Around this time of year, it’s pretty common to spend some time reflecting on the year behind, and begin some goal setting activities. We all want to focus on some healthy habits to keep in 2020. The topic of New Years resolutions seems to come up in a lot of conversations, naturally. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals, in fact I’m a fan of setting big, fat, terrifying goals. But I also think it’s important to look back on what went well, to acknowledge and honor it, and to make sure that we continue building on those strengths and successes.
So, instead of looking at all the things about myself that I’d like to change or improve, and believe me I could write quite the list, I’m going to do something different. I’m going look at the things I did well in 2019 and plan to keep doing in 2020, rather than only setting new goals for 2020. I hope it encourages you to consider what healthy habits you want to take into the next decade, and maybe inspires you to join me in maintaining or implementing these habits. Here are my four healthy habits to keep in 2020.
As a former mental health therapist, I’m pretty decent at helping others to set boundaries for themselves. Boundaries are important. They are protective. They provide a framework for interacting with others and what we are willing to accept and what we need to not allow.
Boundaries can also be uncomfortable. Usually, if someone struggles with setting their own boundaries, they have a hard time encountering others who do. This can cause conflict. Especially around this time of year. Like when you let Great Aunt Susan know you won’t be making your child hug her. Or when you refuse to and brush off a homophobic joke. Or when you don’t accept the third drink that’s offered because you’ve reached your limit.
There is absolutely a way to be compassionate and kind in setting and explaining your boundaries. But there’s a good chance that at some point in time, in order to honor your own boundaries, you will have to do something that makes someone else uncomfortable or defensive. Because we’re human and we have ego’s and the ego is a fragile thing.
And it may feel wildly uncomfortable to accept that establishing and setting the boundaries that are important to you is not enough. You have to enforce them. You have to stand firm within them. This might mean saying no, or walking away, or letting go of something or someone that has played a role in your life. And that’s ok.
Because while it might be uncomfortable in the moment, it is so freeing in the long-term. It took me a long time to feel comfortable verbalizing my boundaries. I have a whole history of not telling others what I am feeling and why, and instead just removing myself from things that don’t align with me. And I still do that regularly. But now, before I walk away, I let others in on what is going on with me, and I give them an opportunity to accept my boundaries.
The relationships that have thrived the most in the last couple of years of are those that are based in authenticity and honesty. And authenticity and honesty can’t exist without respect for boundaries. The more I’ve put words to what I’m not ok with, and the more comfortable I am with doing it, the more comfortable and self-assured I’ve been in everyday life.
It might offend someone. It might make them think you’re a bitch. But the lovely thing is that it is absolutely none of your business what anyone else thinks of you.
This is another lesson I am glad I picked up as a therapist. Self-care is one of the most important and least selfish things I can do. I have found so many things that are on my self-care list, and honestly none of them involve massages or face masks (though I do love a good bath bomb).
I run marathons. I CrossFit. I write this blog. I read books that are interesting to me. I do a whole lot of listening to my intuition and what I am craving. Sometimes that means researching something that’s got my attention. Sometimes that means laying in bed and watching Vampire Diaries (I’m a sucker for soapy teen shows, I’m not ashamed about it).
And while the thing that I want to do to take care of myself changes on a day to day basis, there’s one constant. It takes time. And it’s easy to feel that taking this time is selfish. Or irresponsible. Or unproductive. But I’ve learned that those thoughts are just untrue.
Making sure that I am taking care of myself means that I’m less irritable with my son when he asks me the 87th question of the day. It means that I’m able to problem solve and come up with creative solutions at work. It means that I’m not screaming at cars that have distracted drivers. It means that when my husband needs to vent about something I have the bandwidth to listen. It also means that I don’t set trashcan fires when I’m frustrated.
Those things are all just as important, if not more than, making dinner. Or folding clothes. Or changing the oil in my car. All those things that need to happen that compete for my time, they’re going to happen. Maybe on a different day or in a different manner than I originally envisioned, but they’re going to happen. So there’s no value in sacrificing myself or my mental health or my happiness to make them happen.
