By Sheila Olson
“That’s it, this is the last week of lazy Nelly….starting on Sunday it’s a five mile run a day, minimum, for me.”
“I’m tired of this job, seriously, this is the last day, tomorrow I am actually, seriously going to quit; enough is enough.”
“I am going to do it, seriously this time. I’m going to write that book by the end of the year, no, the end of the month.”
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’m done eating like shit, today is it….diet starts tomorrow.”
And what do we say to all of this?
“Good for you!”
“I’m so proud of you!”
“You go knock their socks off!”
Do not encourage the incorrigible.
Do not exclaim with sheer excitement every time your partner tells you about one of their new or continually recurring dreams masked as goals.
These are not goals.
These are dreams.
Dreams are thoughts or ideas which can sometimes be sensational.
Goals on the other hand…goals are directed, clear and structured.
Goals have an endpoint.
Dreams have the potential to live on forever, with you forever having to listen to them (again and again).
The next time your partner starts to spout off one of their ‘dreams,’ why not actually do something supportive? Rather than listening to them and being their cheerleader, with no real direction other than smiles and cheers, sit down and figure out how to support them.
Make a plan.
Draft out what they can do to be accountable to their goal.
Determine how you can support them in achieving their goal.
It might be as simple as helping them more around the house so that they can start taking night classes towards their master’s program.
Or it might be as daunting as rousing with them an hour earlier each day for a five mile run around the neighbourhood.
Whatever it is, make it real, make it doable and make it a relationship-building opportunity.
If you are tired of hearing your spouse complaining about how they are unhappy with aspects of their life and how they wish or dream things could be different, do not placate them, sit down with them, listen to their goal, find the barrier, provide support and actually help them achieve it.
When we think about self-improvement, I think a lot of us think about dramatic, drastic changes in ourselves, lives and outlook.
We imagine, waking up one day, running five miles before the sun is up, meditating, drinking a kale smoothie, having a highly productive day, and each and every day at work, coming home and being a positive person to your partner and family and then wrapping the day off with journaling and some self-reflection about just how amazing the day went.
We do not imagine that the road to self-improvement could be simple.
We do not imagine that the road to self-improvement could be simply adding a ten-minute walk into our day after dinner because that is not enough.
We do not imagine that the road to self-improvement could be simply removing that daily habit of hitting the snooze button because that (small) action could not possibly be the reason each and every one of your days is a chaotic mess.
We do not imagine that the road to self-improvement could be simply stopping the negative self-talk and spending five minutes each morning thinking about three things you are truly grateful for because it just feels too silly to be meaningful.
We want the change to be dramatic, gigantic and completely unattainable because if the change is simple, small and attainable, then WE are the problem.
It is very easy to stay stuck in the same shitty situation you have been in for far too long when you make yourself believe that the life you want to lead is out of your reach, too hard and extremely complicated.
It becomes entirely unfathomable to think that you are the only obstacle in the way of your life’s desires.
Nothing is out of your reach, it is simply your mindset which is the limit.
The next time you think about that glossy, shiny, perfect version of yourself, think about one simple small change you could make which would get you an inch, nay, a millimetre closer to that goal.
Add that little positive task to your day and instead of thinking that it is a waste of time or not going to accumulate to anything substantial, simply perform the act for thirty days.
See how you feel after a month. Think about how much time it actually took to incorporate this little task into your life. Project on how it will be as you begin to add more and more little positivities into your daily routine.
When we focus on the big picture everything seems out of reach, but when you think about simply the day ahead or even just the next sixty minutes, accomplishment becomes much more attainable.
What you do over a lifetime is simply the accumulation of small, simple accomplishments.
You live a healthy life by making small, simple and healthy decisions each day.
You build a strong career by focusing on the priorities which are of highest need right now and put your full attention into them and do them well.
You build a strong family life by letting yesterday’s issues go and not projecting on what pain tomorrow might bring and simply enjoying and prospering in this day.
You will not accomplish everything in one day but you will amaze yourself at what you can accomplish when you quit wasting the day away by explaining why you cannot and simply do.
