Monday, December 19, 2016

My Successes (and Failures) this Year

I usually wait until the last week of the year before posting how I did on my new year's resolutions, but my answers won't change much whether I do it now or wait, so I figured I should just do it today since I'm not in much of a photo-editing mood, and this post is only going to need four pictures (ha ha).

This year, I tried something new with my resolutions and set them in three different categories---

HABITS I wanted to implement,
CHALLENGES I wanted to conquer,
and
PLEASURES I wanted to enjoy.

Although I think my overall concept was great, I think I got a bit *too* ambitious last January and set a *tad* too many resolutions. As a result, I ended up making some progress in a lot of different areas, but not necessarily a huge astounding leap forward in any one thing.

(Much like the left side of this graphic, which is one of my favorite concepts EVER from the book Essentialism (one of my top reads of 2016!))--


Now, for me, I'm actually okay with slow and steady progress made in a lot of different areas, so I'm still pretty proud of myself this year for all I was able to do. However, I think that in the year ahead, I still might whittle down my number of resolutions so that I don't feel so overwhelmed by all the things I'm trying to work on. (And, also, there are one or two areas that I would really like to make HUGE strides in for 2017, so whittling the number down would help with that, too.)

But enough talk.

It's the hour of reckoning.

(And, for my "key"---anything that is crossed out means I'm counting that resolution as being completed or successful 90% of the time, anything highlighted in red means I made at least some measurable progress in that area, and anything left in black is basically a fail.)

Here were my HABITS resolutions for 2016:

*Blog at least 12 times a month

One of the habits I was determined to get back into was blogging regularly, and I am counting this one a resounding success. With the exception of May (when I was absolutely inundated with end-of-school and end-of-teaching stuff), I've blogged 12 times per month the whole year, with some months coming in at 13 posts (which more than make up for the two "missing" posts in May). While I sometimes wish I could blog like I used to (about five times per week), my new schedule of having 3 posts a week is much more sustainable, and one that I hope to continue for as long as possible.

Some people blog with the intention to make profit, but my goals for this blog are first and foremost to keep a record of our life, then to connect with other people, and also to have an accountability forum that helps me to pursue my passions (like of photography or writing). The stay-at-home mom life can feel isolated much of the time, and there are some days when it's tempting to just not do much of anything. Having this blog (and the support of you lovely readers) has continually pushed me to not let myself get stuck in ruts for too long or to feel too cut off from everything and everyone.

I owe a lot of my self-growth to my blog, as funny as that sounds.

*Eat dinner at the table 6x/week with the t.v. off

Initially, our bad habit of eating after Raven had gone to bed and watching t.v. while doing it was SO hard to break, but now, I can't believe we ever did dinner any other way.

One thing that helped us to break this habit was simply eating dinner with Raven every night, which basically solved the problem right away (since we don't turn on the t.v. while she's eating almost ever). Now, on the rare occasions when Raven eats first, we still often choose to sit down without the t.v., but even when we don't and we choose to watch some show, it feels like more of a conscious treat instead of just something we do out of habit.

I know that years down the road, I'll be so glad that we firmly adhered to this rule early on so that our kids know that mealtimes are for talking, not for television or devices.

*Attend the temple once a month

I wish I could report better numbers on this (especially when I look at how often I used to go to the temple before I went on my mission or before I had kids), but I can't. I at least did better on this than I did the year before, but there were about a third of the months when we just didn't fit it in.

I think a better way to make this into a habit for me would be to pick a day (like the first Thursday night of every month), and just go then no matter what. To just vaguely say that I'm going to go sometime in the month tends to mean that I push it off until the end, and for many of the months out of the year (including the last four), the holidays and birthdays and other celebrations all seem to happen at the end of the month.

In short, I need to work on this.

(To read more about why going to the temple is important to me, check out this.)

*Read the Ensign cover to cover every month

I think I would have been more successful at this one had I tried to re-start it again when I quit my job to stay at home with Raven. While I did okay with the first couple months, I steadily got more and more behind as I approached the end of the school year, and by the time June rolled around, I felt so far behind that I'd basically thrown in the towel.

I've still been starting each Ensign as it's come, but usually about a third to half of the way in, I forget about it, and there it sits.

I still read more of it more often than I used to, though, so I'm not counting this one as a total failure.

*For those not of my faith, the Ensign is a monthly publication put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that contains messages of faith, doctrine, and inspiration from both the leaders of our church as well as the members. It's an uplifting magazine that's meant to point our hearts ever more towards our Savior, Jesus Christ.

*Read 40 pages on most days (10 pages from four different books)

About halfway through the year, I modified this goal to just be to read 40 pages on most days total, from one book or from multiple books. While there were many days when I didn't read nearly that many, there were also many days when I read far more, and since I finished more books this year than I have any of the previous five years, I'm counting this one as a complete success.

