Realistically Setting Goals

This is the final installment in my series on New Year, New Mind. I’ve been discussing how our thoughts can easily derail our efforts to form habits that will make us healthier people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. Last week I looked at a few ways to stop our train wreck mentalities and this week, I wanted to close with a look at realistically setting goals.

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Baby Steps

The best way to start when setting goals is by starting with small steps. Rather than starting large and working your way back, start small and work your way up.

For example, if you want to get organized, but don’t know where to start, decide what your first priority is. If you need to work on meal planning, start by having a plan for at least three meals a week. Rather than being overwhelmed with a whole week, just plan a few and write them down. If you and your spouse both work and can afford the service, there are a number of food services now available that deliver all the ingredients and directions for meal prep to your door for as many meals a week as you want. My daughter and her husband use Blue Apron and have three meals a week delivered. All they have to do is open the box, take out the ingredients and follow the directions. There are lots of options available.

Perhaps you want to improve your health by exercising, and eating better. Instead of going cold turkey off all your favorite treats, start with a few small changes. Drinking more water, adding a veggie at lunch or a fruit at breakfast, eating one less meal out a week, or measuring out the potato chips so you only get one serving are all good baby steps to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to invest the time or money in a gym membership there are plenty of videos on youtube.com . You can find pretty much anything to suit your lifestyle from short 20 minute walking videos to longer cardio to yoga and stretching.

Starting small allows you to see success quickly and will keep you from getting discouraged that you aren’t seeing results right away. Each step you take towards achieving a goal, is a step in the right direction, even if it is only a baby step.

Get Organized

This could be a problem, if one of your goals is to get organized. Ha, ha. I personally struggle with organization, not because I am incapable of being organized, but because I allow life to overwhelm me. Busyness, and fatigue have put a dent in my organizational capabilities. However, I know that being more organized will help with the busyness and chaos of life. Over the course of time I have come to see the following habits help life run more smoothly.

Meal plan. Planning out a weeks worth of meals help when you are grocery shopping, and when you are trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I used to do this more frequently when my girls were young and keep trying to get back to it. It saves money, time and your sanity when life gets busy. Meal planning is also helpful, when you are trying to lose weight.

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Get up earlier. I know this is very hard for some people. I am a morning person and have the most energy before lunch. My hubby on the other hand could well be diagnosed with morning sickness. He abhors morning. Getting up earlier, gives you more time to get exercise, read your Bible, meditate and just get ready for the day ahead. This is especially important when you work and you have to get lunches made and help others get their days started as well. Start small, taking a baby step in that direction by getting up 15 minutes earlier. Gradually you might be able to work up to a half hour or more.

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Invest in a good planner. I am a geek, so I love being able to get a new planner every year. If you get one with lots of spaces, you can use it for many purposes. You can put your meal planning in there, your appointments, work schedule and so on. A planner is a great way to keep you organized, the trick is to actually write things down in it. Ha, ha. I speak from experience!

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Getting organized in the normal routines of life and finishing little projects you’ve started is an important first step toward realizing larger goals. If you can’t get a handle on the small things, how will you ever get it together to focus on the big things?
— Joyce Meyer

Have a Plan

I have found the thing that helps me most in achieving my goals is to have some sort of a plan. It doesn’t have to be written in stone and signed in blood, because, let’s face it, real life often interferes with our plans. A plan that has some amount of flex to it is probably the best way to approach goal setting that will succeed.

For instance, when I want to lose weight, I come up with a plan. I decide on a way to keep track of my calories, because i have found calorie counting the best thing for me. It holds me accountable and lets me see my progress. I download a fitness app on my phone. I use a combination of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. I also try to do more meal planning. As I said earlier, meal planning makes it easier to keep to a daily calorie goal.

Having a plan for any area of goal setting will help you succeed. Whether you make a daily plan, like keeping a list of things to do, or a weekly plan such as exercising three times or a monthly plan like getting rid of 10 items I no longer use, planning will produce results much more readily than no plan at all.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you develop a plan:

What do I want to accomplish?

