Balance

It’s pretty common knowledge that most people don’t stick to their New Year’s resolutions.  Usually, I’m right there with those that have the best intentions, but fall off the wagon just a few weeks in.  This time around though, I am happy to say that three months into the new year, my resolutions are still ringing true for me.  In fact, the two mantras I had pinpointed as my “themes” for the year (Good enough is good enough, and Be gentle with yourself) are ideas I still think about almost daily.

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Lately, though, this idea of being gentle with myself has taken a slight twist.  While I still definitely need to remember to be gentle with myself and that good enough is good enough, I’ve started to realize that, in life, there is also a place for pushing oneself.  For striving.  For achieving.  And for setting tough goals.  I started to consider this contradiction.  I want to be more gentle with myself, but in light of some new goals I’ve set, I also need to be a little tough on myself (more about that in a minute). Then as I was reading one of my favourite books The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I found a quote that summed this up perfectly.  Rubin states. “There is a constant tug between striving and accepting… there is a time for both pursuing and accepting.”   I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Recently, I’ve jumped back on the “getting healthy” bandwagon.  I’ve started working out (3-4 times per week), re-joined Weight Watchers, and started the same Learn to Run program I had so much success with in the past.  This, of course, can’t happen without a little self discipline and hard work.  In other words, I have to be a little tough on myself.  I have to tell myself no when the cookies and cakes are calling my name and I have to push myself to lace up my sneakers and get my workout in, when I’d rather be lounging on the couch.  I have to skip the junk food aisle in the grocery store, and stock up on fruits and veggies instead.  I have to go to the gym when I’d rather be sipping hot cocoa and blogging.  It’s definitely not easy and if I’m too gentle on myself, I’ll be diving into the closest chip bag and subsisting on pizza before we know it.

That being said, in retrospect I truly believe that one of the reasons I gained all of my weight back (after losing 65 lbs.) is that I wasn’t gentle on myself last time.  Every time I slipped up, fell of program, or indulged just a little too much, I’d become so upset with myself that I’d quit altogether.  I was resentful because I felt like I had to be “good” all the time to lose weight.  (And there certainly wasn’t room for pizza when I’m being “good”.)  So this time around, while I have to push myself, I know I also have to be gentle on myself.  Some days I’ll eat healthy, workout, and feel amazing and strong.  Other days, I’ll stay in my pyjamas, eat junk food, and feel……. Guilt-free.

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All this, of course, is called balance which ironically is another one of my “themes” for 2016.  When I chose “balance”, I was focussed more on letting go of my over-achieving, perfectionist ways and making more room for rest and relaxation.  But now I’m starting to truly understand what balance means.  It means that there’s still a place for pushing myself.  There’s still a place for striving, achieving, working hard, saying no when you want to say yes, and being just a little bit of a perfectionist. But there’s also a time for being gentle.  For accepting that I will make mistakes, that not all days will be perfect, and that at the end of the day, life all is about balance and I’m finally starting to figure that out.

 

How are you doing with your 2016 resolutions?

Reflections

winterLast week, I wrote a post about my resolutions (or goals) for the New Year which included to be gentle with myself, to maintain balance, and to connect with family and friends (read more about my resolutions here).  Shortly after, I also adopted the mantra “good enough is good enough” as a means to be rid of my perfectionist view on life in general (read more about that here).

Well, it’s only been just a little over a week and already I am feeling positive effects from these three simple promises to myself.  Of course, one of the ways my life changed recently was by leaving my weekend job in order to have more time for my family, household responsibilities, and ultimately, myself.  Although we spent a night out of town at my son’s hockey tournament, I’ve found I still had time this weekend to get stuff done (something that was very difficult to do while working seven days a week!) I have to say this new “weekend freedom” has been absolutely wonderful. For instance, I spent the entire day today in my pyjamas hiding from the blizzard outside, drinking coffee, and slowly working away at plans for the upcoming week at school. While this certainly may not sound thrilling to some, is truly something that I find fulfilling and enjoyable and in my mind is one of the perfect ways to spend a lazy Sunday!

