On the heels of finishing paying off my mountain of law school debt in 2013, I’ve decided to make 2014 my year of tackling some of the other seemingly insurmountable mountains in my life. Literal and figurative mountains.
Half Dome in Yosemite.
The peaks around Lake Tahoe.
Personal, physical, and maybe even mental mountains.
When I say mountains, I mean those areas of our lives that are often neglected because they’re either laden with emotion or because they just seem too hard to tackle.
For example, I’ve done almost no estate planning to date. I don’t have a will, a living will, or medical power of attorney — despite being an attorney (!) who understands the importance, often travels abroad alone, and sometimes to places with high incidents of kidnapping. Thinking and planning for these kinds of eventualities can definitely be emotional, but it’s also inarguably important.
(Don’t worry, you will NEVER show up here to find a a post about how to write your own will! I promise.)
The resolutions that I failed at in 2013 were mostly centered around health and fitness. I’ve always been very healthy (with perfect blood work, so far), but sitting at a desk working all day has brought with it the slow creep of additional, unwanted pounds. I’ve wanted to tackle this for a little while, and I’ve made minor attempts, but I wasn’t really committed. Not the same way I was committed to aggressively paying down my student loans.
Another tall mountain to tackle.
I’ve also found lately that I’ve had a harder time focusing than ever before. Blame it on technology, social media, whatever. Who knows. But I do know that I want more peace and focus in my life in 2014.
In 2013, I struggled to find a consistent exercise routine that I enjoyed doing. I used to love running. So I half heartedly added running another half marathon to my list of 2013 resolutions without thinking through what was really involved. So the first half of the year saw me see-sawing back and forth between semi-regular runs and no running at all. I just wasn’t feeling it. So I started looking for something else entirely.
I ended up finding Vinyasa flow yoga. I’d done yoga before, but never at a studio, which has made all the difference! By the end of 2013, yoga class had become one of the highlights of my week and utterly non-negotiable. Thankfully, that’s where I’m picking up 2014. Super excited to get back into the yoga studio. I’m not done with running, but we’re taking a little break. For now.
2014 marks my 10th year as a lawyer (holy ?@#!), and I’m determined to stop and reverse the creep of additional pounds by whatever means necessary. I’ve begun making adjustments to my diet, but I won’t be going Paleo, vegan, or vegetarian. I will be cooking more healthy food at home with a focus on vegetables and reigning in my overactive sweet tooth.
My goal is to spend more time this year in quiet, uninterrupted concentration. At work and at home. Spend less time on my cell phone and social media. Keep my phone on silent more, and don’t check it while commuting on the bus, unless it’s critical and work related. I’ve also recently begun to resurrect my old law school habit of using earplugs to block out everything else when I need to tune in to something important.
This year I plan to continue to do more writing. I want to: write here with more regularity, write more guest posts, learn to write “shitty first drafts” faster so I can move on to refining, stop leaving posts in my drafts folder unfinished, and see something I wrote published in print. That will involve more pitching to editors. I also need to set a time limit for research; it’s my personal kryptonite.
Despite all the travel I mentioned, I managed to miss the 50,000 mile marker to keep Platinum status on American Airlines by 3,405 elite qualifying miles. So close! I seriously considered making a mileage run near the end of the year, but I just couldn’t pull that off in the time I had left once I realized the problem. There’s always the new boost program to buy AA elite status for those who were close but didn’t make it. But it’s expensive! TBD.
And… I still haven’t made it to Tahoe or Yosemite both of which are practically in my backyard. Must fix. Also on my list, but that I didn’t visit in 2013 are Redwood National Forest and Joshua Tree National Park.
There’s also plenty of other spots great spots on my Bay Area Bucket List that got pushed by the wayside.
STAYING MOTIVATED THROUGHOUT 2014
I’ve found that visibility is key for me when making progress towards a goal. I need to be reminded of my goals regularly and in a way that emphasizes their importance. Life gets busy, and it’s easy to lose track of the big picture when mired in the details.
So this year I’ve calendared 11 reminder emails with a list of my goals and a few meaningful messages to myself beginning February 1st using Boomerang for Gmail. It couldn’t be simpler to use, but it does require a paid account. You could also add a monthly appointment to your calendar with an appropriate reminder. Gmail also lets you choice email for it’s reminders instead of a popup. Having a list is good, but reminders are better.
>> More about Boomerang for Gmail.
PASSWORDS & WALLPAPERS
When I was focused on paying down my law school loans, I changed my passwords for all of the financial websites I use to a variation on ‘Zero Private Loans in 2013’ so I was constantly reminded of my goal. Now, I’ve changed them and other passwords again to help remind me of these goals for 2014.
I’ve also created four desktop wallpaper images to remind me of my focus for this year. Since the messages are pretty universal, I thought I’d share them with you. I can be a little impatient to see some results in the beginning of any change. So I’m starting with the first one below — an image of Half Dome with a message about beginnings.
Below each of the images is a link to the full sized version.
Original photo credit: Mountains Sticking Through Sheets of Clouds by Tadas Balciunas via Flickr. I made it black & white, cropped it, and added the text. >> Full sized file via Dropbox.
‘HOW I FAIL’ JOURNALING
But it takes more than just visibility to create better habits and let go of unhelpful ones – aka challenges of willpower. After watching The Science of Willpower: 15 Tips for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Last from Dr. Kelly McGonigal on Open Culture, I’ve decided to add something else to the mix this year.
I’m calling it ‘How I Fail’ Journaling, and it involves recording exactly why and how I failed to achieve my goal on a particular day. What you told yourself to rationalize not ordering the healthy meal or going on a run, what you let distract you instead of finishing the work you were doing or post you were writing, etc.
It may sound counterintuitive, but I’m finding it to be pretty effective so far. Identifying your stumbling blocks lets you find a way around them.
There’s a number of good recommendations in the Science of Willpower video above that I’m may try out as the year goes on. I loved the part where she talks about hacking the brain’s reward system’s bias toward short term gratification in favor of longer term goals by adding rewards (varying in size) to drug rehabilitation programs to great success.
I always love hearing actionable ideas to help us modify our behavior and tackle our own mountains. If you’ve picked up an tricks or tips that have helped you, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Feel free to also share any mountains you’re hoping to tackle in 2014!
P.S. – I’ll be wrapping up stories from 2013 in my next few posts. Stay tuned for more from Mexico City and the Yucatán!