“We are what we repeatedly do.”
While my wife and I are not much for “resolutions,” we have reached that time of year again where we all tend to reflect on changes we would like to make in our lives. Whether you want to start doing something, like lose weight or pay off a debt, or stop doing something, like smoking, forming new habits in one’s life can be difficult. The oft touted length of time it takes to change or form a habit is 21 days.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Statistic Brain reports that, while 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving it. I would argue that this is due, in large part, to a lack of planning and the setting of unrealistic goals. The number one resolution for 2015 was reportedly to lose weight. It’s simple enough to say “I’m going to eat better and lose weight this year;” however, speaking in such generalities and not developing an action plan and going through the process of implementing it is going to keep you spinning your wheels.
Psychology Today has an excellent article, from 2010, on this very concept. Setting realistic, specific, and achievable goals, while having someone to help hold us accountable (#thank you blogosphere and, even more importantly, my incredible wife!) is the most surefire way to ensure success with implementing changes in our lives.
There are several changes we intend to make in our lives, in 2016 and beyond, that will help us to live longer, happier, healthier, and more financially sound lives. If you would like to skip the specifics and just see my bulleted list, feel free to skip to the end; however, if you’re interested in greater depth, please read on.
My goals fall into three categories: professional, financial, and personal.
I have been a Registered Nurse for the past two-and-a-half years and I intend to work toward obtaining nationally-recognized certifications as a Medical-Surgical nurse and as an OB nurse (the generality of the goal.) I have already purchased the books and study materials for the exams and it is now time to get more serious about it. The hospital I work for does not have separate departments for M&S and OB so, therefore, we all work on both sides of aisle to one degree or another. I have a moderate amount of experience in caring for post-partum mothers and as a “baby nurse,” meaning I care for newborns immediately after birth; however, I have not had the opportunity to become fully trained in the facets of care provided to the laboring mother. My supervisor is working on arranging opportunities for us to attend training sessions at an outside facility a few hours away and I am looking forward to the chance to further my skill set, which will only benefit me when we hit the road to travel in a few short years.
Due to a lack of experience in this particular area, my primary focus in 2016 will be to obtain the M&S certification first, as I am more proficient in that area of nursing. Therefore, it is my goal to add the credentials of CMSRN to the end of my name by the end of 2016 (the specific goal!)
After completing this, then I will begin the process of studying for the OB certification. Stating this as specifically as I can allows for realizing the achievability of the goal and provides for a measurable outcome. Additionally, I have the support of my wife and, now that this is posted online for all to see, I will provide updates along the way…and look back and reflect on my successes and/or failures as 2016 draws to a close.
To stay within the realm of reality, I will not even pretend to think we can be debt free by the end of 2016. While we are doing quite well here in the end of 2015, since backing up our investments in exchange for getting back on the Debt Snowball($3,000 of debt gone in 44 days!,) even keeping up with that would not rid us of my wife’s student loans and Jeep payment. Within the past several months, I made some poor decisions that, while they are in no way detrimental to our livelihood, resulted in some credit card debt. However, this debt is at 0% through the end of 2016 and resulted in a nice chunk of cash-back reward for making the purchases with the card. I know…shame shame shame…but oh well; it will be paid off before a penny of interest is ever tacked on to the account. So…if we are able to keep up with our recent debt payments, we will be able to pay off $25,000 worth of debt in 2016.
While this is doable, I feel that it may be a bit ambitious and, for the sake of being realistic, I am saying that we will pay off at least $20,000 in 2016. We pay $500/month to the Jeep so that is $6,000 that I automated from my paycheck. Our regular budget allocates $450/month to my wife’s loans, knocking out $5,400. I feel that, without a doubt, an additional $8,600 toward our debt is easily doable. Quite likely, we will be able to pay even more…especially if I pick up any extra overtime. I’m really looking forward to discussing updates on this goal throughout the year and continue to watch as we get closer and closer to debt freedom.
My personal goals for this year are rather cliché. Number 1 is that I want to lose weight; I’m currently sitting at 215 pounds. I’m 6’1” so my BMI is 28, landing me in the “overweight” category. BMI is not a perfect metric, as it does not take into account body composition (i.e. a bodybuilder with six-pack abs who is the same height and weight as me would have the same BMI…trust me, I’m not a bodybuilder.) My stomach currently measures 41” and that is just not acceptable. I have a child who I intend to be increasingly active and outdoorsy with and, if I can’t even get myself into appropriate shape, then how can I expect to be active with him as he grows and we begin to desire exploring the great outdoors?
