Can you believe that we are about to turn the calendar over to 2020 and are already talking about new year’s resolutions? I’m not sure about you but 2019 flew right by me! My 2019 was a year of both endings and new beginnings. It was the year that I finished the graduate nursing education journey I had started 3 years prior. But it was also the year that I said goodbye to a position with a company which felt like home.
Graduation meant taking a leap into an entirely new position within a completely different organization. An opportunity to embrace the change and grow in new and completely different ways than had ever been possible before. I am a firm believer that life is about the journey and not the destination.
But the belief in the beauty of the journey rather than the destination has taken me years to embrace. I never fully understood the value of implementing the wisdom in living my life this way until recently.
The reality is that while facing the daily challenges of balancing family, work, and school, my mindset shifted. I began focusing on graduation and moving beyond the daily stress of class and meeting homework deadlines. The phrase, “when I’m done with school” constantly crossed my mind and lips. My mind began to focus on the utopian future which would suddenly descend upon me once I held the diploma in my hand.
I stopped looking for the joy in my daily life.
Past New Year’s Resolutions
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You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with your 2020 new year’s resolutions. Let me explain.
Looking back over the past 5 years, how many new year’s resolutions have you kept? Following through with resolutions is incredibly difficult if your focus is on the destination instead of the journey.
It works like this. As the new year approaches, you begin thinking about how great life would be if you were 15 pounds lighter. You’d actually feel like exercising, it would be easier to make healthier food choices, and you’d look amazing in your clothes. You would be unstoppable!
January 1 rolls around and you hit the gym, make yourself a salad for lunch, and turn down dessert after supper. You and your new year’s resolutions are off to a great start! All you can think about is how great life is going to be in 15 pounds.
Two weeks later, you hit a wall. You’ve been battling a cold, mornings come way too early, and you are just worn out. You’re running late for work and decide to just hit the drive through instead of packing a lunch. Slowly but surely you slip into your old habits again.
Fueled by the frustration of drifting farther and farther from your health goals, the guilt and shame of failure sets in. You feel further than ever from that elusive 15 pounds and at this point, it might as well be 50 pounds. Focusing on the destination has delivered you to the place where you once again put your goals on the shelf until the calendar flips over a new year. And repeat.
A focus on the destination will fail every time because our goals are often too big to sustain us through the daily grind. Achieving any new goal requires change in mindset and routine. Changing these areas of your daily life to achieve the goal can often be the toughest part. It’s incredibly easy to slip back into your old ways when the work required to change feels harder than the pay-off of the end goal.
Focus on the Journey
But what happens when you flip the mindset and instead focus on the journey? What does focusing on the journey actually look like?
In terms of new year’s resolutions, focusing on the journey means breaking the larger resolution down into daily action steps. It then means adapting each action step into your life in a way which is both motivating and satisfying. And most importantly, it means giving yourself permission to fail occasionally but the grace to move beyond the temporary setback.
Yes … you read that correctly. Set yourself up for success by actively planning for and moving past moments of setback.
Let’s take a look at my previous example of losing 15 pounds. Focusing on the journey means breaking down the steps you will need to take to accomplish this goal. Maybe you decide to hit the gym 4 days a week, pack healthy lunches for work instead of eating out, and cut back on dessert 3 days a week. These are the daily action steps needed to get to your goal.
Now to find ways of making these daily action steps both satisfying and motivating.
Maybe you are challenged with having 5 books on your “must read” list and no time in which to read them. This is a perfect opportunity to reward yourself with gym time by downloading an audio book app and only listening while working out.
Or maybe you are highly motivated by statistics so you find an app which tracks your workouts. You can then derive satisfaction from seeing all the miles you’ve racked up since you started.
There are any number of ways to satisfy and motivate yourself to continue the small, daily tasks required to accomplish larger goals. It’s often a matter of figuring out what motivates you individually.
The last piece of making your new year’s resolution a permanent part of your life is planning for setbacks. Setbacks are inevitable. No matter how satisfying and motivating you make your daily action steps, life happens and there will be times you need to take a step back. Keeping a new year’s resolution is not about whether you screw up but rather what your next step is when you fall off the wagon.
Do you miss a day at the gym, immediately feel incredibly guilty, and then decide to double down by having cheat meals for the next 10 months? Or do you give yourself some grace for being human and get back on track the next day?
To accomplish huge goals, including new year’s resolutions, you must take a series of small, daily steps which inch you ever closer to where you want to be. There will be days when you are not able to take those steps. But make up for it by choosing to take steps at the very next opportunity.
Focusing on the journey means actively seeking out the joy in your daily life. Choose to live in the now instead of chasing after the imaginary paradise of the destination.
Enjoying the journey rather than continually chasing the destination gives you the opportunity to figure out where you’re headed and whether this is the journey you actually want to be on. It gives you the power to evaluate and adjust your course regardless of where you’re at in your journey. You can make positive changes regardless of whether it’s January 1st or October 10th. The power is in your hands.
