Monday, January 17, 2011

Small Steps to Successful Living: Month 1

January is the month for New Year’s Resolutions – or rather the first week of January is. I can’t remember how many times I’ve told myself this will be the year I’ll lose weight, get the house in order, on and on… but within a week all that determination fizzles.

This year I’ve decided to approach things differently. First, I’m starting after the first flush of pressure to get those resolutions out there (okay, so I was struggling with a stomach virus and snow at the first of the year). Second, I’m going to tackle my resolutions one small step at a time.

You see, I usually plunge straight into the deep end. Diet, exercise 7 days a week, no sugar, no flour, etc. Can you say EPIC FAIL? And frankly, I can’t handle any more failure in my life.

Nope – I want to plan for success, which means tackling one thing until I’ve mastered it, then moving on to the next. This idea had been percolating for some time, but was solidified by 2 things:

1. I found the book, Change One for Diabetes, that asserts “making one small change at a time is the best way to bring about big results.” It encourages focusing on only one new skill at a time, until you feel comfortable moving on to the next.

2. Within a few days, I saw a post for the blog . Coincidence? The author is embracing the concept of kaizen, constant change through ever evolving steps. She is also discussing the excuses we make, troubles we run into, etc. I highly recommend it.

Do you ever have the feeling the universe is trying to tell you something? Taking the hint, I put together a list of my most important steps.

~ Work through The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) to restore and rejuvenate my creativity. (actually, as a small step, it should be: work through 1 chapter every 2 weeks)
~ Reward myself (not for actions taken, but for daily hard work) with hot baths, massages, reading, etc.
~ Meal balance – divide my plate into ¼ protein, ¼ carb (preferably high fiber), and ½ veggies and fruits.
~ Perform short yoga sessions after cleaning houses.
~ Add twice per week strength training.
~ Replace unhealthy thoughts with constructive thinking patterns. (major focus, probably all year)
~ Practice relaxation techniques when I feel overwhelmed.

This is just a small sample. I have steps for every area of my life, written down so I can remember them, and remind myself of where I’m going. I’ll get to each one soon enough.

I hope to share with you my ideas and thoughts as I seek mental, physical, and creative balance when I post about my progress every third Monday of this year. In turn, I hope you’ll feel free to share any of your own successes and struggles in 2011. I’d love to be an encouragement as you seek to meet your own goals. I’ll also try to post helpful blogs, books, articles, and such that I find.

Will you join me? What small step(s) would you like to master this year? Which one will you focus on first?


Playground Monitor's winner from last Wednesday is Marie. Please send your snail mail address to her at to collect your prize.


Smarty Pants said...

I am so not good with this kind of thing. I'm all or nothing, full on diet bonanza, or straight to the Pizza Hut buffet. This is the girl who finished college in 2.5 years. I'm extremely goal oriented and driven to get it done so I can move on to the next thing. I find this especially frustrating when it comes to the areas of dieting and of course, selling a book.

I'll try to think of some ideas, though. Something like working 2 pieces of fruit and at least one non-starch veggie into my diet each day would be a start. Sometimes I do great and eat 7 servings a day. Then there are days I eat oatmeal, pizza, chicken and pasta, with no actual veggie in sight unless you count pizza sauce, which I don't.

I'll add some more things as I think about it.

Stephanie Jones said...

Angel-Great Blog!

I agree that success is a tough goal to accomplish when it is one huge chunk of "I Made it!!" or "I didn't make it!" I really like the ideas of the smaller goals being celebrated as success not use milesones.

Like you I have the goal of losing some weight this year. I have broken that down into both increments on the scale and exercising more.

I look forward to hearing about your successes!

Playground Monitor said...

I need to lost at least ten pounds and firm up some jiggly muscles. I have realized after the last week of being cooped up because of the snow that I simply cannot have Fritos in my house or I will eat them. I bought them for #2 son and should have told him to take the bag home with him. I just hate to throw anything away. Guess I could toss them outside for the birds, huh?

I'm trying to keep mostly healthy food in the house. My not-so-healthy things include the sugar free frozen fruit pops, graham crackers and the rest of some ginger cookies I bought at Ikea before Christmas (the birds ain't getting those).

My foot problems make excercising a challenge. I can't do power walking or use a treadmill because they put too much force on my feet. I can't use an elliptical because it messes up my hips. So I've been going to a yoga class once a week at church. And I need to start back with the stationary bike in the apartment's fitness room. Back in the summer I swam almost daily.

