Tag Archives: achieving goals

7 Tips to Help You Achieve Your Goals in 2013

excited teens by Ambro freedigitalphotos.netIf you’re feeling like “a change would do you good” this year, what specific things would you like in your life to improve? Why has it been tough in the past to improve in that area?

This is the time of year when our New Year’s Resolutions may already start to be forgotten, or get pushed to the side as other more urgent matters come up. A friend of mine made what I thought was the best resolution:  to show more love. I’m sure his wife, kids and friends will be the happy recipients of his efforts and that better relationships will bring that love right back.

Many people have a goal to get more fit or to lose weight, and most of them will fall back into old habits. I read a few years ago that it only takes 21 days to make a new habit second nature. To that end, I got up and got on the treadmill for a workout for three straight weeks. I can tell you on day 22, I did not enjoy the workout any more, nor did I feel like it had become a natural habit. It took a force of my will do continue even a few days a week.

So I don’t believe in gimmicks when it comes to making changes. But I also think more change is possible than you think, in your relationships, skills, your body, your diet, or whatever you are hoping to improve.

As I was preparing this post, I read an article from The Generous Husband called You are going to change. Why choose now? He cites a study that concluded that we change a good deal more over time than we would have predicted. Looking back 10 years, you have probably changed a great deal more than you would have predicted back then. When I think about how different my husband and I were a decade ago, it makes me laugh. And you will probably be more different 10 years from now than you think you will be.  If you’re going to change, hopefully you will move in the right direction on the issues important to you.

Here are a few strategies that have worked well for me:

  1. Have clearly stated goals that are incremental. For example, “I will take my spouse out once a month” might be the first step toward infusing your marriage with more romance.
  2. Have an accountability partner. This is probably the most      important suggestion if you really want to get something done, at least it has worked very well for me. You will check in weekly or monthly with each of your goals and have to report whether or not you have done what you have said you will do. I suggest this partner would not be your spouse, but could be an encouraging friend who has something he or she also wants to achieve. Don’t pick someone who will make excuses right along with you and excuse your lack of effort. Even if you have a month that doesn’t go well, get back to your goals, and help one another get back on track. Celebrate small successes together.
  3. Put it on the schedule. It’s easy to overlook things on the schedule if you don’t have that accountability partner. Only schedule what you really intend to do. “Romantic evening with wife” or “hike with hubby” are things that may not happen if they are not on the calendar.
  4. Give focused time, then rewards. One procrastination expert I’ve read, Rita Emmett, suggests you select one thing to do for one hour. Ignore everything else going on during that hour. Take no breaks during that hour. Then, give yourself a small reward after one hour, such as a cup of coffee or a small break on Facebook. I’ve found this works quite well. We are so easily distracted; turn off email, phones and close your door during that hour.
  5. Make the first step easy. Then take the next step. For example, my friend might stock up on greeting cards or small gifts so he’s prepared to express his love when he has a few minutes. Taking a walk with a friend is an easy way to get started with improved fitness.
  6. Read and think about the issue you are working to improve. If you want a better marriage, read about strong marriages. If you want to lose weight, learn about nutrition and fitness. If you hope to deepen your faith, read the Bible or religious books. If you want a better job, study and practice the skills you will need to move up. If we spend all our complaining time focused on visualizing success, we will see more positive change by the end of 2013.
  7. When you come up short, start again. Don’t let your inner voice speak negatively.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesty of freedigitalphotos.net.

How to Boost Your Willpower, Success in Marriage and Life

Happy Life: Happy Marriage

What would you do differently in your life if you had more willpower? Are there efforts related to your personal health or improvements to your marriage and family life you would make if you could stay on target?

Sometimes it’s easier to get inspired to start something new or to make increased efforts, but it’s hard to continue. For instance, if you decide to do something romantic for your spouse once a week, how long will you continue? Or, if you decide to participate in more physical activities (alone or with your partner or kids), does your enthusiasm quickly wane?

