If your wellness plan for this year is physical or practice-based, you have probably already outlined the steps and systems that will take you towards your goals. Those kind of plans tend to have tangible steps that you can measure in some way – minutes of meditation, cardio, or yoga or reps of one exercise or another.
But if your goals are more intangible, you will have to choose a different approach to measuring your progress.
For example, if you have decided that you want to feel happier this year, you might find it a challenge to create a plan and it might be difficult to measure your progress.
These calendars and their supporting materials give you tangible actions to take that have been proven to increase people’s feelings of well-being and happiness. And they don’t throw them at you all at once (which can cause me A LOT of unhappiness), instead the tasks are ‘scheduled’ for specific days.
If you are a person (like me) who can get overwhelmed by a long list of future ideas, having them organized into a calendar like this can make the project of feeling happier feel a little more in reach.
So, if you are seeking happiness this year, you can follow their daily advice. Doing (or not doing) these daily tasks will help you measure your efforts and you can check in with yourself every so often to assess whether you feel generally happier overall.
Another note: Please don’t think that I am suggesting that you MUST do everything on both calendars. That’s a sure way to feel overwhelmed. Pick one or mix-and-match. Do what you can with the resources you have and then see if their advice helps you to reach your goal.
Here’s a link to a PDF of the calendar above that includes clickable links to articles about the task of the day. The Greater Good Science Center produces a new calendar each month.
Here’s a link to the Action for Happiness website where you can download a copy of the ‘Friendly February’ calendar. A new calendar is available every month.
It’s the last day of January and the last day of this Go Team series so it’s the perfect time to do a some ‘big picture’ reflection.*
The short version of this post would read: It’s ok to change anything about your plans, even your goal itself. Success may look different now than it did in January 1st.
The longer version? Well, that has more details:
If you’ve been reading this series (thank-you!), you probably started this month with plans and ideas for the habits you want to add into your life this year.
Perhaps you had a specific goal in mind, or a set of conditions you want to meet at points throughout the year. (Similar to a goal but maybe not the same.)
Now that you have had a month to explore those ideas and work on those things, do you still want them?
Perhaps this month has solidified your plans and you are dedicated to the path you chose.
Or, maybe you’ve realized that you still want the end result but the path/speed you chose isn’t going to get you there.
It could be that you’ve realized that that goal isn’t something you want after all, or, at least, it isn’t for you right now.
Now that you have a month of extra experience concerning that goal you could have any of a million different ideas/feelings about how much it suits you.
You are not stuck with the plans/goals you chose on January 1.
At any point you can change your plans, change your goals, change your approach.
Only you can know what success looks like for you. And since you are always changing and your life is always changing, your interpretation of what success means will change over time.
It’s all about how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you hope to train your body to do…at any given point in time.
You are the only one who can figure out what you want and if your plans and methods will get you there.
Only you can decide if you just need more time or if you need a different method or if you need a different goal.
Changing goals, changing methods, or changing direction are all valid things to do after a month of experimenting with fitness and wellness.
You haven’t failed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not lost.
If you feel like you have failed or that you have gotten lost, I invite you to Rudner your plans.
Ages ago, I heard Comedian Rita Rudner make this great joke about how she handles being lost and I have used the idea metaphorically ever since – sometimes literally.
I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go.
To extend the metaphor a bit: Making changes at this point (or any point) is like when you are listening to GPS directions and you get off course.
The GPS voice will be telling you that you missed your planned turn-off and it will give you directions to get back to it. (Which is one option.)
If you keep going, it will tell you it is recalibrating and it will give you new directions to the same destination. (Another option.)
Or, you can reprogram that chatty machine and give it a whole new destination. (Also a good option.)
You are in control and you can choose how to respond to the directions from the GPS. Up to, and including, reprogramming it or turning it off.
You are the boss of you and YOU get to decide what success means.
Because, at this exact moment, *I* am deciding what success means. I hereby declare that you have been successful thus far.
You have made an effort, physically, mentally, emotionally, over and over, to move forward with your plans.
It doesn’t matter how far you have moved, I say that your efforts count and they should be rewarded.
Hence, I award you the largest gold star on my collection:
For your efforts, my friends!
Forge ahead. I believe in you.
*I revisit this theme on a regular basis. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook a few years ago that expands on what I wrote above.
Here we are at the end of January. Go figure!
The end of any month tends to make us compare what we did with what we meant to do, and there is extra weight to January’s reflection because of all the new year brouhaha.
But, here’s the thing, that mental review only has the meaning that we give it.
