New Year's Resolutions and Affirmations

If you are anything like me, you’ve already entertained thoughts about cleaning up your act and starting the new year with better habits and a healthier attitude in general.

I do this every year right around Christmas week and it’s always the same list of self-improvements. Here it is:

1.  Try to quit smoking--again.

2.  Get my sorry ass to the rehab center, buy a membership, and plunk said sorry ass into that aquatherapy pool at least twice a week.

3.  Budget for a full body massage at least once a month.

4.  Eat more fiber.

5.  Drag my sorry ass into the shower every day instead of every three days because I feel better when I do.

6.  Get my sorry ass out of the computer chair more often and run the vacuum, do some dishes, put in ten minutes on my strider, anything to get vertical a couple more times every hour than I usually do.

7.  Neatly file away all the paperwork that’s accumulated in my IN basket. I was a secretary in my working life, for Pete’s sake, it isn’t as though I don’t have the skills and self-discipline to keep a neater work space.

Okay, not a bad list. Completely doable and reasonable. I’m not exactly reaching for the moon here. Then why do I feel so down on myself right now?

I told my mother about my to-do list and revealed my heavy, not-so-chipper mood.

”Hmm,” she said, “that’s an awful lot of ‘shoulds’ you’ve got there. And you use quite a critical tone with yourself. No wonder you’re feeling down.”

It was true. I tend to accumulate little grumbles associated with my perceived shortcomings, then want to remedy all of it in one big fresh burst of inspired activity using the new year as my motivation. Whenever things feel amiss and those feelings result in procrastination, my knee-jerk reaction to it is mastery. Controlling my environment. I believe that if I took the lead in better organizing my space and my daily habits, the rest of my life would be happier. But does it really work out that way?

It does, actually, but I’ve come up with a slightly different way of going about accomplishing these priorities without pressuring myself to do it all at once and facing that dreaded feeling of having failed.

It’s about creating some visual aids in the form of affirmations and suggestions. This is nothing new, I used to do it years ago and it was very effective.

I take a 3 x 5 note card and write “How about a shower today?” and tape it onto my full-length bathroom mirror. Simple, with a congenial not-your-wicked-stepmother tone. A suggestion, not a command. To make it an affirmation, you could write "Showering, grooming and putting on street clothes makes me feel more normal and attractive."

On another 3 x 5 card I write “Have you done any filing this week?” and tape it on the wall above my file cabinet. It leaves my options open. I can think things like no, I haven’t, and I don’t really feel like doing it right now. But it also keeps me aware of how many weeks I’ve put it off. The affirmation might read: "The more often I file the less filing I'll have to do each time."

As far as tweaking my diet, visual aids help me there, too. My big problem in general is “out of sight out of mind,” so if I’m concerned about eating more fiber, I take my box of Fiber One cereal and set it out on the kitchen counter instead of stuffing it away in a cupboard. If I look at it every time I walk into the kitchen, eventually I’m going to grab it, pull the milk and fresh berries out of the fridge, and make myself a bowl of high fiber cereal. It works!

So, you get the picture. If you are task-challenged like I am, you can develop your own techniques, your own affirmations with whatever tools you favor most for that extra, gentle little nudge to do that thing you’ve been putting off. I’m an old codger who tends to respond to low-tech paper and pen tools better than anything. But you could use your electronics in effective ways as well.

Think simple, think one task at a time, and be gentle with yourself. Write these affirmations to yourself with the diplomatic language you would use when addressing others. You deserve kindness as well as that lovely feeling of having accomplished a small task that you can now let go of for the time being.

Remember that it takes 365 days to make a year, and even if you do one tiny thing every other day, that’s still 182.5 things accomplished, and that’s a lot. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for the smallest jobs done. It means you’re still alive and kicking and making goals for yourself. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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