For many people, making one or more New Year’s resolutions is part of the process of accepting that another year has come and gone. It is an opportunity for self-reflection, for considering dreams and hopes, and for attempting a fresh start. Yet the vast majority of resolutions start out full of promise, and eventually the resolution is broken and forgotten. I should know; I am forty-six years old and have only ever managed to keep one New Year’s resolution so far in my entire lifetime, and that was a resolution made twenty years ago to learn Tai Chi.
This year, I am making what will undoubtedly prove to be my most difficult New Year’s resolution ever, and that is to live a healthier lifestyle. This is a resolution that is encompasses nearly every facet of my life. I need to exercise more, lose weight, widen my social network, take better care of myself physically, emotionally and financially, and learn to deal with many more daily tasks of living than I have been dealing with so far.
This is a resolution that will demand that I learn to live better, every single day. This is a resolution, which without careful planning, is doomed to fail. That said, I have come up with five ways to keep this resolution, my biggest New Year’s resolution ever.
1. Define my starting point.
It is not possible to reach a goal without knowing the starting point, so I have thought about this quite carefully.
– Exercise: In my case, my exercise comes from teaching one Tai Chi class each week, and walking my dog. That is simply not enough, but that is my starting point.
– Food Habits: I rarely eat chicken, seafood or fruit, and almost never eat vegetables, but beef and pork seem to be my constant companions. I am overweight by more than just a few pounds.
– Daily Living tasks: My house is often a disaster, and it can take me weeks, months or even years before I will take care of something that should be taken care of daily or weekly. Sometimes even just changing a burned-out lightbulb seems to be an insurmountable chore.
– Emotional Health: Even the good-natured folks from “Clean House” would shiver and consider running if they were to try to tackle the clutter, and I know that seeing this clutter day-in and day-out depresses me emotionally. The not-so-funny thing is that at least half of the clutter does not even belong to me. Many of the items are things that were left behind by the prior owner of the house, two ex-spouses, a long-grown foster child, left by my own child, or given to me by my mother for when she would get an apartment again (however, she passed away nearly two years ago). I am not even able to close the door to a couple of the rooms that filled with “stuff”. For all of that, this clutter only hurts me in an emotional sense; it is baggage from other people and prior times, and I often feel like a stranger in my own house as a result. That needs to change.
– Financially, I have some issues that need to be resolved, and I certainly know I am not saving enough for my future. It might be easier to save if I was not the only person paying into a family share cell phone plan of five lines, where every month the bill is always over $400, and if the other people in the plan – all adults now – would take over their fair share of the bill.
2. Define realistic and achievable long-term goals.
It took me some time to come up with these hopefully achievable goals, but my long-term goals to reach by the end of 2009 are:
– To be exercising at least 30 minutes a day five times a week.
– At least four dinners each week will have chicken or seafood as the main entrée.
– My weight will decrease by at least 15 pounds by the end of the year.
– The percentage of my body fat to muscle ratio will decrease by at least five percentage points.
– By July, I will have de-cluttered my house, filed all the important papers that now sit scattered in bags of old mail, and tossed out what is no longer relevant.
– I will work on resolving financial issues by August.
– By May, I will either be contributing another one percent to my 401K or putting that same amount against the principal of some loans I owe.
– By September, I will have gotten my own single-line cell phone contract and be responsible only for my own bills.
3. Define intermediate goals.
The long-term goals will fail if I do not develop smaller goals that act as stepping-stones to the long term goals. With that in mind:
– I will start out with reaching 30 minutes of exercise one day a week in January.
– Each subsequent month, I will add day to the 30-minute commitment, so that when May starts, I will be exercising five times a week.
– I will start out by having at least one chicken or seafood dinner each week in January, and increase this by one each month to April.
– To reduce my weight and body fat percentage, I will watch not just what I eat, but portion sizes, and I will track my weight each week.
– At least one bag or box of “clutter” or stuff will go out of the house each week, either to be returned to the owner, given away through Freecycle, or trashed if that is what it really is.
– Items that might be salable will be tagged, cleaned, boxed and prepared for a springtime garage sale, and as a result, every two months, another room of clutter will be cleared out.
4. Track my progress
I will create logs for me to track my exercise and eating habits, and I am going to share those logs with others to help keep me motivated. For the rooms of clutter, I am going to do Before – During – and After pictures to help keep me motivated. At least half of any garage sale profits will go against outstanding loans I have.
If I slip or backslide, I will not give up. Tracking progress is simply that – tracking it, not judging it, but using it to learn from mistakes and failures.
5. Enlist the help of others.
Publicizing my intent is part of what will help motivate me, because then I am not only failing myself if I do not keep this resolution, but may cause my friends, family and even my readers to view me as a failure. By publicizing my intent, I hope possibly to find friends with some similar goals, so that we can help motivate each other, and I am asking my friends to help keep me motivated.
This is a resolution that will require time, patience, determination and commitment, but I believe if I follow the five steps above, that I will be successful. Even if I am not, by having defined my goals and the steps to take, I hope to be able to analyze any point(s) of failure so that I can learn from my failure and become more successful.