Here we are – January 5, 2021. If you created a list of resolutions, I wish you good fortune in fulfilling each one. I no longer create New Year’s Resolutions. Frankly, I was tired of setting out these big goals and then finding myself feeling defeated a few weeks later when I realized the goal was very far off, or perhaps out of my control for some reason.
Now, I concentrate on my intentions. This year, I’m starting with simplicity and I'm focusing on just four weeks - 28 days. Not everything has to be hard or elaborate, or even “big.” One thing I realized during the chaos of the past year was the joy in simple things. Yes, it’s great to travel abroad, but an afternoon at the beach with my husband can bring just as much joy – and much less stress!
To start the year off, I’m setting aside one moment each day when I stop what I’m doing and focus on my intention. Although many people love journaling or creating vision boards, I’ve found over time that those activities create a certain amount of stress for me. What does work for me is creating a framework of brief moments throughout the day when I intentionally pause and reflect - you could call it meditate, but that conjures images of cushions and crystals. Sometimes I do that, but often I find myself catching moments as I can.
I’ve created a 28 day calendar to help me on this journey. It’s as easy as setting my intention on day one, then finding multiple moments over the next 27 days to recall that intention and spend a few minutes focused on what I want to create. And, since I like to share, I’ve put the calendar on the Gratitude website, and it’s yours to download free.
I have a favorite coffee mug given to me by a very dear friend. The outside of the mug says "Hygge can change the world" (my friend is Danish) and inside the mug, there is the reminder to "do small things with great love." That's what this calendar is all about - doing small things with great love. And intention.
Often, we set a goal and begin with great motivation - I'm going to run a marathon, or I'm going to be the best mom, or I'm going to be grateful every day. Each is an outstanding goal, and at the time we set the goal, our motivation is very high. But have you ever found your plan derailed? It's snowing and you don't want to run, or the kids "forget" the rule about no dishes in the living room - again, and you forget your goal not to shout. Or at the end of the day you see all the things that went wrong and it's very hard to feel grateful for those things. And then one day of not working toward your goal becomes two days, and then maybe it's sporadic for a week or two and then the goal gets abandoned, and then you just feel bad. I have found that I am much more successful creating the change I desire when I move away from the idea of the grand gesture and move toward the idea of tiny, incremental moments that build toward my goal.
At a time in my life when the grand gesture, the big goal, seemed nearly impossible, I realized I could do one small thing each day. When I missed a tiny goal, it was far easier to get on track. I hadn't torpedoed my "big" goal, I'd just missed small thing. I didn't have to double the effort to start over. I just needed to do one small thing and I was back on track.
I'm not a psychologist or behavioral therapist or a coach. But I have seen the power of small changes in my own life. Plus, people who are experts in the field have written great books about the power of small changes. One of my favorites is
Tiny Habits, the Small Changes That Change Everything by B J Fogg, PhD.
One of the keys to success is to provide yourself with prompts, or cues, that remind you of your intention. We all have physical cues we rely on, like a Post-It note. But sensory cues, colors and scents, and action cues, taking a shower or handwashing, are daily opportunities that can prompt us to pause and remember our intention. These anchors, the things we do every day, become our cues to prompt us to engage in the new behavior. For example, turning on the water for your shower or bath becomes the anchor that remind you to send a positive thought to a loved one. And it’s important to celebrate every little act, because that positive reinforcement is what makes it rewarding and helps you build to the larger goal. So, when you send that positive thought, give yourself a little positivity, too.
The 28-day calendar uses simple ideas and prompts to provide an opening to living with more gratitude and intention. There are activities that I found helpful and meaningful to create the habits that helped me on the journey. I've used this method to work through a career setback, to run a half marathon, to start a business, to learn to forgive. The calendar is just a guide - use what works, find a replacement for things that aren't as helpful to you but most of all, reward yourself for the effort you are making and the success you are having. Miss a day? Big whoop. Just start in again right where you left off. Don't wait for the big reveal. Every small act done with love is a win.
And yes, it’s January, so it’s a logical time to try something new. But really, it’s always the right time to begin.
Celebrate your successes.
Don't let the voice inside your head get too loud when you miss a day or activity
Choose what means the most to you.
And do it with great love.