Here we are again, at the end of December, facing another year like a blank canvas, full of possibilities and promise. I imagine that almost everyone spends at least a few moments at the close of the year contemplating their accomplishments and their dreams.
Personally I’m not a fan of ‘New Year Resolutions’ (many studies suggest that most people give up on their resolutions by February) I prefer to take stock of my life and set goals for the new year instead. In all honesty, I don’t always hit every one of those goals, but I write them down and look at them almost every day so I always make some headway toward improving myself each year. If I live to be three thousand years old I might just make it to perfection.
Right now I’m reading a book by bestselling author Matthew Kelly that just so happens to discuss habits and this is what I read last night –
‘What are your habits? What are the things that you do every day, every week, every month? If you can tell me what your habits are, I can tell you what sort of person you are.’
Kelly goes on to explain that good habits will result in a ‘good’ future and bad habits will cause problems in the future. He reminds us that we can change our habits (which is such a blessing – and such a weight to carry) and he encourages us to take an honest look at our habits (the things we actually do every day) and where those habits are leading us.
Today is a great day to take stock of your habits. Knowing where you are now is the best first step to determining what to do next (whether you prefer resolutions or goal setting).
So today I’m issuing a challenge. Take some time to sit in a quiet place with a piece of paper and write down YOUR habits; the things you do every day, every week, every month. Then look over that list and ask yourself questions like…
‘Where will this habit take me – is that where I want to go?’
‘Will these habits help me to be the best ME possible or are they self destructive?’
You don’t have to do anything else with that list today (but save it, I might have something for you to do with it later). Just focus on giving yourself the gift of honest self reflection.
And if you took a break from your movements – pick that habit back up today! 🙂
Make your minutes matter!
Do you find that you’re beginning to get stressed and frantic as the holidays draw closer? This time of year can be such a burden for those of us who were already struggling to create balance in our lives. So today I’m sharing my list of ways for you to relax and enjoy the holidays.
#7 – Be prepared
“Organizing ahead of time makes the work more enjoyable.” ~ Anne Burrell
Lack of organization can cause a huge amount of stress at any time of the year but a little preparation and a few lists can go a long way toward alleviating your stress. Marla Cilley (aka Fly Lady) has fabulous tips for getting organized in general at www.flylady.net and her Holiday control journal is a huge help at this time of year. Rather than re-creating our Christmas card and gift lists each year, I’ve created documents that I use perpetually or as templates that I just have to fill in. I also have a section in our personal cookbook just for our favorite holiday recipes (since I could never seem to remember where they were at the last minute). Lastly, create reminders in your calendar for the things that need to be done far in advance like booking a photographer for your holiday cards or making travel plans.
*I know some of these ideas would have been really helpful about two months ago, but you can always use them for next year!
#6 – Give yourself permission to say no
“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” ~Josh Billings
This can be so difficult, even for me (and I pride myself in being able to say no). Spending time with your loved ones and creating a magical atmosphere is important but so is your health and sanity. You don’t have to attend every party or help with every charitable opportunity that comes your way. Clear (and loving) boundaries can be crucial to an enjoyable holiday, especially if you have children or your family lives out of town. Consider switching off events every other year or do one holiday with your family and another with your spouse’s family. When our children were babies we decided that having traditions with our little family was vital and that we would not travel if it meant being away from our home on Christmas morning – a decision that I have never regretted.
#5 – Let people help you
You don’t have to do all of the jobs, it’s okay to let someone else experience the joy of serving others too.
You absolutely do not have to do everything yourself so look at your resources and consider opportunities to outsource things in order to enjoy the holidays. If you’re hosting a party. consider hiring a caterer or ordering some items from your neighborhood grocery store (I could buy an entire dinner from my favorite store if I were so inclined), and when your guests ask what they can bring – TELL them (they want to contribute). Consider hiring a neighborhood teen to help with chores and odd jobs or to spend time with your little blessings so you can get some shopping done. Or maybe you could bring in a professional to clean your house or finish that house project that’s still incomplete so you can be fresh for your holiday get togethers.
