Category Archives: setting and achieving goals

Life is Not Pinterest Perfect

Every now and then, I run across articles on the internet about ‘Pinterest fails’. You know the kind. Pinterest makes everything look so nice and easy, all wrapped up in the perfect little bow. However, life is far from Pinterest perfect, as the Pinterest fail photos will attest to. Some folks, try as they might to follow directions and attempt that perfect little clown’s head cupcake, just aren’t fated to be Pinterest success stories.

And that’s okay. Life is not Pinterest Perfect. What you don’t see on Pinterest is the many times Suzy tried that certain thing and failed, until the planets aligned just right and the 103rd time was the charm for that little clown head cupcake. How many times do we hear of success, but not the failure that led to that success?

We ought not be fooled that every success is achieved on the very first try. I would have liked to have met Thomas Edison. His attempt at the incandescent light bulb failed nearly 1,000 times. When asked about his ‘failures’, he stated that they were not failures, but ideas that didn’t work. He had the right attitude. He kept going until he got it right. I’m sure there were times when Thomas Edison was frustrated, but he didn’t let that frustration define him, or thwart his efforts. He had a vision and he kept the goal in sight.

As women who have been divorced mid-life, we may hear of other women’s successes – in marriage, in business, in romance, in life. We may look at their lives as ‘Pinterest perfect’. But they aren’t. No one’s life is perfect. You are on the path you are on for a reason. When I was going through a divorce, I heard of women who had amicable divorces, whose husbands paid alimony on time and who were “still friends” with their ex. I thought, “No way! That’s impossible!!” But did I know all the details? Did I know what their marriage had been like? No. Like Shakespeare said, “Appearances can be deceiving.”

Go ahead and set goals, and put your energy toward achieving them. Don’t put your energy toward the Pinterest Perfect Life – it’s a myth. BTW? The ‘Pinterest Fails’ serve one purpose – to show us that no one is perfect! Stay tuned. . . .

 

Advertisements

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions – Finances

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: I am NOT a financial expert nor do I have all my ducks in a row financially. I am still learning about finances post-divorce. Let’s learn about this together, shall we?

1. Make a budget and stick to it: This is the number one thing I have been told over the years, even when I was married. I have what I like to call a “scaffold” budget – I have all the categories in place but don’t have all the details filled in. I have enough information to fill in my budget, but I still have to flesh it out. There are many budget resources online – they go from uber simple to insanely complicated. Find the one that is right for you and start your budget. It will take you a few months to get your budget to be more solid, but you will learn about what you spend your money on. If you need help, go to your local bank. They have people there who will help you with your finances. Take it in bite-sized pieces.

2. Do not live above your means: You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, you don’t need the latest and greatest and most updatest of anything, you don’t need to impress anyone. You have just been through a kn0ck-down-drag-out emotionally and financially. Don’t jump back into a financial mess. Shop the sales rack at the clothing stores, use coupons at the grocery store, get a grocery store’s ‘rewards’ card and use it to save on gas, etc. You may be living with the bare minimum until you get back on your feet. That’s okay. Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” Think about that.

3. If you must have a credit card, use a secured card with a low APR: You can find these all over the internet. Be purposeful about paying your card on time. A secured card uses money that you put on it (pre-paid), not money that you don’t have.

4. Pay bills on time: I have learned the hard way that if you don’t pay your bills on time, a) your credit gets socked and b) you rack up more $$ in late fees. Pay your bills on time. The late fees are not worth it. Pay off your smaller bills first, then turn around and put that money on a larger bill. Paying off the smaller bills first cultivates the habit of paying bills. It also makes you feel good when you pay off a bill and it’s motivation to pay off others.

5. Pare down: Assess what items you are paying on monthly. Do you really need cable? Internet? Fake nails? Many of the little ‘luxuries’ will need to go away until you get back on your financial feet. Learn to live with less. I have not had cable for a while. I get the basic TV channels with my ‘key’ antenna and I read a lot. I keep my heat at a lower setting. (Of course it helps that I am always hot anyway!!)

