Each year on Dec. 31, people vow that the next 365 days will be different. They’ll achieve the body of Heidi Klum or Hugh Jackman, the financial savvy of Warren Buffett and the altruism of Mother Teresa. Unfortunately, those commitments are usually distant memories by February.
“The New Year really brings a lot of potential, but then there is so much disappointment and self-flagellation that comes out of it. There’s so much promise, and then it turns toxic,” said Curt Rosengren, author, blogger, speaker and owner of the Seattle-based career consulting business Passion Catalyst.
That’s because old habits die hard, and major life changes are difficult to sustain.
“It would be lovely if change could come with just flipping the switch, but the reality is most of us don’t work that way,” Rosengren said.
That’s why Rosengren advocates setting new weeks’ resolutions. These are small goals people can commit to for seven days. They can either choose a new goal to tackle each week or keep renewing the same resolution.
“It’s a lot easier to stick with something for a week than it is for 52 weeks. You’ve got 52 opportunities to succeed instead of one opportunity to succeed and 365 opportunities to fail,” said Rosengren, 42, who has written about the topic for U.S. News & World Report.
There likely will be weeks when people don’t achieve their goals, Rosengren said, but “maybe you met the mark 47 out of 52 times. That’s not bad. Cumulatively, there’s the opportunity for big positive change.”
When setting goals for next year, Rosengren suggests reflecting on the past year, asking yourself what worked and what didn’t.
Rosengren recommends creating a “resolutions menu” rather than assigning weekly resolutions for the year, since it’s hard to know what life will be like six months from now. Each Sunday people can choose what they’d like to tackle in the coming week, providing a level of flexibility.
It’s important to recognize your accomplishments throughout the year, Rosengren said. Something as simple as putting star stickers on a calendar for each week you fulfill your resolution can be very motivating, he said.
The resolutions can be stand-alone items, or they can be complementary, concrete steps toward an overall goal for the year. If you want to be healthier, for example, one week you could pledge to go to the gym three times, and the next week you could give up your morning pastry. These small commitments are more realistic than resolving to lose 50 pounds next year, although they could add up to a major overhaul, Rosengren said.
“It’s kind of that one-day-at-a-time idea. Because it’s shorter chunks of time, it’s more manageable.”
If you need help coming up with new weeks’ resolutions, local experts suggest the following short-term commitments to help promote mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Feel free to renew as desired.
From Christine Lundeen
o Update your resume to include your latest accomplishments and achievements. That way you’ll be prepared for performance reviews and job interviews.
o Join an online professional networking site such as LinkedIn to keep in touch with people you meet at professional development events, as well as past and present coworkers.
o Schedule an informational interview to learn more about a job or company you’re interested in.
o Attend a conference to get updated on current topics in your field and to network. Check with local professional organizations for upcoming events. Here’s a link to a list of Washington associations and organizations: sos.wa.gov/library/wa_organizations.aspx.
o Read a career self-help book such as “What Color Is Your Parachute? 2010” to explore various job options.
o Create a five-year career goal and brainstorm concrete steps that will move you closer to achieving it.
o Read a blog on your industry to stay current on issues in the field. Here’s a link to Time’s list of the top 25 blogs of 2009: time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1879276,00.html.
o Show initiative and leadership at work by scheduling a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your willingness to take on new projects, ideas you have or a problem you have discovered that you think you can solve.
o Meet with a career counselor to discuss your goals and get feedback on your resume.
o Be a career mentor. Call your local university or community college’s career services center and offer to be a resource for career panels or informational interviews.
From Karen Herrema
o Be strategic with your shopping. If you need a lot of clothes, don’t just purchase random separates. Instead, buy a group of clothing items, such as two tops, two bottoms and a jacket, in one color scheme. That way you can mix and match.
From Rinatta Paries
o For singles, expand your horizons by going to three social events you’ve never been to before, such as a Meetup.com group gathering, a singles group function or a professional networking event.
From Sue Vanlaanen
o Get a library card.
o Read to your children every night.
o Go through the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District’s Web site, fvrl.org, to access a database and research a topic of interest, anything from health to auto repair to genealogy.
From Dennis Breitenstein
o Meet with a financial adviser to assess your goals and spending habits.
o Clip coupons to use at the grocery store.
o Save all your receipts and track your purchases to better understand where your money goes.
o Make a shopping list before you go to the store to help curb impulse buying.
o Take a budgeting or investing class through Clark College or Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation.
o Start or contribute to an existing emergency fund.
o Review your auto insurance, as well as your homeowners or renters policy, and shop around for better deals.
o Replace old light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs as they burn out to save on your energy bill.
o Buy a coupon book such as the 2010 Entertainment Book (on sale for $19.99 at portland.entertainment.com). It quickly can pay for itself with discounts at movie theaters, restaurants, shops, hotels and attractions.