I’ve also been working really hard on taking things one day at a time and only worrying about what has to get done each day.  While some future planning is inevitable, I often plan so much in my head that I easily become overwhelmed and stressed out.  I am now starting to realize that all that tiresome planning and thinking doesn’t really serve a purpose (other than to exhaust me).  Things are much clearer and less stressful, if I can focus on just a few small things at a time.  Surprisingly, training my brain to focus only on each days’ tasks hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had anticipated.  I’d often argued with my husband that all the planning ahead was just “how my brain works”, but suddenly it seems that I can control that thinking (at least to a certain degree).  It’s something that’s definitely a work in process but certainly worth my time.

The mantra “good enough is good enough” has helped me immensely in only thinking about each day’s tasks (and to be clear, I try to focus only on one or two tasks each day… not an exhaustive list, otherwise it’d be pointless!)  For example, I am slowly learning that something as simple as cleaning my house does not need to be an “all or nothing” job.  So today, after we had finally packed away the Christmas decorations, I simply passed the vacuum quickly, rearranged a few décor items, and said to myself “that’s good enough for today”.  Normally, I would have moved on to dusting, cleaning the bathroom, doing heaps of laundry, scrubbing floors, and purging closets which is not only exhausting to me but would make my family members miserable and resentful too.  So, in the end, my house may not be spotless from top to bottom, but it’s presentable enough, and best of all, my family’s had time to enjoy our day doing the things we love!winter peace

In addition to maintaining balance by reminding myself of the good enough mantra, I have also made strides on my resolution to connect with family and friends.  My husband and I decided that this year we’d go all out for birthdays.  Fortunately for my friend Jason, he was the first person I got to test this resolution out on since his birthday was this past week.  Since Jason lives so far away (as do many of my best friends), I couldn’t really go all out but I still wanted to think of something I could do to brighten my friend’s special day.  That being said, I knew if it wasn’t something easy, manageable, and inexpensive, I’d be less likely to follow through.  I started to think about what I could do and realized that over the last few years, I’ve completely dropped the ball on sending my friends’ something as simple as birthday cards!  I immediately set out and spent several minutes in the card shop picking out a card that I knew would make Jason smile.  Then, another idea came to me!  I am blessed to have so many wonderful memories with my friends, why not create a list of these special memories to send in the birthday card?  So that’s what I did.  It took me only a few minutes to write a letter to Jason full of meaningful and hilarious memories we’ve had over the years.  I was thrilled when he responded to tell me that the letter not only made him laugh, but nearly brought him to tears!  It amazes me how something to simple could have such an effect! I was so happy I made that connection with Jason on his birthday!

(As a side note, now that I’ve conquered the first birthday, I am thrilled that  we get to go all out for birthdays two more times this month!  Next week, we’ve planned a terrific party for my stepson Brandon who is turning 12… stay tuned for an update, we’re really going all out for his birthday… and my younger brother’s birthday is also at the end of the month… still working on ideas on how to make his big day extra special!)

I know it’s only been a little over a week so already celebrating my New Year’s resolutions as successes may be premature.  But the fact that 2016 has started off with a lot less stress, crying, agonizing, and worrying, is definitely a step in the right direction…. and the fact that I found enough time to write three blog entries in just over a week?   Well that in itself makes me one very happy girl 🙂

xo,

K.

Good Enough

good enough 3As I reflect on my New Year’s resolutions and think about some of the reading I have been doing lately, I am liking more and more the idea of good enough being better than perfect.  I am thinking that good enough is going to help me in letting go of my “all or nothing”, perfectionist attitude.  Furthermore, I’m starting to realize that the notion of good enough is really going to help me in my efforts to be gentle with myself and in maintaining balance, two of my main resolutions for 2016.

