Habits, Not Resolutions. Here, Not There

It is January 1st, 2014 and I have no resolutions.

Looking back at the past several years – what they were, not what I resolved them to be – 2012 was The Year That Knocked Me On My Ass, and 2013 was The Year of Recovery from 2012.

And so here we are on the first day of 2014 I find that I’m just not that interested in making New Year’s Resolutions.

When I was a bit younger, on the first of the year I was always chock full of energy to hurl myself towards some self-improvement project or another. The Year of Fitness. The Year of Home Organization. The Year of Weight Loss. The Year of Professional Growth. The Year of Dressing Like A French Woman. The Year of Savings.

I am a particularly project-oriented person, so I’m a good match for the whole Short Term Resolution thing. That is how I’m wired: I can bring down a peculiar kind of tunnel vision and throw myself towards a goal with little regard for sleep, outside interaction, my own well-being, or the various other things in my life that deserve some chunk of my time.

For awhile.

But then burnout sets in, or another project comes along and distracts my passion. Then the muscle tone that was gained inside a bubble of fitness hyper-focus softens and a few pounds creep back on.

Or the kitchen cabinets that were vacuumed out of crumbs and wiped clean and carefully organized devolve back into a jumble and the laundry piles up. The attempt to look perpetually polished instead of like a mom who plays in the dirt inevitably fails when I run, unthinking, out to the garden in what are supposed to be my “good” shoes.

New Years 2014

It’s not that I’m against Resolutions or Challenges or Goals, at all. I love doing things like No Spend Month and 200 Squats a Day and I think these can be an excellent way to jump start a desired change. But what I’ve found is, for that change to stick, it has to go from Goal to Habit. No one has a New Year’s Resolution to brush their teeth every night (at least, I hope no one does.) We all do that every day because it’s habit – it’s unthinking.

Here’s a personal example. In the past 10 years, I have gone from definitely overweight (I weighed 260 pounds when I delivered my first child) to a fairly stable, healthy weight. Sure, there have been ups and downs (and another pregnancy in there), but for the most part I spent about three years very slowly losing a hundred pounds (through the supremely boring behaviors of eating fewer calories and exercising more) and another seven years more-or-less maintaining that weight loss.

I have similar stories for how I went from one of the messiest, most pathetic housekeepers ever to a reasonably organized and clean person who, for the most part, can have people over without panic cleaning. (All credit here to FlyLady, who is all about helping people cultivate small habits and whose book, Sink Reflections, has helped the most hopeless [me] learn how to get and keep a clean-ish house.)

I don’t even remember what Resolutions I’ve made over the past decade, but I do know that changes that have stuck haven’t actually come from my obsessive, tunnel-vision, goal-obsession, but from consistent, boring habits. Go for walks as often as possible. Breathe extra deeply when you are near the water. Eat vegetables. Load the dishwasher. Shine the sink. Feed the cats. Make dinner.

When these things get inside you so much that you don’t even think about them, you just do them, then they become part of you, a habit. They become the minutia that becomes your life.

Right now, I just feel content with my life, just as it is. I’m happy to be here, because here is not the darkness that was there. I’m supremely grateful to have come through the past two years stronger and more humbled and more supported than I’d even have imagined.

So here’s to 2014. May all your resolutions morph into habits and may here never be there.

What are your hopes and plans and resolutions for the upcoming year?

Comments

  1. Great Post Erica! Reminds me I need to read my “Flylady” book again and get back to my habits. I definitely need a “do 1 load of laundry every evening” habit. It would really change my life for the better. That and a “walk 20-30 min. a day” habit. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to get overwhelmed and go hide in the closet.

  2. I saw that headline, and thought: FlyLady! She needs FlyLady! I am glad to see you have met.

  3. Thanks for the inspiration, Erica. I intellectually know that the bottom line, in getting anything done, is ‘being here now’, and meditating (ugh!) is the hard practice of that simple phrase, so I want to make a habit of doing 10 mins twice a day, as often as humanly possible. That seems small enough to accomplish most days…if I loosen all parameters…. time of day doesn’t count, how far apart doesn’t count, how raggedy the experience doesn’t count… it is doable… already today! So, I’m ready for this habit to become my friend :)

  4. Yes, Erica ~ exactly! So glad you wrote this.
    Here’s a small habit that is really helpful to me: Every morning upon arising, I drink a full glass of water before visiting the bathroom. Water in, water out. It’s an act of kindness, a small bit of selfcare to start my day hydrated, which equals refreshed, clear-thinking, and ready.