I spend a lot of time doing stuff that is just for me. And I don’t feel bad about it. I’m flexible about when or how I include self-care in my day, but I am not flexible about the fact that it needs to happen. It makes me a better mom and wife and friend, but honestly, that’s not why I do it. I do it because I am the only person who has to live in my own head, and I am worth living in a pleasant mind space.
Setting Big, Scary Goals
Over the last five years, I have really allowed myself to set some big goals and chase after them without worrying about what happens if something doesn’t work out. I went back to school at a somewhat unideal time, and earned my MBA. I ran marathons. My husband and I bought and renovated a rental property. I started a blog.
There were certainly no shortage of failures along the way. I had my first major injury trying to train to Boston Qualify that sidelined me for six weeks. I’ve interviewed for jobs and been turned down. We spent well over our original renovation budget, and had to figure out alternative financing. I missed my BQ time by 10 minutes last week.
For a long time, I didn’t set goals that I didn’t think I was capable of achieving. Luckily, I’ve always been someone with a decent amount of confidence in myself. But if I thought there was a chance I’d fail, more often than not, I didn’t even let myself want it anymore. And this lead to a lot of lackluster in my life.
In the last couple of years, I’ve become much more comfortable saying, “I want this thing, and I’m going to try, but if I don’t get it, I’m not going to be a failure of a human being.” I’ve accepted the fact that it’s ok to fail, and it’s ok to change my mind. It’s ok to say I want something, and then decide I don’t want it anymore along the way. Nothing is written in stone.
Giving myself the freedom to fail and the freedom to change my mind has given me so much more courage when it comes to setting goals. I don’t mind missing something the first time and going back a second, third, or fifteenth time. And honestly, I think a lot of this has come from running and CrossFitting.
I can’t tell you the number of times I tried to get that bar muscle. Too many to count at this point. And I still can’t nail it consistently, and that’s ok. I’ve trained to BQ attempt for at least three races at this point, and I still haven’t run a 3:30 marathon. And beating myself up and feeling bad about myself doesn’t get me any closer to my goal. But continuing to show up and keep trying sure has moved me forward.
I went from a 4:30 marathon to a 3:40. I’ve gotten that damn muscle up a couple of times. It’s taken me a long time to really learn and accept that if I keep trying, at some point I will get what I am going for. Running and CrossFitting has made me brave enough to set big goals without the anxiety and fear of failure.
And while there have been a lot of failures, there’s also been a lot of wins. A lot of big wins. So in 2020, I’m going to keep setting big goals and chasing big dreams, and I’ll keep failing along the way, but I know it’s not a big deal.
Asking For Support
This last point is crucial to make all of the others happen. And it’s probably one that has taken me the longest to learn. My husband is unwaveringly gracious and thoughtful and LOOKS for ways to support me and make my life easier. And while this is really nice (like REALLY nice), it meant that I didn’t *need* to ask for help very often.
And not asking for help held me back in so many ways. It kept me from taking on big projects at work, because I was too scared to rely on my (very capable) employees to do things without my oversight. It meant that I handled every aspect of our finances when my husband was more than capable. It kept me from being honest with my friends when I was struggling with my mental health.
It kept me small and limited the amount of growth in my life. And I don’t want to live a small life. Asking for, and allowing, others to support me has meant that I am more vulnerable, which is somewhat uncomfortable for me, but it also means that I have more bandwidth to chase those big goals. It means that I have time to listen to a friend who is struggling to start a family. It means I’m able to take more running clients and witness more people truly fall in love with running.
I’m not uncomfortable saying that in 2019 I did these things, and I did them well. As a result, I reaped the rewards in such amazing and substantial ways. So in 2020, I fully plan to continue making sure I am honoring myself through my boundaries, taking time for myself, setting big goals, and asking for help along the way.