6. Shop for the future: What does this mean?! When you go grocery shopping, stock up on non-perishables that will last a while – like rice and beans. Buy produce on sale. If your grocery store has a 10 for $10 sale, take full advantage of it! It’s tempting to go to the grocery store on a daily basis, but that doesn’t save much money. Plan out your menu for several days or weeks and shop accordingly. I always keep a package of rice and a couple of cans of beans on hand. If I am at the end of the month and down to my last couple of bucks, I will break out the beans and rice. It’s kind of boring, but at least it’s nutritious and filling.

7. Shop wise: Look for sales. Don’t impulse buy. If you want something, wait 30 days to buy it. If you still want it, buy it but do so with cash. In that 30 days, a) the item may go on drastic sale, or b) you may change your mind and not want the item after all. Before you purchase something, ask yourself, ‘Is this a need or a want? Will this change my life for the better or my bank account for the worse?’ Limit eating out. Invite friends over for dinner instead and have a potluck. If you do eat out, take your leftovers home for another meal.

8. Know what your bank balance is: Balance your bank account. Know that some charges on your debit card won’t hit your account right away, so you will need to make sure the money is there when the charges do hit. If you have a hard time balancing your bank account, use your bank resources. The folks at your bank will help you balance your account. They are there to serve you. If your bank seems to be too big to give you individual attention, find another back. Credit unions are good financial institutions to deal with. I have banked with a credit union for several years and have been pleased with the service I have gotten.

9. Save a little at a time: I have a change jar at home that I put my spare change in. That jar has saved me many times! My 401K contribution is taken out of my paycheck before it is directly deposited in my checking account. If you want to start saving money, put aside something small, like $5 or $10 a paycheck.  If possible, have that amount deducted from your paycheck and put directly into your savings account. Increase it when you feel you can afford to. Don’t worry about the amount you save, just start saving. Be intentional about developing a savings habit.

10. Celebrate your financial victories: I hate leaving lists of things greater than 5 on an odd number, so I will finish this list with celebrating your victories. Don’t celebrate by spending money, but by doing something that makes you feel good about yourself – take a walk in the park, post signs where you can see them that say, “You did it! You __________ (fill in the blank with your accomplishment)!”, share your victory with a close friend, make yourself a ‘Congratulations!’ card and mail it to yourself. Get creative!

Be diligent about your finances. If you’re not a math person like me, you can learn to be a math person! One does not have to have a PhD in finance in order to balance one’s checkbook and save money! If you have a friend who is really good with their finances, ask them for their help. What do they do that you can learn from? Above all, stay positive! You will experience failure, but that’s okay. You are learning and growing and that’s the most important thing. Stay tuned . . .

 

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions – Weight Loss

The majority of New Year’s resolutions seem to be about weight loss and getting in shape. There are only five things you need to know about weight loss: expectations, portions, sugar, exercise and rewards. Remember that when setting a resolution or goal, you must give yourself the grace to fail, because you will fail. Failure is not a bad thing – it means you are moving toward that goal. Failure means you step back and reassess, then resolve to move forward. Don’t allow failure to pull the plug on your resolutions. Remember that those who do not try, do not fail. They are not growing and becoming better people.

1. Expectations: You have to set realistic expectations for yourself. You alone know your limits, what you are capable of and how far you can push yourself. (Please consult your doctor if you have major health issues.) Don’t expect to lose 50 pounds a month unless you are starving yourself. Start out small, like losing 2 pounds a month. That may be more within you ability to do. It is a more realistic goal to achieve. When you achieve that goal, you will feel better and more motivated to continue to lose weight.