Carrying excessive amounts of fat around my midsection increases my risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Mayo Clinic reports that, “for every 2 inches of greater circumference, mortality risk went up about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women.” Back at the end of 2011, I weighed right around 200 pounds and had a 38” waist. My wife (fiancé at the time) and I began following the Weight Watcher’s Point System, which is an excellent tool for learning portion control, and I was getting cardio exercise on a Bowflex Treadclimber. Over the course of several months, I dropped to 170 and had a waist size of about 35” and it was the healthiest I had ever been in my life. I don’t know where, when, or why we got off track…but I truly miss feeling as good as I felt then. So, therefore, my goal is to ultimately get back to 170 pounds with a 35” waist…but let’s break it into manageable chunks.
We are planning a trip to Montana sometime in late spring, where it is our hope to do some hiking for the first time in our lives. For the sake of my weight loss being a measurable goal, let’s say we are going to go at the end of April/beginning of May. Four months = 16 weeks = average healthy loss of two pounds per week = 32 pounds of potential weight loss. That would put me at about 185 by the time we go on our trip. Therefore, by the end of February, I will be down to 200 pounds, making my way toward 185 by the end of April. I won’t specify a waist-line goal for now, as losing the weight alone will result in a subsequent drop in waist circumference; however, updated measurements will be taken and recorded.
Changes I/we will implement in order to make this goal achievable:
1. Our closest eating-out joint is about 50 minutes away so we eat 99% of our meals at home. Meal planning, utilizing our subscription to eMeals, will help to avoid the ongoing monotony of eating the same foods over and over, which often result in our overindulgence of junk/processed foods. Meal plans will allow for a greater use of vegetables, while helping to ensure a more well-rounded diet. With eMeals, we have the ability to vary the recipes that we receive, from vegetarian (which we are not) to low carb/calorie to crock pot meals for easy preparation.
2. Decreased snacking on junk food, e.g. cookies and donuts. This will come about by simply not buying them. Easier said than done when my brain starts telling me that I’m craving a donut but, if I can look at it on a month-to-month challenge, I believe I can rewire my brain and overcome this thought pattern. Like I said, it supposedly takes 21 days to form a new habit. If I can challenge myself to not buy any cookies/donuts/etcetera for the month of January…and not actually die!…then it stands to reason that I can continue to not buy that garbage in February and beyond.
3. Similarly with the junk food, I need to drastically decrease my consumption of soda. Albeit, I drink diet and couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a sugared soda, the fact is that the stuff is still not good for me and not to mention a complete waste of perfectly good debt-crushing money. Right now, I drink an average of about 5 cans per day. I love Coke Zero! A 24 pack costs about $8 and, according the basic math I just did, for the first time actually, I’m spending about $600 per year on soda! Wow, I actually had no idea…that’s depressing. But let’s fix that. While I don’t anticipate quitting soda cold turkey, I can certainly work my way to quitting and dropping to a budgetary restraint of, let’s say $24 per month = 3 cases. That comes out to about 2.5 cans per day on average. Let me get to that point for a month and then maybe I can implement a no soda monthly challenge in February.
4. Increased activity via utilization of our coat rack treadmill and increased outdoor activities, especially walks around our neighborhood when we feel it is safe for our son to be out for a more extended period of time (current temps have been in the zero-to-five degree range, with snow up to my shins, so it hasn’t been feasible.) Also, while I have never been the running type, I would like to ease into the idea by putting to use the C25K (Couch to 5K) app that I have had downloaded on my phone for the past few years and have yet to actually fire it up. To begin, I will start using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work – the most ideal time to do this is after our son goes to bed in the evening so, due to working nights, I can’t do this very well on nights that I work. As a nurse, I generally get a good deal of walking in most nights but perhaps I can make a point of making extra trips up-and-down the stairs during down time. Having tried it in the past, and having the appropriate supplies already, I would also like to begin doing yoga, as well, as often as possible.
5. Weekly weigh-ins to maintain accountability and a point of reference to ensure progress is being made towards my ultimate goals.
