Tag Archives: resolutions

2016: Stormy’s year to “Choose Different”

New Year’s and its related resolutions are a perennial theme for KitKat and me. (YES, we’ve been doing the blog long enough now to have “perennial themes”—and the fact that this blog started out as a resolution proves my point, I think…)

From vision boards to attitude adjustments, we’re both a bit obsessed with self-improvement. Or at least identifying our shortcomings on a regular basis (ha, ha). Seriously, with how much I think about these things, I should be perfect by now. But as you probably realize, thinking and doing are two different things.

While I can be decisive and even a little impulsive, and I sometimes abandon my efforts when they don’t yield immediate results, I’m also a big believer in adopting the approach of the tortoise over the hare—slow and steady wins the race—and over time, small incremental changes can have a large impact on my life. Case in point: the bachelor’s degree that took me 11 years to earn.

Most of the time, it’s just about the choices you make.

Back when KitKat and I worked together, I had a 2 p.m. pop habit. (I suppose I should explained to some of our unenlightened readers that “pop,” not “soda,” is the proper nickname for carbonated beverages like Pepsi, or in my case, Diet Coke.) Each workday at 2 p.m., I’d saunter down to the break room and stick my two quarters in our company-subsidized (boy, in those days we were livin’ large!) vending machine. You could almost set your clock by my daily pilgrimage.

diet coke imagesWhen I left that job, I was unemployed for a while and quickly got over the need for my 2 p.m. caffeine jolt. However, on my first day with my current employer, I found myself in the breakroom at 2 p.m., dollar bill in hand (no subsidized vending machine there!) and as I was about to slide my money into the slot, I asked myself, “What am I doing?” Here I had successfully broken myself of a habit that was unhealthy and I nearly resumed it based on…what? A habit? A memory? I made a conscious decision NOT to buy the pop and have consumed very little since then—about 10 cans a year vs. the previous 60 or so.

GR_headerbooksThis remembrance inspired my resolution for 2016. What could I accomplish by simply making different choices? I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s book “Better Than Before” about the process of creating and breaking habits—if you’re a self-improvement junkie it’s a must-read. Around the holidays I received her e-newsletter, which included an article about choosing a New Year’s theme instead of a resolution. This theme would consist of a word (or words) that would guide decisions for the upcoming year: “Health,” for example, or “Learn.”

As someone with new-found time on my hands after our recent downsizing, I wanted to get in touch with activities I wasn’t able to pursue when I was taking care of a house and three kids, so I originally was going to make “Discover” my theme for 2016. Then I realized that word wasn’t broad enough to encompass the other changes I wanted to incorporate into the year ahead, so I revised my theme to “Choose Different.” This has a few meanings for me: One is synonymous with “Discover”—because I still want to explore new interests. But “Choose Different” also reminds me to challenge my dysfunctional thinking patterns and alter behaviors that haven’t been serving me well.

Apple

Srsly? I chose a variation of an old Apple slogan for my New Year’s theme? How derivative!

We’re only three weeks in, but so far it’s yielding some positive results. One change I made was to force myself to be less of an introvert at work. It’s something I’ve told myself I needed to do a dozen times before, but a 360 review coupled with a tongue-lashing by a coworker friend convinced me I needed to make a change. Well, it hasn’t killed me and it IS improving some relationships at work, so I’ll keep plugging along until it feels natural. There are other examples as well, and I’m curious to see where this theme might take me in 2016. I guess that is one of the benefits of getting to 50. I can see the horizon ahead and know that even if I don’t get to my self-actualized destination overnight, I can become a better version of myself along the way…simply by making smarter choices most of the time. Are you making any changes in the new year? Please share in the comments…

Saying “YES!” to 2015…

Our readers know that one of my standby topics is self-improvement and New Year’s only adds kerosene to those flames of obsession. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been thinking a lot about this year’s resolutions lately. But ultimately, I decided that last year’s goals were pretty solid—I just need to master them. (Full disclosure: Although I’m awesome at coming up with resolutions, I’m much less proficient at living them.)

So that means that 2015 will find me once again striving to:

  • Assume the best
  • Make my own happy day
  • Turn negative inward thoughts into positive outward actions

This first one requires an attitude change. While I think I’ve made some progress in this area (with the help of pharmaceuticals), I still have a ways to go. The second and third resolutions are more action-based. As a control freak, one of the challenges of getting older is realizing all that I can’t control, but these resolutions help me focus on the things I do have control over.