One of the ways I’ve been adopting the good enough strategy in the last couple of days, for instance, is to simply focus on one or two tasks per day.  Typically, I am a hyper-organized person, constantly making to-do lists and planning the next minute, hour, day, week, month of my life.  This weekend I allowed myself to let go by focussing on one (or two) tasks I wanted to complete that day (in order of priority.  Yesterday, getting a manicure was at the top of my list (good-bye holiday nails, hello fresh mani!) and today was all about preparing for back to school (tomorrow!  yikes!)  My husband strongly encourages this one task at a time mentality and I have to admit it did alleviate a lot of my usual stress. In fact, just a few days ago (before I adopted the good enough idea), I was already running a mental to-do list through my mind of all the things I “needed” to complete this weekend:  take down and pack away Christmas decorations, clean the house top to bottom (not a small feat), stock up on groceries, meal plan for the week, prepare for back-to-school, prepare an appetizer for a party Saturday night, attend party Saturday night, watch my son play hockey, and then of course, make time for myself (reading, blogging, social media, maybe a walk…)the list goes on…

Just thinking about that list is utterly exhausting.  But that’s how my brain has been trained to think.  It takes conscientious effort for me to be gentle with myself and to accept good enough.  But with my husband’s support, I was able to focus on just a few simple priorities and I have to admit, I felt a lot more relaxed.

Sure, I didn’t clean my house top to bottom (for some reason, I’ve always thought house cleaning tasks all have to be done at the same time, so time consuming!) but I did sweep the floors which took care of the biggest problem (dog hair!) and I did wash some dishes and run the dishwasher.  I also re-organized our winter recycling system and completed a load of laundry.  Considering we normally keep a fairly tidy house, this small tasks were easy to complete and were good enough.  After all, my house and it’s messes (or lack thereof) aren’t going anywhere, right? 

I also didn’t get time to take down my Christmas decorations, but so what?  More time to enjoy our beautiful tree!  When it came time to prepare an appetizer for a party I was attending, I remembered to be gentle with myself and opted to buy a pre-made (yet delicious!) cake which took off the pressure of having to find the time to make something.

Another aspect of my life in which I think it will benefit me to apply the good enough approach is in my efforts to improve my physical health.  As I mentioned in a previous post, in the past my diet and fitness efforts were definitely all or nothing.  This year, I’m trying a new approach based on the notion of good enough.  Sure, I may still be eating white bread and using creamer in my coffee with way too much sugar content, but today when I couldn’t find anything for lunch, rather than running out to grab takeout, I made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up some soup and crackers.  As I mulled over what to make for dinner, I realized our vegetable intake lately has been really bad, so I opted for making a chicken stir-fry (even though pasta sounded so much more tempting). And while I didn’t fit a walk in this weekend, or lift any weights, or do any yoga, I know that this is only the beginning of the year and I’ve got lots of time to fit those things into my schedule, when they fit.

good enough 2Now that I’ve felt the benefits of good enough I know it’s a strategy that will help me to meet some of my resolutions – to take pressure off myself, to be gentle with myself, and to find balance.  And even though I am tempted to write more, I know that for now this post is good enough.

xo

K.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year, 2016!

2016

Like so many others, I rarely keep a New Year’s resolution but even so, I have always loved making them. There’s something motivating and exciting about the chance to make a “fresh start” and of resolving to make things bigger and better for the forthcoming year.

Last year, around this time, I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project which I found to be extremely motivating for making resolutions (considering the entire book is based around Rubin’s personal resolutions for making her own life happier).  I identified with Rubin so much and found many similarities between my character and hers.  Likewise, I adored Rubin’s philosophies and ideas about happiness based on research and her own personal experiences.  Even more, I loved the organization of her book – broken into twelve chapters, with each chapter representing a monthly theme that she set personal goals (or resolutions) for.The Happiness Project

This year, I just finished reading Happier at HomeVery much like The Happiness Project, it focuses on Rubin’s research around what it means to be happier at home and goes in depth with her own personal experiences.  Again, because I identify with Rubin so much, I loved this book and the ideas it presented.  Upon finishing the book, I was thrilled to realize that Rubin recently released a third book entitled Better Than Before and immediately purchased it in iBooks.  I haven’t started Better than Before yet because I actually decided to read The Happiness Project again, and this time I am highlighting my favourite sections, quotes, thoughts, and ideas. I  haven’t really decided yet what I will do with the highlighted sections (I have considered responding to some of them with my own thoughts and interpretations here on the blog…stay tuned!) but I’m finding that The Happiness Project is inspiring me all over again to set some really well-thought out resolutions. Of course, this highly organized way of thinking also appeals to my nature.  In fact, I didn’t want to actually write this post until I new exactly what I wanted to say about my goals and intentions for the upcoming year.  It’s been on my mind all week ~ many different ideas floating around but the right words just out of touch.  Then I read something in The Happiness Project about the notion that good enough sometimes is more important than perfect.  This idea is based on the thought that we sometimes never get anything accomplished because we are waiting for the perfect way to do it – in reality, if we can accept good enough we will get a lot more accomplished and be all the more satisfied for it.  So with that thought in mind, here goes…..  My resolutions for 2016 (in a more or less unorganized fashion…)

