Let me start off right away pointing out that I am posting this at the end of January rather than the “new year, new me” time frame. But here we are again, a new year, with new aspirations and declarations that tend to only last a solid two weeks. I’ve been there; I’ve made the promises to myself that I would get back my club gymnast body even though I no longer need to be in shape to fling myself over objects that don’t care if I kill myself in the process. I’ve told myself I’d floss every single day, and read a non psychology related book every morning (trying to read books that normal people read for fun). Well, it never happened, and I don’t like resolutions. You see, the reason I don’t like resolutions isn’t because I don’t think I can accomplish weaving a piece of string through my teeth, it is because resolutions, from a psychological standpoint, ironically aren’t very healthy or attainable for a large percentage of people.
I like to make goals for myself, not resolutions. While psychology does show that a new sense of motivation is created by fresh starts and our brains are better at comprehending things in chunks… there is no science backing up that these said chunks have to start on the first of a month, first day of a new year, or a Monday! This is why I don’t like the giant starting line on January 1st, because what happens if you’ve got all your resolutions ready to go, but you get a 24 hour stomach virus on New Years Eve and spend the night on the toilet? (true story, sorry Ryan Seacrest, I created my own fireworks out of both ends this year). If I followed a resolutions mentality, I would have already failed the minute the clock hit 2022. Psychology shows that resolutions can lead to failure due to the fact that it sets us up for an all-or-nothing mindset. We put so much pressure on January 1st by swearing off to never eat a potato chip again, but then once we give in day later, we throw in the towel and give up because we lose faith in ourselves.
The benefit of setting goals is they can be made on a random Tuesday at 3:07 PM and can be started over 17 times a day.; it’s on your time and your terms. Our brains don’t like being told “no,” and that is what a resolution does. In fact, our brains like to act like toddlers and do the exact opposite of what it is told not to do. Even though I’ve been fully aware of this psychological phenomenon in years past and swore off “unhealthy food,” that lasted until dinner that night because the forbidden fruit causes even more temptation (if you need further proof go look up a little story called Adam and Eve). This is why this year, I am focusing on goal setting, not changing my habits overnight. While there are big differences between a resolution and a goal, there is one pretty big similarity, and the reason why the line between resolutions and goals is so fine lately when really, it should be a thick line. As social media has grown and comparison culture is a legit thing, goals have become a lot more about getting something, or getting rid of something, rather than achieving something, and I’d like to help y’all reframe your resolutions and goals.
The reason resolutions and “modern day goals,” shall I call them, exist are because we are dissatisfied with parts of our lives, or we want something to happen. As I was thinking about content for this post in the shower (this is typically where all my ideas originate, as well as during my dreams, or any other random times instead of when I intentionally sit down to write), I thought about my goals for this year and the fact they weren’t all quantitative like my past resolutions were. Instead, they are qualitative, and I felt a lot more peace and hope when thinking about them. I realized that my goals actually get to the root of what I want, not just a fix that I thought would get me to where I want (ex: lose 10 pounds to feel good about my body again). I promise this will apply to you in some way, and I want to help you see what you should STOP doing when it comes to goal setting.
My goals this year are meant to create that thick line between goals and resolutions again. They are more than something I want to just get, it is something I want to achieve, and live out daily. I’m going to preface by saying that my goals go against all the SMART goal (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely) setting we did in middle school/high school/college. My goals are broad as heck, can’t be measured with numbers, and time frame? No, that’s a recipe for failure! And you know what? That’s ok, because goals have no rules (unless you’re at a hockey or soccer game). If having smart goals works better for you to hold you accountable, then go for it! But for me and my perfectionistic, type A, all or nothing mentality; giving myself a number to hit, and then falling one number short = failure in my mind rather than seeing all that I did do along the way. So with that, here’s my 5 main goals for this year, and maybe they will spark some for you, too.
