Saturday, December 30, 2017

Reframing New Year's Resolutions and New Beginnings

Reframing New Year’s Resolutions and New beginnings

With the New Year, we often make resolutions.  It’s not a surprise to know that most people don’t follow through for more than a week or two, if they take any action at all.  I don’t know about you, but I have sat with my glass of champagne thinking “Oh yeah, I should make a New Year’s resolution”.  The usual suspects come to mind, such as getting more exercise, eating healthier, setting up a better savings plan, being more patient with ____, getting to work on time...

But why are New Year’s resolutions so, well let’s say it, useless!  They are just a passing thought.  They don’t have planning behind them or a real action plan.  They don’t strategize for the ups and downs that you will inevitably face.  But don’t despair.  We can take those New Year’s resolutions and make them useful.

1.       Write it down.  Statistically, you are far more likely to succeed if you write down your goal.  

2.       SMART Goals  Turn that resolution or vague goal into a SMART goal.  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and with a Timeline. I know, you’ve heard about the pros and cons of SMART goals, but bear with me for a minute.  SMART goals are said to sometimes squash the bigger, harder to achieve goals, but I think that is a cop out.  You can have a BHAG -Big Hairy Audacious Goal- too.  For me, SMART goals are the smaller steps that get you to the BHAGs.  Your BHAG might be to own a Caribbean Island.  Right now, is that attainable? Probably not.  But someday, maybe.  So, let’s look at the smaller goals that will make it at least possible.  Maybe we need to look at some financial goals and some health goals, so you can enjoy the island once you have it. (This last month I wrote about SMART goals for different areas of your life.  You can go to my Advent Calendar and look at December 9 for Financial goals, December 10 for Health goals, December 16 for Career/Business, Dec 17 for Relationship Goals, December 23 for personal & recreational goals, December 24 for Contribution Goals and December 30th for BHAGs.)

3.       Brainstorm  Now you have a SMART goal (or several), let’s brainstorm action steps.  Write the goal in the middle of a piece of paper. Or cut out a picture that represents it.  You can copy a picture from the internet.  Now start thinking of the little things that you need to do to achieve that goal. Draw lines out from the centre with circles for all the things that form part of this goal.  From each of those parts you can draw more circles and break down the parts and steps to achieving the goal. (See AdventCalendar December 29th for more on brainstorming)

4.       Create a strategy document  Ok, this might be overkill for some goals, but others may involve many steps that need to be done in a particular order.  If it is a complex goal with lots of steps, you can use a project management software, or a spreadsheet or maybe just get a white board and draw out the flow of what needs to happen

5.       Dates!  Give action steps a date to be done.  Take your timeline and start adding the actions into your calendar.  Don’t make the mistake of putting too many things in one day.  I’m guilty of getting really excited in the planning stages and wanting to do everything now.  Then when the day is done, and you haven’t done all your actions for the day, you are disappointed and may drop the project and goal all together.  Be very realistic.  Add them to your calendar.  If there are tools you need, things to buy or pick up to take that action, be sure to schedule that in the days before.

6.       Daily list of 3-5  Before bed, look at the next days schedule.  Write a list of 3-5 things you must do the next day.  This will include the action you scheduled to help you with your goal. There may be other things that are important related to your family or work.  This list is the 3 to 5 things that you must do no matter what.  Cooking dinner is not on the list.  You probably should cook dinner, but you could order out if time is short and you don’t have the things on your list done.  That is, unless cooking at home is an aspect of your goal to be healthier or to spend more time with family to improve your relationships.  Then by all means put cook dinner on the list. Make this list your priority and make it things that move you towards your goal.

7.       Daily review  At the end of the day look at what you didn’t get done.  Again, we are being realistic, and we are human. We get sick or we have an off day. You could get down on yourself, but that doesn’t help.  Look at the list and reschedule those things you didn’t do today.