    • Sanj, this is the perfect small habit for me. As we age our sense of thirst diminishes, and it’s easy for me to go without drinking enough water. Thank you for this suggestion.

  5. Brilliant, Erica.

    This is the year I move toward minimalist. My wonderful grown daughters are laughing behind their hands, but I see them. And by mid-year, they’ll see me and we’ll all feel good!

  6. This is absolutely where I’m at after a series of unexpected injuries. All my goals have been put aside simply to rehab my body from injury. The current habit being built is consistently taking care of mys body in very specific ways so I avoid another injury. Until then, everything but the necessary (playing with my boys, cooking, housework) is bonus. As hard as it can be, it’s been good to narrow focus for awhile.

  7. I made a resolution a few years ago to quit making resolutions. It is the only one I’ve kept. Ever.

    Love Flylady though I had to quit getting her emails because they were overwhelming me and my mailbox. I’m not a great housekeeper and well, probably never will be. I keep trying, but if that’s the most awful thing someone can point at, I’m actually good with that. The people who love me, can forgive it, the ones who can’t forgive it… can bug off. No hand knitting or homemade preserves for them! ;-)

    • After I learned what I needed, I realized that her reminders were, in fact, more clutter for me and I too eventually unsubscribed. But for a while having someone remind me to move the wet laundry to the dryer was exactly what I needed. :)

      • I too, lol, unsubscribed from Flylady about 5 years ago, but I followed her long enough to make new habits. I lived very near her for a decade or so, in western NC. A friend turned me onto her website and I was off and running.

      • Was fly lady 1 of the fly girls from Living color? Maybe thats why J Lo’s career has been so sucsessfull?

  8. I made a resolution last year to do my daily house chores every day. Simple things like “wash dishes” and “clean off the table” every day, sweep and take out the trash every other day, laundry the opposite every other day, clean the bathroom, microwave, stove, drop off points, and back room and bills/paperwork once a week on various days, plus various monthly chores. And I did do it every day until the time change in the spring.

    Then I completely and utterly stopped and could not believe what a change that made in me. That experience of going along happily for months and then, bam, one hour change in sleep/wake patterns just utterly put me in a tailspin…it was crazy.

    I’m starting again this year.

    Another overriding concern is getting pregnant. After one miscarriage, we have one son that is 2 1/2 and we have been not not trying since he was born and actively trying since March of this past year to have another. Pills/shots/charting/blood tests are constants. I have to lose more weight (lost ~35 so far) and exercise more, and not drink coffee, and not eat any sugar, and not stress out so much, and deflect other’s queries about when we are going to have another, and try to be sexy every other day for 6 days at a certain time of the month even if we don’t feel like it, and fight with the 2 1/2 year old to sleep in his bed and not interrupt. And then wait and hope and have a glimmer when 2 days late only to be crushed and have to start over again. It is draining. So, I guess that isn’t a resolution but an all encompassing overriding constant,and I am giving myself another year, and then probably will give up.

    • I recommend you give up now. Seriously, I don’t know how many people I have talked to who said they tried and tried and stressed out about getting pregnant and failed, then as soon as they mentally gave up, bang, they were pregnant. The stress of trying makes things not work for some reason!

      • I think the whole “not expelling an egg due to my PCOS” and “not making enough mucous to protect the sperm” makes things not work correctly, though you may be right. I’ll file it right next to the recommendations that I stand on my head.

        • Best wishes to getting knocked up in 2014!! You might want to consider a product called Preseed if you haven’t already. After 2.5 years of trying for #2 and 4 failed IUIs (3 of them with Clomid), we conceived naturally…well, okay, let me clarify “naturally”. We were “on hold” for a cycle, taking a break from Clomid and IUI because I’d developed two large cysts and I was told that would most likely not even ovulate on that cycle….so really only used Preseed and subsequently Progesterone (being treated with progesterone for confirmed low progesterone by charting and medical tests). AND we were also dealing with medically confirmed low sperm counts. Somehow I ovulated and somehow one of those tired little swimmers found its mark. Trying to get pregnant is really not nearly as much fun as one would think it should be, but it can happen!! I will send out good thoughts to you. Hang in there and just keeping loving the one you’ve got!!