The whole point of these life changes, as with everything we do in our lives now, is for our son. He has been a Gerber baby since he began eating solid foods, giving him a well-balanced and nutritious diet of meats, fruits, and vegetables in a multitude of varieties. The fact is, he’s 15 months old now and he has been increasingly eating more and more of what mommy and daddy eat. It’s a real gut check when you realize that you don’t want your child to be eating the foods that you do. So the real question is, if we don’t want him eating the crap that we eat, why the hell are we eating it?!?!?
Personal goal number 2 involves having a better garden than this past year. The summer of 2014 was the first time we had ever planted a garden. We have a nice yard where we live and, trying out our green thumb, we borrowed a tiller and planted a small patch of green beens, corn, tomatoes, and green bell peppers. We had several good pickings of beans and a handful of yummy tomatoes, but only about four tiny ears of corn and a bell pepper that was about the size of cherry tomato. For 2015, I bought a tiller and broke up a larger chunk of ground in our back yard. I was incredibly over zealous, planting more than we had the opportunity to care for (even without an infant in the house) and, therefore, weeds took over and things were more-or-less a wash. We had a few Walmart-type bags full of beans and we picked the SIX most delicious strawberries I have ever had in my life. The tomato plants got large but the tomatoes themselves weren’t any good and we didn’t get a single bell pepper. Likewise, we didn’t have any corn either. I rushed through the process of planting due to time constraints between work and our son and, without proper planning, I planned for failure (and succeeded at said failure.) 2016 will make for a better year in the garden: more detailed planning with regards to plant layout and spacing will be utilized, as we will decrease the number and variety of crops we will focus on. Also, we will better plan our approach to weeding, committing a small chunk of time every/every other evening, as opposed to trying to tackle the whole thing in one day per week. I also plan to utilize lawn clippings as mulch to help keep the weeds at bay, as well.
Additionally, I am hoping that our son will be able to develop a love and appreciation for gardening, providing for a learning experience that we can share and develop together over the course of many years. This will help guide us to be more self sufficient and foster a deeper love of the outdoors, while also providing a source of good, clean, nutritious food.
Goal number 3 is that I would like to read more. We read to/with our son for an average of about an hour-and-a-half every day – 30-45 minutes prior to each of his naps at 11:00 and 15:00, and then prior to his bedtime at 21:00. Minor fluctuations in his schedule/routine account for variations in reading times. However, this precious time with our son does not count toward my desire to read more. Also, I do not wish to count my reading/studying for nursing certifications either. Therefore, it is my goal to read a minimum of 5 books during 2016. I’m not certain what these will be yet but I will be sure to provide updates along the way.
My final personal goal that I have come up with at this time point in time involves making more “me” time for my incredible wife. She is the glue that holds our family together, as she carries an incredible amount of the responsibilities for maintaining our home in the functioning order it runs in. Seriously, I cook but she literally does so much that I can’t even begin to detail all the things she takes care of on a daily basis, on top of being an incredible momma to our amazing son. The majority of our day is spent playing, interacting with, reading to, and teaching our son things. Between that time and the time spent doing all the daily chores, there is minimal minutes free for down-time. Once our son goes to bed, that is typically when we veg out on the couch for a little R&R with each other. I would like to make it a mission to allow for my wife to have some well-deserved personal time. While it is easy enough to say I could do something like take her out for a spa day, it is not always feasible to do something like that due to the fact that the closest spa is three hours away. I’m not sure yet exactly what things will be implemented to reach this goal. Obviously, most of these actions will be without her prior knowledge but I will be having a talk about this with her to see if she has any specific thoughts or desires in mind. While I have some ideas in mind (which I will keep to myself because my wife is my proof-reader), any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
GOALS FOR 2016
1. CMSRN credential
2. Pay off at least $20,000 of debt.
3. Weight loss: weigh 200 pounds by the end of February and 185 by the end of April – monitoring with weekly weigh-ins
4. Increased meal planning with eMeals
5. Month-to-month junk food buying ban
6. Decreased soda : $24 = 3 cases/month to ZERO
7. Using our treadmill for at least 20 minutes per day when I am off work
8. Improved planning and crop yield from the garden
9. Read a minimum of 5 books in 2016
10. Increased personal time and appreciation for my wonderful and loving wife, who is the greatest momma I could ever hope to have for our amazing son.
So…there you have it…my/our family goals for 2016. With some determination and holding myself accountable, I believe that they are, without a doubt, realistically achievable. I hope that you have developed some goals for the coming year; furthermore, I wish you the very best of luck in achieving your goals and I look forward to sharing our progress and following along with yours, as well.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!