And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about it.
Not getting to the end of your to do list is not a personal failure, it is JUST information.
It might be telling us that our list was too long. (This often happens. We think our future selves will be at peak performance levels all the time.)
It might be telling us that we had less time this month than we thought we would have.
It might be telling us that our schedule doesn’t work well for us.
It might be telling us that our systems aren’t serving us well.
It’s information for our future selves to use in making the next steps, it is not an indictment of our past or present selves.
So, that being said, when you make your plans for February, see how you can use that information to be kinder to yourself. See if you can make your requests to your future self a little closer to their capacity and their reality.
(For example, please don’t make the mistake I make and think that a work day with three meetings can also include all of your routine tasks for that day. That’s not how time works, apparently.😏)
And, most importantly, as you look ahead to next month, add in time for rest and for play – especially during busy or stressful times. You need time to recover, physically and emotionally, from challenging times. That’s not weakness, that’s just how human bodies and human minds work.
Finally, as you look at your lists, remember to consider the routine things and the non-tangible things you did. Making meals, returning phone calls, providing emotional support, filing papers, those all count and they all take time.
(Or as I said to a friend of mine recently – “If I measure my success this week in words written, I’m not accomplishing much, but if I measure it in emotional support delivered, I am knocking it out of the park.”)
Be kind to yourself, my friends, things go a lot more smoothly that way.
About 5 years ago, I was all tangled up in how to design and organize my website and a friend of mine gave me some great advice:
“Think about how you want people to FEEL when they visit. Think about how YOU want to feel when you direct people there. Use those feelings to guide your decisions.”
That was a lightning bolt moment for me.
I had always been focused on how I wanted my site to work and what I wanted people to see but I had never included feelings in the equation.
(Which was weird considering how often I nope out of a site because something about it squicks me out.)
It was an excellent way for me to make the decisions* I had to make about my site. And, of course, once it helped me in one area I used it in all sorts of others, too.
I found that it works especially well when it comes to fitness and wellness. And I include emotions and physical feelings in fitness/wellness decisions.
And, often, they become my ‘in the moment’ goals, letting me focus on my process, instead of on my ‘results’ goals which might be a long way away.
How do I want to feel during my practice?
Perhaps I want to feel at ease, or I want to feel challenged, or I want to feel energized. It changes from time to time.
How do I want to feel afterwards?
Perhaps I want to feel happier or I want to feel like I have worked every muscle or I want to grounded. I pick the activity that will (likely) give me the mood I want.
How will this make me feel in my day-to-day movements?
One of my major motivations is that when I exercise regularly the change in my leg muscles makes me feel more grounded and more powerful. Seeking that feeling instead of hoping my legs will *look* a certain way has been helpful for me. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting your legs to look a certain way, I just can’t use it as a metric because I don’t have enough control over the results.)
I have even been considering tracking how my exercise/wellness practices make me feel every time so I can revisit them when my motivation dips and I need a reminder of why I practice.
Do you use you physical or emotional feelings to guide your exercise plans?
If not, do you think it might be useful to consider them?
And maybe even track them?
I strongly FEEL that you deserve a gold star for your efforts today, this week, and this month. Whether you have been moving, meditating, being mindful, drinking more water, or just trying to do all of those things, your efforts matter.
Keep at it!
*Perhaps this is a natural part of your decision-making process? Previous to that point, I hadn’t really brought my feelings into a lot of those sorts of decisions.
Whether you have been able to work on your habit every day so far or you have been trying to figure out how to make your habit work, I’d like you to claim an easy win today.
What’s the teeniest, most straightforward, simplest example of the habit you have been trying to develop?
Maybe it is one mindful breath.
Perhaps a single yoga pose.
One sip of water.
Think of a tiny thing that represents what you are trying to include in your life.
And do it right now.
Can’t do it right now? Pick a specific time to do it later – use an alarm, a reminder or a cue (i.e. I’ll do a squat while I cook supper.) to ensure that it gets done.
Then, celebrate that easy win – put a star on your calendar, pat yourself on the back, pump your fist in the air, shout ‘Go me!’ Whatever feels good to you.
You can do more than the teeny thing if you want to, of course, but the win lies in doing the small thing. Everyone who does the small thing can claim a victory no matter how much or how little else you do.
You might think of a small win as unimportant but pushing back against the challenges you face and creating that foothold for yourself can be the key to establishing the practice you want.
