tweaking old habits for new goals
I spend the first few days of January pinching myself. Is it really a new year already? What the heck happened last year? How could 365 days really have passed that quickly?
Then, as I reflect on all the things I saw, smelled, tasted, touched, heard, felt, and experienced over those 365 days, I realize that I truly did spend the last year doing a LOT OF THINGS. It’s amazing how quickly things move into our memory banks, even when it feels like the moment in front of us will never end (because it’s too wonderful, too boring, too awful, too overwhelming, or too heartfelt).
While this certainly applies to memories, it also applies to my goals and habits. I’m terribly guilty of starting little challenges or lifestyle changes that stick around for, oh, maybe a week or two, and then they seem to dissipate into thin air when I find something else I want to try. Oddly, the only consistency is my unwavering dedication to replace a personal habit with a new one. My friends and family know this all too well, and tend not to take my personal challenges seriously because they know I’ll change my mind soon enough.
Believe it or not, 2015 may have been a turning point for me in some regard. There are things I started doing more consistently in 2015 that are now an active part of my life. I don’t want to give up certain objectives for something new: i want to build upon the foundation I established and go from there. Here is a short list of things I did in 2015 that I want to continue in 2016:
2015 mantra: playing bar trivia
As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol very often, I don’t have much motivation to go to bar on a Tuesday. But this past year I spent a lot of time at one of our favorite neighborhood bars, making new friends and competing in a weekly trivia contest. The rewards were twofold: I built stronger relationships with friends I consider acquaintances or otherwise didn’t see much, and I’ve learned a lot of interesting facts about a plethora of subjects along the way.
I used to get nervous about mixing my friend groups, but now I trust this organic process. As a result, I learned new things about old friends and found common ground faster with new friends. Our hodgepodge team was even brave enough to host trivia one time, writing our questions and announcing answers during the night! This place and these people (even the opposing teams) hold a special place in my heart.
2016 objective: bring people together
When Sam left in October, it was easy for me to come home at night, cook some dinner, and start ferociously applying for jobs or watching Mad Men. I assumed people would call me to hang out…but that doesn’t happen too often. Most people sit around waiting for someone else to make plans, and I was disappointed to learn I was one of those people: I wasn’t much of a catalyst after all.
This year I want to bring more people together, even if they don’t have a lot in common, because I think everyone’s contributions to a group are valuable. Besides, I have plenty of weak spots in certain trivia categories and I’m always looking for smart brains to even out our collective pool of knowledge.
2015 mantra: read more
I’m not sure exactly when I stopped reading so much, but I think it was sometime around college. Between skimming materials for class or tackling endless social media feeds, I plain ol’ forgot to read for pleasure. This past year, I made more of an effort to read in my spare time. I started small, with magazine articles or blog posts or longer editorial pieces, and then I tackled novels again.
Sometimes I feel pressured to read a book quickly, forcing a “one book a month” goal on myself (or something else unobtainable), but this year my aim was simply to read more. The last book I read took over three months to finish, but I did my best to not let it bother me. In the end, I was so happy I finished the book instead of giving in and quitting partway through. I considered it a victory.
2016 objective: read (even) more
Now I’ve got a slightly different problem: I have so many things I want to read! Now that I’m back into reading on a regular basis, I’m researching new titles and expanding outside my go-to books into new ones. When I finish my current book I plan on delving deeeeeep into nonfiction for the first time in over two years, and I’m a little nervous/excited about it.
I’m also listening to audiobooks while going on walks or driving to Chicago. Even though it’s been seven or eight years since I last listened to an audiobook, I am totally in love with this medium again. Like 2015, I don’t plan on setting any specific reading goals because I don’t want to feel forced to read.
What I love about this open-ended goal is that it simply encourages reading, whenever I feel like it, without constraints, purely for the love and joy it brings me.
2015 goal: more movement
Over the past year, my perspective on exercise has changed. I used to not think I was “exercising” unless I ran at least three miles, lifted weights for 40 minutes, or left an drenched indoor cycling class totally drenched.
My mindset shifted early last year, when Sam and I tried to train for a triathlon and spent time swimming at a local pool. Sure, swimming was tough at first, but I didn’t really feel like I was “working out” because it wasn’t what I normally did for exercise. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with swimming because it was different and made me feel like a lean machine.
I’ve also made an effort over the past two years to spend my lunch breaks walking for 15-30 minutes. This little bit of time to myself every day is incredibly therapeutic: away from screens, looking at things far away, emptying my brain of anxieties or stressful thoughts. Plus, it helps me fight the post-lunch sleepy-slums. Win-win.
2016 mantra: embrace alternative exercise
Even if I’m not full-out sweating or panting like a dog after exercising, I’m still moving. I’m still helping my body. It’s unrealistic (and boring) for me to still believe that running is the only thing that speaks to me. Walking, yoga, HIIT, Zumba, weight training, cycling, swimming, running, rock climbing…these are all things I tried last year, and each one spoke to my mind and body differently. I’m looking forward to new challenges and new ways to play!
2015 goal: pay attention
Over the course of my relationship with Sam, he’s constantly reminding me to think before I speak and pay attention to how I say things (both word choice and tone). The first few times he brought this up to me I burrowed my brows in confusion, baffled by what he was trying to tell me. But the more I started listening to myself when speaking, I noticed how some things I said were rude, judgmental, or doubtful, even though that wasn’t my intention.
I also started listening to others more closely and started to hear the same things Sam addressed. Most people don’t mean to say harmful or back-handed things, but sometimes they just comes out wrong based on the words they choose or the way they say something. Seeing these things in other people made me realize I was guilty of it, too.
Being more attentive to my side of a conversation and becoming truly engaged when others speak is something I’m continuing to improve every day, but I made big strides in verbal communication this past year. I found new ways to be honest without being hurtful, and as a result, my relationships grew deeper and wider.
2016 mantra: listen to myself
This year, I’m turning this attentiveness inward. I’ve learned how to communicate with others more effectively, but I still struggle communicating with myself sometimes.
Normally I shut down my internal dialogue: stresses about making a big decision, self-esteem issues flashing signs of unworthiness, and negative comments from people over the year that filter through my mental barriers and rise up to the surface. My goal is to take all these thoughts in and start addressing some of the mental stresses that nag at my brain, in an effort to diminish or rid myself of them for good.
I no longer want to be scared by my own self-created anxieties, and I want to spend time in my thoughts to better understand myself. This will hopefully be a big year for getting closer to the core of my hopes, dreams, desires, and goals!
Have you ever made a change that carried through longer than you thought? What is the most impactful change you’ve made in your life? Let me know in the comments!