When do I want to accomplish this by?

How am I going to accomplish this?

What sort of resources do I need to invest in to accomplish this goal?

How will I handle failure?

That question leads me to my last point.

Handle Failure Positively

Failing at anything is hard. We live in a society that condemns failure and honors success. Obviously, success is the goal. We want to be successful at whatever goals we have, but the truth is that failure is inevitable. If your goal is to lose weight, you will fall off the wagon. You’ll have a bad day and give in to those cravings for ice cream. When your goal is to declutter because you have been binge watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, you will end up at the mall scouring the sale racks at your favorite store, because things are marked down to less than five dollars. Maybe your goal is to be more patient with your family. Be assured they will push all your buttons before the day is over. This is real life.

One of my faithful subscribers said it best:

...instead of letting a day, or even a couple weeks, of a blown resolution or new effort derail us or cause us to give up completely, why not get up and get started again. Keep moving forward.
— Karen - SGM subscriber

We all need to hear things like this and this leads me to several thoughts about failure.

Failure thrives on Fear

Fear is perhaps one of the biggest factors in keeping us from getting back up and starting over when we have failed.

“I can’t do it. If I try, I’ll only fail again.”

Sound familiar? Stop being afraid. Failure is not your master! Many who have gone before us recognized this fact.

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
— Henry Ford
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
— Winston Chruchill
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
— Thomas A. Edison
You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.
— Johnny Cash

I could go on with amazing quotes from amazing people who went toe to toe with failure. Reading these encouraged my heart and I hope they do for you to. Failure is but a stepping stone to achieving the goals we have set. Start believing that.

Failure abhors Friendship

Have you ever noticed when we fail, we want to be alone in our misery and throw ourselves a little pity party? Surrounding ourselves with good friends can turn failure into fuel. As I stated early, I have several subscribers that often comment on my posts, sharing their enthusiasm for fashion or their struggles as they walk the road of life and faith. This means so much to me and gives me fuel to keep going, to keep trying, even when I fail.

You don’t have to have a boat load of friends to be fueled by your failure. One good friend, or your spouse can be the one to reach down when you have fallen to help you back up. If your support system is limited go to Jesus. I have certain scriptures I return to again and again, like old friends, when I need encouragement or help getting back up.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
— Romans 8:1 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)
But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
— Job 23:10 (NASB)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

I hope this series on changing our thoughts has been helpful to you. The things I have written about in this series are just my opinions. I am not a licensed counselor, just a woman who has dealt with the failure mind set in my own life. I write as much to myself as to you, so I hope this was helpful.

Have a wonderful weekend and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Clean Up

My least favorite part of the holidays is what comes after the fact. After the gifts are all unwrapped there are bags of wrapping paper to get rid of. After the Christmas feast has been eaten, there are leftovers to put away and dishes to be washed. After everyone has gone home, there are the feelings of let down and melancholy to sweep under a rug, until a later time at which you can process them.

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No one really likes the clean up aspects of life. Babies are adorable, but cleaning their stinky bottoms is not any mom’s favorite thing to do. Garbage collectors, probably don’t love their jobs, especially when the sun is hot and food waste is rotting in cans and dumpsters. Just ask any relief worker what they love most about helping victims of natural disasters. It probably involves the smiles and hugs they get for their help, not the digging through building rubble to find possible lost children or pets.

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As a child, any one of us probably remembers being told to clean our room. Oh my goodness. You might as well be asking a fish to fly or a bird to swim. We thought the task was impossible, but we grudgingly went about our business. Truth be told, I always loved it when my room was clean and even now, when all the laundry and dishes are done and the house is not a complete cluttered mess, I feel so much more at ease.

