There probably isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t noticed that around this time of year, every one gets busy thinking of all the improvements they want to make in their lives. I tend towards self-reflection a lot of the time, but this year, my musings on what I could do to improve the quality of my family’s life coincided with everyone else!
In making resolutions, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Take one small step – as the saying goes, ‘By the mile it’s a trial, by the inch it’s a cinch’. Just do it for today, or for an hour. This is the approach that I took when I stopped eating sugar, flour, wheat, or sweeteners of any kind over 18 months ago. At first, I couldn’t imagine going for even a day without it. I didn’t think about a lifetime without doughnuts, I just focused on one meal at a time. And then the meals turned into days, which turned into weeks, and then months. And now eating the way I do is just normal to me – it’s become a habit.
There are lots of things that I could work on now, but I know that by committing to just one area, I can focus my energy on that and have a chance to really change my habits. If I make a long list of things to work on, my energies will get scattered, I’ll lose my focus, and end up discouraged because I haven’t been successful across the board. But one positive change can make a real difference to lots of other areas. The area that I am currently working on is becoming more disciplined about my sleep. I tend to stay up late to get things done when the house is quiet, and very often, stay up way too late! It’s challenging to wake up perky and positive when you just want to turn back over and sleep for a couple more hours before facing the day. On the other hand, when I get to bed early, I wake up feeling energetic and on top of the day. By the time I go to wake up the kids, I’ve had time for reflection and prayer, breakfast is ready, and I feel relaxed and upbeat.
Despite knowing what a huge qualitative difference this makes for me throughout my entire day, I really struggle in maintaining an early bedtime. In the past, I’ve usually lasted for about a short while, and bit by bit, I go to sleep later each night (always staying up to take care of something important). And after a month or two, I’m back to my late nights. I decided that this time, instead of trying to go straight to an early bedtime (which was probably too extreme a change for me), I’ll try to get to bed a little earlier each night, so that over the course of a few weeks, I’ll be getting to sleep much earlier than I do now. Hopefully, it will be easier for me to maintain something like that.
I have a tendency to beat myself up if when I don’t live up to my plans that I think lots of us share, and since we often set the bar so hight, falling short sometimes is inevitable. I have to remind myself that any progress in this area is also good; even if I’m not in bed at my ideal time, midnight is still better than 1:30 am, and 11 pm is even better!
Bad habits can be broken, good habits can be changed – so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t 100% successful. Pat yourself on the back for the progress you’ve made, and get back on track when you see yourself slipping. When it’s hard, think about the difference establishing this new habit will make in your life. Experts say that it takes about 3 weeks to establish a habit, so be persistent and don’t give up!