As for writing... well, we'll just have to see if the ole brain cooperates. My ability to focus is getting better but I still have lots of spells where scrubbing grout with cotton swabs is preferable to writing or even reading. Sad, huh?

Problem Child said...

There's a line in the Desiderata that says, "Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself."

That's what I'm aiming for now. Life's tough, and I deserve some gentleness -- especially when I don't quite hit the mark I was aiming for.

Angel said...

SP, I'm realizing the problem with "all or nothing" thinking when it comes to diet or exercise is that It's Never Gonna Be Over. There's no point killing myself because it ain't gonna have an end date. Instead, I need to change basic habits, and that's not going to happen overnight.

Focusing on those few habits will help you, I think! If you are worried about working those fruits and veggies in, you are focusing on what you can eat and not what you can't. That's a major change I need to make, so I'm postponing it until I get a few other things under my belt.

Let the idea percolate a few days. I bet you can come up with some other small steps you can focus on.


Angel said...

Thanks, Stephanie!!! I'd love to hear about the steps you are taking. Maybe they can help me refine my own.


Angel said...

PM, Sounds like a plan to me!!! One of the important things I feel I need to address is the fact that I get sidetracked whenever I get hurt. Recently I had some problems with my arms and stopped exercising altogether. When in all honesty, I could have continued to use the elliptical, just not use the arm bars. So I'm planning to make a list of options for exercising no matter what the circumstances. Looks like you've done that, until you can get back to swimming this summer. (I love to swim but don't have that option.)


Angel said...

Ooohh, PC, good one! I think that's a good overall goal that can apply to any area of our lives.


LeaAnnS said...

I had forgotten about the concept of kaizen until I saw this blog. My pastor in Texas used this concept, and I wish I'd listened more! Getting overwhelmed is my number one difficulty since I tend to be "all or nothing" too. But the "it's never gonna be over" idea has come to me recently, and I need to face that fact.

My primary goal for January when it comes to exercise was to begin tai chi. I tried a video, but even with martial arts training couldn't figure out what they were doing. Planned to go to a free class, and it got snowed out. So rather than assuming it wasn't meant to be (I definitely need something for blood pressure and meditation!), I called a local studio whose website impressed me. I go to my first class later this week.

Elisa Beatty said...

Very wise advice! I know I have perfectionist tendencies, and the unfortunate outcome is often "if I can't do a perfect job, why try at all?"

Lots of perfectionists are terrible procrastinators.

Learning to tackle jobs you don't like in small bites is very liberating.

Good luck to you!!


I'd be lost without my planner. I write down things-to-do that month. Goals, if you will. In my head I keep a list of things I want to do that day or that week. I cross them off as they are done.

Problem Child said...

A planner, Kelly? A list?

Oh, you are so among kindred spirits here...

Angel said...

Elisa, The woman who does the Smallstepstobigchange blog actually struggles with perfectionism too (as do I). Her ongoing psychological goal right now is to look at her list of things to do and ask herself, "What will happen if I can't do these perfectly?" I thought that was a cool way to deal with that issue -- to confront it head on in your mind instead of letting it control you subconciously.


Angel said...

LeaAnn - Great job not giving up!!! I'm proud of you. Let us know how that Tai Chi class goes (maybe you can give me lessons). :)


Angel said...

Bless you, Kelly! PC is right. You are SO among like-minded spirits here. She and I live by our planners. :) The problem was that my To Do list was filled to tons of stuff (more than I could get done, actually) and didn't really address the important stuff for me, you know?

So now I write my 2 small steps that I want to focus on at the top of my weekly planner page. That keeps them in the front of my mind and helps me to not lose them in the everyday clutter.


PM's Mother said...

The whole trick to keeping new-year's resolutions is to set reasonable goals.

Cheryl said...

You know, coming to the blog late and reading every one's comments made me think. Yeah, I hear all of you laughing. Any way, we are all perfectionists or at least obsessive/compulsives. I think Angel's idea of taking small steps is a good one. I will try that instead of being the all or nothing type. I keep thinking about the question - How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.

Angel said...

Amen, Cheryl! I often forget that because the drive to accomplish is such an ingrained part of my personality. But I'm getting there! Met my exercise step for the day with some weight training.