“Few people have any next, they live from hand to mouth without a plan, and are always at the end of their line.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
During times of uncertainty, stress and chaos most people’s first concern is ‘How will I keep myself and my family safe?’
Safe usually entails keeping food on the table, a roof over everyone’s head and a sense of serenity within the household. In order to ensure safety for one’s family, the biggest source of stress comes from money (or lack thereof).
Money, none of us seem to ever have enough of it, but we all seem to spend it quite effortlessly. We never seem to get that savings account to a decent figure, but our closets are filled to the brim, our fridges have ample options to choose from for each meal and we subscribe to every streaming service available.
Why do we struggle to save for the unknown?
Why do we struggle to save for the future?
Why are short term wants so difficult to ignore?
“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” ― Richard Cushing
Why is it so hard to get your finances in order so that we are better prepared for difficult times?
We struggle to save for the future because we feel that we can always start tomorrow, well tomorrow has come and we are ill prepared.
It is romantic to dream that you will be better in the future.
We all romanticize our future selves, imagining ourselves as better versions of who we are today: richer, skinnier, healthier, happier, wiser and smarter. However, this future version of ourselves is not simply going to knock on our front door and take over, we need to create this person. Creating this person means sacrificing what you want today for what you know you will need tomorrow.
What we do each day moulds us into the person we become.
The future always seems so far away, until it slaps you in the face. It can be hard to prepare for a rainy day, a difficult time period or the tomorrow’s you feel may never arrive, but it is essential that we start shifting into this mindset. Our current circumstances have shown how foolishly we have been living and we should all take this as a severe lesson to be learnt and never to be repeated again.
“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” ― Confucius
The future always seems so far away.
It always seems that next month is the best time to start managing your finances. Tomorrow always seems like the day you will become the more responsible version of yourself, but that tomorrow never seems to come. We always plan to manage our finances or become stricter with our excessive spending soon, but never right now. It can be hard to stop spending on wants, which is why we always ignore preparing for inevitable, but we will feel more confident once we do.
The future is built on what one does today, so make the foundation of all of your tomorrow’s as strong as you possibly can.
“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
It is so much easier to ignore your finances than to actually delve deep into them because it can be stressful to balance your budget.
The idea of managing your money can be overwhelming because most of us do not know where to start. However, there are professionals to help us with this matter. Get your finances in check by making an appointment with your bank, so that they can help you get on the right path. In the beginning, it might feel cumbersome and foreign to start balancing your budget, but the payoff will be worth it. Once you start realizing where your money goes, controlling excessive or unnecessary spending and saving for the future, you will start looking forward to this daily ritual.
Managing your money feels as though you will have to forgo all of today’s pleasures.
When we are living outside of our means it can be hard to imagine a future without all of the luxuries we have become accustomed to. The problem with this thinking is that a lot of the things we believe are privileges are actually self-made prisons. If you are buying clothes on credit, driving a car you are making monthly payments on and eating out when you have a lot of debt, you are living outside of your means.
The privileges you think you deserve you actually cannot afford and you are lying to yourself and jeopardizing your future when you choose to continue living this way.
Living below your earnings means that you are making smarter decisions today, so that tomorrow is that much easier. It does not mean that you can never go out for dinner, buy a new shirt or get a coffee to go, it simply means you have to make these purchases less often and with more forethought put into them.
Stop spending without thinking. Stop imprisoning yourself with impulse buying and start strategically spending your savings.
Stop letting urges imprison you into a lifestyle you loathe.
The more your save, the easier life will get.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” ― John F. Kennedy
In the beginning, it will be very tough to become frugal, but as the days become weeks and weeks morph into months you will start seeing the benefits. When you are no longer chained to a monthly credit card payment or imprisoned by monthly car payments you will realize how far your paycheck really goes. Once you start ridding yourself of debt and attaining some savings, you will feel more confident in your ability to make smart decisions about money. You will start enjoying making dinners at home because you will see how much money you were wasting away at restaurants and bars.
