Last year my best friend Lizzie made some seriously impressive changes. I swear, she changed her entire life in the course of 12 months. I was so in awe of her dedication to self improvement, that I asked her to share with you all how she made big life changes by sticking to little goals. Keep reading to learn about her exciting year of change! I feel like it’s all so actionable and I hope it inspires you as it has inspired me!
A Year of Big, Little Goals
With a new year (decade!) upon us, I know many of us like to take time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the upcoming one. Today I am sharing my reflections here because this past year I took a slightly different approach to my “resolutions,” and found it to be a very fun and rewarding year for my happiness and well-being.
I am someone who loves setting goals and making to-do lists. So I decided to more or less combine the two and come up with a year of small, approachable goals that all worked toward the larger, more abstract goals we like to set for ourselves. For example, there is my perpetual goal to “get in better shape.” Sure, I have a general sense of what that means and what I need to do to get achieve this, but it’s not super helpful for thinking about what is/are the concrete thing(s) I should focus on today/this week that will help me reach this goal. If I really think about it and break it down, what behaviors do I need to change and habits do I need to develop to ultimately improve my fitness? For one, I need to re-allocate some of my time to make sure I can get in my workouts. And in order to do that, I probably need to get to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier while still feeling refreshed. If I want to prioritize my sleep, then I probably shouldn’t spend an hour scrolling on my phone when I should be sleeping, so I could work on that too…and you see where this is going. Often times, there are many little changes that need to come together to impact a really big change. But it can also feel overwhelming to try to make all these changes at once.
A year ago, my husband and I sat down for our bi-annual goal-setting date (we like to do this twice a year, once around New Year’s and once around my birthday in the summer because it’s nice to refocus mid-year if need be). We started off by brainstorming the bigger, more abstract goals we had for ourselves – get stronger and healthier, get back into running and complete a half marathon, spend less time on our phones, read more, be more mindful and eco-conscious consumers, be better with money, etc.. Then we assigned one or two of these goals as a focus for each month; if some of the goals tended to group together, then we assigned them to the same month. Next is the fun part – for each month, we thought of 3-4 concrete things we could do to work toward that goal. I thought of it like an experiment; each week, we can add one or two of these things to our routine and see if we like it. If we like it and we keep it up beyond that week or month, great! If not, no worries, there are other things to try. The point wasn’t to adopt 52 new behaviors over the course of the year, but rather to give things a chance and see what would stick. I think one of the beauties of this approach is that if you get thrown off one week or even a whole month, it’s easy to just re-assign that goal to the next week and pick up where you left off. There can be lots of do-overs and repeating goals!
Looking back, I am so proud of the things I accomplished this year. I ran my first half marathon since 2010, and felt better doing it at 32 than I did at 23! I was able to do a set of 20 full pushups for the first time in my life. My husband and I setup concrete savings goals. And I started reading (non-work) books again! Yes, there were weeks where it was really hard to find time or energy to do the things we wanted to do, so we definitely didn’t accomplish everything on our list, but at the very least, we made a couple small steps toward each one. And I am so excited to continue working on these things in 2020!
Our big, little goals from 2019
- Get back on track with a healthy lifestyle
- Complete a Whole30
- Drink 80 oz of water/day
- Do a 30-day pushup challenge
- Walk 10,000 steps/day
- Develop better sleep habits
- Move my phone charger out of the bedroom and don’t bring my phone to bed (this also required getting a real alarm clock)
- Delete social media apps from my phone
- Get a library card and read a book
- Start getting ready for bed no later than 9:30p
- Be consistent with a strength training routine
- Prioritize making it to the gym 3x/week; schedule workouts and make it happen!
- Prioritize meal prep on the weekends so I can spend less time cooking on weekday evenings
- Try a new workout class
- Get back into running shape and train for a half marathon
- Start the Couch to 5K program and commit to running 3 days/week
- Build up to running 3 miles comfortably
- Go for a run with our local running club
- Pick a new running spot/route and start doing longer runs on the weekend (this was a great way to see different parts of Philly or explore other cities when we were traveling)
- Be a more eco-conscious consumer
- Learn how to recycle correctly
- Start composting
- Make a list of clothing/shoe items I anticipate needing in the next 6 months, and then don’t purchase things not on the list
- Learn about ways to reduce and reuse
- Be better with money
- Setup a budget (we love You Need a Budget) and commit to tracking all expenses for a month
- Next month, commit to cutting spending in non-essential categories by 50%
- Date challenge – my husband and I alternate planning a fun date for each other with a small budget for each date (in lieu of going out for dinner which adds up)
- No buying lunches at work (bring lunch from home every day)
Isn’t it impressive how many changes she made last year?? I’m so proud of my BFF! We’ve known each other since we were 6 years old and I feel so incredibly lucky to have her in my life! She’s a source of constant inspiration for me and I only wish she still lived in California (she left me for PA!)