Who wants to read another post about New Year’s Resolutions?!
Not me! I’m sick of this self-improvement B.S.!
There. That got your attention, right?
It does seem that a lot of people are pretty tired of talking about New Year’s Resolutions and goals. Social media sites filled up this week with “Don’t mess with perfection” posts and photos of blank lists with “To Do: 2017” at the top. I get it. I write a lot about goals and sometimes even hear myself saying, “You’re not writing about goals again, are you?”
Yes, self. Yes, I am, so hush it.
But, first, Happy New Year! As January unfolds, this is the perfect time for reflection. We cast our minds back over not just the previous year but over our lifetimes. We sing “Auld Lang Syne,” and we may even tear up a little. Should old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind? As if! Even the most forgetful among us can never truly forget the people, places, and things that made the most indelible marks on us. Buried though they may be, the memories remain, and this time of year has a way of uncovering even those memories tucked most deeply away.
This time of year also has a way of making us feel full of potential, brimming with a can-do spirit that engulfs us and makes us strive to better ourselves. It may make us annoying to those people whose to-do lists are blank and whose sure-fire method for not breaking their New Year’s Resolutions is simply not to make them, but we can’t help it. We resolve to tackle new challenges, to do better at something this year.
But, keeping resolutions is hard. Everyone knows that. If it were easy to change habits and patterns, to get things done and crossed off our lists, we’d all be perfect, and where’s the fun in that? Don’t worry. I have something that may help. Behold, the…
Monthly Accountability Challenges (MACs)
When my friend, Patrice, invited me to be her accountability partner last January, I thought, “What the heck – it can’t hurt to try it for a month or so.” The idea is simple: choose one or two things you can commit to doing daily (or almost daily, see below) for the month. Report in regularly using whatever tool works best: e-mail, instant message, text, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, etc. We chose e-mail.
Now, bear in mind that some people do really well with an “accountability buddy” and some don’t. I’ve had accountability partners in the past for “big goals,” which didn’t really work out. Because of those previous failures, I was somewhat skeptical. However, I had never really tried this approach so I had nothing to lose. What I didn’t realize is how valuable and transformational these small daily commitments would become, how much fun it would be to keep them, and how inspiring it would be to cheer along Patrice as she met hers, too.
Celebrate good times, come on!
One of the cool things about the MACs is their flexibility. You can change ’em up. For example, I went from stretching to lifting weights, to meditating, and to writing as the months passed, depending on what I wanted to work on and what I felt I could commit to doing for four weeks in a row. I chose months with no holidays to abstain completely from alcohol, for example, and I did not choose to forgo sugar and white flour in December (for I am not a masochist). I ditched the goals that weren’t helping me and I repeated the ones that were proving valuable. The flexibility and complete customization to my life and my desires made MACs the perfect tool for establishing better habits and meeting objectives.
Because of the MACs, I was able to commit to daily practices that helped me chip away at my “big goals” for the year and improve my life in ways I hadn’t foreseen at the end of 2015. In fact, MACs are directly responsible for getting me back on track with regular weight lifting and writing, and for helping me to meet two of my four 2016 resolutions.
I’d like to invite you to come along for the MACs this year. If you have something in your life you’d like to try doing or some habit you’d like to build or break, this tool may be just the thing (and, hey, can it hurt to try?).
So, what do you gotta do?
- Choose your commitment(s). Keeping it simple is best, especially to start. Once last year I had a list of nine things to which I wanted to commit. Nine! That’s a pretty good weekend to-do list but perhaps a bit much for an accountability challenge. I ended up scaling back so as not to overextend myself and then fail. Which brings me to…
- Commit to commit. The purpose of the MACs is to strengthen the bond with yourself. Being loyal to the commitments you make to yourself is the foundation of this practice. Half-hearted commitments are a no-no. Go all in! If that means scaling back or making smaller commitments, that’s fine. Only commit to what you can do.
- Make your commitments mean something. If they are relevant to the things you want to do or the person you wish to become, you’re on the right track. However, if you want to find a new job this year, committing to drinking 8 glasses of water a day probably won’t help you there. Aim for relevance.
- Show up. Be there for your accountability partner to cheer them on and support them when they need it, and don’t be afraid to admit when you’re faltering on your commitments. Failure happens. Life happens and sometimes it doesn’t give a rat’s behind about your daily goals. Your partner’s job is to remind you that you’re awesome for trying in the first place, but also to give you the support you need to succeed and help you get back in the game. Your job is to do the same for them. If you do the MACs without a partner, don’t forget to show up for yourself.
Easy, right? Ready to get started?
If you’re drawing a blank, here’s a list of ideas:
- Read ____ minutes per day, 5 days per week (or ___ minutes per week).
- Exercise ____ minutes per day, 7 days per week (or ____ minutes per week).
- Stretch for ___ minutes per day.
- Do ____ number of reps of weights, body weight exercises, etc., every ____ day(s).
- Meditate for ___ minutes per day, ___ days per week.
- Write for ____ minutes per day, ___ days per week (or ___ minutes per week).
- Abstain from alcohol ____ day(s) per week (or limit to ___ drink(s) per ____).
- Abstain from eating after 6 p.m. every day.
- Pre-plan meals for the week or day.
- Eat ___ fruits or veggies.
- Read ___ news article(s) every day (for extra credit, pick out which ones are fake).
- Compliment at least one person every day.
- Reach out to someone every day and let them know you’re thinking about them.
- Spend ___ hour each week going through and organizing a closet, drawer, room, etc.
- Hug your significant other or your best friend once a day. If you can’t do it physically, send them a virtual hug!
And, if you want or need an accountability partner, hit me up! We all know how much I love talking about goals!