“Easy is a refuge, and it’s an easy place to be.” – Needtobreathe
So, here we are – December twenty-ninth – the last Thursday of 2016. I’m back in my favorite little coffee shop, sipping on a twelve-ounce hazelnut latte (four ounces more than the usual, because – hey – it’s been a while), and ready to compose my final blog post of the year. The New Year is always one of my favorite holidays and – if you’ll remember correctly – it was the entire reason for firing this thing up in the first place. Starting a blog was last year’s resolution. A good handful of friends and family had affirmed my flair for writing and I’d always liked the idea of sharing my thoughts and stories with the internet – even if no one read them. I figured if someone did happen to stumble upon them and get something out of it, then – mission accomplished. If not? Well then I suppose no harm, no foul. At the end of the day I was still able to compose several well-worded paragraphs of strung-together anecdotes into one cohesive thought – a win in my book. I mean, if you had a gorgeous voice and sang a beautiful song on an amphitheater stage, would it sound any less gorgeous or beautiful if there were no one in the audience? No. Same principles apply. Even if no one read my posts I would still – to quote my very first post – “relish the satisfaction and frustration along the way.” And thus, I certainly have. I promised myself (and you guys, I guess) one post per month and while I didn’t exactly post one each month per se, I did end up making good with twelve posts total, so I’m counting that as promise delivered. Plus, I’m throwing in this bonus thirteenth post just for fun. You’re welcome. *wink*
My mom was texting me yesterday morning and among them she asked me what my New Year’s resolution was going to be for 2017. I told her I was still tossing around a few ideas and wasn’t sure yet. I’ve run into the same problem that I have in years past – I’ve got too many things that I want to do. I always get to feeling really ambitious this time of year, so sometimes it’s hard for me to pare my list down which, a lot of people think is weird because they have a hard enough time thinking of one thing they’d consider worthy of resolution status. I’ve talked to so many people who tell me all the time that resolutions are pointless because nobody follows them anyway and that’s true, I suppose. A lot of resolutions do go by the wayside because they’re too difficult or the person loses motivation, but sometimes – and, I feel like it’s the case more than folks give credit for – a resolution gets carried out to the end and starts a domino effect of positive changes that carry on into the next year. Now, I don’t claim to be a persuasive speaker by any means, but if you find yourself to be one of the former – a resolution skeptic – I’m taking it upon myself in the next couple of paragraphs to convince you to switch sides. You might think that New Years resolutions aren’t for you, but here’s the thing…
They’re for everyone. And everyone includes you.
The biggest thing for most people, I think is that they’re intimidated by resolutions. They think they have to be something cosmic and grand, but if you think about it most big changes are just an accumulation of small ones, right? So, that’s my first bit of advice – Start small. Send snail mail. Call your parents once a month. Practice better posture. Keep a daily journal. Finish one of the books you started. Small bites. Keep it simple. I’ve found that it’s usually the less grandiose resolutions that make it the course of the year and end up having the most impact, for that matter. When it comes to self-revolutions, we all want to change the world, yes? Well, The Beatles didn’t lie – We can. We just need to set a realistic starting place. For example, one year my resolution was to wear skinny jeans. Over the course of the year that change led to a few new pairs of shoes and tops, which led to adventures in layering and accessorizing, which led to me “bumping” my hair for some reason (back combing my hair, mind you – I did not use those stupid plastic “Bump Its”). Point being – one small change led to the next. While I hadn’t set out to change my style, by the end of the year it ended up being a pleasant side effect. However, if you are looking to make a bigger change you’ll need to implement tip number two – Specifics.