#4 – Less materialism
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” ~ Dr Seuss
Regardless of the holiday that you celebrate, it’s likely that it’s about more than spending money but so many of us find ourselves engaging in out of control consumerism year after year. When my kids were little I would just buy any and everything that caught my eye that I thought they might enjoy. I didn’t feel done with Christmas shopping until I fell into bed exhausted on Christmas Eve (literally). We ended up with so much STUFF in our house and very little meaning in our Christmas morning. Then I ran across a wonderful way to make our gift giving more meaningful while providing me with parameters. Everyone in our home receives ‘three’ gifts (Gold is something valuable or that celebrates a special trait of the recipient, Frankincense is a gift related to spirituality, and Myrrh is a gift for our body); of course Santa still comes and the stockings get filled with fun trinkets but I begin the season with a plan and I know when I have finished shopping – which is an amazing feeling! It’s also important to let your purchases reflect your values, if you’re opposed to violence you might want to re-think that gaming system and if clutter is an issue, you could spend money on things that create memories instead (like season passes to the zoo). While we’re on the subject, you don’t have to have something to wrap for everyone that you know. My dad, for instance, has everything that he could possibly want. I could buy him some trinket just because I feel like I should, but it’s unlikely that anything I bought would be very meaningful. So I prefer consumable or ‘togetherness’ gifts for him (think tickets to see a comedian together versus another tacky tie). An upside to less materialism is that you’re more likely to stick to your budget and less likely to have regrets once the January credit card statements start to come in!
#3 – Slow down
“Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.” ~ John DePaola
I’d be willing to bet that you will regret spending the entire month of December running around in a tizzy and missing all of the important things. So slow down and experience the wonder of the season. Take breaks and enjoy the scenery when you’re out shopping. Schedule a few hours with your spouse or close friends to just enjoy each other’s company. Turn off the TV and read a book to your children or have a family game night. Sit down for a phone call with a loved one who lives far away. Sit in a circle and take turns opening one gift at a time on Christmas morning instead of having a free for all. Spend time in prayer and meditation. Attend a service at your church. Savor the moments and let the experiences replenish your soul.
#2- Let go of perfection
“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.” ~ Edwin Bliss
We all know that perfection is an impossibility, yet so many of us still strive for it – especially during the holidays. What if, instead of perfection you focused on having fun and making memories with the people you love? It’s unlikely that your family even notices some of the more subtle touches in your holiday preparations. I had an epiphany along those lines while putting out decorations this year; I always put a string of silver icicles along the shower and window curtains in our guest bathroom but they were so twisted and tangled this year that I was getting frustrated so I PUT THEM BACK IN THE BOX and played a game with my kids! It was so liberating to decide that I could let this one thing go and I don’t even miss it.
#1 – Take care of yourself
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” ~Etty Hillesum
This is often the most obvious and the most easily overlooked. They say that you can’t take care of others properly if you aren’t taking care of yourself and this time of year in particular it’s too easy to put our own needs on the back burner. Schedule time for yourself (a bubble bath or manicure can remarkably affect your energy), eat properly, do your minute movement exercises, and get plenty of sleep (bedtime isn’t just for the kiddos).
Yesterday I shared a bit about my personal struggle with the holiday season – the joy AND the stress. Today I’d like to share a fabulous post at Hands Free Mama called No Moving Target December in which Rachel eloquently explores how busyness can make us a moving target – and not in a ‘Man of Steel’ kind of way. Instead of making us superhuman, failing to take the time to BE with the people we love makes it difficult for them to be loving with us! We’re all on the same page, there is so much to do this time of year – but as trite as it may sound, the most valuable present is your presence.
Today I invite you to take a minute to stop doing and just BE.
