Just because a New Year may be approaching doesn’t always mean you’re ready to reform your lifestyle. Nor do your desires to rid yourself of certain habits always coincide with Lent season. I learned both in the span of one month. Near the end of 2012 and early January, I made goals for myself – writing, life, health, fitness, etc. My goal was to write one short story per month, a new chapter of my novel each week, one personal essay every month, and read one book every week. None of that happened. Instead, I wrote no short stories nor personal essays, decided to take an impromptu break from blogging, read three books (one of which I started in December), and only managed to finish one chapter of my novel by the end of the month. As it happened, I wasn’t mentally ready to take on a slew of new goals nor was I willing to wait for Lent to take a much needed step away from the Internet. What exactly did I learn from all this?
Don’t beat yourself up.
This was the biggest thing about realizing how behind I was getting in my goals. The ones listed above don’t even cover half of what I failed to accomplish. I realized that if I was going to accomplish anything at all this year that I wanted to get done, I needed to learn how to be easy on myself. And, actually, it was surprisingly easy to cut myself some slack and not feel like a horrible person over it. Once you realize that you’re not superhuman and can’t, in fact, always catch on to the kind of discipline and determination you’d like to have right away, but instead acknowledge that with each stride you’re making improvements, you’ll make the whole goal-setting-and-attaining process much less stressful for yourself in the long run. Remember, goals are a process, and just because you’re not getting them done as soon as you imagined you would, doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Admit that you need to set smaller goals.
If you’re like me, you tried to set up a bunch of big goals that only your idealistic side thought you’d be able to manage. Also, if you’re like me, you’re realistic side didn’t get much say in this matter, because, like I said, you like to think you’re Hermoine Granger or something. Take all of those goals you wrote out for yourself earlier in the year and pick the ones that matter most to you right now. Sometimes all you need is that first month of trying to keep your New Year’s resolutions to realize that you can’t get make everything a priority. For instance, I learned that the most important things for me were to get a first draft of my novel written, read daily, live a more healthy life (i.e. going to bed earlier, waking up sooner, stretching, exercising, eating healthier, etc.), and journal more.
Take these realizations and revise your stance.
So, you’ve finally realized you have no magical powers, much to your dismay, and will in fact have to turn things down a notch. Found out what you were doing to keep yourself from accomplishing all the goals you’d written down and cut back on that one activity, whether it be television, video games, talking on the phone, spending too much time on the Internet, whatever. Figure out your most important goals and set up times when you’re most likely to work towards achieving them. If you know that you’re going to come home at the end of the day and only want to veg out in front of the TV and relax your brain, work on your goals in the morning, on weekends, and/or during your lunch break at work. Just find out what works with your schedule and get it done. Just remember, sometimes you have to be strict and make yourself get things done whether you feel like it in the moment or not. If that means not going out with friends, don’t go. If that means not watching your favorite TV show, don’t watch. If that means having to tell your family you need thirty minutes or an hour to get things done, do it. If they love you, they’ll understand, and even support you in your ventures. Just make sure you’re still carving out time for them. They deserve your awesomeness, too.
Mostly importantly, know when you’re mentally and emotionally ready to take on these challenges and when you’re not.
I wasn’t ready for New Year’s and all its goal-setting when the first of January rolled around. I had some ideas about what I wanted to get done this year, but it wasn’t until the second week in that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the 2, 013th year of our Lord, and even then it took me a month to weed out which goals were most important to me. Just because a new year comes up, doesn’t mean you have to feel pressured to start making up a bunch of goals for yourself. Maybe you won’t be ready until March or maybe you were ready to get down to business in November. You need to do it when the time is right and when you feel prepared to take on your challenges. Also, just because Lent season doesn’t start until February doesn’t mean you have to wait until then to shed something from your life. Maybe it will last as long as Lent, maybe it will take longer, or maybe it will only take you a week or two. For me, I needed to stop blogging immediately and couldn’t wait until Lent. I needed to start clearing my head the moment I’d made up my mind about it. And I will most likely go back to blogging before Lent even starts (which means I’ll just have to think of something else to give up).
The worst thing we can do to ourselves is force something to happen in our lives that we’re not ready for. Life already throws curveballs at us when we’re unprepared, so why do that to ourselves? Before we take on a big project, we need to have all of our bases covered. We need to have a plan for how we’re going to handle these goals and where we can catch up if we veer off course. But, most importantly, we should set attainable goals. Figure out which goals you gave the most priority in January and why, then reevaluate them from there. You may find that you change your mind about wanting to achieve certain goals. Give yourself room to grow and change. As they say, this is your party.
I love this post because I too see Lent as another opportunity to attempt those goals you either forgot about for New Year's, or already flubbed up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lauren! Go check out her blog at Her Silent Musings and follow her on Twitter @hersilentmusing.