Today is the day...I'm sure most of you have received emails, sale ads, or other reminders that today is the day we reinvent ourselves. "New Year. New You!". Wow, sounds great. If I just buy this thing or that thing or join this plan or that plan...then I too can be all I want to be. Guess what...you will still be you and I will still be me. I'm not against resolutions. I think there are yearly times when its good to reflect on the past year and look at the areas where we'd like to grow. Maybe its New Years. Maybe its a birthday or anniversary. Maybe it's a random day in March.
If you reflect on the past year and realize "hey, I want to improve _____________", then the way to really go about it is to set a goal. A resolution is generally vague "I want to do better financially." A goal is more specific "I want to get out of debt in 2012." I've often read about goals and how to do them, but until last New Year's Day I never really followed through correctly. Last year, I set three goals for the year and ended up meeting them all: 1. Run in the Warrior Dash in June, 2. Pay off all our debt by the end of the year, and 3. Weigh 170 by the end of the year (yikes, I just put my weight out there). Using the following guidelines made a huge difference. None of this information is original, but it really does work.
1. Write it down. Yes, you. If you really want to achieve something, write it down. I always skipped this step. I would think "I know what the goal is, I don't need to write it down", or I would write it tucked away in my journal. In 2011 I wrote my three goals on a piece of paper and posted them above my desk at work. I had a regular reminder of what I was working for. When I wanted to skip a run, I realized that would really make the Warrior Dash much harder. If I wanted to go shopping just because, I'd acknowledge that would only set us further back in paying off debt.
2. Make SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. Saying "I want to lose weight" is too vague. How do you know when you will get there? "I want to lose 10 lbs." That's better, but by when? 10 years? 10 days? Which brings me to realistic and attainable: it needs to be a realistic and healthy (mentally and physically) goal.
3. Break big goals down into smaller goals. Our goal of paying off our debt was big. Felt nearly unattainable. But we broke it down month by month. We'd look at our budget and how much each of us would be working that month and what expenses we would have. We'd set a goal for how much we wanted to have extra to put on debt at the end of the month.
4. Reassess and give yourself some grace. Life happens. You may set a goal to run a 5K in May, only to break your leg in April. You have to realize that even when giving everything you have toward a goal, life can come up and kick you in the teeth and set you back. We easily could have had a major medical expense or other emergency what would have made our debt payoff impossible this past year. At the same time, don't allow yourself to come up with every excuse in the book why you can't reach your goal. If you want to achieve something, spend more time figuring out how you can achieve it than how you will have obstacles in your way
5. Not every goal has to be "big" or life changing. Last year I did set 3 big goals...and they were life changing. In the Warrior Dash, I overcame my fear of heights and found I could do more physically than I ever thought I could. With the process of paying off debt it changed something in my spirit and in my family with how we view money and debt. This year, I'm scaling it back. I set two goals, both of which I hope will be beneficial to me and my family, but don't require the intensity of the past year (frankly after all that, I need a nap!)
1. Read 1 non fiction and 1 fiction book every month.
2. Have one date night a month with my husband (we had very few while we were getting out of debt due to our focus on all our extra money going to debt)
Don't those sound fun? Goals don't need to be unenjoyable. In fact, if you set a goal and it makes you groan, cross it off and start over! I'm serious. Life is too precious to spend time doing things you really don't want to do just because you think it will make you better. It doesn't mean every step of the journey will be enjoyable, but find the most pleasant road to the destination.
To those of you who don't set goals or resolutions...my hat is off to you. You probably show a lot more maturity and self-acceptance than I do!
This month most of my blogs will be directed at those trying to make physical improvements in their life, but with the response to my debt payoff blog, my next blog will be on the #1 thing we found to be most important in our debt payoff.
So I don't really want a "new me", I just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to enjoy and use the life God has given me.