Losing weight is probably one of the most common New Years resolutions of all time ever. Right? Want to know why it never works year after year after year? It’s generic as all get out. Way too broad. It encompasses far too many elements. When you set goals for yourself, it’s always best to be a specific as you can. Not only do specifics make your resolution more palatable and approachable, they also ensure that you’ll stick to it. If you’re too generic, you lessen the accountability on yourself and you’re more likely to shrug it off a few months in. It’s much easier to make excuses for why you didn’t keep to your guidelines when they’re too open for interpretation. There’s no guilt when you slip up. Plus, I feel like you care less about whether or not you stick it out, because you didn’t care enough about making it in the first place. Ya know? You kind of just threw it out there like, “Well. I guess I’ll tell myself I’m gonna lose weight again this year because it didn’t work last year.” Not an effective motivator. Same goes for your resolution. Instead of resolving to lose weight, narrow it down to one of the many weight loss contributors – diet, exercise, etc. Make your house a potato chip free zone. Try no soda for twelve months (or no alcohol if you’re super ambitious – or crazy). Resolve to go to the gym once a week. If you already go to the gym on a regular basis, make it a goal to take a new class, or master an intimidating piece of equipment, or maybe add some weight lifting to your cardio schedule. Resolve to run a 5K each month! (I’m actually considering that one, so we could be Resolution Twins.) Anything goes! Back in 2011 I wanted to lose weight for my wedding, but instead of making that my New Years resolution, I set a goal for myself to be able run a mile without stopping. Soon, I graduated from one mile on the treadmill to multiple miles on the sidewalk and that year I had kick started a whole knew active lifestyle. You know what else happened? I lost weight. The whole is equal to the sum of its parts. (Isn’t that a math or science principal or something?) Identify your end game, pick one of the elements that will get you there, resolve to stick to it for a whole calendar year and the rest will take care of itself.
My final bit of advice? Have fun with it. Consult the bucket list. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or a place you’ve always wanted to visit? Do it! Go there! You have a whole year to make it happen, a whole year to stash away your financial acorns and accumulate your needed amount of time off. Fly to Europe. Ride the Amtrak as far east as the rails take it. Take a week off to be a tourist in your own city, exploring all of its history and hidden gems. Always wanted to learn a new language? Learn it! Interests and passions are some of the strongest motivators. Maybe you’d rather sharpen a certain set of skills or blow the dust off some old hobbies that got forgotten in your lack of free time. Fire ‘em back up! Become a master of your wok. Take a pottery class. Start a blog. *wink* Pick a passion and go for it. It can be as casual or extensive as you want. Think of it like college classes. Which ones did you tend to get better grades in – Your generals that you only took for the credit hours or the ones that actually focused on things you were interested in? My guess is the latter, unless you majored in general studies and that was your interest. For example, while I’ve never been very good at cooking I’ve always had an interest in it. Baking is more my jam. But, I’ve always been curious about the different styles and techniques showcased during my frequent Food Network binges. So, one year – I think it was 2010 – my New Year’s resolution was to host “Gourmet Night” on Sundays at the duplex that my sister and I rented out in Kearney. At least one Sunday a month we would have friends over to eat the feast we had prepared. We tried to encompass as many cooking styles as we could. I burned sesame chicken, hand rolled four different kinds of ravioli, and one of the Sundays ended up staying awake ‘til three in the morning (or some obnoxious hour) making Julia Child’s famous “boeuf bourguignon.” (Who knew a recipe could require so many steps and so much oven time??) I still don’t know how to cook that well and it was a challenge at times (I had to throw away two jellyroll pans. Literally. Pans in the actual trash.), but it gave me an excuse to have friends over and I got some good stories out of it. Resolutions don’t always have to be serious. Sometimes they can be just for fun.
Keep it simple, be specific, and have fun with it. That’s all it takes, really.
I’ve got a handful of strong contenders for my 2017 resolution and I’m still not sure which one I’ll run with, but one thing I am sure of is that I will run with one. It’s tradition. I’ve never not made one for as long as I can remember. If you’re still on the fence or maybe dismissing the idea of New Years resolutions all together, let me ask you the same thing I asked myself last year when I wavered over starting this blog – What do you have to lose? New Years resolutions are nothing but tiny steps towards self-improvement or self-happiness, and I see no harm in either. Refer to the opening quote at the top of this post – “Easy is a refuge, and it’s an easy place to be.” Easy is not making a resolution because you know you’ll quit halfway through. Easy is not straying from your life’s cattle trail. Easy is not wanting to have “another thing to think about.” Easy is just that – it’s easy. It’s challenge that sharpens the mind, adversity that creates opportunity, and sometimes a gentle push outside your comfort zone is all it takes to spark an unexpected self-revolution. Embrace it, my friends! Close your eyes with your arms spread wide and feel the fanfare that the New Year ushers in! Soak it up. Harness the swirling cloud of positivity and fuel some change next year. Do some good. Surprise yourself. After all, what do you have to lose?