However, if you’ve learned anything about me it’s that Stormy is never content to merely stay the course.

2015 will be a significant year for me because I was born in 1965 (you do the math). If you think KitKat was a little wigged out over turning 45, that’s nothing compared to the massive denial that I’ve been experiencing. Such a momentous event, coupled with my unresolved empty-nest syndrome, has led to the Mother of All Mid-Life Crises.

"My birthday wish is that I'll stop aging at 39..."

“My birthday wish is that I’ll stop aging at 39…”

In addition to a Milestone Birthday, the coming year will also bring another big change—selling our house of 25 years. So, I’m starting this new year knowing that I’ll end it in a very different place. In other words, 2015 is A Perfect Storm for Stormy. Therefore, in anticipation of all that is to come, I’m going to add two more resolutions to my earlier list:

1) Just say “Yes!”

Just after a really impressive spin... Trust me!

Taken just after a really impressive spin…trust me!

A month ago, I was at a party talking to a friend who lives out of state. She had found herself unemployed about the same time her father’s health declined, so she moved back to the Midwest and spent a couple of years taking care of her elderly dad. After his death, she returned to California to reinstate her former life and find a new job. During this process, she adopted the above philosophy—to Just Say Yes to any invitations, ideas, concepts and be open to whatever life had in store for her. As we were talking, she was waiting to hear about an exciting job opportunity that she probably wouldn’t have heard about if she hadn’t said “yes” to an invitation she otherwise may have turned down.

I mentioned I was feeling at a crossroads myself and had adopted a similar philosophy toward my future. And so far, JSY has yielded some interesting results. It’s led me to discover paddle-boarding, start a gourmet dinner club and even take some pole dancing classes. Trust me, despite the stripper pseudonym, that’s something that a younger version of myself never would have considered doing. (Fortunately, my husband is very supportive of all my craziness. When I was thinking about backing out of the “free” introductory class, he encouraged me with, “You have nothing to lose but your dignity.”) I plan to ratchet it up a notch in 2015, so look out.

2) Acceptance 

I was visitserenitying my favorite hairstylist this week, and we were talking about how this is one of the hardest lessons to learn—acceptance—but it’s also one of the most critical. Despite all we can control and change in our lives, there are certain things we just cannot do. We can influence our health by making smart choices, but we can’t safeguard ourselves against heart problems, cancer or Parkinson’s Disease. We can choose to treat people with kindness, but we can’t make others love us. And we can try to be good sons and daughters, but or we can’t keep our parents from aging.

Serenity 2

Yet, I know that the happiest people are those who learn to accept the cards they’re dealt—especially when no other options exist. So that’s my overarching goal for the coming year: To accept 2015 and all the change it will inevitably bring… while still saying “yes” and having a little fun along the way. Here’s wishing you all a year of acceptance, discovery and peace!

New year, new resolve…

Happy New Year, Dear Readers… Welcome to the Clean Slate that is 2014! As you may recall from one of my first posts on this blog, I take New Year’s Resolutions seriously. Last year, for example, I chose three:

  1. Assume good intentions in other people.  
  2. Do something nice each day for myself and another person.
  3. Don’t overthink things.

These were excellent resolutions for me. But while I made progress, I can’t say I mastered any of them. So I was tempted to recycle these, but meanwhile I had dozens of new ideas swirling around in my brain—things to try, ways to grow, mantras to live by—and I didn’t want the end result to look like this:

Woody Guthrie’s “New Year’s Rulin’s” – While number 3 is amusing, 19 is the one I like best.

Rather than try and commit 33 separate ideas into actionable behavior, I decided to categorize them into a few Big Ideas that I could focus on for the year. Once I settled on this year’s themes, I realized that my new resolutions are really just an expansion of last year’s.

For example, I’m modifying Resolution Number 1 to “Assume the Best.” This expands the original idea beyond assuming good in other people’s motives to assuming positive outcomes in all aspects of life—everything from work projects to getting stuck in traffic. There’s a quote my dad has used (although my Google search attributes it to a number of people) and that’s something to the effect of “Worry is like paying interest on a debt not yet incurred.” This strikes me as particularly true. There have been a number of times I worried about something that didn’t turn out nearly as catastrophic as my mind had imagined.

