Every Day Is The Start Of Something Beautiful

Last year I wrote about resolutions and some things I’ve found helpful in making resolutions work for me. These ideas are not unique to me, so I don’t claim them as some grand personal insight. Quite simply, they work and I recommend them.

One of the resolutions I made was to strive to make an average of one post per week on my blogs.

On Mental Scrapbook, my photoblog, I exceeded the goal and managed 56 posts for the year.

On The Shepherdess Writes, the blog I write for my professional life as a pastor, I ended up with 38 posts for the year. Falling a bit short! However, that’s actually pretty close because it’s an average of just over 3 posts per month.

And last but not least, I managed to make 38 posts for this blog. Also an average of just over 3 per month. Didn’t make the goal, however I do feel in placing an emphasis on this blog, I have been better able to focus what I want to write about and eliminate posting about what I’m less interested in.

I managed to accomplish the other resolutions I set for myself, including submitting at least three pieces of writing for publication (all of which were rejected but hey, ONLY WRITERS get rejection letters!), learn to make chainmail, and read at least 50 books (I made it to 62!)

At first when I received my end-of-year stats from WordPress, I was kinda disappointed in myself for not making the posting goal. It was a good goal! An attainable goal! A measurable goal! And I failed.

Sadness.

But then a really good friend of mine who also makes significant resolutions each year failed, too. Really failed! And I felt better–not because I wasn’t alone in this failing thing but because of what he said about it.

I have known Jere for many years and he is one of those people who, if he set his mind to it, actually could eat JUST ONE POTATO CHIP. Yes, he is one of those people. His list of resolutions for 2012 included several measurable, attainable and worth while goals (reading a certain amount, seeing a number of movies and accomplishing a work goal) and he missed them all, some of them just by a hair and some by a mile. Yet, he called it “A Beautiful Failure.” Why?

Believe me when I tell you, he is not the sort of person who likes to lose at anything and it isn’t because by the end of the year he just didn’t care. He always cares. It always matters.

And that’s it. It always matters. Most of all, it matters what the ‘It’ is. You see, the overall goal for his year was to make it a year of saying “yes”; saying yes to things and people and activities and new ways of doing what he loves to do. The specific things on his measurable list of goals might have gotten him there and, then again, they might not have. The point was to make it a Year of Yes and he did just that. He said ‘yes’ to people and friends and opportunities that might NOT have gotten him further along on the list of his 2012 goals, (or perhaps further along on the goals that we all typically associate with being ‘successful’ in the world) but they certainly did get him to the life that really matters most of all.

In the end, isn’t that what motivates us to make resolutions and goals for ourselves in the first place? We want to have a life with meaning and purpose. They are merely a means to that end. The truth is, I love the life I have more than I ever have. Parts of it are hard and hurt like hell and I miss my mother every single day. Parts of it are amazing and beautiful. Parts of it are ordinary and transcendent. My life holds people I love and who love me, people who challenge me to be more and who extend me grace when I crash and burn. I have a job I love every single solitary day. From the best moments to the worst, I love it with all of my heart. And I call this life of mine beautiful.

So, do I have resolutions for 2013? Well, of course I do! And you can bet they are measurable, attainable and specific and that I’ve followed all my little rules about setting goals, too. However, I have been reminded of the real reason for them in the first place: to better enjoy this beautiful life.

One last thing……..

photo not taken by me

See the guy on the left? The one with his back to the camera? That’s my friend and he’s interviewing Stan Lee for his documentary film on the Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find Convention.  And I’ll bet there is a big ear to ear grin on his face, too.

“I kept falling over, kept looking backward, I went broke believing that the simple should be hard. But all we are, we are… and every day is the start of something beautiful”

How to Make and Keep New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s 2012 and it’s the end of the world as we know it. We all feel fine.

Or not. There are so many reasons why this is not the year of the apocalypse (any more than any other year) that I won’t waste space with it. And maybe we all do feel fine, end of the world or not.

