into little ones. Success at each step will motivate me to keep going.
  3. Concentrate on making lifestyle changes that will support your goal. How long do you think it takes to make a habit like going to the gym work? A month? 3 months? I have heard 21 days. What do you think? I suppose it is different for everyone. I am hoping in a month, it will become a healthy routine for me.
  4. Think about obstacles. There will be times when life gets in the way. For example, it could snow for a week or I could get the flu and not be able to get to the gym. Or I might just lose confidence. That has definitely happened before. I will have to think about ways to get back on track when that happens. If it snows — I can exercise at home? But if I lose confidence, what should I do? I will talk to the YMCA about that. Maybe they will have some ideas.
  5. Make it relevant. Not everyone achieves their goal in the same way. I do want to lose weight but realistically I can’t stick to the goal of never drinking a soda. I know this because I have tried to do that and failed over and over. I just really like ginger ale. I have to come up with ways to eat healthier while still having a soda once in a while.

It bears repeating that writing your goals down and even keeping them with you can help you achieve them. This weekend, we worked on vision boards. My goal is on the vision board and it will go in the bathroom so I can see it first thing in the morning. I’m determined! And psyched!

What ideas do you have for sticking to your goals?

Register for free New Year’s Resolutions Workshop

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It’s almost time! Today and tomorrow are the final days to register for my free BEST LIFE New Year’s Resolution Workshop. The workshop is open to adults and takes place on Sunday, December 29 from 1:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. at the Reston Public Library in Reston, Virginia. Free parking onsite.

The workshop includes

  • An introductory ice breaker about New Year’s resolutions to help us get to know each other.
  • A group discussion about New Year’s resolutions and how to make them stick.
  • Time and space to work on a take-home workbook designed to help you get in touch with your dreams and set goals that are personally meaningful for you.
  • A Vision Board station featuring crafts supplies, poster board, images of affirmations and quotes, special papers, stickers, markers and more.
  • A New Year’s selfie station with fun New Year’s Eve and resolutions props.
  • A group circle of positive affirmations for the New Year.
  • A closing meditation about positivity in the New Year.

Feel free to bring your own photos or inspirational cut-outs for your New Year’s collage or vision board! Please register by 5 p.m. on Friday so I can make enough materials for everyone at the workshop. See you then!

Go ahead and make those New Year resolutions!

note notebook notes page

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You hear a lot of bad press about New Year’s resolutions this time of year. That people never keep them. That people shouldn’t make them. That they can even CAUSE you to fail.

Well, don’t listen to any of that.

Marriages end, and the statistics about divorce aren’t pretty, but people still get married, don’t they? Cars need to get repaired sometimes, and we still buy and drive them. Life isn’t perfect and resolutions aren’t either.

But resolutions are still good. Examining your life and deciding what’s missing or how it can be better, or how you could be healthier or happier, or make other people happier — that’s a good thing. You can’t go somewhere great without making a plan.

What works for me: setting pleasurable goals, as well self-improvement goals, such as planning travel plans for the year. I also stash a copy of my resolutions in my pocket photo album so I can refer to them often.

There are some great articles about making resolutions and setting personal goals online — check out Forbes and MindTools.

There’s no one “right” way to do this. Tackle it the way that works for you!

Happy New Year!

Create A New Year’s Resolutions Retreat

This week, we have talked a lot about New Year’s resolutions, goal-setting, tools, and strategies.

As we move into the promise of a new year, I hope you will embrace all the wonderful possibilities that goal-setting presents to you, whether you choose to make an exhaustive inventory of your most heart-felt desires, or whether you choose to focus on one single goal for self-improvement for the new year.

I really feel setting aside this short amount of time for yourself, while it may feel slightly self-indulgent at first, will allow you to be even more generous and giving of yourself and your talents in 2010.

Space to Think, Space to Dream

As you assemble your thoughts and tools, the one thing you need, in addition to time, is space.  Space, in two senses.  You need space in your mind — uninterrupted, uncluttered time to focus on a plan for a new year.  Time away from your children and your commitments, even if only for an hour or two.  You need a mini-retreat, or maybe several, if you tackle this in stages.

Then, you also need a space to work on your resolutions, or at least the beginning stages of them.  I find it helpful to work on a computer most days.  But for goal-setting, working on a computer can be distracting (there is always Facebook to check, etc.)

When you really need to focus, it may help you be in a quiet, spacious, and clutter-free environment.  Have you ever noticed how a change of environment can sometimes help you think of new solutions?  For example, have you ever gone on vacation and stayed in a hotel room?  And did the clutter-free hotel room help you think of new things you wanted to do with your life?  That commonly happens to me.  Some of my best ideas have come to me in hotel rooms.  An empty room away from home — and away from dishes and laundry calling to be done! — can be like a blank canvas for  your thoughts.

