Sunday, December 29, 2019

Weekly Inspiration: Happy (Almost) New Year!

I love the start of a new year, that feeling of a new beginning. I love starting a new calendar (I am still using paper) and the week between Christmas and New Year, with finally some spare time to get my life in (a bit of) order. And I love looking back on the year past and looking forward to the new year ahead and what I want it to look like.

Every January 1 (or thereabouts), I sit down to review the past year, not only checking how I did against the goals and objectives I set but also reflecting on how the past year felt. I read through some old journal entries and do some free writing - just handwriting for a few pages about what challenges and joys the past year brought and how each part of my life (relationships, writing, travel, etc.) moved forward (or back).

Since I used to be an engineer and am still hopelessly analytical, I also do a little number-crunching. I have Excel spreadsheets not only for my objectives and targets but also for how I felt and how active I was. I use a simple tracking system, just marking down a number 1 to 5 (1 being great and 5 being badly crashed) in the corner of the date on a calendar at the end of each day, plus ratings (1 to 5) for activity level and stress level (I learned over the years that the two combined provide an estimate of exertion). So, at the end of the year, I look back to see how well I felt and how active I was and then compare that to previous years. It's mostly been a positive trend most years!

I don't do New Year's Resolutions. Instead, I have six Lifetime Goals, and each year, I set objectives for each of them (some new & some ongoing), plus specific, measurable targets for each objective. I explain this simple process in this article I wrote for ProHealth, Setting Goals When You Are Chronically Ill. That article both explains my process and provides some examples. When you are chronically ill, your goals tend to be quite different than those of healthy people. For instance, I always have an objective to rest more and listen to my body - you won't see that one in any Today Show episode on New Year's Resolutions! Your own objectives may include starting a new hobby, connecting with people online, trying new treatments to improve your health, or whatever is of interest to you.

The fresh start of a new year is also a great time to think about changing habits. Again, this doesn't have to be a big deal, all about willpower and pushing through. Instead, habit changes are easier (and far more likely to last!) when you make tiny changes, using baby steps to gradually move toward the habits you want to adopt. Again, I explain this process in detail and provide examples in an article I wrote for ProHealth, Strategies and Tools for Changing Habits.

Seeing the years pass by with no progress toward my goals or changes in my life was depressing in the early years of my illness, until I figured these things out and realized that I didn't have to give up goals and self-improvement because I was chronically ill. I just needed to figure out how to fit a simple process to my restricted life.

How do YOU start the New Year? I would love to hear about your own traditions and approaches to greeting that fresh start each year.

I like to ring in the New Year with a good book!

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