Many of us take the end of one year and beginning of another as a moment to assess our lives. Are we fine? Could our lives be better? Are we where we want to be in life? Truth is that there’s no such thing as a perfect person and we could always use improvement. The new year is just as good as any time to assess and set goals.

For as long as I can remember, even back into my childhood, I have set New Year’s resolutions. And, for the overwhelming majority of my life, I have kept them. There are some notable things that I’ve never resolved at New Year’s, one of which is losing weight. However, over the years I have made resolutions for such things as reading more fiction books, journaling daily, paying off a car, and curbing spending-for-entertainment. Certainly, there have been resolutions that I haven’t managed to keep or have only kept for the year, but for the most part, I think resolutions are a good idea.

But there is a trick to it. This isn’t unique to me, so if you’re about to say to your computer screen, ‘well, duh! I’ve heard all this before!’ my response to you is, ‘well, yeah! That’s why it works!’

First, resolutions have to be goals. Even if it’s something like, I resolve to recycle more frequently, it needs to be framed as a goal. So instead of some amorphous, boundary-less feel good idea like saving the planet through recycling more frequently, it should be stated as a goal. For example: my resolution is to recycle every plastic and aluminum item this year that would previously have gone into my trash. This isn’t my resolution. It is for demonstration purposes only. Anyway, you get the idea.

Second, and this often begins to flesh out with the phrasing in goal form, a resolution needs to be specific. Once again, mushy generalized ideas are just fine, but if you don’t specify exactly what you want to do, change, stop or add to your life, you won’t do it. So, make it specific and, if it’s reasonable, include in the resolution what WILL be happening. This is particularly important if you are ceasing a habit. Don’t just say what you won’t do, say what you won’t do and what you will do. Another example: I will no longer throw away empty plastic bottles and will, instead, recycle them.

Third, the resolution needs to be time bound. That means set a time frame. Even if you ultimately want to keep on recycling for the rest of your life (not a bad idea at all!) you need to start out with time parameters. Beginning on January 10th and continuing throughout the year I will recycle all plastic and aluminum items that would previously have been thrown in the trash by putting them in the weekly pick up bins. You might say to yourself ‘but if I limit it to only a year, I won’t keep doing it.’ Actually, the odds are that you will. It takes 12 to 16 weeks to form a habit so by the time you’ve done about 52 weeks worth, you’ll be good.

Fourth, the resolution needs to be measurable. How do you know you’ve succeeded? How do you know you’re doing a good job on this resolution if you can’t measure it? If you’re thinking about a resolution and you can’t figure out a way that you can, somewhere around June, check in with yourself to see if you’re doing what you wanted to do, then your resolution isn’t specific enough and/or is not time bound. There are tons of ways to do this and if you’re a visual person then all sorts of things are helpful for this. Mark the calendar, put stickers on a calendar as you accomplish a portion, etc. If you are recycling aluminum cans, you could pull of the tabs and put them in a glass jar. Seeing how the jar fills up helps you see how you’re progressing. It gives you encouragement! A visual representation of how much you have NOT sent to the landfill! Be creative with this section and think to yourself: how do I know if I have or have not kept this resolution?

Fifth, a resolution needs to be written down. There are several reasons for this. Primarily, it’s because a resolution is a contract with yourself. You could even sign it if you wanted to or hang it up where you can see it. Another reason is number six…

Sixth, make a list of what you need to do to make the resolution happen. Using our example of recycling, you’d need something to put the bottles and cans into that keeps them separated from the rest of your trash. You’d need to determine how your recycling will actually make it to a recycling center. Picked up by a municipal service? Take it yourself? Some other option? Make a list of what you need to do to make it happen. And then……

Seventh, Do It. Yeah, in the end, it still comes down to that. Do it. But if you’ve done the other things, doing it is far more manageable. Part of item seven is this: give yourself some grace when you screw up. If you forget for the entire month of February to recycle and then, suddenly, you see your resolution posted on the refrigerator door and think, ‘holy crap! I was going to recycle and I totally forgot!’ don’t beat yourself up about it. Start again right then. Every day you have the opportunity to choose how you are going to do many things in your life and if you didn’t do what you wanted to yesterday, you might just have a chance to choose differently today. And that’s what counts most of all.

