2011, 21 days at a time

21Editor’s Note: Happy New Year WAF! I took a couple of weeks off but I’m back in front of the old laptop (nope, didn’t get a new one for Christmas) ready to hear and share a new crop of stories from women at forty. What are your big plans for 2011? I’ve decided to write my plans in pencil, starting with my plan not to make resolutions. Sort of…

It’s taken me 40 years but this year, for the first time ever, I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions. Why? Because as far back as I can remember making them, I remember breaking them. Every one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I have made significant changes in my life over the years but very few of them, if any, came as a result of something I wrote on a piece of paper on December 31st.

That said, the start of a new year is a great time to take a life inventory, so I’m not knocking resolutions entirely. I’ve just decided to handle them a little differently.

For starters, no more sweeping declarations about what I am and am not going to do…blah…blah…blah. If I learned one thing in 2010 it was that the plans we often have for our lives, are just that – plans. Reality usually takes us in a completely different direction. So this year I’m taking advice from an unlikely source, Jon Bon Jovi, who says, “Map out your future, but do it in pencil.”

I’m still working on making changes, but instead of, for example, trying to launch a non-profit in 30 days whose mission is to feed the entire homeless population of Atlanta, I’m starting smaller – a lot smaller – and a bit more realistic – volunteering at my local food-bank once a month. Trust me, setting realistic goals, even when the goals are altruistic, will save you the self-hatred and guilt that comes when you inevitably fail at changing the world in 30 days or less.

I’m also approaching some of my goals in bite-size pieces. For years researchers have held that it takes 21 days to break and/or form habits. Research done in 2009 suggests it may take as long as 66 days. Whether you adhere to the 21 day rule or subscribe to the 66ers, both periods of time are a lot less than 352 days. When most of us think about stopping bad habits or starting good ones, we think “I can’t see myself doing this FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!” But maybe we can do it for 21 days? And then another 21? That’s the route I’m taking in 2011. Here are a few of the small, but important changes I’m taking on 21 days at a time…

  • Eating dinner at the table and not in front of the television. I’m also not allowed to be on the phone or internet while I eat.  Just me, my food and my thoughts. This ought to be interesting.
  • Unplugging electrical items overnight and when not in use to conserve energy and do something (albeit small) to reduce my carbon footprint.
  • Not complaining. About anything. At all. (This might be the hardest one)
  • Doing one thing each day that makes me nervous. Today it’s making a business call.

Nothing major or particularly life changing in and of itself, but over the course of a year, who knows. As the year progresses I hope to up the ante, adding more difficult 21 day challenges to my list, but the point is to take 2011 on, 21 days at a time.

What changes – big or small – are you willing to take on 21 days at a time? Share your plans in the comment section or on our Facebook Fan Page.

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  • Excellent, provocative post! I have the worst follow-through and can’t remember the last time I’ve actually completed an important project. I’ll take your wonderful advice to heart and try to remember the tiny steps. I’m not even gonna promise to finish any if them, but if I can learn to finish even one, maybe others will follow. Thanks for this and happy new year.

  • awesome! keep up the great-ness!

  • editor

    Thanks for the encouragement Erica and Happy New Year to you too!

  • editor

    Thanks Chrissy, and Happy New Year!