Finding Your Space

Can you think of a big, quiet space where you can work for an hour — or a few hours — with some table or desk space, a chair, plenty of wall space to tack your notes up, and room to walk around?   If you can’t get this time and space at home, then consider these ideas for empty space to work in as you noodle out your goals…

  • A borrowed conference room at work
  • A community center room
  • A study room at the library
  • Even a hotel room!

If you can’t work in a quiet environment, and need a little hub-bub to work your best, why not take a brand new notebook to Starbuck’s or another coffee place?  The notebook can be your canvas.  You can dedicate a page to each part of your life you want to address (finances, health, fitness, personal development, career, family time, home improvement, etc.)

Bringing Your Tools to Your Thinking Space

Once you have located your space where you can be exclusively “you” for a little while, whether it’s inside or outside your home, bring with you to your “retreat”

  • a 2010 calendar to plan and write in dates
  • Some water; a snack or lunch for breaks
  • An iPod and earbuds, if music helps you concentrate
  • Gum or mints, or hand-fidgets, if they help you concentrate
  • Big paper (see the big easel paper at Staples, especially the Post-It versions)
  • Tape and scissors (you might cut up your goals and move them around)
  • Highlighters and markers
  • Pens and notebooks, a laptop
  • Post-it notes in various colors
  • A favorite magazine
  • If  you like, photos you have brought with you for inspiration
  • Maybe a camera, if you want to document your efforts
  • These notes (and previous blog posts this week)
  • Copies of the action-plan1 and action-plan-example
  • Something to carry it all in, like a big tote bag

Should you work alone, with a relative, or with a friend?

That really depends on you.  Creating resolutions is an intensely personal exercise, at least in the beginning.  I do recommend sharing your thoughts and work with a friend or relative you trust at a stage where you feel you have organized your thoughts and prioritized your goals . Let them help you refine and shape your plan, and make suggestions.  And let them support and advise you through the year.  But perhaps in the beginning, while you are in the dream stage, you might want to work alone, with calls or visits with friends to touch base and to get support.  It’s up to you.  Work how you work best!

Finishing the Plan

When you have finished your retreat, I do recommend writing or typing it (typing it is good, because you will probably revise it through the year, somewhat) on 5 x 7 sheets of paper and putting your plan in small 5 X7 pocket photo album.  They cost about $2-$3, are lightweight, and are easy to carry with you.  As you go through your objectives, you can make notes, or check-marks.

Good luck with your resolutions!  Happy New Year, everybody!

Personal Goal-Setting for the New Year: One Goal Approach

I have talked a lot about goals this week.  The process of self-examination and personal goal-setting is a complicated and time-consuming process, albeit a worthwhile one.  There is, however, an alternative to writing resolutions and setting personal goals that is much simpler.  I call it the One Goal Approach.  And this is a good approach if you just do not want to think about or write down your New Year’s resolutions, but you do want to improve yourself, in a conscious way.

All you have to do is pick one, easy-to-do, simple-to-remember goal that if you really worked on throughout the year, other parts of your life would reap the benefit. This can be very easy and effective. I’ve had good results the couple of years I have tried it.  Those years were not as focused or as driven as the years I set more resolutions, perhaps, but they were still motivated and full of positive developments.  I highly recommend it as an approach.

For example, one year, I decided that I would make an effort to look my best every day. That was my only real resolution for the year.  This may seem like a superficial goal, and in many ways, it was.  However, I made this goal at a time when I had really been putting my own needs last, and I was discouraged and run-down.  I had noticed, however, that when I looked a little nicer, people treated me better.  And then my spirits lifted, and I got more done.  Now, generally, I’m not one to wear a lot of makeup or fuss with my hair that much.  But that year, I made an effort.  Every day, before I left the house, I checked the mirror and thought, is this the best you can look?  Not the best a model can look, but the best Mary Fletcher Jones can look?

I will say that the goal was simple, but it did take effort and resources, of course.  I read about fashion trends.  I took time to shop, and I had to spend money on clothes, shoes, makeup and haircuts.  I bought gym memberships and dance classes to keep in shape.  Spending time on my appearance took time away from other things I liked to do.  At times, I felt selfish, and a little silly and vain.  I wondered if it was really a good goal, after all.  But then, I started seeing results…

EVERYONE I knew noticed the difference in me that year.  People I had not seen in years, strangers, my child’s teachers, friends, relatives.  Everyone said I looked and acted differently (in a good way).  It was a life-changing year, because as I took more care with my appearance,  and I took more time to exercise, my self-esteem and confidence increased, which consequently made it easier for me to network for business and make new friends, and be more outgoing in general, which had all kinds of career and social benefits for me.