Stop trying to lose 10 pounds
For someone reading this thinking they’ll finally learn how to lose the last 10 pounds, don’t exit out of this yet. Remember how I said that we often make goals that are quick fixes to get to the root of what we actually want? How about we just make what we truly want our goal? For me (and probably you, too), this is being happy with how my body looks. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a gymnast, but being judged on how “my lines” looked in a leotard, and making sure my body was in prime shape for half my life didn’t go without causing extreme attention to how my body looks daily. Since I’ve retired, I’ve spent time recovering from disordered eating, body image issues, and have believed that I’d finally be happy once I lost 10 pounds…but I never thought to make my goal to work on accepting my body right now; what it does right now, how beautiful it still is right now, and the fact that I can whoop someone’s butt in a handstand contest right now. My goal is to learn to love my body in the present. The reason losing 10 pounds is STILL on everyone’s “to do” list, is for two reasons. 1. We assign a time to it, and so much pressure to do it that we go to unsustainable extremes so it becomes this nasty cycle of giving up then starting over. 2. Giving ourselves a goal that is more like a task we can check off is a lot easier than facing internal feelings we have to battle. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like talking about emotions, or letting people know that I feel anything but confident at all times. But here I am announcing to the internet that I avoid icky feelings like a pro, and have bad negative self talk when it may seem that I am A-okay 95% of the time. How bout we skip the quick fix and make our goal to do the real work and acceptance? How will I know when I’ve achieved this goal? When quality of life is better, and I feel joy in situations that currently cause me stress such as looking at a picture with my boyfriend or my family and despising what I look like. Seriously, is your goal to see a certain number on the scale? Or is it so feel a certain way about yourself? *mic drop*
Stop trying to read for fun
Before you start to think this is a blog about promoting bad habits, the theme I’m going for here is that we make goals that are basically a cry for help for something else that we truly want. In this case, reading for fun is code for I WANT TO LEARN TO RELAX! So I’m making my goal to learn to relax. Serious question here: do you even know how to relax? Cause I don’t think I actually do. I used to think relaxing was sitting on the couch and being able to scroll through Instagram until I realized I started to feel stressed about seeing other people’s amazing Lyme-less lives or started to feel my anxiety bubbling up as I see the 13 unread email notifications from work on a Saturday (I think those 13 people need to learn to chill more than I do). So then I switched my beliefs and thought relaxing meant having the time to read for fun since that seems like something chill people do. That became my resolution until I realized my mind was taxed and didn’t want to read 12 point font at 11 PM after a full day of school (and no, it is not because psychology books are my idea of reading for fun, this also applied to Nicholas Sparks books, too). Relaxing these days is so much harder than I thought. It requires not picking up my phone and scrolling through Facebook while trying to watch Netflix…emphasis on trying to watch Netflix. Watching a show with undivided attention and actually enjoying it requires effort for a lot of people nowadays! For me, my goal is to be able to pay attention to an activity I enjoy doing with no thoughts about work the next day, the fact I still have Lyme spirochetes using my nervous system as a playground, and that I haven’t been to the gym yet today. For the record, I feel that tranquility and calmness I’m aiming for when I am blogging away at my favorite Starbucks listening to my #soft playlist on Spotify. Relaxing does not always equal laying on the couch reading a book with a candle lit, coffee in hand, while the snow is lightly falling like Pinterest and Instagram has coaxed us into thinking that’s what it is (especially in Florida or Kentucky, that would just be odd). It is whatever makes you feel like you can finally exhale for once, and at least for me, brings me closer to God and can feel His presence.
Stop trying to floss 7 days a week
This resolution of mine never did get off the ground, even when it involved using dino flossers as extra motivation. Well, that’s because I didn’t actually want to floss 7 days a week…sorry Dr. Mittelsteadt and Zach’s dad. What I wanted all these years, was to take better care of myself and my health, and this somehow translated into thinking that flossing made me feel like I had my life together. So my goal here, is to take better care of my overall health by setting in place a night routine. My morning routine I’ve got down solid, but when it comes to night time, I unfortunately have procrastinating going to bed down solid, too due to a psychological concept called “revenge bedtime procrastination” that a lot of people experience because we feel like sleep robs us of leisure time after having a full schedule all day. (The fact that my FND happens primarily at night time and I have a slight fear of sleeping definitely doesn’t help either). This is why I want to get a routine going, because my brain thrives with set routines, and getting more consistency at night might be the sleeping pill I’ve needed all these years to let my body know that the natural human need to sleep is not a living nightmare and is actually enjoyable. I’d love to get to bed at the same time every night (perhaps after I brush my teeth AND floss), say my prayers, jot a few lines in my 5 year journal, read a little bit, and go to sleep knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to better my overall health. What about you? Do you have a good nightly routine? Or are there some areas you could improve?