Here we are in the homestretch. With only TEN days until Christmas.
If you’re anything like me you might have a little love/hate relationship with the month of December.
On the one hand – there’s CHRISTMAS!!! There are so many awesome things about this – the most wonderful time of the year. Much more family time. Opportunities to celebrate with friends. Wearing a little extra sparkle. Aunt Betty’s homemade fudge. A beautifully decorated house with lots of twinkly lights.
Unfortunately the rest of the world doesn’t stop so that we can enjoy the amazing ride that is the winter holidays. There are still bills to pay, lunches to make, work to do. Not only do regular chores NOT get suspended for the month of December but we get extra chores like shopping and (at least here in the midwest) raking leaves!
It is rare that I actually enjoy December very much, even though I really love everything about the holidays. So this week I’m going to share with you a couple of great ideas that I’ve run across to help you slow down and enjoy as well as reasons to do so!
Oh, be sure to keep doing your Minute Movement exercises so you can handle the extra load this month!
As the year winds down my thoughts always turn to the the improvements I want to make in my life. I’ve found that grand resolutions at the beginning of the year don’t typically work well for me because I end up feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of ‘never again’ and sabotage my own plans. You know what works best for me? I set smaller goals for myself (throughout the year) instead of making huge, sweeping resolutions.
For example, I really want to improve my nutrition but I haven’t found a magic diet that works for longer than a few weeks – tops. The extreme deprivation, the innumerable salads stretching into my future, the stress of never having chocolate again. It doesn’t take very long for it to destroy my good intentions. Instead, I like to break down the larger goal – of ‘good nutrition’ – into more manageable steps like drinking 64 ounces of water daily or eating 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. I track my progress and celebrate my successes (but NOT with food – usually). And before I know it I REALLY AM eating better – without feeling deprived!
So maybe you’re a fan of the grand resolution at the beginning of the year -lots of people are. But if you feel like that’s not been working well for you why don’t you try setting small, manageable goals instead?
Make Your Minutes Matter!
The past couple of days I’ve been exploring the impact of which activities we choose to spend our time pursuing on effectiveness. Now I’m gonna put on my Minute Movement hat.
Personally (and I’m sure for a lot of you can relate) when I feel overwhelmed one of the first things that I give up is exercise. When I stop being intentional about living healthfully I find myself caught in internet rabbit-holes, watching more television, and eating too much (especially snacking on high carb garbage late at night when I should just go to bed). Those indiscretions make my energy drop and I get less done and before I know it I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of ineffectiveness (yet again).
When Aaron first came up with the concept of Minute Movement I wasn’t exactly a willing participant. Even though I could see that his shape was changing drastically while he still got to sleep in and get things done, I felt that I was too busy to interrupt MY tasks every hour to exercise. I insisted that my way of doing things was to put on my blinders and focus completely on one task until I was finished and that even one minute’s deviation would drastically damage my effectiveness. Don’t even get me started on how many times I told Aaron that I would NOT stop in the middle of the grocery store to do one minute of squats (seriously, sometimes I don’t know how he puts up with me). Every time my timer sounded I’d simply dismiss it with mounting irritation.
Then one day Aaron and I were running errands together and his timer sounded (I’d deactivated mine by that point) and Aaron invited me to take one minute for myself.
A minute for myself.
Could I DO that?
what if I did that?
So I did the exercise with him, sitting in the car, before we ran into our next appointment (envisioning a mini beach vacation for some reason). And from that point on I looked at Minute Movement differently. Instead of piling it with all of the other things that I should do (but didn’t) I could just do this one thing little to improve my life (well, two things actually, one was opening my mind a little bit).
If you don’t actually do your movements – that’s okay (I hope you start doing them at some point but it’s okay today) but please take care of yourself. Walk around the block, play with the kids, take the stairs, whatever it takes to move your body.
Doing that one vital thing will change your life.
Make Your Minutes Matter!