It’s often said that New Orleans has two New Years – the actual first day of the year, January 1 and then again on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent after about a month of revelry leading up to Mardi Gras festivities. For those of us with children, there’s a third New Year each fall when the school buses start rolling and New Orleans traffic gets a bit heavier.
After the long, lazy days of summer – filled with travel, camp, art projects and late bedtimes – the ring of the school bell often inspires a new routine. Morning routines, bedtime rituals and extracurricular schedules keep everyone on track, and change slightly each year as kids grow and are able to take on more responsibility.
By the time this fresh copy of Lagniappe is in your hands, we’ll be a few months into the fall school semester. But, have no fear – it’s never too late to consider the possibility of introducing routines and healthy habits into your life, and the best day to begin is today.
Even if you don’t have school-aged children, the crisp temperatures and changing leaves create a perfect backdrop for hitting the reset button and establishing new habits and routines prior to the beginning of a new calendar year.
There are a number of themes that one can pursue in the quest for self-improvement this fall. Practicing regular mindfulness meditation, changing up your fitness routine (turn to page 16 to read more about swimming as an option) or becoming more involved in the community are all worthy goals. You could even consider beginning a daily or monthly gratitude practice (learn more about cultivating gratitude on page 27).
Make a List
Get out your favorite notebook and jot down a brainstorm list of all the new things you’d like to do. Whether it’s “become a morning person” or “eat healthier,” putting your ideas in writing helps you visualize yourself reaching your goals.
Narrow it Down
The American Psychological Association tells us that many people become overwhelmed when attempting to make several big changes at once. Choose one or two new habits from your list to work toward. Once you master those, considering adding another.
Be Kind to Yourself
Missed a day at the gym? Ate a giant piece of cake for breakfast? Pondered the latest episode of The Bachelor during your morning mindfulness meditation? Cut yourself some slack. No one is perfect, and we all have occasional lapses. Give yourself some grace and try again tomorrow.
Celebrate Small Wins
Each time you reach a milestone with your new goal or habit, take a moment to celebrate in a small way. Recognizing a small achievement on the path to reaching your larger goal motivates you to keep moving forward in pursuit. Not to mention that celebrating incremental progress releases small amounts of the feel-good, motivational chemical dopamine that pushes you to keep striving.
Now that summer seersucker has given way to fall flannel, we also begin to think about the fast approaching New Year. Once we clear the Thanksgiving table, it’s full speed ahead during the month of December, barreling toward Christmas and Hanukkah celebrations, family gatherings, school programs and a sleigh’s worth of holiday parties. Don’t wait until 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2017 to begin thinking about what you hope to accomplish in 2018.
Set Goals, Not Resolutions
A few years ago, I completely gave up setting New Year’s resolutions and haven’t looked back. Taking time to set actionable, measurable goals can be much more fruitful than a simple list of resolutions. Not sure where to begin? Check out the PowerSheets intentional goal planner or find a multitude of printable planning worksheets by doing a quick search for “goal setting worksheet” on Pinterest.
Prep Your Planner
Pick up a pretty planner and a package of colorful pens and set aside some time to ready your date book for 2018. Add important dates throughout the year, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and pencil in reminders to buy gifts or send cards. Jot down the deadlines and milestones for reaching your goals. If you prefer to go paperless and keep your appointments in the cloud, double check to make sure that key activities from this past year are set to recur in 2018.
Find a Buddy
In Gretchen Rubin’s book on habits, Better Than Before, she outlines the Strategy of Accountability. Talk with a family member, friend or coworker about your goals, and ask someone to be your accountability partner. As accountability partners, you and your buddy can coach each other and encourage one another to stay committed to your goals.
To learn more about goal setting and habit forming, check out the following resources:
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Rubin defines the four types of decision makers and the various strategies and loopholes that can be used to create and stick to habits.
PowerSheets Goal Planner by Lara Casey
Casey’s PowerSheets is a workbook designed to help you dig deep into what matters most to you, set actionable goals, track your progress and make adjustments along the way.
Design Your Day by Claire Diaz Ortiz
Ortiz executes her morning routine using the PRESENT method, and provides additional tips for planning your perfect day.