2. Portions: Next time you go to a restaurant, look at the portion you are given. Most often, the portion you receive could easily feed a family of four in a developing country for several days. Many of us were raised by mothers who told us to, “Eat everything on your plate”. That old adage is strongly ingrained in us. However, it’s better not to eat everything on your plate. Request a to go box and have the leftovers the next day for lunch. When you are eating at home, begin by cutting your portion by one-third. For example, if you have a big spoonful of mashed potatoes, take a smaller spoonful – don’t make it heaping. If you have a sandwich, cut one piece of bread in half and have half a sandwich. Another good rule for portions is what I like to call “the handful rule”. For most people, a handful is about one-half to one-third of a cup. If you must have chips with your sandwich, have a handful – and don’t make it heaping. If you still feel hungry after eating a smaller portion, grab an apple, a handful of baby carrots, an orange, or a handful of nuts. These foods are high in fiber and fiber makes you feel fuller. They are also healthier choices than another handful of chips.

3. Sugar: Studies have shown that refined sugar is one of the worst things in the American diet. Americans have developed an addiction to sugar. Slowly wean yourself from refined sugar. If you must use sugar, use the organic kind (Sugar in the Raw) or a sugar substitute like Stevia. Pay attention to your portion of sugar. Become a label reader when you are grocery shopping. Take notice of the number of grams of sugar and salt (another belly buster) in the food. Go for the low salt, low sugar foods. It’s better to use fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables because they aren’t as processed and have less sugar and salt. If you are drinking soda, stop it NOW! Carbonated beverages, whether regular or diet, are high in sugar and other unhealthy additives. Again, work in bite-sized pieces. Start by cutting out one soda or one glass of sweet tea a day and replacing with an 8-12 ounce glass of water. Then continue to decrease your sugary drinks by two a day, etc. For many people, cutting sugar out of their diets is akin to getting off drugs. You will go through withdrawal and may even have strange dreams.

4. Exercise: If you have not exercised regularly for some time, don’t jump back into the gym thinking you’ll be Hercules in no time! There’s no way you’ll be able to keep that resolution. Start out small and slow until you’re used to exercising again. My boss likes to say, “We’re gonna eat this elephant one bite at a time”. The cheapest, easiest and lowest impact form of exercise is walking. If you live in an area with extreme weather, walk at an indoor mall. A friend of mine would walk in the parking garage close to her work during the hot summer months. All you need to invest in for walking is a good pair of walking shoes and some padded socks. It’s great if you also have an iPhone with a cardio playlist or a friend with whom to walk. I walk with my dogs. Again, don’t start out by trying to walk across the US. Walk for 10 to 15 minutes daily. Then increase that to 30 minutes a day. Studies have shown that 30 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise for at least three times a week is very beneficial for your physical and mental health. Another relatively low impact exercise is stairclimbing. I’m not talking about running up and down several flights of stairs a day, but taking the stairs instead of the elevator if you need to go up only a couple of floors. As always, take it slow and in small steps.

5. Rewards: Behavior modification based on a rewards system has been around forever. In order to keep up your motivation for achieving your goals and keeping your resolutions, you may want to investigate a personal reward system. This personal reward system should not be based on food or money. Both of those would undermine the goals and resolutions you have set. There are several different reward systems I use: When achieving a goal of saving money, I reward myself with a walk in the park on a beautiful day. Of course, I take my pups along and we kill two birds with one stone – reward and exercise. When I lose weight, I reward myself by downloading a book or movie from my local library. I save money and I am patronizing a great organization in my community.

Make weight loss a habit. As you get stronger, increase your walking time, go to the gym, and make healthier food choices. This is a learning process-give yourself grace. Good luck as you move forward into 2017 and your weight loss goals! Stay tuned . . .

 

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is always  a time to make resolutions – what do you want to do different this year? Many people set lofty resolutions thinking, “This is the year I will ___________”. However, a couple of weeks down the road, the resolutions get tossed aside and the rest of the new year becomes one great big guilt party because we couldn’t keep those resolutions. We feel like a failure, disappointed in ourselves and feeling like we let others down. Maybe it’s time to learn how to set resolutions you can keep. When setting your New Year’s resolutions, think about the following:

1. Is it realistic? You want to lose weight. That’s always a great resolution. However, wanting to lose 50 pounds in one month is not so great. It’s unrealistic and it’s unhealthy. Start off with something you can do, like loose 2 pounds in a month. You may say, “But if I don’t push myself, it won’t happen.” Start off small. As you develop the habit of eating right, saving money, etc., then you can start to push yourself. My boss always says, “We gotta eat this elephant one bite at a time.”