(See my "Reading List" tab at the top for all the titles I've read since 2011. You can also follow me on Goodreads, which is linked on the right sidebar of the blog under my picture.)

*Index on Sundays

Indexing is a service where you go into old photocopied records (like Census records or birth certificates) and type up the information found in the document to make it searchable in a database (so that people wishing to learn more about their ancestors can find it). It's something I started doing years ago but got more into in 2015.

Although I did do some indexing this year, I can't in good faith count this one as a success or even a partial success because I wasn't able to establish any kind of habit with doing it regularly, and the number of records I completed this year wasn't even close to what I was doing last year. All in all, I'll end up having indexed around 1,200 records/names this year, but it's not even close to my original goal (of 5,000). I'll have to re-evaluate what I want to do with this service going forward.

 Here were the CHALLENGES I wanted to complete this year:

*Buy my own domain name and redesign the blog

I did purchase my own domain name and came up with a plan to totally redesign the blog (including changing the name). I had my dad do a logo for the new blog title and asked a friend to transfer everything over to the new domain, but it's still a work in progress. Because I know so little about creating a webpage and setting up my own blog hosting, this one's kind of out of my court now, but I feel like I did what I could on it. I'm excited to have at least made progress on this!

*Finish the first draft of my novel

Oh man, I feel like laughing when I look at this goal. I just had NO IDEA how long it would take to actually FINISH a whole first draft of my novel, and there were many times throughout the year that I just didn't work on it at all (including for the last several weeks).

However, I did go from just having 25 pages written to now having 66, so...that's something.

I'm going to seriously need to reevaluate how I approach this important life goal of mine because there were many days that I DID have the time to work on it and just didn't. I'm going to need to figure out something that works for me on a regular basis, so this might be much better established as a HABITS goal in the future, rather than a CHALLENGE.

*Run a half marathon

Finally, a challenge I can say I unequivocally finished! Since I wrote about my half marathon in such detail in this post, I won't talk too much more about it now.

*Print my blog out

Even though I did at least look into the pricing of this one and even imported my blog onto one company's website to try and see how the formatting would work, I'm counting this one as a fail. It was partly the time commitment of all the hundreds upon hundreds of posts I would need to format to print this out that scared me off, but it was more the super hefty price tag that doing this would seemingly take (like, several hundred dollars).

Maybe when I'm rich I can do this. For now, I'm just going to have to be better at backing up my blog digitally.

*Do the Minimalist Challenge

Even though I stopped keeping track of all the items I was getting rid of (one for each day of the month I was on, so purge one item on day one, fifteen items on day fifteen, etc.), I'm fairly positive I completed this one.

Even though I'm counting this as a success, though, it still didn't get the result I wanted (which was more or less a clutter-free home). With Matt and I starting a little side business of buying storage sheds at auction and listing the items found within, I have a feeling that I won't have a clutter-free apartment for a long, LONG time. Maybe not ever. (Or maybe we'll just have to move into a 3-bedroom place and use one of the bedrooms just to store all the stuff we're selling and leave the rest of the place clutter-free. Who knows.)

Just another testament to the importance of really identifying what you want before you set the goal. If your goal is something measurable, set it as a challenge. If your true goal is a state of being, set it as a habit.

*Try out a new volunteering experience

This might be kinda cheating, but I'm counting my new church calling as completing this one. As part of my church, we are voluntarily called into various organizations to offer service, help, and leadership, and this year, I was called to be a leader in our ward's Primary organization (something I've never, ever done before). Even though it wasn't the volunteer experience I had in mind, it's still provided me new ways to serve and grow and show love for people outside of my usual circle, which was my original intent anyway.

*Reach my goal weight of 135 lbs.

Oh, *sob*. This challenge was perhaps the most frustrating of all, and one that you've heard a LOOOOT about if you've been around these parts for any length of time. I actually got down to my pre-pregnancy weight of 141 back in April and at one point was all the way down to 137 (sure, it was when I was super sick with strep and couldn't eat for a week and a half, but I was still down to that number!). When I started training for my half marathon though, my weight edged up slightly to 142, at which point it has very stubbornly stayed ever since (despite counting calories and mixing up running routines and adding in strength training).

Honestly, in November, I just made peace with the fact that I wasn't going to go for this goal anymore this year. And even though I haven't been tracking my calories or even exercising as much as I was before, I've still managed to maintain my weight around 142, and I'm at peace with that for now. Sure, I would love to get rid of that last little five pounds of belly pooch that would allow me to fit into all my old clothes, but my body was tired of being pushed, and my mind needed a break too.

So I've shelved the weight goal for the time being.

*Take a class

Initially, I meant to take a class in the community to fit this one, but with my schedule this year, it was easier just to look around online and do one that way. So I audited a class on Coursera about the elements of photo composition, and it was one of the best things I could have done to breathe new life into my work.