From Dr. James Heid
o If you want to lose weight, keep goals realistic. Sustainable weight loss is one-half to one pound a week.
o Try working out with a buddy to increase accountability. It’s harder to press snooze on the alarm clock when someone is waiting for you at the gym.
o If you’re a smoker, cut out one cigarette a day. If you typically smoke half a pack a day, that’s 10 cigarettes. So this week, smoke nine a day. If you renew this goal, smoke eight a day next week, and so on until you’re down to zero cigarettes.
o Get to bed an hour earlier than usual each night.
o Pack your own lunch for work. You’ll save money and calories.
From Sherri McMillan
o If you have a desk job where you’re sitting a lot, set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and stretch once an hour. This will help relieve back pain and improve circulation.
o When watching television, do core-strengthening exercises such as planks, V-sits and crunches during commercials.
o Take a 20-minute walk during your lunch hour.
o Spend your break time at work walking the stairs for 10 minutes.
o Try a group exercise class that sounds fun, whether it’s spinning, kickboxing, hip-hop or zydeco. Pay any registration fees upfront because you’re less likely to skip classes on which you’ve already spent money.
From Jendy Newman
o Supersize your servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner to increase food volume and nutrients without adding a lot of calories.
o Avoid sweetened beverages such as sodas and coffee drinks, which pack empty calories. Stick to water and nonfat milk instead.
o Eat fish such as salmon and albacore tuna, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, twice a week to help prevent heart disease and other health problems.
o Limit extras such as candy, pastries, alcohol and additional servings of fat to 100-300 calories per day, depending on your daily caloric needs.
From Dennis Breitenstein
o Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where you’ll find more healthful, less-processed foods such as produce, meat, bread and dairy products. You’ll also save money by avoiding prepackaged items.
o Live off the food in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Buy only essentials such as milk, juice and eggs.
From Karen Herrema
o Make the most of your body in its current shape by dressing well. Go through your closet and pull out all clothes that are outdated, visibly worn or no longer fit because you’ve lost weight. Donate, consign or throw them out as appropriate.
From Dr. James Heid
o Sit down with the family for dinner each night. Leave the television off and talk to each other about what’s going on in your lives.
From Bill Ritchie
o Make a “thankfulness sandwich.” Begin and end each day by thinking of – and, if possible, jotting down – one person or thing for which you’re thankful.
o Work on strengthening your relationships. Take a co-worker out to coffee and talk about anything but work. Surprise a neighbor with a nice loaf of artisan bread. Spend the evening coloring with your children.
From Toby “Pepper” Link
o Make a donation of money or time to a charitable organization.
o Practice random acts of kindness, whether it’s opening doors for people or helping someone carry his or her groceries.
o Ask people what you can do to help them and contribute to their lives.
o Replace feelings of anger and irritability with acceptance.
o For parents, instead of being punitive when children act out, have a conversation about the problem and work toward understanding.
o Do the right thing even when no one is looking.
o Offer genuine compliments to recognize people’s gifts and efforts.
From Bobbi Casanova
o Register with Volunteer Connections, a Human Services Council program that matches volunteers with nonprofit organizations in need of help. Volunteers frequently are needed for short-term projects and special events. An application, interview and background check are required. For more information, call 360-735-3683 or go to volunteerclarkcounty.org.
From Karen Herrema
o Get out of your rut by pairing two items from your closet you wouldn’t normally wear together.
From Rinatta Paries
o Spend 30 minutes a day with your spouse or significant other without distractions such as cell phones, televisions, computers and children. Give all your time, attention and focus to each other in that half hour.
o Do one thing a day you know your partner would like but that you’ve resisted doing (for example, baking cookies, paying a bill or taking out the garbage).
o For singles, be on the lookout for examples of great partners. Even if they’re taken, this will change your perception that there are no good men or no good women out there.
o For couples, increase intimacy by having sex everyday.
o Look in the mirror every day and tell yourself that you’re good enough and worthy of love.
From Keith Hackett
o Every day, ask your partner what you can do to make his or her life more fun.
o Have a fun date with your partner, whether it’s going to the theater, playing a board game or taking a walk along the Columbia River.
o Do something to improve your relationship, whether it’s attending a couples counseling session or reading a self-help book.
Mary Ann Albright: firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-735-4507.