2. Is it in character for you? Examine your motives for your resolutions. Are they for personal gain, to help others, etc.? Wanting to take a risk is fine (like learning to skydive), but if your resolutions are merely to satisfy others who think you should be doing x, y, and z, take a step back a refocus. Your resolutions should be for your benefit, not because others tell you that you need to do something.

3. Do you have the resources to do it? You may want to save $100 a month, but if you are a single mom with one income, that may not be so realistic. Start off small. Save $10 a paycheck, walk 1 miles a day, volunteer four hours on Saturday, etc. NOTE: Starting off small will develop a habit. It is better to start off small, to take small bites, than it is to go in way over your head and choke because you bit off too much.

4. Is it tweakable? My life motto is, “Blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall break and not bend”. You have to be willing to be flexible in your resolutions. You may have a large bill and may not be able to save as much money as you would like. In a situation like that, even saving just $5 is a step in the right direction.

5. Am I accountable? Keeping resolutions is easier if done in community. You have someone to whom you are accountable, who will ask you the hard questions and help keep you going in the right direction.

Finally, give yourself the grace to fail, because you will fail. However, failure doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or the resolution was unachievable. Failure means you are moving. Those who don’t fail don’t move. They don’t take the risk to grow and learn. Failure means you have to step back and reassess – why did I fail? Did I try to do too much? Did I experience a setback that was unexpected? Failure means you stop, analyze and move forward again.

This post is one in a series on “Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions”. Following posts will be about keeping your resolutions regarding weight loss, finances and relationships. Stay tuned. . .

Time for a Change

We are mere hours away from bidding 2016 goodbye and celebrating the arrival of 2017. When I was younger, I never really gave that much thought to New Year’s. I was more concerned with passing the next spelling test, getting my license to drive, graduating from high school, etc. As I get older, I find myself looking back down the road of time and pondering what has happened in my lifetime.

So much has changed for me over the past several years since my divorce. I graduated from college with my Bachelor’s degree in History. I met the man I will spend the rest of my life with. My children are all grown and married. I am working at a job I want to retire from. I am happier now than I have ever been.

There are many “The Year in Review” features at this time of year. We look back at the headlines – crime, people who have died, world affairs, the Presidential election, etc. As always, some of the past year has been good and some has not been so good. What will you remember from 2016? What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Going through a divorce is one of the most traumatic situations one can experience. Your life will never be the same. Now you have a chance to make it better. Take some time over the next couple of days to think about what you want this year to be like.

1. Do you want to save more money? Start small – like $10 a paycheck. If you have that amount automatically deducted from your paycheck and put into a savings account, you won’t see it. You’ll know it’s there, but your hands are one fewer place the money has to stop before it reaches your savings account.

2. Do you want to lose weight? Again, start small. Cut out the soda and drink more water. Replace sweet snacks with a piece of fruit or carrot sticks. Take a walk around your building at lunch. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

3. Do you want to exercise more? Walk at lunch, hike a couple floors of stairs, get out and walk the dog, buy a jump rope and use it. Walking is the cheapest exercise you can do and you can do it anywhere! If you start small and work your way up, you will not get discouraged by the inability to achieve an unrealistic goal.

4. Do you want to further your education? Going back to school can be expensive. Start at the community college and take one class a semester at night. Take advantage of free or low-cost classes offered in your community. Many colleges offer non-credit classes in anything from apple growing to zebra grooming.

5. Do you want to make more friends? Volunteer in your community. You will find people of like interests and you will be helping your community – volunteer at an animal shelter, a homeless shelter, a community garden , Mobile Meals (or Meals on Wheels). There are many volunteer opportunities in your community!

Whatever you decide to do in the New Year, take it slow. Break down your goals into bite-sized pieces. Celebrate your victories! Dance like no one is watching! You are strong, capable and beautiful! Make the New Year a good one! Stay tuned . . . .

