02 January 2014

Tweak your history to help you meet your goals

I heard a segment on NPR today about editing your life's stories. It is only eight minutes long so I recommend that you go listen to it when you have time. The gist of the segment is that if you take a life event and write it down with a different twist to it, then it will help you make sense of it. Although the methods is mainly used for troubling events such as being really afraid of something or not having many friends in school, I immediately recognized that this is what I've been doing with some areas of my life and that I could apply it to some of the goals I've set in the past.

With exercise, I used to beat myself up every day that I didn't work out. This may motivate other people to get up and go to the gym, but it only gave me a reason to dislike myself. Now I flip the script and focus on every activity that got me off the sofa, whether it could traditionally be considered exercise or not. Did I do laundry? Great! Did I mop the bathroom floor? Good for me because it really needed to be done. Someone like me can easily spend eight hours at work sitting in front of a computer, come home and zap dinner in the microwave, spend four more hours sitting in front of the computer and television, and then go to bed. Getting up off my butt for anything is an achievement. I still don't exercise regularly, but since I've stopped beating myself up about what I "should" be doing I do move more.

This method of flipping the script is working for me in one area, but until I listened to the NPR story I didn't think of applying it to some of my other goals. You know, the type of resolutions you set at this time of year. One that immediately pops into my head is to read more books. I was the kid who always had her nose in a book, but that stopped when I got married and became a mother. I thought that starting a book blog and joining reading challenges would take me back to those days, but all it did was make me feel guilty about what I wasn't reading. That does not lead me back to the excitement of reading that I experienced in my youth. So instead of berating myself for not meeting my goal of reading 25 books in 2013, I am applauding myself for reading 19 books. That gets me revved up to try to do better this year.

What's the takeaway in all this? Instead of giving up on setting goals because I never reach them, I can aim for a goal and be happy when I make progress.
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