Starting Small

Many of us have goals we want to achieve that seem big, intimidating, maybe even impossible. We don’t know how to make them come true because they’re so incredibly big that we can’t figure out how to actualize them.

But what would happen if we broke them down into smaller pieces? What if we tried to just tackle one small bit at a time until we conquer the whole thing?

Imagine what would happen if we just decide to start somewhere, anywhere, just for the sake of getting started and making a dent. Instead of fretting over whether we’re choosing the right entry point, we take a jump right into the mess and choose to work through it, little by little, because we know that even though it won’t be perfect, it’s better than standing paralyzed at the start line.

Today I read a post by Ruth Soukup from Living Well Spending Less about how to crush your goals, and it reminded me of some truths I had forgotten about pursuing accomplishments.

I’m learning that I need to write my goals down. In the midst of the craziness and busyness of life, I forget things. If I don’t write them down, they’re almost guaranteed to get lost in the chaos. On the other hand, if I write something down and put it somewhere I can see it often, I am frequently reminded of what I’m aiming for and can act accordingly.

I also know that I need to continue reminding myself why I’m pursuing my goals. It’s so easy to think certain tasks can wait or aren’t important in comparison to others, letting myself fall back into bad habits instead of challenging them. But if I remember why I want to make changes, I’m more likely to stick to them.

For instance, getting up early to workout isn’t necessarily the most fun thing, especially in the winter when my bed is far warmer than the air on the other side of the covers. But when I tell myself that I will feel better, be more energized, get stronger, and be more ready for the day, I can more easily get up and lace up my shoes.

Seeing everything through to completion is key. When we moved into our new place on Monday (more to come about that later!), I was at a loss about where to begin. We had boxes piled up everywhere (I mean everywhere), and it was nearly impossible to know where to begin. I started on one task only to get pulled toward another twenty minutes later, starting a pattern that kept repeating itself, leaving a slew of half-finished projects in my wake. Only when I realized how inefficient that cycle was did I stop myself and focus on one task at a time. I unpacked the dishes, put things away in the front closet, and assembled the laundry sorter one at a time only by thinking about one of them at a time.

Proper Proportions

I’m gradually learning what a proper portion size is for me in terms of food. I had a problem as a kid of eating excessively, to the point of being uncomfortably stuffed, especially when it came to things like buffets. Recently I’ve been having issues curbing my snacking habits, once again eating beyond where my stopping point should be.

In my endeavors to rest, I’ve also begun to consider what the right proportions for activity in my life might be as well. When I have a little taste of something good, I want as much of it as I can possibly take, without recognizing fullness. I have a tendency to overfill my calendar the same way I overfill my plate, and just like overeating, over-committing myself leaves me at less than my best.

In order to feel good, I need to fuel my body properly. I need the nutrients in food, but too much of a good thing is just going to cause me to get sick. In a similar vein, I need to feed my relationships and give them the time and attention they need, but stuffing my schedule with too many things, even good things, will leave me feeling unsettled.

As is the case with food, finding the right level of activity requires some introspection and self-inventory. It means I have to ask myself what I currently need– do I desperately need a night to rest? Do I need to have my spirits lifted by the encouragement and company of friends? Do I need to try something new, branch out, or step outside of my comfort zone?

Certainly, unexpected things come up, friends make last-minute invitations, and the unpredictable weather can wreak havoc on even the most carefully-laid plans. But when faced with a multitude of opportunities and open doors, we have the power to choose what we invest our time in. We can take life a season at a time, recognizing that different things will need to take priority for a while as needs arise. But we have to be intentional in this prioritizing, or we will likely get overwhelmed by the seemingly elevated importance of everything.

In order to retain some shred of our sanity and ensure we have enough time to rest in the midst of our busy lives, we need to consider how we are filling up our lives. Are they filled mostly with work? Dominated by family time? Wasted in front of the computer and television? Only sprinkled with time spent alone with Jesus? And the most important question: what kinds of proportions do you want the different aspects of your life to have? What do you need to change?

For me, this requires some planning. I plan time for my exercise, including it on my calendar so that I know it will happen regardless of how tired I might be when I wake up in the morning. I carve out time to spend with Jesus because I know I will be an irritable mess if I don’t. I plan out chunks of time to spend by myself to recharge, whether that looks like a Friday night of chick flicks, chocolate, and nail polish, a Saturday morning of curling up with a good book on the couch, or a Sunday afternoon of cooking new recipes. And I try to mix in time with friends and family, through dinners, service opportunities, game nights, and girls’ nights, to stay connected to those closest to me and avoid being a complete hermit.

Admittedly, I am still in the process of making adjustments to try to achieve balance, but this whole thing is a work in progress, and having even a loose plan give me enough structure to keep things balanced and relax knowing I’m going to get a little bit of everything fit in.

How do you try to keep everything in your life properly proportioned? Do you have any successes in that area that you could share? I’d love to hear them!

Routines & Ruts

I LOVE routine. While I admittedly would like to be more adventurous, I love the familiarity and predictability of having some routines in my life. Routines give me stability. They help me get things done. They prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks. They ensure that the important things get prioritized and the trivial things get automated to leave me with enough energy for the important things.

For instance, every night, I take time to pack breakfast and lunch for the following day. This saves me precious time in the morning, because, let’s face it, I don’t want to get up any earlier than I already do. For the same reason, I set out clothes at night for the next day (or several outfits on Sunday night for the upcoming week). I am not as creative or thoughtful when putting outfits together in the morning in my sleepy state, so this also adds the benefit of being able to put together better combinations.

Another routine I have created for myself is a workout routine. I designate certain days as video workout days, and get up at the same time, exercising for the same length of time, in the same place. I do mix up the workout videos I use, but I gravitate toward only a few channels and have some favorite videos that I do often. I created playlists with videos that target different areas so that I can quickly select videos I know I like, saving me valuable time searching for them in the morning.

Of course, over-reliance upon routines can lead to getting stuck in a rut. It’s really easy to go through life on autopilot when you have routines set up to make things more efficient. Last year, when I was running the same route twice every week, I quickly got bored with it, and I felt unchallenged by it. Since then, I have found that mixing up my workouts (devoting different days to different focus areas, running different routes, etc.) is better for me than doing the exact same thing all the time. It requires more attention, involving more brain activity, and it keeps me more engaged in the activity, since I can’t just follow along with absentminded muscle memory. Different videos use different exercises and movements, continually challenging my body in different ways.

I have found the same to be true in my spiritual life. It’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine: devotional book, Scripture, prayer. That’s been my routine for a while now. But then I realized that I don’t approach any of my other relationships with such rigidity. Why should my relationship with my Heavenly Father be that way? Today I’m choosing to break out of my stuffy routine and approach my Father, my Lord, with reverence, but also with joy, basking in His Presence. I certainly will continue to read from devotional books, study the Bible, and spend time in prayer, but not in a fashion that makes each step seem like a task to check off before I resume the rest of my day. I want to be more fully involved in my time spent with Him, and fully engaged in life in general. So even though routines help me make better use of my time, I’m learning to be careful to avoid relying on them too heavily, lest I go through life completely on autopilot.

What steps will you take to create a routine to make your life simpler? In what ways might your routines be keeping you from moving forward, challenging yourself, or fully engaging?