8.       Weekly review  At the end of the week, look at your lists of 3-5 things each day you were supposed to do.  If there are several things you didn’t do, look at why?  Is there something you are avoiding?  Are you being unrealistic and need to schedule less in a day? Is there a pattern that you can see?  Are things scheduled for a particular time of day being missed?  Maybe you need to re-think when you do them. Did you get everything done?  If yes, celebrate!  Did you get more done than you would have without the lists and scheduling? If yes, celebrate!  The goal is not to perfectly schedule everything, but rather to help you do more to reach your goals.

9.       Monthly review  Now we get down to the big patterns.  Is there a day of the week where you consistently don’t get things done?  Look at that day and decide maybe not to schedule things for that day.  I don’t schedule anything for Friday evenings because I know that me and my family are usually tired and just like to wind down after a busy week.  If we do have lots of energy-Bonus!  We do something fun and spontaneous!  This is also the time to go back to and review your brainstorming or strategy document and tweak anything that may need to be changed based on the last month’s experience.  Don’t give up. Go back, review, plan and keep taking action.  

10.   Schedule it  Add dates for new actions that come up.  Sometimes you know the steps to a goal, but not exactly how long certain things will take, so your dates for secondary actions may have just been a month. Now you look at month 2 items and schedule them in on a specific date.

New Year’s is a new beginning for many people. It is like rebooting or restarting your computer.  You start with a fresh screen.  Just remember like a computer with a virus causing problems, rebooting your own life on New Year’s Eve won’t get rid of the underlying issues.  You need to look a little deeper and evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, then make goals and follow through with the above steps to make real change.  

Send me a note with your goals at  I would love to hear your goals!  If you need help with this process, let me help. 

Monday, August 25, 2014


Have you ever had something you committed to do, but over time it fell off your radar?  Did you plan to start exercising, eat healthier, write a book, spend 30 minutes a night reading with your kids, write in your journal, meditate or one of the many, many things we try to add into our days.

We know they are good for us or will fulfill us, but somehow we fall off the wagon and weeks, months or even years may go by and we don’t get back into our desired habits.  If we commit to something and then we don’t do it, the main person we hurt is ourselves.  And how are we hurting ourselves?  Because when we don’t do what we set out to do, we feel guilty or like a failure.  We avoid thinking about it, but there is always that little nagging feeling in the back of our mind that there’s something we are “supposed” to be doing.  

I would recommend being gentle with yourself.  Re-examine the habit or activity and see if it is really something you still want to do at this time.  When I went back to school, I made a decision that workouts were going to be a lower priority.  School, family and sleep would trump any time working out because there were just not enough hours in the day, especially when you add in my full time job.  Yes, exercise is great and necessary, but I made it a lower priority.  Then when classes were done, I put it back on the priority list.  

Now there is a difference between quitting and re-prioritizing or deciding not to do something.  You quit because you think you can’t so something.  Deciding not to do something has nothing to do with whether you can or cannot, but rather a choice to do it or not.  When you make a choice, you can later make a different choice.  I chose to exercise less often (okay sometimes, not at all) because I was choosing sleep and school work.  

You do however need to be careful not to allow fear to be the motivation behind your decision.  You have to think about how you will look upon your choice 20 years from now.  Will you regret not writing every day or will you be happy you spent that hour every day with your kids while they were young and waited a couple years to devote yourself to your writing.  The choices are not always easy and sometimes if we are passionate enough about getting something done, we will get up earlier to fit in an hour of writing or exercise.  Sometimes we will hold off.  Just be sure that whatever you chose, that it makes you happy today and is unlikely to cause regret later. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Experience! Do you chose how you experience life or let life chose your experiences?

Experience.  Enjoy.  Be

What does this mean?  More specifically what does it mean for you?

