Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Abbie’s top 5 resolution making tips!

Having talked about the right time (and wrong time!) to make New Year’s resolutions Resolutions I found myself inundated* with requests for other nuggets of wisdom regarding making choices for change. So, without further ado, here are my top five tips for making resolutions that last. Most of these come from my book Insight Into Self Harm, which helps people who self-harm make progress with their recovery, but I think the ideas are universal.

1 – Know what you want to do

Tip number one sounds simple, but it’s crucial. Not only do you need to know what you want to achieve, but you need to know exactly what you want to achieve, and know for definite what you either don’t want to change or aren’t going to change right now. The big thing to remember here is that you can’t do everything at once.When I look at my life, I can see multitudes of things I could change for the better. Drink less, eat less, smoke less. Pray more, write more, exercise more. I’ve learnt that if I try to change everything at once, I normally end up back where I started. Habits take a long time to form – we need to give ourselves time to change them..

2 – Know how to go about it

This is where you plan and prepare, and gather resources to help you get where you want to be. Some of these will be obvious – think nicotine patches and celery sticks. Others will be harder to pin down. For me, routine is always a big thing – it’s got to be something that fits into my life if I’m going to keep doing it.
NB – if you really want to make a lasting change there is no shame in seeking professional help. Doctors, therapists, AA – whatever gets the job done.

3 – Know why you want to do it

Reasons are important to have a stock of during those times you want to give up. They are also helpful for when you do temporarily give up. Reminding ourselves why we’re putting ourselves through it to start with is what’s going to give us a kick up the backside when feels hard. Find yourself a phrase: “I am doing this because…” – this is your mantra for when the going gets tough.

4 – Know how to deal with set backs

I think it was Thomas Edison, when inventing the lightbulb, who said something along the lines of ‘I never failed, I just found another way not to do it’. My interpretation is, when you fail, chalk it up to experience, and keep on keeping on. Berating yourself isn’t going to make you feel any better, and it distracts you from getting back on track.

5 – Know when you’re done!

One of the things I say in the book is to make your goals measurable – that is, design them so that you’ll know when you’ve done them. If that’s not smoking or drinking it will be easy to see, but if it’s ‘get down to two a day’ that’s good too, just as long as you know what you’re aiming for. If it’s a positive thing you’re trying to do (eg pray regularly) you still need a way to measure it, but don’t go too hard on yourself – I’d suggest four or five days out of seven to start with. The key with resolutions is, don’t set yourself up to fail.

So, there we are! I’m just getting started on what I want to achieve this year. I’d love to know what you decide and how you’re getting on…

*OK, I was asked by three people, which isn’t ‘inundated’ as much as ‘slightly pestered’. But I can dream….

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Now we are out of the chaos of Christmas and the humdrum of the holidays, I’m sitting down to consider my resolutions.

I think resolving to change for the better is an important part of growing up, so I’m a big fan of it. But I personally think that New Years Day is the worst possible day to start new things.

I don’t know about you, but by New Year I’m exhausted. We’ve normally travelled as a family to both sets of grandparents, plus a visit down to London to take part in a day of traditional English morris dancing at a pub (that’s a whole other blog post…!). This year was worse than most, because Cable Guy’s parents have moved to the very end of Cornwall, about ten minutes from Land’s End, which entails spending about six hours in the car each way.

By the time the kids go back to school I’m frazzled. The thought of adding in extra things to do at that point is crazy. I did it for years, and never managed to hang on to my new, shinier life. And these days, by January first I can’t even remember what normal life looks like (and our family life is fairly chaotic at the best of times…). New Year just isn’t clear. Everyday life goes out of the window. And whilst having a week long detox of all things unhealthy feels great whilst I’m doing it, if I really want to make changes that last, they have to fit in with everything else I do. A resolution has to be incorporated into the lives we live every day, not just easy to say on the day after what, for most of us, has been an overindulgent night. The idea that the best time to start better behaviours straight after a week of celebrating (or handling) hoildays is ludicrous.

So here’s what I do. I send the husband off to work and the small people back to school, spend a few days getting on top of the jobs that got left undone whilst away, drink some coffee and do some knitting, and generally give myself a rest. Then, once I feel more at peace and back into the routine of everyday life – that’s when I start changing things in that life. Because unless I figure out a way to fit them all year long, there’s no point in trying to do them at all.

My job this week is to take stock of my life. What was great about last year? How can I keep it great this year? What was pants about last year? Is there anything I can do to improve it this year? What did I achieve last year? What do I want to achieve this year? It’s only when I’ve answered these questions that I can decide exactly what it is I want to change.

I’ll keep you posted….

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Journey from ‘do-it’ to ‘be-it’

New Year’s Resolutions.

We all make them.

Most of us break them.

Only the most dedicated among us last longer than a few weeks before the diet wavers, the gym routine falters, or the odd glass of wine or cigarette creeps in. It’s not long before we are back in our same old ways, doing the same old things, feeling worse than we did before. By February we’re as miserable as the weather.

What’s the problem with resolutions? Why do so many of us struggle to keep them?

I think I’ve finally figured out my basic problem. I forget that resolutions to change are all about behaviour, about what I do. Instead, I set myself targets in the frame of mind that changing what I do will automatically change who I am.

Here’s what I mean.

It starts with a confession: I’m Abbie, and I’m a deadline junkie (all together, “Hi Abbie…”). I always think that I like goals and deadlines. I’ve recently been exploring why this is, because deadlines tend to stress me out and send me right back to the Valium bottle (or the sneaky glass of wine, or the odd cigarette…shhh, don’t tell!). So far this year I’ve had two deadlines to meet, so I’ve tried to use each one to take note of why I thrive on them.

I’m finally figuring out that I set myself goals because when I meet them, I feel good about myself. It’s not that that’s a bad thing in and of itself, but when I rely on it, it doesn’t help me. I manage to stop smoking, lose weight, not shout at the kids, and I get to feel like a better Abbie. I don’t mean like an inherently good person, who has managed to achieve something. I mean a better person because I’ve met goals.

Setting goals makes me feel safe, because I know that my next fix can be just around the corner. Finished a blog post? Quick! Find an article to write for someone! Finished a book? Quick! Time for another proposal – by March at the latest! Finally finished cleaning the oven? Quick! Clear the loft by summer!*

The problem is that even the most complicated tasks don’t last that long in the grand scheme of things, and I soon need another task, another thing, another project to finish in order to get the buzz that comes with being ‘a person who completes things’. Maybe it’s because I’ve started two graduate programmes that I’ve never finished, and have countless books, or articles, or blogposts, or knitting projects, or housework tasks that will probably never be completed. I see myself with a yellow post-it on my forehead: ‘can’t see things through’. It’s not a post-it I like, so my main goal is to find a load of pink and orange and green post-its to cover it up. ‘Author’, ‘mother’, ‘speaker’, ‘knitter’ – whatever my completion target happens to be this week.

So, here’s my resolution. I will aim to not be a goal junkie. I have no idea how this looks yet, but I hope that by New Year’s Eve this year I can look back and see myself not relying on goal completion to feel good about myself. I’m going to chuck out all those post-its and change them for one that says ‘doing alright’. I’m going to try and change my perspective from ‘must do’ to ‘just be’.

* I should probably confess that the oven thing never happens. And things fall out of the loft when I open it, so I tend to leave it. This is a post about goals, not miracles.

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