The Greater Good newsletter provides 5 tips for boosting willpower that may lead to more success. My favorite was #5: “Remind yourself WHY you are doing what you are doing, and what you will lose if you give up.” Ask yourself, “Why are you trying to start your new habit or quit your old one? Be honest as you do this; remind yourself what you really want, rather than what you think you should want. For example, I could tell myself, or my neighbors, that I’m exercising more because I want to be a good role model for my children (what I should want). But what I really want even more than that is to fit into my jeans and feel healthy. Research suggests that these less moralistic motives tend to be more effective.”

If you’re trying to make an effort in your marriage, such as to increase the number of positive interactions compared to negative (which should be at least 5:1), or to schedule and prioritize time alone, or to work on improving your communication or sex life, etc., remind yourself frequently what your goal is and what you would lose if you give up (i.e., a better, more intimate relationship).

Read the other four tips here for boosting willpower, and if you have others, please share in the comments. Other ideas include getting enough sleep and curbing alcohol, because lack of sleep and alcohol use can decrease your willpower.

I have read that creating a new habit is the key to willpower, and that 15 days of a new habit is all it takes. So, (years ago) I got up for 15 mornings in a row and exercised. But I have to say on the 16th day, I felt no more desire to exercise than the first. So for me, maybe focusing on why I’m doing something would be more effective.

How does your willpower measure up these days? What goal are you working toward that requires a willpower boost?

Speaking of increasing your happiness, I enjoyed this article on the 15 powerful things that happy people do differently. It’s a meaningful list; check it out.

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Avoid these 5 regrets by living and loving to the fullest

As you set plans and goals for this year, perhaps you seek inspiration about the kind of life you hope to live—one filled with passion and purpose. Let’s hope that life includes a life with awesome relationships to boot.

A palliative care nurse named Bronnie Ware recently wrote about the top five regrets people make on their deathbeds. (See her post here.) They are keen reminders of what’s important, and they have great applications to marriage.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.” Bronnie says this was the most common regret. Have you been honest with yourself about the life you want to lead and the dreams you want to pursue? Talk to your spouse about these dreams, including your dreams for your marriage and family life. Live out your personal values, not those of the culture around you. For example, if travel is important to you, figure out how to scale back your lifestyle to provide more funds and time for adventures, or look for a job abroad so you can travel while getting paid. Follow your dreams while you are still healthy enough to do so.
  2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” Bronnie says all the older men spoke of missing their children’s youth, and men and women also talked of missing their partner’s companionship due to work. We often fall into the trap that work is what we have to do, and family life gets squeezed into the space that is left. But Bronnie suggests, “By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do…you become happier and more open to new opportunities.

 I would add that in addition to simplifying, learning to say no to some things (or even most things) opens doors for the important things. I watched a short interview today by John Acuff (while I was “wasting time” on Facebook) in which he explains why it’s important to let some people down in order to not let down the important ones in our lives. If you don’t have time to pursue all the great things you want to in live, I strongly encourage you to watch it on ABC News.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” The way to have true and meaningful relationships is to be ourselves.
  2. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Married and single people can benefit greatly by keeping strong friendships. Research says social interactions increase our happiness and longevity. Caroline says many of the dying didn’t realize the value in their friendships until their dying weeks when the friendships were lost. What friendships are important for you to cultivate? How do you invest your time and energy into these relationships?  All that remains in the final weeks is love and relationships, says Caroline.
  3. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” While she explains many people on their deathbeds realized too late that happiness was a choice, I think that is equally true for marriage. We can focus on our partner’s great qualities or the things that annoy us. We can think about unmet needs or express gratitude for what we receive in love. We can choose to be happy together, or we can focus on the imperfections that are always a part of human life and love.

What are the choices you are making with your time and your attitude this year? I’ve always thought regrets are the worst possible emotion. What do you hope to feel as you look back on your life, and what are the regrets you hope to avoid?

If you enjoyed this post, sign up for free updates at MarriageGems.com. For information about Lori’s book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage, visit Amazon.com or LoriDLowe.com.

Photo by Ambro courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Where is the Treasure of Your Heart?