So, you may ask, what are my resolutions for 2012? Well, some of them are a bit silly to anyone outside of my brain, but one has to do with writing and posting on my (far too many) blogs a minimum of once a week on each.

Good luck to all you resolvers out there and Happy New Year!

“I kept falling over, kept looking backward, I went broke believing that the simple should be hard. But all we are, we are… and every day is the start of something beautiful”

New Year

Happy New Year. No exclamation point. Just happy new year. It’s not that I am not excited about it. I’m just not feeling like shouting about it.  I will leave that to everyone else and perhaps I’ll feel more like shouting later.

New Year’s resolutions or plans or whatever for the upcoming year have always been a fun and at least partially productive activity for me. So, here goes:

1. Loose weight.  Yeah, I know, it’s cliche. I’ve tried putting it on the list with no result. I’ve tried leaving it off the list with no result. I’m back to trying it on the list again.

2. Read more. I read all the time. Books, magazines, blogs, websites, emails. All the time. It’s part of my job to read. But I miss fiction. Not just fiction but reading because I want to read. I received an autobiography by Tony Blair for Christmas that I really want to read right now….this very moment….while I’m typing.  So, resolution 2 is read more.

3. See more movies. Silly by some people’s standards but movies have always been a truly joyful part of my life. Over the past few years I have not been able to see as many mostly because I do not have as many people with which to see them. I shall persevere and see more this year.

4. Go to the gym. Yeah, I know, again. It could be related to item 1 but it’s actually not. I need to start going to the gym again or I’ll go crazy.

5. Blog more. I currently have four personal blogs and one church blog. I love them. They are a fantastic outlet for words and pictures. I love where I live and write about it here. I love to take pictures and post them at Mental Scrapbook. I love to make things and give them away and post about that at Random Act of Grace and I love to talk about God, the church and all kinds of stuff to which they relate and I post about them at Shepherdess Writes. I want to do more consistent writing, more book reviews and share more photography.

6. Make more stuff. This is perhaps the most fulfilling part of my life. I’m sure some psychologist would say it’s because I don’t have children. Ok. I don’t care, maybe it is. But I love it and I’ve felt better, healthier, less stressed and more creative the more I make. So that includes knitting, sewing, photography and mixed media projects.

7. Spend less time playing games on Facebook. I will not say ‘spend less time on Facebook’ because my dearest friends live all over the country and if I want to remain connected to them I need to do something like FB.  I am not good at making phone calls. I actually do not like the phone. But FB works. Just want to stay away from those time-sucking games. I would say spend less time watching TV but unlike a whole lot of people, I really watch very little.

8. Find a clock with more than 24 hours in it. Seriously, I’ll need to if I want to do more of these things.

9. See my life as a treasure. Wanting more than 24 hours in a day can be for one of two reasons: 1-poor time management and too much to do. 2-life is so good and full and purposeful that you just plain want more of it every single day.   I want it to be the latter.

10. Spend more time with people. I spend a lot of professional time with people but I don’t really spend personal time. It is ironic because very little of my life has hard boundary lines but this seems to be one of the areas in which I make some sort of bright line between personal and professional time so I feel the professional time tank is low and the personal time tank is too full. Out of balance. Like carrying two buckets of water when one is really heavy and one is really light. Need to share more from the heavy bucket.

Ok, it is a pretty lame, pretty ordinary set of resolutions. But you know what? I’m ok with that.  I’ve spent a lot of my life being unintentionally not so ordinary.  The truth is that I can’t save the world (even one relationship at a time), I can’t undo the past mistakes I’ve made, I can’t undo the things that have happened to me, can’t start a revolution or even stop the negative ideas of someone else. But I can do something about me. Here and now.

So I’m posting this, going over to someone’s house to drink Mimosas and this evening I’m opening that Tony Blair book. It’s a start.