Recently, I’ve found myself contemplating setting some new year’s resolutions, even though I stopped the practice some time ago. I’ve never been real big on new year’s resolutions, mostly because I’ve never been good at sticking to them. They felt rote and arbitrary to me, like if I did them, I was always doing them to satisfy someone else just to get along. Of course when I didn’t come through on my promise to lose weight, cut back on chocolate or quit smoking, I still had to deal with the disappointment.
The Pitfalls of Making Resolutions
The funny thing about resolutions is that while they definitely start out with the best of intentions, choosing to take on major addictions like smoking or compulsive eating isn’t really something you should attempt just because January’s come around. Sure, if your goal is to drop 10 pounds to fit in your swimsuit, “lose weight” is a fine ambition for a last minute new year’s resolution, but if you’re looking to stop binge eating in your walk-in-pantry most late nights, you should probably have a better plan and actually be ready to face the demons driving those urges. You can’t just stop these behaviors cold turkey anymore than Uncle Bob can put aside his nightly fifth of rum because the family is ready to throw him out on the street.
If you are trying to do something like kick smoking or lose a considerable amount of weight, there’s nothing wrong with choosing to start in the new year. A lot of people like the idea of the new year representing renewal and feel like it’s good luck to start then. Just take the time to plan and ensure you’re sufficiently prepared to take on those big things. Don’t do it because your friend is doing it and for the love of your own sanity, don’t try to do it for someone else. Start out in that spirit and you’re just giving yourself something for them, and yourself, to beat you up about later.
My conservative estimate is that I tried to quit smoking no less than 8 times before I finally succeeded, just four years ago. Every other time, I was just torturing myself for someone else’s ideals. I guess in a way, it was good practice. I knew exactly what not to do after each try. What finally did the trick? My mother died from COPD related complications at the ripe old age of 66 a couple of years after my sister, who also had COPD and weighed over 500 lbs, died at age 49 of congestive heart failure. I decided that at 307 lbs, if there was little I could do about my weight at the time, I sure as hell could control my smoking, and I finally did. It was also the beginning of my weight loss, only that was fueled more by my hysterectomy and other health changes which helped me to find a renewed sense of hope in successfully pursuing this goal.
Everything happens in its own time.
The older you get, the more intimately you understand how little control over life you really have. Planning is great, but largely unproductive, as life usually screws you right out of those plans. This may seem very pessimistic, but to me, it’s simply a fact of life. For example, we planned on staying in this tissue paper palace with its ruined carpets until we could actually afford to move, but it was recently bought by another company. They’ve already informed us that we won’t be allowed to renew the lease on our current apartment. When our lease is up in April and/or they have renovated apartments ready, we will be given 60 days to move into a remodeled unit for $150 more per month in rent. I hate to tell them, but renovated or not, we will still hear the conversations of our neighbors. They’re crazy if they think we’re going to pay movers to move into an apartment we already know we hate. There is absolutely no privacy here. My neighbors can hear every aspect of our lives, from our lovemaking to me softly crying.
Getting Goal Positive
I’ve spent a good deal of time on the solemnity of resolutions and their ugly side, but goal setting is an important part of self-improvement and succeeding in life. When done right, it can have tremendously positive effects. In order to accomplish this, they have to be realistic, attainable, and you have to actually want them. They should be a very individual thing. Since I feel that setting goals for the sake of the season is rather counterproductive, but do want to take advantage of the feelings of renewal, I guess what I really want to do this year is to take stock of where I’m at with some of my larger, long term goals and dedicate myself to continuing those successes while trying to build on them.
For example, I recently started therapy so I can go back to the trauma work I left unfinished in my early adulthood to improve my recurring PTSD issues that cropped back up. I also need to work on my overall self-esteem, my stress management, and ultimately my ability to remain calm and have more successful, positive interactions with other people and build better, healthier relationships. This is one big goal that includes several small goals. They could easily take longer than a year to achieve, and that’s okay. Mental health and self-improvement should never be rushed or held to any sort of timeline and when 2020 rolls around, if I’m still in therapy working on these things, I will probably be impressed rather than disappointed.
