Mindfulness, Minimalism, Personal Development

The Anti-Resolutions

I used to set a lot of new years resolutions. A lot. Then I realised that I didn’t keep to them and that made me feel shitty. I asked myself, why don’t I keep to my new years resolutions? The answer was usually because I was looking for the moon on a stick and actually I could be a bit more realistic.

So now I still set myself something to achieve, but I call them goals. I set them small. The idea being that;

They’re achievable

They’re realistic for what I can achieve

I can see my progress

I can set a time for them

They’re clear and I know what they mean. in the business world this would be SMART. See…?

They’re clear and I know what they mean (S)

I can see my progress (M)

They’re achievable (A)

They’re realistic for what I can achieve (R)

I can set a time for them (T)

Anyone can do this. You can too. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about winter, or about not sticking to any one of a million things you haven’t done that your peers and the media tell you that you should be achieving e.g. making a high salary, driving a big car, losing five stone in a month, annihilating all cellulite. STOP! Take a deep breath and set yourself some realistic goals. When we achieve something, we get a shot of feel good stuff, which makes us feel better. So why don’t we set things we can achieve? Well these days we’re often told to achieve the unachievable, to reach for the stars. To believe. I’m all for believing, but sometimes it’s about the little things. The small , achievable stuff that helps you get to those constellations.

Here’s my goals for 2017…

Catch up with the people I haven’t seen for ages (I took the word all out of this – not achievable). I’m really looking forward to seeing people I haven’t literally seen for years.

To eat better (So here’s the thing. I’m overweight. Very. But I refuse to set myself a goal to diet. Everything about dieting is negative. It’s reductive. It says there’s something wrong in the first place. It makes you think about food just about 24/7. I want to love my body, to treasure it, and to want to look after it. How can I do that if I hate it? So I want to eat better food, more grains, more pulses, more fruit and veg. Less processed stuff. I want to feed myself well. Try catching up with minimal wellness if you’re interested in this.

Which brings me onto my next goal

To give myself more self compassion. I’m doing a mindfulness course at the moment, and when I started I naively thought, oh this will be easy I’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while. It’s just a process. Until I got to self compassion. Whoa that hit me like a train. I don’t actually have any for myself. When asked to give myself some, I broke down. I had literal pain in my chest. So I need to work on that. Being kinder to ourselves is something most of us needs to do. This year I’ll be reading the book The Mindful Path to Self Compassion.

And you know what? That’s it. There’s loads of other things I want to do. I want to get a camper van and travel off round Britain rather than work. I want to be debt free. I want the perfect clematis cover on my trellis this summer. I want to work in a job that doesn’t involve 9 to 5. Actually that’s all pretty overwhelming isn’t it? If I tried to do all those things at once I’d blow a brain gasket. So instead I will set my intentions to achieve these things, and let them organically develop (I hope) in the background while I get on with my goals. If you’d like to try some goals, remember

  1. be SMART. There’s a reason all the business gurus focus on SMART. Because it works.
  2. Start small and achievable. If you’ve got loads of debt and want to eradicate it, start with a credit card, or a catalogue debt with the highest interest and set clearing that as your goal
  3. Have fun. Life isn’t meant to be boring, so have fun with your goals. If you want to see more of the world, create a pinterest board and pin your favourite locations. Set up a travel fund and siphon a bit of your income away each month to achieve your travels. If it goes out directly from your salary you’ll notice it less.
  4. Don’t quit if it doesn’t go to plan. If you find yourself not able to achieve your goals, or you feel you might have set the wrong goals, change it up. They’re your goals. Own them, know them and then kick their ass!

Let me know what goals your setting this year, and good luck with them

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Mindfulness, Minimalism

The (almost) no present Christmas

This Christmas things are very different in our household. The decorations will be up, the cards will be written and sent, the mince pies are already being tested, but there’s one big change. We’re not sending and receiving presents.

With the exception of a secret santa, and a few homemade biscuits for our families, we have made the decision not to give or receive gifts this year. This has caused some upset, and has made us seem probably a bit like a 21st Century version of Scrooge to others. Yet as I investigated the internet to see if we were the only ones, I came across people time and time again agonising over whether to give or ask not to receive gifts, for many different reasons; finances being a big one, but also the over consumption of ‘stuff’ for themselves, their children and the vast wastage of goods when you either get something you really don’t like or won’t use, or even the fact of just having to remove the enormous amount of packaging that comes with everything.

For us there are a few reasons we took this decision. We are trying to be minimalists, and we have a small home. Every Christmas although we’re extremely grateful people want to give us presents, we have to find room for more and more things. As the years are going by our wants are getting so few, it’s harder to find anything we need or desire and so we end up wasting people’s money.

Secondly present giving is often a ‘I’ll spend £30 pounds on you, and you’ll spend £30 pounds on me. What do you want for Christmas?’ Given what I’ve said about being hard to buy for, it’s no wonder poor people ask everyone what they want for Christmas so as not to waste their hard earned cash, but it begs the question to me, if you don’t know what I want, please get to know me better so you know what to buy me. I’d much prefer that. You see to me the gift of showing up, the gift of time, the gift of being there for the shitty bits far outweighs any gift I might get. I’m not being glib, I do love presents sometimes, but I also prefer to spend time thinking about the person I’m buying for, get some nice wrapping paper, or buy them an experience they’ll remember. I would prefer it when times are down that someone says ‘What can I do to help?’ That to me is the greatest gift anyone could give. Their time and their love.

Christmas was once (in case any of the younger generation aren’t clear) a religious festival. I’m not religious, I don’t celebrate Eid or Ramadan, so why would I celebrate a Christian festival? Now it’s just an orgy for over consumerism, and getting worse each year, and I don’t celebrate that either.

I like to give gifts but on my own terms. Something I spot for someone that makes me think of them, something that cheers someone up like a bunch of flowers or a gift that I’ve really thought about. I didn’t ever want people to think I don’t love them. I’m a big old ball of love, but I just want to express it by showing up and being there, not by buying a Boots 3 for 2.

The other key aspect of not buying gifts is of course the finance. This year if I’d bought all the gifts I’d done in years before I would have had to use my credit card. Money is all budgeted out for us, and a big expense like that just can’t be taken out of a monthly budget. Yes I could budget for 12 months to pay for a days worth of excess, but that just doesn’t work for me right now.

The result is although it has been hard to explain to the people I love why I am not buying gifts this year, it’s been worth it. I am far more enjoying Christmas without worrying who to buy for, what to buy and how I’ll pay for it. I feel festive, and free and for the first time in years, I am looking to enjoy Christmas for the key parts for me; family time, good old films and mulled wine! So now off to perfect the homemade Christmas biscuits…