Today we look at “Experience”

People have many experiences throughout life, but are they the experiences they choose.  We will spend a great deal of time planning an annual vacation, researching locations, booking hotels that fit our ideal of a relaxing week or two away.  You want that time off from work to be perfect, but how much time do you devote to planning the other 50 weeks of the year?  How can you make workweeks and weekends perfect or a better word may be “ideal”?  This doesn’t mean every week will be ideal, just as not every vacation will turn out perfect as planned.  Life gets in the way sometimes and we get sick or bad weather changes plans, or work projects take over our life, but the default should be your “ideal.”
I hate Monday mornings!  Of course a lot of people hate Monday mornings.  But I also hated the idea of starting every week on such a low note, so I endeavoured to change the experience.  I asked my husband to take the kids to day care Monday mornings, so that I wouldn’t be rushed.  I also changed my work schedule so that I start a little later Monday mornings.  Two little changes have made Monday mornings wonderful.  Now, if I want to sleep in an extra 20 or 30 minutes, I can because I don’t have to rush to get the kids ready.  My husband takes care of it.  And he likes it too, because Mondays he gets to work early so he can be better prepared for a weekly meeting he has to attend.  There’s the added benefit of my better mood.  As they say, happy wife, happy life. 
Let’s think about your lunch time.  Do you work in an office?  Do you sit at your desk eating while you work, or do you rush to a cafeteria and wait in line for food you don’t really enjoy or that doesn’t support your health goals? Do you work on the road and go to the drive through to pick up a burger and eat in your car?  How would you like to experience lunchtime?  If you work on the road, maybe you could plan to bring a wonderful home made lunch and find a park to stop at and eat in.  Or for the office worker, maybe you go to the lunch room and spend the hour laughing with friends over a myriad of silly topics.  In colder climates, maybe you spend part of your lunch hour going for a brisk walk to get the heart rate up and wake you up before heading back to your computer.  It doesn’t matter what you do, but think about the experience you want and plan that into your life.  You may have to occasionally work through lunch, but be sure that it’s only when absolutely necessary and that your ideal experience is the default plan.
Are your mornings rushed and a flurry of activity to get out the door on time?  What does your ideal morning look like?  Sit back, close your eyes and imagine how you really want to start each day.  Now write down what you can do to create that vision.  Maybe making lunches the night before or getting up earlier will help.  Maybe you can take 3-5 minutes to meditate, or take 20 minutes for physical activity.  Buy a new coffee maker that has a timer so your favourite brew can be ready when you roll out of bed.  Maybe you could even have a second coffee maker on your bedside table so you slowly wake up to the smell of brewing coffee. Why not?  In hotels, the coffee maker is right there in your room.  Try different things and see what works for you.  What makes you feel better?  What feels a little more special and luxurious?  Make that part of your day.
If evenings are a just about making dinner, chauffeuring kids to activities, or maybe catching up on work emails you didn’t get to at the office before sitting down in front of the television for a couple hours then going to sleep, ask yourself if this is how you want to spend your evening.  My perfect evening involves having a good home made meal with all the family, helping the kids with homework, maybe reading with them, sitting with my husband and having great conversations about our day, the world or maybe something new I’ve learned.  I love to sit and write for awhile and I want to minimize television watching.  As I write this, I realize that my evenings are not ideal right now.  I need to work on this a bit more, but by having the awareness that comes from visualizing the ideal evening, I know what’s missing and my brain is already working out how I can re-jig our schedule. I think I may dig out the slow cooker so I have a few more evenings where dinner is ready when I walk in the door and I might line up a pile of books to read to the kids each week so that I think about stopping to read with them.  We used to read a story every night but have gotten away from that and I miss it. 
My one piece of advice to parents who spend many evenings a week taking kids to various extra curricular activities is: STOP.  Let your children pick one or two things, but no more.  See if one can be on the weekend so that most evenings you can eat together at home.  Talk with your kids.  We have “High, Low” where each person talks about the highlight of their day, one thing that was great about their day and then talks about a low they had, something that wasn’t so great that happened.  You get to see what each family member perceives as important and good through their highs and you encourage the sharing of the lows so that you really know how your kids are dong.  With so many kids having problems at school, being bullied or any of the other problems that arise as they are growing up, you get a window into their lives.  Start as young as possible so that it is normal for them to share and they feel comfortable sharing, and listen so that you can help them experience their days in a more positive planned way, an ideal way.
In conclusion, look at each day and each part of the day and visualize your ideal day.  With a family, you may have to have some compromises in order to make everyone’s ideals blend with yours, but it’s achievable.  The days that you do take the kids to some activity, you will enjoy more because you will be more present, knowing you are helping fulfill their ideal and knowing that your ideal evening will occur tomorrow evening.  Your spouse’s ideal may be dinner out while yours is dinner in.  Split it up and love that you are giving them their ideal some days and you have yours some days.  Make this a fun exercise to explore each family member’s ideals, not a negotiation to get what you want and make the least possible concessions.  A wise man, Jack Canfield (co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul books), told me last year that “you don’t have to do everything right now.”  I keep reminding myself of this sage advice as I try to fit more into a day and realize that my ideal is disappearing.  The kids don’t need an activity every night.  You don’t need to be perfect.  Work will still be there tomorrow.  None of us knows how many days we have left on this earth.  We often hear that it’s about the journey not the destination.  Do you want your last days to be a flurry of stuff you do, or a nearly perfect day?  Do you want to wake up 20 years from now and realize you’ve spent years doing a bunch of stuff, but had very few ideal days?  I vote for ideal or as close as I can get, as often as I can.   
Now, I’m off now to find my favourite kids books to read with my children this week.  I love when they snuggle on my lap and we create ideal moments together.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