 

Little Victories

There have been many times in my life when I have set a goal, only to falter and not achieve that goal. Sometimes, I bit off  more than I could chew, or I underestimated the resources I needed to achieve that goal. Sometimes I just got lazy because I didn’t see any progress.

One thing about setting goals is that they need to be achievable, realistic! Setting a goal to lose 50 pounds in the next two weeks is a little unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy. If losing weight is my goal, I need to set a realistic goal – say, lose 10 pounds in the next 6 weeks. If I achieve that goal before the 6 weeks is up, I know I can realistically add to that goal.

One way to keep up your motivation toward achieving your goal is to celebrate the little victories. Some examples are:

1. Goal: Lose weight – Celebrate when you lose two pounds of your goal. Don’t reward yourself with food, but reward yourself with a long walk in the park, or a book you’ve been wanting to read, or perhaps a bouquet of flowers.

2. Goal: Save money – Celebrate when you don’t stop to get that expensive coffee on your way to work. Reward yourself with your favorite flavor of coffee creamer and take that to work to add to your coffee instead of stopping by the expensive coffee shop on your way to work (it will last longer and instead of just one morning of your favorite flavor of coffee, you’ll have several!).

3. Goal: Get more exercise – Celebrate when you take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or you park farther away from the front of the store and have to walk further. Reward yourself with a great salad made from your favorite fruits or vegetables.

4. Goal: Watch less TV – Celebrate when you watch one hour less of TV a week. Reward yourself with a nice walk with a friend, or take a long bubble bath.

People often think they have to achieve the goal in its entirety before they tell themselves, “Atta boy (girl)!” I find that when I celebrate the little victories along the way to achieving my goals, I stay more motivated to achieve the goal. If I end up going backward instead of going forward toward my goal, or I experience a temporary setback, I remind myself that the goal is still there. I just need to refocus and get going forward again.

Take time to celebrate the little victories in your life – losing two pounds, taking the stairs, saving $5, watching less TV or spending less time on the computer and spending more time with those you love. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself grace as you move forward to achieve your goals. Stay tuned . . . .

 

Limitless

Cycle Dude has been cycling for close to 40 years – that’s the majority of his life. He used to participate in more cycling events that he has recently. He has participated for several years in a 115 mile bike ride here in MyState. I asked him if he was going to participate again this year. He’s not sure. I think he is feeling his age and knows his limits. He’s wise – knowing his limits means he won’t push himself to injury.

Dr. Nikki Anderson’s ninth promise to herself in moving on after her divorce is this:

No one sets limitations on you, except for you. When it comes to what you are capable of, how far you can go in your field, what you can learn and excel at, no one knows what you are capable of but you. No one knows the fire that burns inside of you, and the motivation that you have, that will keep you from ever giving up until your goal is accomplished.

Part of moving on past a divorce should be setting goals. As you set those goals, keep in mind your limitations – physical, financial, mental. From 2006-2011, I was a non-traditional student pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in History. There were times when I thought I was being stretched to my limits, but I accomplished my goal. I’m not sure if I could do that again – go back to school full-time.

What are some things you want to do? Make a list of those things, then make a list of the pro’s and con’s of each item. Some limitations are common sense, like, I am not going to bike cross-country if I have not trained for it. Perhaps “train for local bike race” is a good was to start out and test my limits. I am currently looking for fabric to make a new shower curtain in order to redecorate my bathroom. I can sew a shower curtain or even a business suit, but I’m not sure I would take on a friend’s wedding dress!

Sometimes our self-limitations are for protection from physical, financial or mental injury. Sometimes our self-limitations are out of fear. This goes into a whole ‘nother category of risk taking, which I am not going to get into.

Is there a fire burning inside, something you’ve always wanted to do? Check it out. Explore the possibility of doing that thing. The only way you will know your limits is to try. Don’t let fear stand in the way of exploring your limits. Life is an adventure – live it! Stay tuned . . . .