Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Habits vs. Goals {Part Two}

 (all photos taken on our recent Kanab/Arizona trip, where I crossed two things off my life's bucket list)

Back in the summer, I wrote a post all about how, after a massive life revelation, I was spending far too much time worried about "goals" and not nearly enough time worrying about "habits." From that time forth, I decided to throw out all my new year's resolutions for 2014 and start instead to incorporate more habits into my day-to-day existence.

And now has come the day of reckoning--that fateful day at the end of each year when the closing of another chapter prompts me to step back and reflect on all the progress that has been made (or not made) in the past 12 months.

So I ask myself:

Did focusing on habits rather than goals spur my personal progression to newer and greater heights?

Hmmm....

That depends on what area of my life you're looking at.

But let's rewind a bit--here are my original 2014 new year's resolutions:

1. Keep a running diary--miles run, total time, fastest mile, etc.
2. Finish filling out the gratitude journal my sister bought me.
3. Clean or organize our home for 20 minutes on most days.
4. Complete a monthly goal related to being a better homemaker.
5. Make monthly progress on my bucket list items by setting sub-goals monthly.

Studying those goals, I realized that three out of the five WERE actually habits I wanted to incorporate (instead of just goals to accomplish and check off some list), so maybe I was a bit hasty in my resolution to throw out all my new year's resolutions.

Here's the funny thing--

Looking back, I realized that while habits are the ideal way of gradually working towards crossing things off my bucket list or becoming a better homemaker, I often didn't actually DO those habits unless I set monthly goals on them. Does that make sense? In other words, the only two real "goal" items on my list were things that probably SHOULD have been monthly goals for me, not re-set to try and become habits.

I guess it kind of makes sense, especially with the bucket list resolution---since a bucket list is comprised of things you haven't done previously, it makes sense that you would need more of a push to actually do them (which favors goal-setting instead of daily habit-forming).


But even though I essentially "threw out" these new year's resolutions, I was pleased, upon looking over them, that I could see significant progress on *most* of them. Back when I was still running three times a week (aka, before I got terribly sick in the first trimester of pregnancy and gave up running as a bad job), I faithfully kept a running diary. While it didn't totally revolutionize my running, it did help me in small ways--it helped me to see some patterns (especially with eating and exercising at certain times of day and the subsequent effects of those decisions), and on many days, it helped me to push myself just a little bit harder than I wanted to so that I could record a better number in the diary. I think when I pick running back up after this pregnancy, I'll continue with this particular habit.

I was pretty good at keeping the gratitude journal for the first month or so, but adding one more thing to my nighttime routine was starting to stress me out, so I ended up giving up the practice. I still want to finish filling out this journal, but maybe now I'll just try to do it once a week on a Sunday or something when I can carve out some time in the morning or afternoon.

As for the cleaning/organizing goal, I was REALLY up and down on this one. Pregnancy has really done a number on my personal motivation to do much of anything after work and my other obligations, so there were many weeks (especially when I still had morning sickness) that Matt shouldered pretty much all the housework. Now that I'm feeling better, I've been quite a bit better at staying on top of things, but our apartment is still messy/cluttered about 70% of the time. I think the key to fixing this one will largely be to just get rid of more stuff since I have a much easier time keeping things tidy when I have less stuff to keep track of.

As for being a better homemaker, I didn't do a lot of the traditional homemaker-type things (like crafting or sewing or bottling tomatoes), but I did manage to lower our monthly bills (until we moved to a more expensive place, that is), branch out quite a bit in my cooking, and play hostess at many parties this year. Looking at my personality, I'm not sure if crafting or sewing will ever be my thing, but they are skills I would like to develop at least a little bit. We shall see.

The bucket list goal surprised me quite a bit now that I'm reflecting on it. I managed to completely cross four items off the list (keep in mind, many of these bucket list items are pretty hefty ambitions), and I made a decent amount of progress on nine others. I realized that many of these wishes I have for my life will only be accomplished if they are pretty much constantly on my mind, which seems to be accomplished best through monthly goal-setting. So it looks like setting sub-goals to reach these bucket list dreams will hopefully be a more permanent feature.

Therefore, I conclude that I do, in fact, need to continue to set SOME goals for myself every month. I need to find a way to do it so that it enhances my wellbeing rather than adding stress to my life, but I have clearly proven time and time again that I get more accomplished when I write it down and reflect on it often (something that is much easier to do with goals than habits). However, as for some areas of my life---like reading, cleaning, and healthy eating/exercising--I need to focus more on habits than goals to get where I want to go. Maybe I'll start posting those habits on the fridge or something so I can also see them often?

Whew! That's a long summary. Now I just need to go reflect on what I want to actually hold myself accountable to in 365 days from now...

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