After I finished exams in early December, my mind shifted out of study mode, and I began to focus on three things: how to best clean my room (it currently has a decidedly unminimalist apartment’s amount of stuff haphazardly piled in an approximately 11×13 space), how to prepare for Christmas (gift-giving and the like), and what resolutions would make the cut for 2011. In the department of resolution making, I knew that my focus would be on making constructive resolutions, but I was still at a bit of a loss as to what the specifics would be.
Enter my Tops Docket Gold legal pad. I love these things for brainstorms, and brainstorm I did, no holds barred. My first approach was a bit of a catchall. If my legal pad could hold my desire to exercise at least twice a week, save X dollars in Y accounts, cook Z times a week, and so on, surely 2011 could, right? Wrong. I knew that wouldn’t happen.
Approach #2 lacked the demands of Approach #1. Or, perhaps more accurately, it lacked the specifics of the first plan; it still held the pressure, just in a more abstract, directionless form. It was a blank check as far as resolutions go. I knew my intention was to develop good habits, but I wasn’t sure which ones I’d like to try to develop, so the draft looked something like this: “Develop one good/better habit in each of these arenas: Eating, Exercise, Finances….” Approach #2 was another “not gonna happen.” I require more structure than that.
[Note: I get that there is a potential tension between trying to simplify things and ratcheting up the guidelines I’d like to follow. Lots of burdensome rules ≠ simple living. My hope, though, is to create guidelines that are challenging without being burdensome, and more importantly, to have the lifestyle within the guidelines become second nature. Sort of like a casting mold. More on that subject later. Rules, that is, not casting molds.]
So, as I looked at my rambling list of resolution contenders, I decided a few things in regard to what goals would make the final list.
1. Build momentum. Or, continue what’s working. Since early October I have been tracking my daily expenditures, and it has been working well for me. So, building on that momentum, I decided to continue tracking my spending. To up the challenge factor a notch, I added in a clause about how I would review those expenses monthly. (Sure, this is a resolution that I will likely find both easy and pleasant. Perhaps this is a carryover from my Bingo-board resolution days. Hello, “FREE” center square!)
2. Capitalize on skills that can be generalized. I took a class last semester entitled “Exceptional Learners,” and one concept I really enjoyed was the value of generalization, or developing skills that transfer easily to different contexts. If tracking spending has gone well (and, indeed, it has, as it has decreased my money-related stress, increased my consciousness regarding what I spend, and generally encouraged me to make fewer unnecessary transactions), why not track my exercise? Rather than requiring myself to exercise a certain number of times per week, what if I simply agree to record how much—or how little—I exercise? My guess is that I might see an effect similar to the one my spending tracking produced. Three cheers for accountability!
3. Allow a little room for experimentation. Lately I’m inspired almost daily by the goals of the bloggers I follow. By making a resolution to make quarterly resolutions, I am hoping to keep my resolutions dynamic, allow for my March whims (or any other month’s whims), and just generally keep things fresh. Furthermore, if I try a resolution on for size and don’t like it, I can easily toss it or alter it without feeling like it’s a failed resolution.
4. Tack on the why. Sure, there’s something appealing about a clean resolution list (e.g., 1. Lose 10 pounds, 2. Write a letter each week, etc.), but “clean” can’t give me pep talks in May! Alongside each resolution I have written an explanation of my objective. My hope is three-fold. First, I hope it will keep me motivated throughout the year. Second, as I review my resolutions at the end of the year, I will be able to see which benefits I anticipated and which ones were added bonuses. Third, if the resolution doesn’t live up to my dreams, the explanation can serve as a reminder of my original intention (and thus, help me to rework my activities to better achieve my intended end).
Up Next: My 2011 Resolution List