Likewise, I would never want to wait until the new year comes around to start this important work. When I started looking for a therapist back in October, I was more than ready to begin therapy and might have lost the courage and momentum I’d built up to get there had I waited.
My other goals are mostly health related. I’ve lost 55 pounds in the last 4 years. While I am so tempted to make proclamations about how I’m going to double or triple my weight loss speed this year, I know that would set me up for immediate failure because I know from experience this is out of my control. I want to succeed, so I’ll have to settle for setting the goal of continuing to lose weight in a healthy way no matter how long it takes while treating my body with respect and love. I also plan on continuing to work toward improved health through exercise, nutrition and supplementation while working with my doctors on any medical interventions I might need.
Finally, my most important goal is to become an earner for my family, whether that means the successful monetization of my blog, working as a freelance writer, or working for someone else doing something entirely different. I attempted to drive with Uber and while it didn’t work out, I learned a lot. I know I can’t do a job that requires me to think fast in dangerous situations. I learned that while one on one interaction is great for my social issues, with MCAS even being exposed to just one person’s body products at a time can be enough to completely wipe me out. I also learned that contrary to the opinion of my entire family my work ethic has never been the problem.
Barring any major complications with my heart or new health issues, my hope is to attain this goal by the end of 2019. After all, we not only have ever growing debt because we can’t afford my expensive ass, we’re also going to have to pay for a more expensive apartment. My husband’s already done his part. He got promoted a couple of months ago to department manager over pets. I’m so proud and grateful for all his hard work.
None of these are new goals. They’ve all been in progress for some time. For me, that’s okay because again, I don’t want to use an arbitrary start date for the important things in my life. I’m simply checking in and reasserting my faith in my ability to accomplish them. Perhaps instead of new year’s resolutions, my new tradition will become a new year’s evaluation of my current goals.
Evaluating Your Goals
Notice that each of my goals are highly personalized. I didn’t take on any of these goals because I saw someone else doing them or because someone asked me to, I’m doing them because they’re what I need to make myself feel whole again and my life feel complete. I’ve been able to stick with these goals long term precisely because they are my goals and they probably matter to me more than accomplishing just about anything else right now.
In the same token, if I decide that a goal is no longer feasible or is somehow harming me, I need to be okay with walking away from it. Say working is absolutely not going to be an option because of health changes. I need to be ready to modify my plan to return to work, right down to not working at all and even giving up the things that make me feel happier and more productive right now, like my blogging. This is one of the reasons why I don’t include minutiae in my goals and think of them as living, flexible things. They have to be ready to bend to the laws of nature and one of those laws is that nothing can remain constant. Not even our ideas.
My goals also involve me alone. I don’t have to rely on anyone else to accomplish any of these things (other than professionals who are paid to help me). If your goals ever do include someone else, a life or business partner, those goals should be planned and agreed upon together. They should be nurtured and brought forth together, too.
I’ve also been very careful to either set reasonable or open ended completion dates. The point of goals may be to challenge ourselves to accomplish things and succeed in ways we may have previously been unable to, but in order to do this, we have to give ourselves our best chance. No, they shouldn’t be ridiculously easy or simple (otherwise, what’s the point), but they should be attainable.
If the goals you want to take on are truly massive, try breaking them down into steps or phases and then tackle them that way. Professional eaters don’t win by putting an entire tray of hot dogs in their mouth all at once. They win by attacking that tray one bite at a time. If something seems incomprehensibly overwhelming, taking it in smaller chunks usually makes it’s a lot easier to swallow.
On a final note, be sure that when life does take a crap all over your goals, that you place the blame where it belongs. If it’s truly something beyond your control, there’s no reason to beat yourself up. If you take an honest look and you decide there are things you could have easily done to accomplish your goal, ask yourself why and genuinely see if you can come up with a good answer. Self-sabotage exists for a reason. It’s usually trying to tell us something important.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on goal setting. I really enjoyed taking this time to reflect on what makes for successful goal setting and why I’ve never been fond of new year’s resolutions. If you enjoyed this article, share it on Facebook or pin it so your friends can enjoy it, too!