Julie Lyles Carr: Bit by Bit, Bite by Bite

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bit by Bit, Bite by Bite

So here we are.

The start of a new year, replete with expectations.

Our expectations.

Bucket lists, resolutions, goals and such.

It's the stuff a calendar-flip to a new decade is made of.

For some of us, New Year's Resolutions are a formal affair. We crack open a fresh journal, itemize projects and goals across a crisp page. These items become the coordinates for how we plan to steer the ship for the upcoming year, the constellation of stars that will lead us to the shores of interpersonal achievement.

And then for some of us, it's the fictional fairy tale, a mental daydream of 30 pounds lost in 10 days, a 2500 square foot house cleared of all clutter in the next 72 hours, a bagful of bad habits kicked to the curb in a night.

Calling Cinderella. Line One. Calling Cinderella.

Real change calls for real effort...and realism.

It's the realism part where I get a bit hung up from time to time.

So what's a girl to do when it comes to a new year and a desire to improve, to shape, to grow?

Here are a few things I've learned in four-plus decades of watching the Times Square Ball drop...

1. Baby Steps, Small Bites...
I tend toward the manic when it comes to big projects. Whether it's dropping the weight from holiday bashes, clearing clutter or remodeling a house, I tend to jump into the deeper part of the pool and then am a bit shocked as I flounder and dog-paddle and generally panic myself. Treading water is not momentum or progress.

I'm learning.

It's a bore but it's true; day-by-day, incremental, measurable steps generally are the atoms of achieving goals. It's not the one day I lived on protein shakes and ran ten miles...it's all those days I ate healthy and broke a sweat and did it day after day that really count. It's not the beginning of the cabinet clean-out that counts...it's breaking it down into manageable bits that lead to completion and not burnout that make the whole. Throwing a goal out there that is huge and inspiring is great. But it's all the little pieces that make the whole. Spend more time on determining and completing those steps than on adding more frills and fanfare to the end-all-be-all.

2. Prepare for Diversion. In Fact, Plan on It.

I tend to be a legalist. Varsity Legalist. If I start the nutrition plan and blow it one day, I tend to throw up my hands and blow it the next. And the next.

Sabotage by Fritos.

But diversions and challenges will come. That's what makes a goal a goal. It if weren't a destination, it wouldn't be something we would have to strive and work towards. And perhaps, that's the real test of a goal; are we willing to get back up? Perfectionism has no place in the world of achievement. Persistence is the thing.

3. And Then There's Abandon.

My brother often says that all great projects aren't truly completed; they just come to a place where enough has been done that they can be abandoned. A de-cluttered house will never statically remain that way. My hips will never be completely free of stretch-marks and jiggle-action. But the path that takes my home toward greater organization and my hips toward more healthy proportions is a project worth pursuing.

Wisdom is knowing when to say when.

If our goals are only creating overwhelming dissatisfaction with who we are and how our lives are knit together, we are missing the mark. Our resolutions should take us more in line with who we are meant to be, strong, healthy, self-actualized, at peace with God. It may not line up well with achievement gurus, but there is a time and a place to look at the motivation behind your goals and adjust your expectations.

We'll keep exploring ideas on goal-setting do's and don'ts tomorrow, but for now, share when you've had your greatest goal achievement...or challenge....

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