I was tested on this my first day back at work after the holiday… and I failed, giving into a bad mood. Sure enough, the thing that was stressing me out—not being able to find a hotel room for an upcoming client visit—turned out just fine (thanks to a resourceful coworker)… Now, I’m not naïve enough to think the worst won’t happen on occasion, and I’ll still think through how to deal with a negative outcome—but I’ll make an effort to not waste valuable energy stressing out about an imagined problem until it actually occurs.

An outing to a wine bar to "make my own happy day"... This is NOT Stormy & KitKat, but most definitely are "Troublemakers" as the wine indicates.

Making “my own happy day” with a couple of friends and a bottle of wine that obviously has found its rightful owners.

Resolution Number 2 is being expanded to Make Your Own Happy Day.” Credit for this one goes to my niece. During my last hair appointment (she’s also my stylist) we were catching up on all sorts of things and we got on the topic of how each of us is responsible for our own happiness. She said when her young son is crabby about going to school, she tells him, “You have to make your own happy day” and I thought that was excellent advice. We all hold so much power to make our own days better and happier—by calling a friend, indulging in a small treat, kicking back with a good book for half hour, taking a walk outdoors on our lunch break—yet we often fail to seize these moments. In 2014, I’m going to be mindful about doing the small things I can to “make a happy day.”

Resolution Number 3 is becoming Turn Negative Inward Thoughts into Positive Outward Actions. This is loosely related to Resolution 1… KitKat and I both tend to get caught up in negative thoughts at times and while assuming a positive outlook is one step toward fixing that, the best antidote for a control freak who’s feeling out of control is to control something—anything—in a positive way. I can either become overwhelmed at the thought of making all the cosmetic touch-ups needed to put our house on the market OR I can tackle a small job and cross one thing off that list. I can fret about the overdue mammogram or dentist appointment OR I can take five minutes and schedule them. I can beat myself up for not working out OR I can jump on my exercise bike.

994400_10152061525469523_665319223_nA coworker once had an insightful screensaver message that said, “The best way to get rid of an unpleasant task is to do it quickly.” So my last resolution will focus around taking action toward the things that are bothering me rather than just stewing in the stress.

KitKat made an observation in our last post that jumped out at me, “you are great at giving sound advice and not so good at taking it yourself.” Does this mean I’m doomed to fail at these resolutions? Well, time will tell, I guess… but meanwhile I’m going to assume the best! 😉

Where did all my visions go?

Well, this year’s vision board was not as smooth of a process as last time. Perhaps it was a bit of the first-time novelty wearing off. Or, since I threw out to the online world that I would share it, I knew/I felt like everything I selected would be scrutinized by any followers (since there are only a handful of you at this point, this probably was a bit silly, but I have never been one who likes to look like an under performer).

Now don’t get me wrong. The swilling-of-wine and laughing-with-friends part of this project was a blast. But, I could not find the right pictures. Actually, I had no idea what to put on my board. Instead of inspiring, it had turned into a to-do list project. Witnessing others easily pull theirs together did not help matters.

So there my board sat empty, except for the smiling girl in the rain brought over from last year. I did find a photo of a kid blowing bubbles forming the word dream. That seemed like an obvious one since I had no big aspirations for 2013 – I might as well prepare for 2014.

“Knock off a few easy ones,” a friend suggested, “don’t just think big.” That got me on a bit of a roll…take better care of my nails, try wearing my hair in different styles, a clock to remind me of stricter time-outs with the kids along with adding a “drop everything to read” ritual to try to get control over my children (spurred by a turn off-the-electronics battle as I left the house).

Other easy ones to add an were photos representing getting into better shape. With finding-the-perfect-stomach-and-butt-photo a common search for everyone, the Yoga and Shape magazines were very popular. And soon a drinking game was created: Toast and drink every time someone calls out a spotting of the “It’s a Yeast Party” advertisement. Yes, I am serious that is an actual ad (and placed enough to create a game out of it).

By the end of the night, I had a board put together.  It was fine. (Anyone who knows me knows fine is not a word I like or aspire to in any aspect of my life.)

This weekend I decided to head up to the cabin to “clean” with a girlfriend (a post later on that). I decided to grab my board, thinking maybe I would be able to add something. I wasn’t quite ready to give up.