The universe conspired to teach me about seeking and finding treasure three times last week while on vacation. I thought I should listen. I am reminded that we all seek some kind of treasure, that we all face formidable obstacles, but that only some of us succeed. I promise, this does have application to marriage, but you’ll have to stay with me…

The first lesson came from a museum in Kansas that featured the recent excavation of a riverboat from 1836. Five untrained men set out on a wild-goose chase, researched and located The Arabia deep under a farmer’s field. (The Missouri River has changed its path significantly since the 1800s.) They had four months during the cold winter to excavate and search for the treasure they hoped would be inside, because come springtime, the farmer needed to plant his crops. One lucky day, they unearthed truckloads of brand new artifacts from the 1800s that were heading west to help new frontiersmen with setting up their new homes—priceless china, heaps of woodworking tools, clothing, jewelry, textiles and more.  Most of the men and their wives doubted they would ever find the steamboat (others had tried), but one day they were drinking from a champagne bottle more than 130 years old. They now run a museum and have published several books about their achievement. Lesson:  Believe that you can succeed even where others have failed.

A few days later, I went on a geode hunting adventure with friends and family at the Fox River in Missouri, hunting for geological treasure. This particular site is renowned for its plentiful 350-million-year-old Keokuk geodes. (If you’re not familiar with geodes, they have a grey, cauliflower exterior and look like regular rocks, but when you cut them open, they have crystalized interiors.) We ran into a geologist and teacher on our trek, searching for fossils in the limestone river walls. My son immediately found a rare fossil—something the geologist had driven 3 ½ hours hoping to find; he eagerly traded my son a geode for it. In a couple of hours, we located more than 50 geodes, including three boulder-sized rocks, and a second coral fossil. We lugged the large buckets and rocks home, and opened our treasures, revealing the sparkling interiors—each one unique. Lesson:  Treasure is there for those who seek it.

On the morning of the geode hunt, our group stopped at a library book sale in Iowa seeking literary treasures. (At $2 for an entire grocery bag of books, you couldn’t go wrong.) One book, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, caught my eye; I felt a compulsion to begin reading it immediately–while the other books got thrown in a bag. The book has sold more than 35 million copies in 67 languages and is a beautiful story of a Spanish shepherd boy who seeks—you guessed it—hidden treasure. Adventure, suspense, and travel are combined with great truths about how humans seek our life’s purpose, how we often give up just short of our goal, how we face innumerable obstacles as we are tested, and how we may ultimately succeed or fail. I loved the story, as well as the lessons.

At one point in the book, readers are tempted to think the protagonist has found romantic love, and that this is his treasure. But the story reminds us that we have a greater life purpose than finding love (although yes, romantic love is a treasure, to be sure).  Love should encourage our life purpose, not hinder it. The story also teaches that treasure is found where you least expect it, but is found only after you complete your personal journey. And it reminded me that where your treasure is, your heart will also be (a biblical reference from the book of Matthew). We must keep our heart focused on what is good and pure and on what helps us fulfill our purpose. Greedy or wandering hearts will not find fulfillment. Fearful or stubborn hearts won’t either.

What does all this philosophical mumbo jumbo have to do with marriage? Good question; I think I may have rambled on a bit. The obvious conclusion is that you and your spouse should encourage and support one another to allow you each to fulfill your life’s purpose. Without this generosity of spirit, we may over time become resentful or feel unfulfilled despite having found love. This anger or resentment or feeling of failure may lead to drifting apart and a loss of intimacy.

As we seek our personal goal or purpose, I am reminded that we all have a long and twisted path, wrought with struggle and pain and, sometimes, even happiness. Yet, each bend or dip in our journey is ultimately necessary to end up at that unexpected place of previously hidden treasure. That’s true in life as it is in marriage, where we often find rocky periods and dark valleys. Many give up just one step before finding success. Others are rewarded, never anticipating the joy that becomes theirs after many decades together. They learn lessons at each point of struggle, and use those lessons to improve and ultimately to succeed. What lessons have you learned that helped you reach your goal or purpose?

What are you seeking out of marriage and life? Do you find it difficult to discern and/or fulfill your purpose? Do you have a goal/vision for your life, or do you find yourself like so many, spinning your wheels and feeling unfulfilled?

(While I recommend The Alchemist, particularly if you are struggling with fulfilling your purpose, I receive no compensation for this recommendation. You can follow the author on Twitter @PauloCoelho.)

Photo Credit: ©Daoud/PhotoXpress.com