2014 was an extremely satisfying, organized, productive and fun year. It's not every year that feels or occurs this way. I believe that a combination of following God's calling on your life (even in the small things - or especially in the small things) and pursuing who you are in light of what God has called you to results in big accomplishments. This year I had several big goals that I felt were things that I needed and wanted to go towards. It was really rewarding to see the start of new phases of life happen. It was also eye-opening to discover things that I still need more help with. But don't we all have those?!
There is often 'bad press' about setting resolutions. After all, who really continues to go to the gym after January? And you can't really expect yourself to stay healthy through the whole year, right? What is the point in starting something you can't finish? Or maintain? It's said that 80% of people fail to maintain their resolutions. Why not become one of the 20% then?!
I read several articles claiming that people should stop setting resolutions. That they don't result in anything better. Why not stop calling them resolutions? What are you resolving to do anyway? Calling them goals instead of resolutions allows me to focus on achieving something rather than resolving to change. The changes will result as you achieve, but it's more fun to achieve things than to think of yourself as someone who needs completely change. Each small achievement can motivate you to keep going.
I believe in setting goals that are meaningful for me. Things that truly matter to me despite what they might mean to someone else. Goals that improve my daily life while challenging me to live fuller, live happier, live more joyful despite my circumstances. I can't control what happens to me each day, but I can control my reaction and I can control what I pursue each day.
As a very-goal oriented person who finds joy in challenging myself to improve myself mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially, I think that goals are an incredibly powerful tool to make our lives fuller. Sure, you don't have to start goals on January 1, but why not? It's a refreshing starting point when a new year comes along. We often define our past by our years. We remember where we were in 2001. We look back on 2004 as a truly defining year for our family and an incredibly difficult one in our marriage. 2007 and 2010 were milestones we won't ever forget. I think a new year is a perfect starting point to set new goals.
Not every goal needs to be over-the-top or an amazing feat. One year my goal was to change the sheets on our beds every two weeks. For some, that may seem silly as it's easy for them to change their sheets every few days without reminders. For this mom, it's a goal that was extremely helpful and was something easy to work at as it wasn't something I thought of with all the other tasks to do.
If you're looking at goals to set, here are a few ideas that might make life a little more fun, joyful, challenging, spiritually enlightening, others-focused and life changing. You have nothing to lose and only a better life to gain. Here are ten ideas:
1. Money Saving Challenge
I started this one this year, but did it backwards. I saved $52 the first week, $51 the second week, and so on. I find we always have more $$ at the beginning of the year and it was easier to save a lot at the beginning. Seeing the savings grow so fast at the beginning was really motivating.
2. Send someone flowers once a month
Could be the same someone or a different person each month. Flowers are simple, sweet and thoughtful. An easy way to keep others in mind.
3. Write letters to someone each week or month giving encouragement, thoughts or just a simple "I'm thinking/praying for you"
We don't tell others how much they matter enough. This is easy and fun to do. There are lots of cute cards and paper to use. Can even make your own cards!
4. Say 'No' to things that you want to say 'No'
Two years ago I set a goal to stand up for myself and say no when I mean no, yes when I mean yes and to accept what God has called for me to do without overstepping what He has for me to do and trying to do for others what they can and should do for themselves.
It is life-changing to say 'No' when it is important for it to be said.
5. Memorize scripture
Whether writing in a journal, posting a 'verse of the week' to memorize, or having notecards in your purse with scripture, this will help you to keep God's Word easy to reflect on.
6. Challenge yourself in an area of talent
This year I challenged myself to learn a new piano piece each month. I love to play piano, but often spend most of my time playing it in the classroom with students where I am playing more simple chords or easy pieces. I teach piano students which is another great use of the talent. However, it's edifying to grow as a musician myself as well.
Maybe you haven't taken out your guitar or you only know a few chords. Why not start up lessons? Or learn a new song? Maybe you enjoy making pottery but haven't done it in a while. Why not create a special piece for your home? Or you might be a writer who is stuck and can't get a clear thought written out. Begin somewhere.
If you have no talent (as some of my friends claim but I don't believe), seek to do a class or learn a skill that you have interest in. Just because you aren't good at something doesn't mean it isn't fun. I'm not a great artist, but I love painting. Painting at "Painting with a Twist" is a fun event to do on your own or with friends. The wine that you bring is nice too ;) - and likely made my painting better.
7. Choose one friend to befriend
You likely have one person in your life that you wish you could get to know better. Choose to make them a priority this year. Plan dinners/lunches/brunch/coffee get-togethers. Or find activities to do together. This may or may not be your spouse! Jeremy and I have chosen to work towards one date night a month the last few years. When we miss our time together, our marriage suffers. I have another friend who I don't see much but every time we get together, it makes life better for both of us. I intend to make her more of a priority this year!
TV is an easy go-to when you're wanting to relax. If given the choice between tv and a good book, I'll always choose the book. But I'm kind of a dork in that way so this one is easy for me. There is no shortage of great reading material. Challenge yourself to read more. Whether for an escape, to learn something new, to get self-help or just to enjoy the life of a character, reading can be relaxing.
9. Stay one hour later at work one day a week
Work? Seriously? We all spend more time at work than we do at home. Using one hour a week more at work focused on tasks you don't usually have time for the rest of the week can take a load of stress off your mind on the weekends, ease up your work load the rest of the week and help you be more organized. Take one day a week and choose to stay an hour past the time you can leave. In that hour, organize files, clean your desk, finish up a project that's been hanging over your head, plan for the next week, create a new SmartBoard project, read about classroom management. For me, this extra hour is done every Friday afternoon. Sometimes I stay a little longer than an hour, but just one extra hour can accomplish more than complaining about the lack of time to get everything done. There will never be enough time each day. But an extra hour - just one! - can make more of a dent in your workload than you might think.
10. Put on your workout clothes and shoes
I didn't say that you should go to the gym. Or that you should workout for an hour every day. When you're not feeling like working out but you know that you should go, simply put on your workout clothes and shoes. You might hang out in the clothes for a while afterward. It's likely that you'll actually make it to the gym as a result.
One article I read years ago said that a women had her gym shoes next to her bed and as soon as she woke up, she put her feet into her shoes and worked out. This is not how I work. I need to eat when I wake up. I need fuel before burning fuel. I enjoy working out but not first thing in the morning. There are days when I don't want to go. Yesterday was one. I wanted to work out but I didn't want to have to shower afterwards (weird I know). I wanted the endorphins - just not the sweat. I wanted to work and build muscle - but not wear old workout pants that are out of style. Lame I know. And self-centered, but that's what I was thinking. Then I put on my workout clothes and shoes. Went to the gym and busted my butt. And arms, thighs, abs. Got home and felt like a million bucks.
For some of you, working out is the last thing you'd ever want to do. It can be hard to want to do something you know you should do but don't enjoy doing. Meet with a friend. Have accountability. Go to a yoga class. Swim. Find an activity you enjoy. Then just put on your clothes and shoes. And go. You'll feel much better.