And if you’re looking for ideas on where to begin, I’ve got you covered! Check out the list below for simple new year’s resolutions divided out by category.
Work out 3 days a week. If you’re looking for an activity tracking app, check out this one which motivated me to log almost 400 miles this year!
Replace your usual lunch with a salad 3 days a week. Make packing easier with this bowl designed for lunch on-the-go.
Drink more water. This water bottle takes the guess work out of incorporating drinking more into your already busy lifestyle.
Sign up for a fitness class with a friend to increase your accountability and to make the class more fun.
Reduce your daily sodium intake to decrease your blood pressure and your overall cardiovascular risk.
Cook at home instead of eating out so you can control what goes into your meals. Find a new crockpot recipe and tame the supper chaos!
Increase your daily step count by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and by replacing a work break with an outside walk. Doing so will not only provide instant health benefits but will make you more refreshed and efficient when you return to your desk.
Drink less soda. The caffeine in many types of soda can interrupt your sleep while the sugar adds empty calories that are often unnecessary.
Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet on a daily basis. Check out this cookbook for fresh recipe ideas.
Cut back on alcohol. Excessive intake can negatively impact the heart, brain, liver, and immune system.
Schedule time every day to pursue a hobby or activity which you find meaningful.
Incorporate a simple meditation exercise into your daily routine. Check out this app which has helped me better understand my thinking patterns and reduced my anxiety and overwhelm.
Learn strategies of relaxation to improve your mood, sleep, and to reduce certain cardiovascular risks.
Release yourself from something which has been weighing you down. We often put too much pressure on ourselves in certain areas of life and this leads to anxiety, overwhelm, and a general state of unhappiness. If you are having difficulty letting go, seek out a counselor.
Laugh. Every single day.
Limit the time you spend on social media. Although it has its perks, too much social media can suck up your time and depress your mood.
Say no more often. If whatever you’re being asked to do doesn’t light you up with joy, do yourself a favor and politely decline.
Prioritize date night with your significant other. Spending time alone together gives you the opportunity to connect in ways that our often busy lives do not provide.
Drop the mom guilt. Do the absolute best you can and don’t worry about the rest!
Spend the last 30 minutes before bed talking with your significant other instead of losing yourself on your phone or computer.
Family game night. Need I say more?
Commit to device-free dinner, even if it’s only one night a week.
Plan a lunch date. Connecting with your partner at an unexpected time of day can create connection and leave you feeling energized for the rest of the day.
Say “I love you” more often. It’s a simple act but is something which can easily be lost in the craziness of daily life.
Set aside regular time to spend with each of your children to plan an afternoon date or participate in a fun, creative activity.
Spend some time figuring out whether you and your partner are speaking the same language. Check out this book for help.
Consider the language you use to convey messages to your partner, especially during disagreements. Use of the words “always” and “never” generally cause defensive feelings, never a positive when trying to resolve a complex situation. Seek the help of a counselor if you feel issues are continually unresolved.
Read the Bible daily. Make reading even easier with this great app which also includes all types of reading plans.
Prioritize prayer. Try setting a daily phone timer to prompt you to include this vital activity into your life.
Incorporate gratitude by writing down something you are grateful for each day.
Attend weekly church services.
Join or start a Bible study. Fellowship with others strengthens your faith and is a source of support during both good and bad times.
Volunteer your time or talents to a cause you find meaningful.
Increase your charitable donations.
Pack your lunch instead of eating out. Meal prep like a pro with these awesome containers!
Clearly identify your financial goals. Do you have debt to pay off? Looking to increase your income this year? Student loan debt piling up? The act of writing down your goals solidifies and clarifies them, making it easier to hit your target.
Track your expenses for a month to determine whether your spending aligns with your priorities.
Pick up a side gig to create another income stream.
Set up or get serious about contributing to your retirement account.
Switch to brewing your favorite drink at home instead of hitting up the drive thru line.
Cut down on both your bill and mindless screen time by cancelling your cable services. Imagine the financial possibilities with an extra $150+ a month in your account!
Eliminate distractions from your work day to improve productivity. Check out this life-changing book for more on how you can take action today.
Focus on improving your self-confidence.
Read a personal development book. Or you could even aim for one per month.
Further your education. Whether you attend a formalized program or individual classes, education is a valuable asset applicable in many areas of both life and work.
Attend local networking events to expand your professional circle.
Spend some time updating your LinkedIn profile.
Find a career mentor. My greatest mentor is someone who consistently motivates and inspires me to be a better nurse today than I was yesterday.
It’s Your Turn!
And there you have it … simple habits you can incorporate into your daily life to move the needle further toward living your best life. New year’s resolutions don’t need to be complicated and in fact, the simpler, the better. Whether it’s January 1st or November 17th, you can make small changes which will add up to a more fulfilled and purposeful life.
Please drop a comment below about your own positive changes as I’d love to cheer you on!