Since I was taking the time to dress better and look more polished, I found that I also took the time to make connections with people more, and as I did, I generally became a more thoughtful person than I had been, because I just naturally gave more thought and time to things I did and said, when I was around people.  I became a better listener.

I was healthier, and I had more energy, because I was working out.  I lost about twenty pounds.

I felt more relaxed and happy, as a result of my improved social life, confidence, and physical fitness, which made me a better and more cheerful mother to my little boy, so his life was improved by my resolution, as well.

Eventually, I snagged a boyfriend, too, and I hadn’t had a romantic relationship like that in years.  And all because I had focused on one thing I could really change about myself!  So, it really wasn’t that superficial a goal, after all.

Your one goal could be just as simple, or even more easy. Think how your life would change if you

  • Drank a couple of glasses of water each day (no bottled water! just tap water)
  • Walked outside for a half hour each day (without a cell phone).
  • Went to a different museum in DC once a month all year.
  • Sat down with your family to a home-cooked meal each week for dinner.

What are some “one-goals” that would make your life better?

How to Set Personal Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Personal goal-setting can change your life!  If you think of personal goal-setting as a fun and creative process, it can take some of the anxiety out of it.  Here are some tips that have worked for me.

1. Begin by telling yourself that the new year will be the best year of your life. Going into the process with this positive attitude may help motivate you through the tougher parts.  That can be the first thing you write down, if you wish.  For example, at the top of my paper, I might write: “2010 Will Be The Best Year of My Life!”

2. Think of — and write down — the good things you want for yourself and those you love. Try not to let anything get in the way of writing these down.  For example, don’t think…yes, but if only I could afford it!  Just write it down.

If you find yourself with a mental block, you can try a number of creative ways to get in touch with your dreams…

  • Take a walk outside and talk it over it with a trusted friend.
  • Look through your favorite magazines.  What articles and photos do you respond to?
  • Get big sheets of paper and markers and make BIG lists.  That’s how I do it!  Post-It makes a great easel sized paper with sticky surfaces to stick on the wall.
  • Get lots of different colors of post it notes, with wishes and goals on each one.
  • Draw pictures of yourself succeeding in your goal(s)
  • If you find you are really stuck, try this imagination-liberating exercise: imagine how you would live your life if you won the lottery.  What would you do?  Write it down.

3. Categorize your goals. This will help you organize your thoughts.  You can dedicate a sheet of paper (or several) to each!  Or use different post-it note colors for different areas of your life.  Or open a notebook (in Mac Microsoft Word) and dedicate a tab to each section.  Whatever method helps you organize your thoughts in a fun and effective way, go for it.

Types of Personal Goals

  • Recreation/fun (e.g., concerts, museums, sports)
  • Artistic/Creative/Writing/Self-Expression
  • Vacation/Trips
  • Education/School/Classes/Self-Improvement/New Skills
  • Physical Fitness/exercise
  • Healthy Diet/food-related
  • Healthy Behaviors/Mindset (e.g. smoking, stress, positive outlook)
  • Personal appearance/grooming
  • Medical/Exams
  • Love relationships/marriage/dating
  • Friendships/socializing
  • Financial/Budget
  • Career/Business/Networking/Professional Associations
  • Home Purchase/Home Improvement/Home organization
  • Auto/Maintenance
  • Environmental/green/recycling
  • Related to Parenting/children/pets/family
  • Spiritual/religious/life purpose
  • Community/neighborhood/causes/volunteerism
  • Etc.

If you get to this point, you will have a whole lot of goals.  You may see a pattern, or one or two goals may leap out at you as the most important.  This will help as you start to write the objectives that help you reach your goals. The objectives are the steps along the way that will help you reach your larger goal, or resolution, for the year.

4. Refine and Elaborate Your Personal Goals. So at this point, you have to do a reality check, and start prioritizing the goals you have identified.  Which are the most important to you?  Which are the most easy to achieve?  There is an acronym that many personal coaches recommend, called SMART

  • Specific. Make the goal specific.  Write it in as positive a tone as you can.
  • Measurable. What would define success for you?  Losing weight?  Or losing fifteen pounds?
  • Attainable. Perhaps you might not be able to buy a new car this year.  But could you save $25 a week?
  • Realistic. Some of your dreams may not be realistic at this point.  That’s okay.  It’s still good to be aware of them.  But stretch your perception of what may be attainable.  You may be able to achieve those dreams, or some version of them.  You may surprise yourself.
  • Time-based. Set a time-limit for your goals, with specific dates.  Be sure to include a few modest goals that can be achieved in a relatively short time-frame. That will build your confidence, as you achieve them.

I like to create big goals for the areas of my life, divided into smaller objectives and steps, which are more like projects that help me meet the bigger goal.  For example, here’s one I did for my “Health” category a couple of years ago.