One trip to the gym…

One trip to the gym is not just about burning a few calories.  It is a course set in motion, a first step towards a stronger body, healthier living, which can lead to more energy to play with your kids which in turn can lead to better relationships with them which can lead to them coming to you instead of strangers when they need advice or take a wrong turn. 

One phone call to a prospective client can lead to a small sale which can lead to a repeat sale which can lead to a referral which can lead to a networking opportunity which leads to a new partner which leads to taking business to whole new level and a whole new market.

One internet search for that impossible vacation can lead to a great deal and a fabulous vacation that can lead to meeting a special person that can lead to a life partner who will be there for you, support you and love you.

One dream, believed in and never forgotten can lead to a life filled with happiness and passion. 
Each action takes us somewhere new.  Each action has an effect, not only on us, but on so many others around us.  Each pebble dropped in the pond causes a ripple out that touches all around it.
Take the step, take the action and see where it leads you!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Build it back up

Sometimes you have to break it down in order to build it back up again.  Transforming your life can be difficult if you’ve held on to the same way of living for so long.  We start building the walls and we spend so long perfecting the outer shell that we forget about the foundation.  Over time the walls sag and crumble, but we put up with status quo because we’ve put so much time into those walls.  Overtime people push on those walls and drive holes in them, holes that you are not prepared to deal with, holes that cannot be fixed.

Sometimes you just have to know when to knock them down and start fresh and this time you have the knowledge that will build the foundation for stronger, sturdier walls.  You work on the inner house and not only the walls that surround you and face the world.  You see the importance of the inner stability and balance and you build a home that will stand the test of time. 

Don’t be afraid to start fresh, whether someone has torn apart your life or you have to tear it down yourself.  It can be hard.  You’ll feel like you’re out in the dark of night and you won’t be able to see.  You’ll wonder if you’re going in the right direction or if you might walk off an edge.  Trust in yourself and look up, because once you stop and look up you’ll see the stars, the little lights that are the light at the end of the tunnel.   As you progress through that dark night, keep looking up at the stars.  You may be tired and wonder how you can possibly go on, but I promise that eventually one time when you look up, you’ll realize that the sky seems a little brighter.  Dawn has not come, but you start to see the faint impressions of the world around you and with each passing moment the world around you becomes clearer and clearer until you see the morning sun and find your way back to where you need to be, where you can rebuild your life.