Stop trying to have a weekly date night
This started out as a really good goal in my mind until I realized that having to actively, with effort, carve out time during my week for a few hours to spend quality time with the person I love sounds really sad. What is keeping me so occupied that I have to literally plan out a day I’m going to wear jeans instead of sweatpants, and plan to put on makeup for an hour or two? I realized that the reason for this is because I am always in a hurry, and because of this, am exhausted by the end of the day. So with that, my goal is to eliminate the need to hurry in my life so I am not always exhausted, and sweatpants won’t look more attractive than my handsome man of mine after a long day of work! This realization came to light from a book my church is doing a sermon series on called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. I highly recommend that everyone on this planet reads this book, especially those who don’t come to a full stop at stop signs, always choose the shortest line at the grocery store, or look at your phone during any lull in your life (that’s all of us, my point exactly). I have realized through reading this book, that I make myself exhausted every single day just by being in a hurry in all aspects of my life for no reason at all. For example; replying to emails right away rather than allowing my mind to rest and give it at least 5-10 minutes, working over my lunch break, driving over the speed limit, multitasking all day long, and heck, I even try to use the bathroom as fast as I can, and for what? Because of this, it takes away from the things that should be rewarding after a long day (I’m not talking about going to the bathroom here anymore), and makes me a version of myself that I don’t particularly enjoy. I want to have the energy to do date nights every night if I wanted to, rather than just one day a week, and start to balance out my jeans to sweatpants ratio.
Stop trying to find a cure
As much as I’d love to finally rid myself of Lyme Disease and Functional Neurological Disorder, the last few years have revealed to me that all the focus and effort I’ve put in to ridding myself of all of my problems, is taking away from other parts of my life that I used to enjoy regularly. So with that, my goal is to give more of my attention to what brings me joy in order to bring back “pre-FND Lauren.” Of course, I will never give up hope that I will someday be set free of it, but at some point, I need to draw the line where managing how many pills I take at night doesn’t become my life and I can just be me minus FND. Psychology has actually shown that the more attention given to an issue, the worse it can get because it stays in the mind, and subconscious. Over the years, I’ve noticed that as I’ve given more attention to treating FND, it’s actually gotten worse which leads to more attention given to it. Now, it has turned into what feels like I’m the project manager on an all consuming, 24/7 project that I don’t want to be on anymore. I’ve been grateful for the treatment and time my parents have contributed, especially since it led to discovering Lyme after all these years, but sometimes I just want to go cold turkey for treating FND, and live my life like I used to before I started any treatments. Before I started treatments in college, my condition was much less severe and not always on my mind which left room for thoughts about time with friends, vacations, games, cooking new foods, flying lawn mower videos, and everyday things that I actually do enjoy, rather than fear now. It was much easier to enjoy myself in the moment because there was never the lingering thought that I’d have a spell because of what I was doing. Thankfully since I met Zach, pre-FND Lauren has started to come back more these days, she’s a lot more bubbly and less stoic. But there is still that fear and hesitation that I’ve been conditioned to have if I make the wrong move, don’t take my medication on time or correctly, sit too long, use too much energy, or get too tired. I don’t want to live my life in fear anymore, I want to just live it like the fearless kid I used to be, and my own mind is what is stopping me! Do you have something you give too much negative attention to? Put your mind elsewhere, you have control of it!
My goals aren’t really a to do list like a lot of people seem to create when goal setting, and because of that, it will take time! But as they say, all good things take time. I hope these 5 goals made you think about the areas of your life that you could change to better your health, bring you back to the person you want to be if you’ve strayed from that, help you eliminate the hurry in your life, make you stop at stop signs, and learn how to appreciate the lulls in life. I’d love to hear some of your goals for this year, and if flossing 7 days a week is something you’ve achieved already, teach me your ways, please.