Health Goal: I will be physically and emotionally healthy this year.

Objective 1: I will get routine medical care.

Step 1:  I will make an appointment to get a check-up in March (I met this goal.  It was easy to remember, because my birthday is in March).

Step 2: I will get a mammogram (I didn’t specify when, so I didn’t actually meet this goal. Setting a date is important!)

There were lots of other steps, such as “I will take vitamins and/or a calcium supplement daily,” but you get the idea.  The goal is the big picture.  Here are some other examples of big goals (that had lots of objectives and steps for each) that I have used in the past.

  • Home Goal: I will maintain a clean, inviting, beautiful, and well-organized home.  There are several steps that go along with that, including organization projects.
  • Car Goal: I will maintain my car and its related expenses.  The habits I built that year have now become second nature.
  • Finances Goal: I will take steps to build my personal financial security.
  • Friendship Goal: I will make friends with fun, intelligent, interesting, and positive people and maintain my current good friendships.  My goal helped me be more outgoing.  As I planned in my specific and dated objectives, I had a Mardi Gras party, and connected with some people I had been meaning to touch base with for a while.
  • Family Goal: I will spend quality time with my son.  This goal involved all kinds of good parenting objectives, like being more structured about meal times and bed times, and planning fun things to do together.
  • Personal Development Goal: I will have fun, learn new things, and take some interesting classes.  This was a fun goal to write that involved all kinds of plans for taking belly dancing, ballroom dancing, going to certain museum exhibits, and travel.  It was an ambitious list and I accomplished most of it.  It gave me a structure for my year.
  • Job Goal: I will work at an enjoyable and satisfying job.  The steps I wrote were very specific, including taking classes to learn specific new skills, attending networking events, and completing certain projects.  The steps helped me go way beyond my expectations for the year.

5. Plan How You Will Deal with Obstacles in Personal Goal-Setting. At some point in the goal writing process (it can be towards the end, or in the middle, but it shouldn’t be in the beginning),  you can also write down the obstacles that may get in the way of achieving the goals, and decide how you are going to deal with them.   This will be an ongoing process throughout the year, by the way, and you may have to adjust, revise, or even abandon goals as these obstacles come up.  And that’s okay!  Sometimes, a goal has to be postponed. I never have anticipated that I will achieve each and every one of my goals, and I never have, but I try to achieve the most important ones, and the most fun ones.  If I don’t meet one goal, there are always others to work on.

The most common obstacles people cite are lack of money, time, and motivation. For lack of money and time, I think it is useful, especially if you are new to personal goal-setting, to set modest goals that don’t cost a lot of money but that will have a big pay-off.  For example, it does not generally cost anything to drink more water, or take a half-hour walk each day, but both of these life-changes can have tremendously positive results for your health.

For lack of motivation, the best thing to do is, again, to set small goals, and remind yourself along the way of your success.  Keep your list with you and read it whenever you can.  I keep a copy in a pocket photo album (they cost about $2 or $3 for this purpose).  Check-mark or highlight the goals and objectives on the list as you meet them.  Proudly review (and share!) what you have accomplished.   It is also helpful to share your goals with a positive and supportive person who can help keep you motivated.

Still, as you go through the year, you will encounter people, situations, and problems that may get in your way.  There will be people, perhaps even some of your friends, or your boss, children, parents, or spouse, who will be less than supportive or neutral about your progress or achievement.  It can be easy to get pigeon-holed into a role, and when you try to break free of that perception people have of you, they may resist it.  (Some people, of course, will be wildly supportive!)  Or perhaps you are in a job that is not helping you move forward in your career.  It could be anything.  At that time, ask yourself: is this person/thing/situation taking me farther from or closer to my goals? You cannot afford to let “vampires” drain away your positive energy or enthusiasm, so find away to overcome these obstacles as you work toward your goals.

You will also have sacrifices to make as you reach your goals.  They may be small or great.  At the very least, you will have to expend effort.  For example, if you want to learn new skills that will help you on the job, you will have to pay for classes, which means that you may have to adjust your vacation plans for the year, or buy fewer new clothes.  Or if your goal is to improve your personal appearance, maybe you’ll spend more money on clothes!  🙂  Just give some thought to what you are willing to give up in order to achieve your goals.

6. Develop a system that works for you. My system, as I mentioned, involves creating goals, objectives, and small steps (dated and specific) in a Microsoft Word document.  I then  format the document with 2″ to 2.3″ inch margins all around.  I cut this and insert it into a 5 X 7 pocket photo album that fits into my purse.  (There are also other helpful lists and photos in this book!)  Now, when I am on the Metro, or waiting in line, I can take out my book and review my goals.

You can keep your resolutions online, or on an index card (if you only have a few).  Whatever you do, write them down!