Be Gentle with yourself budda

There is a fairly new trend that has people choosing a theme word for the new year.  I have mulled over the idea and the first word I came up with for 2016 is gentle.  I chose this word mostly because one of my main goals for 2016 is to be more gentle with myself.  I want to take some responsibilities off my plate and to ease some of the pressure I put on myself.  I want to focus more on the things that really matter, and less on the things that don’t.  I want to really learn how to take care of myself and develop a more gentle nature, so as a result I can take better care of my loved ones.

Balance 

This being said, one of the reasons I have struggled so much with my New Year’s resolutions is because the very notion of being more gentle in itself means working hard to be more conscious of my behaviour and choices. This seemed a little redundant to me until I read a quote in The Happiness Project: “There is a constant tug between striving and accepting… there is a time for both pursuing and accepting.”  This very thought rang true with me.  So much so that it had me thinking about balance.  There is a time to strive, to push oneself, to work hard, to attain goals… and there is also a time to relax, to find calm, to stop working, and to just be.  Maybe balance should be my theme for 2016?

Another area in which I hope to find more balance has been my quest for good physical health.  My weigh has been a struggle my entire adult life and the whole issue of dieting or not dieting has always felt so extreme.  I’ve always had a perfectionist mentality so I’m either on the wagon or not. I’m either working out like a maniac, running, lifting weights, counting calories, tracking food, and obsessing over every choice I make, or I’m eating everything in sight, not working out at all, and finding a lot of pleasure in bumming around on the couch.  In 2016, I need to get rid of the “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to being fit and healthy.  I need to remember that good enough often gets more accomplished than perfect.  Here are some things I plan to do to try to find that balance.

  1.  Go for walksyoga3
  2. Lift weights
  3. Do yoga
  4. Eat less fast-food
  5. Cook more
  6. Keep a food journal

Connect

Recently I gave up my part-time job ( I still teach full-time) to have more time for my family and for myself.  Working two jobs while maintaining a household and being a wife and a mom, proved to be overwhelming and stressful.  It put me in a place that was difficult and mentally unhealthy.  Now that I have my weekends back I am looking forward to connecting more with my loved ones, and especially with myself.

With my Family:

  1. Go all out for birthdays Admittedly, my husband and I have dropped the ball on birthdays, even our kids’ birthdays.  This year we have planned to go all out to make sure each birthday boy/girl feels extra special.
  2. Work without rewardRemember that chores that I deem important aren’t necessarily important to others and therefore I shouldn’t always expect to be rewarded for  them.  If I learn to do them because I want them done and they feel important to me, I won’t be so upset when others don’t notice or don’t give me the recognition I feel I deserve.
  3. Walk the dog (good for him, good for me)
  4. Pause to think (before I react to a difficult situation or before I answer a difficult question, especially at home).

With friends:

  1. Set a schedule for regular phone dates with my best friend.
  2. Have a “girls day” with my best girl friends more than once a year.
  3. Send out Christmas cards and family letter.

With myself:reading2

  1. Write more (develop my blog and write regularly!)
  2. Read (love having a pile of books waiting for me to read!)
  3. Do yoga (spiritual, physical, and mental wellness!)
  4. Explore meditation (be mindful, serene, and calm – improve mental health)
  5. Get massages (reduce stress, and let’s admit…. I love a good back rub!)
  6. Think positive (and give myself a break…. Be gentle with yourself).

 

Hope I can keep all of these resolutions because I truly believe they will bring more happiness, love, and peace to my life this year!  What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

xo

K.