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The funny thing about cleaning is that is has to be done. If no one ever took a bath or shower; if no one collected the garbage or tried to recycle; if mom’s didn’t take care of their little babies’ bottoms, the world would be a very messy, smelly place. It is in those types of conditions that illness, disease and parasites prevail and thrive. Who hasn’t seen a garbage can full of maggots in the hot summer time? Or how about a baby’s bottom when they have not been changed or cleaned and cared for….the poor little one. Their tender skin becomes red, inflamed and itchy.

What does all this talk of cleaning up have to do with the holidays, besides being a place where I can unload my burden as a woman who sometimes tries to do it all? Ha, ha.

It has to do with Jesus.

What?

Yeah, you heard me!

Jesus.

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Genesis 1 talks about a world that God created. A perfect world, where the need for garbage collectors and recycling was nonexistent. There was a balance and harmony between God, the created world, man and woman. There was no trash, and no trash talking. There was no disease, no rot and certainly no wrapping paper to burn or dishes to wash. Ahhhh. What a beautiful world. Ha, ha

How did we get to this messy, trash filled, smelly world we now call home?

Sin.

Adam and Eve, with the prodding of a sultry serpent decided that the perfect, trash-less world God had created wasn’t enough. They wanted to be more. More knowledgable, more beautiful, more in control and it led to the mess we have all been cleaning up after, ever since.

Let’s face it, the mess goes way beyond just the physical ramifications that came about in nature. The dog eat dog mentality suddenly became a reality and ever since then we are the custodians of a mess that has grown proportionally to the laundry monster that so often takes over my basement floor. It grows and grows. We clean it up. It grows and grows. We clean it up. The mess has taken over our earth, our bodies, our relationships and our souls.

How do we get out of this mess?

Back to the beginning.

The baby Jesus.

The whole point of Jesus birth was not so we could celebrate Christmas with pretty lights, trees and gifts. The point was clean up. Our relationship with our Creator became skewed. We no longer could walk with Him in the garden. No. Sin and our choice to do it became the deep gap between God and His creation. Jesus was the only one who could bridge that gap. It was His blood, shed on the cross that became the river that purified our world.

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So why then, do we still have so much clean up that needs to be done. Why all the ripple effects of poor choices, bad relationships and selfish living? Why, when Jesus died, didn’t things just go back to the way they were in the garden?

Because clean up is a choice.

Have you ever noticed how family members suddenly become preoccupied or have to leave when it is time to tackle that mountain of dishes? Does your husband hand you the baby when that aroma fills the air? Are you ever guilty of just throwing containers away because you don’t want to have to clean that moldy goo out of it and then have to wash it?

Jesus made everything right, but we have to recognize what He did and accept it. In other words we have to believe. We have to believe in who Jesus was and is and we have to believe in what He did and why it was done. We also have to choose to let Him clean up all of our messes. That can be painful.

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Standing at the sink as I was washing dishes on Christmas day I was already tired, but it was then I really noticed how my back hurt, my feet hurt and the exhaustion weighed on me like a led blanket. Cleaning up is never pleasant. Sometimes you have to get on your hands and knees and really scrub with all your might. That is what Jesus came to do in our lives.

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There are times He is scrubbing with all His might to remove those stubborn stains from our hearts. It hurts. Often it weighs heavily on us. We have chosen to be clean, but we never knew it was going to be so hard. But He does it, because it is His Father’s will and because He loves us. Jesus knew that it is only by cleaning the heart that changes will be obvious on the outside.

You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
— Matthew 23:26 (NASB)
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 2:21 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a vessel for honorable use. I want to be useful to the master and ready for every good work. In order to do that, I have to let Jesus clean me up.

As we head into a new year, it might be a good time to look inward and ask Jesus to show you where some clean up needs to be done. Is it in your thought life, your attitudes, activities you are participating in, or maybe you aren’t crusted up with dirt, but you have allowed yourself to get dusty and you need Him to come in and polish you up.

Maybe you are reading this, but don’t share my faith. There are still things you might need to clean up in your life. Look at your eating habits, what you view or who you hang out with. Are these things making you a better, more useful person or have you become like that pile of dirty dishes, unusable and crusty?

Take some time to clean up today.