goals

Unfamiliar Changes Are Harder Than Time-Consuming, Familiar Changes (Why Taking A Walk Is Hard)


March is here, and I am still thinking about my goals for the year. That’s not an unusual thing for me, but if sticking close to your goals is hard for you, may I recommend Powersheets?

I won’t list out all my goals for you, but I want to tell you what I’ve learned from two of my goals for this year. I decided I wanted to take more walks and read more books this year so I came up with this cute goal. It’s Instagramable and Tweetable.

200 books

200 walks

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Isn’t it adorable?

So how I am doing two months in?

I’m right on track on my reading goal.

200 books divides out to 17 books a month. I read 17 in January and 17 in February. I’m right at 34 books read.

200 walks divides out to 17 walks a month.

Ummmmm.

I didn’t take 17 walks in January or February.

I didn’t take zero walks though.

So there’s that.

I took 5 walks in January. (Single digits, y’all.) I took 8 walks in February. (The tiniest bit better.)

So I am not on track with my walking goal. I’ve done 13 out of 200. That means I still have 187 walks left in 2019.

187!

Here’s the puzzling thing about these two goals. I am not demanding about these walks. A 30 to 45-minute walk is great. I’m not speed-walking these things. A stroll counts.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

This is my favorite street around the corner from my house because of all the TREES. It’s hard to believe this fall I will be in North Carolina where trying to find trees won’t be hard.

On the other hand, it takes hours to finish a decent book.

HOURS!

Why am I flying through this time-consuming reading goal while the walking goal that demands so little of my time gets pretty much ignored?

I think it’s because I was already reading a lot last year, and bumping up to reading a little more wasn’t as big of a change.

I was not exercising with any amount of regularity last year. Even though taking a walk has a literal phrase that means easy — “walk in the park” — I can’t seem to get it done.

It’s a bigger change, not because it takes more time, money (it’s free to walk), or equipment (I have legs, headphones, and shoes.) It is a bigger change because it hasn’t been a habit in my life.

Reading takes lots of time, some money (God bless the library and Ben Franklin for suggesting it), and I think it may be ruining my eyes (ain’t gonna stop me though.)

Googling “how long does it take to form neural pathways,” tells me this:

Now 66 days is the average and there are always variances. Some people can form deeply ingrained habits in as little as 18 days while others can take well over 200 days to form a habit. The ease and convenience of the habit also has a large part of how long it takes to form a habit.

So basically, it may take all 200 of my walks this year to change my brain to make walking a habit.

What does this mean? Give up? No!

It means I have to celebrate my progress. I have to be proud of my 13 walks in two months. It might be more walks than I took in the whole of 2018. I wasn’t counting.

People often ask me how I stay so motivated and energized. I could tell you I try to eat healthy foods and sleep well at night, but the real answer is grace.
— Lara Casey, Cultivate

It means I have to push myself to do something that doesn’t feel natural.

It means I have to stop listening to my excuses.

I never make excuses not to read, but I can think of 15 excuses why I can’t take a walk right now, the first one being I would have to put real pants and shoes on. Ugh. Who can be bothered?

But when I realize I’m not just taking a walk, I’m changing my brain, I can tell myself I am doing a hard thing that needs extra babying and celebration. I can pep talk myself into creating pathways that think walks are a normal part of a healthy day. I can tell myself that 2020 Jennifer will find walks easy peasy.

What about you?

What changes have you found hard to make because they were new and unfamiliar to your life?

What small numbers do you need to celebrate?

Lie #3: All Checkboxes Are Created Equal

I can get the same sense of satisfaction from finishing a tv show as checking off a box in my planner. I feel as accomplished when I add another finished book to my Goodreads account as I do posting a blog post.

As someone who enjoys finishing tasks, I take enjoyment when I check off a box that I’ve accomplished something.

But not all checkboxes are equal or accomplish the same thing in life. I can fool my brain into thinking I did something at the end of the day. I can believe the lie that I’m accomplishing what I should be doing with my life by watching a tv show.

There are survival accomplishments: buy the groceries, pay the bills, file the taxes, do the dishes, wash the clothes, and read yo’ Bible.

There are make-life-better accomplishments: go to that doctor’s appointment, take my kids to the dentist, Target runs, organize that closet, buy some flowers, water the plant, meet with the insurance agent, and/or actually put up those clothes and dishes you washed.

There are entertain-your-brain accomplishments: binge the show, read that mystery novel, listen to the music, or maybe Wednesdays we PopCast.

Then there are the accomplishments that actually are long-term, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life accomplishments.

I can get bogged down in the weeds of just finishing survival accomplishments with a side of entertainment accomplishments and never actually accomplish the things I want to do in life (especially when my mental health isn’t the best.) I heard a podcaster call it “running the errands of life.”

I have goals that will never get accomplished if I never put time towards them. These goals require me doing things that I don’t always feel like doing. I want to be a better writer. I want to study my Bible with intention. I want to publish a book with a traditional publisher. I want to disciple my kids. I want to have a marriage I enjoy. I want to see a book I wrote on the shelf at Target. I want to really know God. I want to fulfill the Great Commission to the best of my ability. I want to make life better for other people. I want to enjoy my family and love them well.

What will my life be known for?

What will your life be known for?

Are there things you want to accomplish that get pushed to the back burner? Have you believed the lie that all checkboxes are created equal?

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
— 2 Corinthians 6:1 The Message

Need help fighting lies?

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Song for you today.

Have you accomplished the goals you set for this year?

July 1st will start the second-half of 2018. The halfway mark of anything is always a good time to check-in. I've made you a worksheet that will help you do just that.

How did I come up with my 2018 goals?

I used Jennie Allen's Dream Guide to set 9 goals for 2018. In January, I evaluated my spiritual growth, relationships including marriage, kids, and friendships, health, personal growth, dreams, and work life. I also did a quick read through my to-do lists from 2017 to see what I had done the year before to see what I wanted to repeat or not repeat in 2018.

Six months into 2018, I know there are goals I've met, goals I've partially met, goals I'm working on actively, and goals I've forgotten about.

I need a reminder and a fresh dose of inspiration to finish the second-half of 2018 well. I need to be intentional about going after those goals and dreams that will change what my life looks like.

It is important to be intentional about our goals. Well thought out and accomplished goals can be the building blocks to an accomplished dream.

What makes the difference between wishing and realizing our wishes? Lots of things, and it may take months or years for a wish to come true, but it’s far more likely to happen when you care so much about a wish that you’ll do all you can to make it happen.
— Mister Rogers

How am I doing?

If you are wondering, I've completed 3 of my 9 goals. There's another goal that is almost accomplished. Two other goals are partially completed. And three goals have been completely ignored. I felt it was important to ask myself some tough questions about these goals that have been ignored. It was also important to take a thermometer on my wishes and dreams and then make sure my goals refected the direction I want to be headed. Lastly, prayer should be a big part of this process. 

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
— Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

How are you doing?

How are you doing on your 2018 goals? Download the Mid-Year Check-In Worksheet and see where you are at and get some inspiration to finish well.

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Does the idea of goals make you anxious?

Are you dealing with people pleasing or not sure what God wants from you? My book Paper Tigers might be the message you need right now.