You are afraid that if you stop living the way you do, you will lose your social life.
Saving money and being a hermit does not have to go hand in hand. You can still see your friends, travel, and have a full and exciting life without burning through the dollar bills. Start hosting monthly potluck dinners with your friends, instead of meeting for drinks every week. Create a book club, so that you can socialize with others at one another’s homes, instead of establishments where you spend an excessive amount. Find cheap, fun ways to exercise, instead of paying for a pricey gym membership. Look for deals and discounts for things you enjoy doing or activities you are interested in pursuing.
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” ― Thomas Edison
Let this time of crisis not be lost to stress.
Learn from what is happening and what has been negatively impacting you. How can you now be better prepared for the future? What habits do you need to rid yourself of? What habits do you need to instill in your lifestyle? We do not wish for bad days, but we must be ready for them. The better prepared we are, the better we are to ourselves, our family and friends.
Once we have learned to live with less is when we are actually living a life of wealth.
During this period of extreme uncertainty, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed in the mornings. You may be stressed about your relationship, finances, job stability or all three and the weight of the world makes it hard to face the day.
As tempting as it may be to wallow, waste away and be weary right now, I would strongly advise against these temptations.
Because this is the exact right time to level up.
The world is never going to go back to the way it was.
We are silly if we are sitting here, waiting for things to go back to normal. Nothing is ever going to go back to normal after this. This crisis is going to force us to change everything about how we live, from how we travel, work, socialize and spend our free time.
Nothing will be returning back to the status quo and this is amazing.
Change is good. Change can make things better. Change can make us better. Change can bring us closer together.
This is a great opportunity to be on the cusp of new emerging trends and be one of the creative, ambitious and forward-thinking leaders of tomorrow.
You can help lead your colleagues, friends, family and self into a new world by seeing this time as a precious opportunity. You get to hibernate away and finally have the time to do all of the things which you have always wanted to do. Think about what you did not like about your life before this happened and start applying ways to ensure you do not go back into those ruts once this problem has a solution.
When you think about your job and how you are currently working versus how you use to work, what does the ideal future look like?
Scrutinize your organization and roles, see if you can draft up how what is being learned during the crisis and how it can be used in the future to streamline processes. Start drafting arguments for a new workplace design because the way of the old was clearly not working and leaders are interested and excited to learn and improve. See how you can be a leader in your organization and how your positive outlook and ability to find the good in a bad situation will be beneficial to your career path.
Where are you wasting time?
Are you spending too much time on social media? Too much time in front of the television? Too much time in bed?
This is the perfect time to zero in on your biggest vices and rid yourself of them. We need to start seeing how beneficial this lockdown lifestyle really is and how we can improve from it.
If you are spending too much time on social media, delete the apps from your phone before you go to bed and try not to download them again for at least twenty-four hours. See where you spend your time when it is not being wasted scrolling.
If you are spending too much time watching television, challenge yourself to not turn on the set until at least noon and see how this behaviour changes your day. Each day you will realize that you will stop feeling so tempted by tube time and you will start filling your day with things of greater value.
If you are spending too much time in bed, try to get a routine going again. Who knows how long we are going to be in this situation for and I think we can all agree that the no rules, all fun portion of quarantine has run its course.
It is time to make this time meaningful.
Start each day off on the right track.
Create a structure to your day. Create a structure for your house and dedicate certain areas for certain tasks. Vow to wake up at a decent time (whatever that is for you) and spend the first four hours of your day doing good work. Whether that is a workout, healthy breakfast, household cleanup and reading or meditation, working from home and a run around the block, make the morning count. If after those rigorous first four hours you go back to bed, do not beat yourself up. Aim to spend five productive hours the next day and see how it goes.
How are you socializing and making positive connections with others?
Let’s quit bickering with our spouses, yelling at the dog and complaining to our friends via text. We need to see this time as an opportunity where we can learn, grow and improve. Let’s quit looking at how everyone around us is driving us crazy with their lazy, selfish ways and start seeing how we can be better for ourselves and others each day.