When it comes to building habits your repeated effort is the most important thing. Once your tiny wins are routine, you can build on them and you’ll be glad that you started small.*
So, go on and lift your arms over your head in a stretch or put your hands out in front of you and roll your fingers into a fist. Stand up slowly and sit back down even slower. Gently stretch your neck to one side and then the other. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while you inhale and then let them drop while you quickly exhale.
Do the small thing you can do as soon as you can possibly do and then be proud of yourself for carving out that time today.
I’m proud of your efforts and I offer you this gold star in celebration.
*PS – Even if you did something huge yesterday or the day before but today this tiny win is a challenge, it is still a win. You are still showing up for yourself. Yesterday, I did a single yoga pose (frog) but I still counted yoga as done.
It’s always easier to take on something new if you have a template to follow.
A trainer or coach can come in handy for developing a template for your actual workouts or wellness practices
But perhaps you also need a template for how to fit those workouts into your life?
That’s where a role model could come in handy.
Do you know (or know of!) someone whose life is similar to yours and who has a firmly established fitness/wellness practice?
(Yes, I know you won’t find an exact match but you can probably find someone close enough to use for a template. And it doesn’t have to be a fitness ‘influencer’ either – unless that’s what you are aiming for, too.)
Could you find out more about the kinds of exercises they do and how and when they do them? Perhaps you can even learn more about how they deal with unexpected time and life challenges.
I’m not suggesting this so you can copy them exactly, of course.
You’ll have to tweak and adapt their routines to fit into the specifics of your life.
But, choosing a role model and using the their approach as a template means that you aren’t starting from scratch. Some of the work is already done for you.
(Reminder: It is totally ok to nope out of anything they do that doesn’t sit well with you.)
If you’ve been trying to figure out your new habits and get into your new routine and it’s just not happening – a role model and a template might be the way forward.
Here’s today’s gold star for your efforts to build your new habits – whether you are moving merrily along or still getting into gear.
So far, I have been mostly reminding you that it is okay to take things slowly and to go easy on yourself. I stand by that 100%.
In my experience, most people take on waaaaaaay too much when they start a new goal and it can be frustrating and discouraging.
But, there’s a flip side to that, of course.
Sometimes, we pick a goal that we have a natural inclination for and, instead of overwhelming ourselves, we underwhelm ourselves.
We pick something that isn’t challenging.
Or something that bores us.
Or something that doesn’t push us at all.
That can be just as discouraging and it can have the same symptoms of dread and avoidance as taking on something too large.
So, if you have been reading my posts and thinking, ‘Encouragement is good but this isn’t *quite* the problem.’ consider the idea that you might not feel challenged by your plans.
Maybe you need to increase the time, the intensity or the difficulty of your workouts.
Maybe you need something that challenges different muscles.
Maybe you need to join a challenge group so you have a little friendly competition.
Try to dig into the reasons for your boredom/annoyance/avoidance and see what your brain comes up with.
You might have the perfect challenge tucked away in your brain somewhere waiting to be coaxed out.
Whether you are overwhelmed or underwhelmed, whether you have set your goals too high or set the bar too low, you get a gold star for your efforts to exercise, to meditate, to make change, to consider your process, to find good rest, or to find a new challenge.
You are not going to be able to bring the same level of dedication, energy, and effort every time you work on your new wellness habit.
Please don’t let that discourage you.
Some days you will be excited and energy-filled, other days you’ll be a bit tired and worn-out and you’ll barely have any energy to put into the project.*
If you are leaning toward the latter, it’s ok to give it your some.
I know, I know, there’s an awful lot of talk out there about how you have to ‘give it your all’ if you want to progress.
Maybe that approach works for some people (if it works for you, have at it!) but, for a lot of new exercisers, that phrase drags us into all-or-nothing thinking. We get stuck on the idea that if we can’t go all in, we shouldn’t bother at all.
But if you approach your wellness practice with the idea that giving it your *some* is an option, you’ll probably have more success with habit-building.
So, you don’t jump around in this workout. That’s not the end of the world.
Maybe your meditation session is only 2 minutes long. That’s not a crisis either.
Perhaps you only do 5 reps today. No problem!
Even by giving it your some, you still held on to your practice. You kept room for it in your mind and in your schedule.
There’s no downside there. Something is better than nothing!**
So, whether today is a go-all-in day or a give-it-your-some day, here’s your gold star for your efforts.
*Rest is also an important option, of course. I trust that you will know which option to take on a given day.
**I count rest, especially consciously-chosen rest as doing something, by the way. Rest is an important part of the cycle, even if it feels weird to think of it that way.