This is my favorite Aussie phrase. Last Christmas when we were in Sydney and Melbourne, literally everyone we interacted with asked ‘how’re ya going?’ I just found it to be so endearing. I would love to throw it out there and use it casually, but it would be confusing and I would probably sound like an arrogant jerk. Anyway, it’s the end of 2019. It’s a time when we tend to get sentimental about all that happened this year, and optimistic about the year ahead. Motivation tends to be at its peak around January 1st. A lot of us make big plans to radically improve our habits and our lives. Before you proclaim to wake up on 1/1/2020 and instantly become healthier, fitter, tidier, whatever, let’s take a few minutes and do two things:
- Think about the big things you achieved this year
- Make a plan to help achieve your goals next year
A lot changed in my life this past year, and I bet a lot changed in yours, too. Off the top of my head, here’s a few major things I achieved in 2019: my husband and I got a puppy, I quit my job, I traveled to four countries, I got in the habit of reading a lot of books, cooking at home more frequently, and exercising more frequently, and I got my writing published on on some very rad websites. That sounds like a lot of significant change in one year, right? When I read over this list, I think about how much time and planning went into all of it. My husband and I talked about getting a puppy for YEARS. And as all of my former co-workers will tell you, I complained about how much I hated my job for YEARS. So much time and planning went into all of these major life events. And in order to get the ball rolling on the biggest things on that list, I started with very small steps.
Before we started looking at dog adoption agencies, we emailed our landlord. When we moved in to our apartment four years ago, there were no pets allowed. But since we were generally excellent tenants for several years, might the owners consider letting us get a puppy? We got the okay from all of our immediate neighbors, which helped our case. We offered to pay a pet deposit, which also helped our case. A few days after we emailed the landlord, we got a thumbs up and let the puppy search commence! Being a dog mom helped me implement the habit of exercising more. Our girl Frankie has a crazy amount of energy, and we are committed to walking her several times a day. That girl gets at least two walks a day, usually three, and sometimes even four! I’m definitely a healthier person because I have a dog.
In regards to leaving my full-time job, this took even longer. I was so unhappy there but didn’t totally know what I wanted to do next. In November 2016 I thought about things I like learning about and would want to do more of. Health and wellness podcasts were getting really popular and I was eating them up with a spoon, especially the episodes about how food can be used as medicine. Over the next few months I researched nutrition programs, set up informational calls with local nutritionists, and eventually decided on the Bauman College Distance Learning program. I had to apply, write a personal essay, and get two letters of recommendation (one personal and one professional). I was accepted in March 2017 and classes started May 2017. School was exciting, challenging, and most importantly it kept me so busy on nights and weekends that I didn’t have time to stress about work when I wasn’t in the office. Even though I finished the program and received my Nutrition Consultant Certification in October 2018, I still wasn’t ready to leave my job. I wanted to save up and give myself a financial cushion so I could chill and travel after I left, so I made a six month savings goal and told many people that I was leaving in April 2019.
That first step was thinking about what I was interested in. That’s it! That was the catalyst for my eventual exit from a career path that I definitely did not want to be on. And after I left? I chilled….I chilled out hard. Real talk, I was pretty lazy for a few months. But it opened the door for more healthy habits, like cooking at home and reading more. I was adamant about going to a workout class in my neighborhood because it was often the only thing on my schedule. It took me a few months to figure out that after sitting around all day, the last thing I wanted to was box jumps and burpees at 4:30 in the afternoon. Even though I was not a morning workout person, I kept rolling out of bed and grinding through the 8 a.m. session (8 a.m. isn’t that early, I know!) until a few weeks later, I made that morning session a vital part of my daily routine.
An important piece of achieving goals or habits is to start small. During my lazy summer I stumbled upon Muchelle B, a YouTuber in Australia (full circle, mate) who has an entire channel dedicated to productivity and creating healthy habits to improve your life. She kept mentioning a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, and recently I picked it up and decided to give it a go. (Give it a go: another Aussie phrase I love!) The book details how to create a good habit, how to break a bad habit, what the heck is a habit, and why do habits matter? The author has a ton of excellent content on his website, so I don’t feel too bad about listing out some steps here. In short, to create a good habit, you need to do four things: make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. Too many of try to commit to an ambitious goal – or New Years resolution – without a plan. Breaking up your goal into small, easy steps that you’ll actually stick to will eventually help you get to that crazy ambitious goal. Atomic Habits has a lot of really interesting examples of how to do this. Maybe step one of your goal or resolution is to read this book! Even if you don’t end up reading Atomic Habits, here’s a major takeaway: onetime actions can lock in good habits. These are actions that take little effort, but increase in value over time. A prime example: I got a puppy. Maybe you won’t get a puppy next year, but you can make a plan – an easy plan – to help you achieve a great big goal or two. Happy New Year.