Start acting like the person you want to live with. Stop telling people what you want to see from them and show them positive behaviours to mimic instead.
Think about who you do not miss seeing and speaking to every day or on a regular basis.
Maybe your colleague Karen, with her morning rant of how much she hates her job, was not as harmless as you once thought. Perhaps without that negative outlook on your job each morning you are finding more purpose in what you do.
How about the lack of Friday night drinks with your friends? Who do you not miss? Why? This is a really good time to foster and strengthen the friendships which lift you up and to disassociate from the ones you may be realizing were bringing you down.
Make effort with the individuals who inspire, excite and promote good things. Foster connections with individuals who you may have been meaning to get to know better. A simple way to open a line of communication is by sending an email or direct message to the person you wish to know better, asking how they are doing during this difficult time.
Plan at least one virtual social get together a week.
This is the perfect time to connect with that old college friend you are always meaning to call or your favourite aunty, who you rarely get to see. Make sure you are setting up social engagements that are beneficial and motivating. Socialize with people who build you up and are able to see the positive points in our current situation. We are strongly influenced by those we spend the most time with, so choose those people wisely.
How are you taking care of yourself? How are you not taking care of yourself?
Spend this way to research and plan out positive changes to your everyday life, which you can bring with you to the next chapter of your life. Not everything that works for someone else is going to seamlessly integrate into your own unique journey, but this is the perfect time to test out methods, reflect on how you feel with positive integrations into your day and what you wish to carry with you forward.
Each morning list three things and people you are grateful for in your journal. Next, write down a positive affirmation for the day. Make the day a great day before it even begins by believing it will be a great day. Focus on controlling your emotions and find simple tools to utilize when you feel your frustrations rise.
Perhaps you start taking the dog for a stroll around the block every few hours, just to get some alone time, clear your head and reflect on how you feel. Maybe you sit on the sundeck each morning with a cup of coffee and simply observe life around you for the first thirty minutes of the day. Or try something completely unique which works for you.
Instead of promising to be perfect tomorrow, or vowing to make next week the week, you become your best self, try to integrate small changes into each day. Have a cup of green tea, instead of that fourth cup of coffee. Read one page of a book, before you scroll through your Instagram feed. Do ten squats before you open the fridge. Make your challenges small enough that they are not too overwhelming to do.
Take a good look at your finances, past, present and (plan for the) future.
Where were you spending way too much money and are saving now? Where are you spending too much money still? Where would you like to stop excessive spending in the future?
Maybe you bought a coffee every morning before work and now you are making daily use of your previously dusty old coffee maker. How does saving that five dollars a day feel? What should you do with this extra money? Maybe start intentionally moving five dollars into a savings account each day and watch it grow.
Perhaps you have always wanted to learn how to invest some of your money. This is the perfect time to research the best options for your lifestyle, income and final goals. You could schedule a phone appointment with a banker, accountant or broker to learn where you could save money monthly.
The most important area to level up in is your mind. What are your negative thought patterns? What is the self-imposed prison you live in?
Pay attention to how you speak to yourself or about yourself and try to change negative thought patterns by replacing them with positive ones. If you are constantly telling yourself you are not healthy, probe into why you think that about yourself. Find simple steps you can start taking today to help change this self-limiting belief. Maybe you are someone who always feels victimized by others. Start laying out how you can be in more control of your life and stop blaming others for your own circumstance.
By replacing negative thoughts and opinions about ourselves with positive ones, everything else you hope to accomplish with be infinitely easier to do.
Who knows if this will last another week, month or year, but all I can say is regardless of the length of time, it is the quality of the minutes which matter.
Let’s not throw away 2020 as a wasted year because of (some) restrictions and changes to our daily routine. The current state of the world is going to change our world forever, so we need to learn to be flexible, adaptable and positive in order to be successful through the tough times and the times to come.
We can either hide away and blame this virus for why we are not successful, our best selves or unhappy or we can find the value in this challenging situation, learn from it and challenge ourselves to be better with every new day we are lucky enough to be living.