I can't count this as a complete success because I didn't actually do all the assignments for the course or even get around to watching all the instructional videos, but I'm really glad I did as much as I did.

*Complete my "100 Hours in the Kitchen" Project 

I wanted to push myself in the kitchen this year, so I set a goal of trying out a dozen new recipes quarterly, each in a different category.

This is a perfect example of completing a goal in the spirit of the law rather than in the letter of the law (the opposite effect of what happened with my Minimalist Challenge goal). While I didn't follow my own rules for this project exactly to the letter, I became SO much more confident this year when it came to making substitutions, revising recipes, and even making up my own dishes. Additionally, I made huge strides in cooking based on what I had on hand rather than basing our meals around recipes (which translated to a ton less food wasted and way less money spent on groceries), and I even started branching out and actually including side dishes at some of our meals sometimes (miracle of miracles).

I'm counting this one as an absolute success, even though for this last quarter especially, I haven't totally lived up to the specific guidelines I'd set forth for myself.


And, finally, here were the PLEASURES I wanted to take the time to enjoy this year:

*Take a trip with Matt's family to Oregon

Well, we didn't end up going to Oregon, but we did end up going to Island Park. I'm counting this as a success because the location was totally out of our hands.

*Travel to the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October

Nope. Just nope. Money was the biggest deterrent here (since we went down to one steady income after I quit my job at the end of the school year).

*Host a quarterly dinner celebration

We did one of these celebrations three quarters out of four, which I'd say is pretty good (although I'm still pretty sad we didn't get around to doing the "tea party" we'd planned to do in May). In March, we did a dinner-and-games night with three of our friends that involved smothered pork chops and homemade rolls, in September we did a huge barbecue as a combined party for both Matt's and my 30th birthdays, and in November, we pulled off a last-minute Friendsgiving that was still, nevertheless, pretty awesome.

Even though each of these celebrations was quite a bit of work, I'm so happy to have these get-togethers as memories now---each night together has strengthened our friendships and reminded us just how lucky we are to know the people that we do.

I don't know if we'll continue trying to do these quarterly, but I do want to try and always make an effort to get our friends together for these special nights as often as we can.

*Purchase a large canvas print of at least one of my photos

Another fail here. Money was part of the reason I talked myself out of this one, but I could have used birthday or Christmas money to go towards this. I think, more than anything, this one has more to do with my perfectionist tendencies (aka, what if I print one out and it looks terrible with everything else?) and our overcrowded apartment (where most of our walls already have been claimed by all the other photos/artwork/pieces we have).

Of course, as I write this, the wall above the computer is totally blank, so maybe I just need to order a print and take the chance that I'll hate it (or love it, of course!).

*Go on a day adventure at least once a month

Although I don't think we did one of these in November (because we were so busy with everything else), I'm definitely counting this one as a success. Having these day adventures to look forward to was such a lifesaver this year, both during the school year (because it gave me a respite from all the crazy that is the life of a teacher) and being a SAHM (because it gives me something different to look forward to).

The day adventures definitely became more challenging to do as our budget was cut in half halfway through the year, but I plan on continuing with this new habit/tradition we've got going. It's a keeper!


It's always funny to me, looking back at the whole year, how, much of the time, the stuff I've made the MOST progress with isn't necessarily stuff I wrote down in my new year's resolutions. This year, I actually turned a profit in my photography business for the first time since starting it two years ago (it's a small profit after you expense out the new lens I bought, but it's a profit, nevertheless!), Matt and I took the leap and started our storage shed idea, and, even though I never wrote it down, I almost completed the 50-books-a-year challenge that I've had since 2011 (and have still never quite reached).

Even though it's tempting to look at this huge list of resolutions from this year and see all the ones I didn't complete, I'm mature enough now to recognize that it's hard to predict goals that will be as important in 12 months as they are now, and that all progress should be celebrated.

I'm actually REALLY proud of myself for all that I've done in 2016, and I am SO excited for what's ahead in 2017. Here's to new beginnings and fresh starts and bright horizons!

Additional Reading
For the original 2016 resolutions post set in January, click here.
Click here for the 2015 resolutions intro and here for the 2015 resolutions recap.
Click here for the 2014 resolutions intro and here for the 2014 resolutions recap.
Click here for the 2013 resolutions intro and here for the 2013 resolutions recap.
Click here for the 2012 resolutions intro and here for the 2012 resolutions recap.

1 comment:

  1. I've not been a good one to make resolutions but I really do have a lot of 2017 goals I need to write down & stand accountable for.
    I cant wait to see your new blog look!
    I love that first picture - makes so much sense too - where you focus on your energy makes the results a big difference.

    ReplyDelete

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