Well, flipping through magazines I happened upon a photo of a girl. (Is it more proper to say woman? Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am still in denial about my age and prefer girl.) Now I can’t explain what I liked about the photo. Sure she was attractive, but she also  just seemed put together in an eclectic way. Confident. Interesting. Not perfect. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something clicked. I tore off my last year’s spokesperson and put on the new girl. That was it. I finally looked at my board and felt inspired.

KitKat's vision for 2013

KitKat’s vision for 2013

I didn’t achieve that pure happiness of the blonde in the rain from last year’s board. And, I didn’t feel compelled to achieve it this time. This is a different year and I am different. I still want to settle my mind, teach myself to live in the present, and embrace contentment. But, maybe I want pieces of my weirdness, craziness, longing for more to also stay part of me. Be confident to be me  … temperamental, quirky, goofy, stubborn, spontaneous … the whole mishmash of stuff (naughty and nice) that—as a whole—people hired me, befriended me and married me for. I want to improve me without losing me – the good as well as the not-ideal. In this business of life, marriage, kids, career, I have already given up enough of me.

And I’ll tell you … sounds a bit silly, but a few times when I’ve felt my head judging myself, worrying or over-analyzing, I have focused on that picture, stopped myself and switched gears. (Well, and a few times I went down my crazy rabbit hole – but the girl in the photo I picked would give herself a break for an occasional slip up!)

I won’t bore you with what all the photos and words stand for (I will refer to them here and there in other posts) – but I’d love to hear some things others would put on their board. Remember, don’t just think big. I actually got the nail polish out and did my nails after walking by my board and being reminded. Maybe these things really do work. Heck, even Oprah.com promotes doing one.

Visions for what is ahead

Unlike Stormy, I usually forget about setting resolutions. By the time January 1st passes, I am still catching up on my normal tasks such as scheduling a mammogram (could the postcard reminder I received in September be right – didn’t I just have one?) and getting my oil changed. (Yes, I realize oil should be changed more often – baby steps.) It is usually not until someone asks me about my resolutions that I quickly throw some out to the world….umm, eat healthier, start a budget, don’t over-schedule myself…basically the same things I have been saying and not doing for years.

Well last year, I was convinced by a group of girlfriends to try a vision board. If you don’t know what this is, it means creating a collage of photos and placing it where you will see it daily to inspire you to achieve your goals. Sounded a bit hokie to me but I decided sitting around with girlfriends, having wine and giggling over silly wishes would make up for the crafty, spiritual part of the assignment. What did I have to lose?

It was a great night of flipping through magazines together looking for just the right imagery clearly emulating our goals for 2012. Even more fun as the evening progressed and the wine bottles emptied. And, you can always count on girlfriends to see you clearly and provide some honest suggestions you hadn’t even thought of. I came home excited, lighthearted from a night with the girls and ready to give it a whole-hearted try. And true to form, the first couple weeks I looked at it every day. I even knocked off a couple of goals right away. Create some play lists on my phone – check! Organize my closet – check again! January hadn’t even ended and I was rolling through my goals.

And then also true to form, it lost my attention as I was side-tracked by other things. That is until two days ago when I got the email that it was time to meet, share what came true, and make a board for 2013.  Yikes! I couldn’t even remember what was on mine. I also knew some of the other girls really nailed theirs. (It is a bad sign when you remember other’s goals more than your own.) For example, one girl had visions of meeting someone, falling in love and getting married. I remember thinking, shouldn’t she just start with the meeting someone this year? Well I was proven wrong. She got married a month ago. The pressure was on. Especially since, I seem to look at even vision boards as a competitive sport. I dug through my closet and pulled out my board to see how I did.

KitKat's 2012 Vision Board

KitKat’s 2012 Vision Board

  1.  Tennis – check! I took two lessons with Stormy.
  2. Concentrate on career – big check! I got a new, higher-level job.
  3. Yoga – check! I took a few classes.
  4. Start writing – Now that’s interesting, I totally forgot about putting that on. The blog has to count. Check again!
  5. Girlfriends – check! It has been an amazing year of building even stronger bonds with my friends. (More on that in later posts.)
  6. Kids  – Work in progress. If I remember correctly my intention was to do more things with them, enjoy them while they are young, and be a better mom. (Does forgetting this goal make me a bad mom?)
  7. Make time for my Grandmas – check! I haven’t visited them but I have been calling and emailing much more. (Love that one of my grandma’s discovered email, even if her caps lock always seems to be turned on.)
  8. “Stop” – unaccomplished. A word I get told once in awhile when my mind is whirling and over analyzing (when I am caught in a loop) to remind me it is all in my head. That one may need to move to this year’s board, along with the stomach I wanted and haven’t achieved. Actually, I don’t like that word and my head won’t stop – I am who I am. That one won’t move forward to a new year. I don’t need to fail two years in a row.

