Even if you have been 100% successful with your New Year’s goals so far, we are, in fact, only a couple of weeks in! Still, I think it is cause for congratulations because, as you may know, most people don’t stick with their resolutions past January. I am hoping for better odds for MPP readers, so I thought I would offer a little extra encouragement by continuing to write on this subject during this month. If you can stay strong throughout January, then you have a much greater chance of being successful throughout the year. I would say that January is the “hump” that you have to get over (Getting Over the Hump in Building Life-changing Habits).
I thought now might also be a good time to open up and share a little about my goals this year. I do believe in keeping the list short, because the more so-called “goals” you have, the less focused you are on any of them. If your goal represents a true change in behavior, then you are going to need all the focus you can get. Let me explain.
The Difference Between Change and Challenge
Every year, I set a fitness goal. It is usually in the form of mileage; that is, how many miles do I want to run, walk, bike—move—this year? This is a fun goal, and I will write more about that in an upcoming post, but for now, let me just say that, for me, a fitness goal is not about change so much as it is about challenge. I already have a strong habit of exercise. Adding a little more mileage during the week will not shake up my routine much. It will not require a great deal of focus or determination or inspiration.
On the other hand, my goal last year—to change my eating habits—well, that, my friends, was a goal all about change! I ebbed and flowed all over the place in the course of the year, somewhat forsaking the goal at times and reverting to old ways, but by the end, I can honestly say that I did, indeed, change my eating habits for the better. (Please read How To Hold Yourself Accountable for Personal Change for the ebb-and-flow story, as it contains some of the factors that brought about my eventual success.) My eating habits are not perfect, but they are far superior to what they were a year ago. And I learned so much in the process! Which helped leverage me this year to shoot for something transformational once again.
My 2015 Goals
I have two big goals for this year. One of them is a little too personal to share on the world wide web—at least at this time. I hope to share it later—maybe at the end of the year—but for now, suffice it to say that I am working on something that could be a real “game changer” in a number of ways. I am really quite excited about it, and if I am successful, I believe it will change the world! Now that I’ve got your curiosity up, let’s move on.
The second goal is also personal (what goal isn’t?), and I am inclined not to share it either, but it’s the only way I know to demonstrate some of the principles that I feel are key to transformation. So, here goes…
In 2015, I want to have at least three home-cooked, eat-at-the-table meals with Steve each week.
I can almost see your incredulous (maybe “disappointed”) expressions. What’s so personal about that? you ask.
I guess I’m a little embarrassed sharing said goal because I realize how it must appear to those of you who work outside the home and yet manage to consistently put meals on the table for a growing family. Others might wonder how my poor husband sustains himself if his lazy wife isn’t cooking for him. Still others might wonder why I have set the bar so low: only three meals a week?
In my defense, let me say that when my children were growing up, we ate most every meal as a family at the table. I believe strongly in the family mealtime tradition; that is where family culture is built and family relationships are solidified (See The Sacred Family Meal Tradition). However, Steve and I didn’t marry until we were in our 40s, and we both had well-established ways of doing things. “Family mealtimes” were not one of our compatible ways. Steve is more of a “grazer;” he munches on something when he is hungry, and he often does it at his desk while he works. Early in our marriage, I made a feeble attempt to convert him to my way, and of course when I cooked, he showed up at the table. But for me, it left something to be desired that he wasn’t particularly “into” it. And also, as I have confessed before, I am just not a big fan of cooking, anyway. So to have a husband that doesn’t demand or expect me to cook caused me to become very lazy in this area. Consequently, I became a grazer, too.
Of course, we eat meals together, but like many couples without children at home, we eat a lot of those meals in restaurants. Which can be nice, but it can also be less healthy, less conducive to quality conversation, and more costly. So even though my lazy self enjoyed this arrangement, my wiser self knew it wasn’t the best way for building relationship and for contributing to our health and our pocketbook.
Dealing With the Internal Conflicts
I have shared all these personal details to give you a peek into the internal conflict that I felt as I considered this goal. First and foremost, there is the lazy, selfish conflict. It is much easier on me to just leave things as they are. Steve doesn’t complain, and I only have to look out for myself. I have to cook very little (I cheerfully eat leftovers), I don’t have to plan meals, I only have to do minimal grocery shopping (another chore that I really dislike).
Secondly, I was conflicted over the idea of having a goal that could infringe on the will and preferences of another person. After all, Steve kind of likes choosing what he wants to eat and when to eat it. In this respect, there is a certain kind of “restriction” that comes with home-cooked meals. Is it right to set a goal that might restrict him?
Considering these conflicts, you might wonder why I chose to move forward with this goal. Well, I’ll tell you.
Why This Goal?
Back in December I was “thinking forward” to what I wanted to change in 2015 (I was feeling very inspired due to my success with last year’s goal), and as I scanned my life, one area that kept popping up on my radar was this issue of how I managed my home. It just didn’t “feel” right. When I feel that discord in my heart, it is a sure sign that something is amiss, that this is an area that I need to give some attention. And I stress: this goal is not just about cooking and eating healthier; it’s about the ritual of a family mealtime—even for my little family of two. I would go so far as to say that this goal is about building my marriage. And that fits squarely with the mission of any “wise woman,” as Proverbs 14:1 states, “The wise woman builds her house…”
And as for overstepping Steve’s will and preferences, I just have to remain flexible. And of course I have talked to him to confirm that he is up for instituting a family mealtime.
There are a variety of elements to this goal that might not be apparent at a quick glance—the planning, grocery shopping, the requirement for flexibility in me, the change in my daily schedule so that I might be able to fit in meal prep, etc.—and, like last year, improving my cooking skills. Clearly, I will be a more-developed, multi-faceted person at the end of the year if I am successful with this goal. That’s the purpose of setting goals in the first place, right? And my marriage will be stronger and even better than it already is, too. These are some of the reasons I landed on this particular goal: it will return more bang for the buck than a frivolous “self-improvement” goal.
Tracking My Progress
We’re almost two weeks into the year, and I have recorded my first week’s victory in my journal (three meals cooked and eaten together at the table). That, by the way, is how I am tracking my progress (See Record Your Progress). I have a page in my journal dedicated to this goal, and I record the date, the meal, and any comments (was it good? did I try something new? what was the conversation like? etc.).
I love this part of the process, because as I write about it, I feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment knowing that I am managing my home and taking better care of my husband. And writing about it—just a few sentences, not a novel!—helps reinforce the objective in my mind. I trust it will help keep me focused throughout the year. I’ll keep you posted on that.
A Stretch, But Achievable
Finally, let me speak to the “three-day” component of this goal. I felt that three days was a reasonable, attainable goal. Seven days—even five days—would have been too unrealistic with our lifestyles (we have lots of meal “meetings” with other people). Three days is the perfect number for now. It is not such a stretch that it feels burdensome, and yet it is significantly more than our previous pattern. It will have an effect. We’ll both benefit from this change in our lifestyles. We can resume our grazing the other four days of the week. But three days each week, we will be a dignified family.
In my next post, I will look a little deeper at the principles I followed as I arrived at this goal. They are referenced in this post, but I will focus more on the principles themselves and maybe help you get clarity and strategy for your own goals. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, would any readers be so bold as to share your goals for 2015 in the comments? I’d love to hear what you are up to.