          • I have not used Preseed. My Dr. said I could just use olive oil, as it was sperm friendly? Hmmm. If I do order some, I’ll be sure to use Erica’s affiliate link to Amazon to give her credit :)

    • Please try reflexology. Ideally, take a course. It is easy to learn, you and husband can do each other’s feet and make it part of foreplay. Laura Norman’s book “Feet first” has a special chapter for couples. It is good for whatever ails you, and especially helpful as a gentle way to harmonize the glandular system. Every reflexologist I know, including myself, has had some success in this area. No guarantee, and no scientific proof, but only good side effects and it is literally at your fingertips.

  9. Flylady really opened my eyes, too! I ultimately didn’t buy the book because the gender role-stuff and religiosity bugged me, but the idea of little routines and chores adding up to a clean house… my method previously was to let the house get disgusting, then do a marathon clean.

    • Maybe I have a different version of tbe book. And I haven’t read it for a while either, but I don’t remember a lot of religious tone to it. Spiritual perhaps, and I’m fine with that – I’m way more centered with myself when the house is in order. I also don’t remember gender stuff other than that I think she makes some probably pretty accurate assumptions about her audience. I certainly don’t have a problem with assigning the hubs a few of the tasks. In any case, her ideas for habits/routines are awesome and well worth the read if you csn get past the things that make you cringe. Like all other things in life, tske from it what works for you.

  10. I don’t make resolutions either (too depressing when I “fail”), but my hopes for the new year are numerous. I will make art and cheese more often (not at the same time, but I will hopefully be milking all 3 of my goats in a few months, and I have a friend who works at a dairy so I have access to raw cow’s milk when needed. Have 9 gallons of it to work with right now!). I am in the process of losing weight; down 20+ pounds already which had been hanging on for 20+ years. I am going to move more this year. I am going to accept help when it is offered (that’s a hard one for me!)

  11. Does it count to have New Year’s Conquests? I guess they are like goals. Goals I really, really want to achieve in my blog/business/etc., but since I am scared that I won’t achieve them I chose a nice, aggressive, brave-sounding word like “conquests”. One of these is slowly getting sponsors for the ol’ blog. Who know? Maybe making money will become a new habit? ;)

  12. I don’t do resolutions either. What I want to do this year is have a successful garden, read more, do more creative things, and stay healthy. Things that will just take a little bit of work on my part – and the more positive results I see the easier it is to do!

    Happy New Year Erica, and I look forward to reading more inspiring words from you in 2014!

  13. Jason Sinclair says:

    My perspective on all this is somewhat different from usual. See, I’m terminally ill — not in a couple-of-weeks way, but my body is falling apart and I’ll be great organic fertilizer in a few years. Thus, it’s hard for me (and my family) to plan for the future outside of the immediate.

    As it stands, my plans for 2014 are to spend as much time as possible with my wife and kids, goof off with close friends, and not die yet. I’m going to eat and cook tasty food, write and publish more fiction and get the house a bit more organized. I’m going to plant apple trees, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, hot peppers, artichokes and herbs, and then pickle or jar as much as I’m able. I’m going to write birthday cards and letters for the kids to read after I’m gone. I’m going to cry and hate the universe when nobody is looking. I’m going to make it to my next birthday. I’m going to see my kids start preschool.

    …And I’m going to read your blog. :)

    • Jason, sounds like you’ve got all your priorities in the right places for the rest of your life. I’m all for goofing off and gardening and being with those I love. I will take your advice and send more cards and letters–writing is becoming a lost art. These that you write now will be treasured for such a long time. Be sure to make some video recordings too, maybe one for each year you won’t be able to show up live. Digital Jason lives on. Blessings to you and may you resurrect as your favorite pickling cucumber.

  14. I just want to say thanks for introducing me to the FlyLady! We are expecting our first child in a few months, and I was getting overwhelmed with trying to consolidate all of our stuff to make room for baby. Yesterday, I spent way too much time devouring her website, and then I shined my sink! Now, I feel like I have a plan that I can stick to and everything will get done, eventually. Thank you!

  15. It sounds like we certainly have some similarities of the project managing kind. Like you, I tend to dive deeply into a project and then sometimes get distracted by something else vying for my attention (hello, shiny bright object!) That corner turned of a goal making its way into habit territory is the sweet spot between resolving to do something and then just doing it because it’s part of muscle memory. Well said, Erica. (from a reader who doesn’t often comment but digs your writing and sass).

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