Overall, I was a bit shocked to discover how many of the forgotten things on the board had actually become part of my year. Perhaps it is like a horoscope that you can always twist to make things mentally fit your scenario.

This year, I am not sure what to put on my board (besides the perfect stomach). Maybe, simply the picture of the woman smiling in the rain. I put her on last year’s board because she looked so happy. Not just content, but joyful. Perhaps this year it is as simple as figuring out what things bring that joy to me. And finding ways to fully enjoy those things (and STOP continuing, worrying about or analyzing those that don’t).

I’ll share my 2013 board next week. If you have some good ideas for my board I’d love to hear them, especially a few that I can knock off quick. I also just snatched up a Living Social coupon for a private horseback lesson giving me one more check for my 2012 board. I have always worked best under pressure!

Resolved.

So, it goes without saying that a woman with advanced control issues can’t resist the clean slate that is New Year’s. I’m seduced by the potential of any sentence that begins, “I resolve to…” Heck, I even like the word “resolve.” It sounds so decisive! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered more than 50 shades of grey (no, I haven’t read the book), and I occasionally crave simple, decisive action.

In short, I like resolutions…and while I’ve also been known to make them at the start of the school year and on Ash Wednesday for Lent, what better time than New Year’s to embrace my control-freaky-self and once again Resolve To Do Better?

Sometimes my resolutions are actions I’ve been considering for some time, but need additional motivation to tackle. Sometimes they’re just novelties that pop into my brain–things I think I should try (which explains how I ended up with a pair of snowshoes for Christmas this year). Currently, I have a long “to-do” list of things that other people might consider “resolutions” (you can see some of them on the banner graphic), but this is an on-going, lifelong list–a bucket list of sorts. I’ve been slowly tackling these one-by-one (including the one called “start a blog” wink, wink) and will continue working on them. Consequently, my resolutions this year aren’t going to consist of this type of “action item,” but rather they were inspired by a recent conversation with a friend and a couple of articles I’ve read. They would probably be more appropriately categorized as “attitude adjustments.” Here they are:

  • 1)   Assume good intentions in other people – I decided this would be a good exercise for someone who’s a bit of a cynic (e.g., me) and it has been. But interestingly, I’ve been able to take situations that would have ticked me off in the past and reframed them in my mind, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Often my initial negative assumptions actually were wrong (imagine that!) and in general I think this one will help me reap more positive interactions with others and develop a more positive outlook over time.
  • 2)   Do something nice each day for myself and another person – This one sounds a little pathetic—one would hope that this would come naturally and wouldn’t require a conscious effort. But if I’m honest with myself, I know there are complete days (usually workdays) where I operate on autopilot and neglect this very simple objective. I’ve been mostly succeeding at remembering this one, but I’m hoping I can just make it a habit.
  • 3)   Don’t overthink things – This is a great one for me to work on. I’m hypercritical about EVERYTHING and this results in 1) analysis paralysis, 2) dissecting every idea until I decide it’s no longer worth pursuing 3) thinking about an unpleasant task for longer than it would take to actually do it. 4) Generalized anxiety about things over which I have no control over anyway. This resolution has been the hardest one for me to keep. I’ve had some small successes–for instance, it’s been a godsend when it comes to my productivity: When a thought crosses my mind (to workout, to clean something, etc.), I say to myself, “Don’t overthink it” and then just dive in and do it rather than running through mental excuses and stalling. On the other hand, I haven’t been quite as successful at applying it when it comes to those Big Important Thoughts. I still get caught up in worrying thoughts about my aging parents, my husband’s illness, my job, etc.–sometimes looping over and over in my head like that damn Gangnam Style video. 

These obsessing-at-3 a.m.-thoughts are when I truly need to stop overthinking and just get my mind into a different mode, whether it’s getting a good night’s sleep, learning a new language or writing a blog post.

Are there any other resolution-minded, control freaks out there? What are your resolutions and why?