#33percentbetter

The last few months have been interesting ones for me–particularly in light of my health goals.  I’ve been slipping and sliding all over the place.  I firmly believe that time is not wasted if we learn something from it, especially if we consistently apply those things that we learn in a way that benefits our future.

As I’ve looked back over the past few months and as I look around at what sometimes feels like chaos in my surroundings that I’m not managing well, this question rises to the surface, “Teresa, if this (picture whatever it is) is what you want your life to be, then why isn’t it?”  You are a smart person.  You are resourceful.  These are not hard things.  Why don’t you JUST DO IT.”

I’ve tossed that question around in my mind a lot of time and even more these past few months.  Why is it so hard to just be what we want to be.  I know that one of my obstacles is that there are so many big improvements that I want to make that it just seems overwhelming.  Changing the way I eat, for instance, doesn’t seem like it should be that big of deal.  You just quit eating things you don’t see as beneficial and start eating things you think are more beneficial.  I decide what I eat.  I don’t ever “accidentally” eat anything.  No one force feeds me.  I have a pretty good outline of what food or food-like items fall on the side of “do eat” or “don’t eat.”  Why is it such a struggle?

And this is only one example.  I could use a lot of other areas of my life for this example (personal finances, physical fitness, personal and professional development, interpersonal relationships, spirituality, continuing education, etc.).  I know what I want….why don’t I JUST DO IT?

I’m a go-getter.  I think anything is possible.  I believe in my ability to accomplish things.  Sometimes this sets me up to fail.  I try to take on too many things all at once.

And this is how #33percentbetter evolved. I was thinking about how hard it is to change everything at once, when it occurred to me that changing just one meal per day is a 33% improvement in my diet. Thirty-three percent is nothing to scoff at.   If I made a change at my job that netted me a 33% gain in productivity or a 33% increase, I’d be all sorts of happy. So, I’ve been making an effort to change at least one meal per day. And I have to say, folks.  It’s working.  I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and I’ve noticed a few things.  On the days that I make my 33% better choice as the first meal of the day, I am way more likely to end the day having actually done 66% better.  WOW! That is a lot. I’ve also noted that while I still may be eating things that I wouldn’t consider to be “better,” the choices I make during the other 66% are less bad choices than I was making before.

It is still a struggle at times, but I’m seeing progress. It’s nothing miraculous. I haven’t lost a ton of weight. I do, however, feel better. I feel better physically. I feel better about myself for making a change.  THIS IS DOABLE PEOPLE!!

So, if you would like to join me in my quest to eat at least 33% better today than I did yesterday I would be thrilled.  Take a picture of your meal that is the 33% and share it on social media with the hashtag #33percentbetter.  I’d love to support you as you try to make a change for the better.

33percentbetter

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year? You might be wondering why I’m an entire month late with my well-wishes for a joyous new year. Well…..because I know myself.  I started the year out with such high hopes for hitting the ground running and setting some new and amazing goals for 2017.  I was going to pray, read my scriptures, attend the temple weekly, exercise twice per day, eat a perfect diet, take amazing pictures every day, be the best darned financial officer the university will ever see, refinish furniture like a pro, be a fabulous friend-aunt-sister-daughter-friend-neighbor-visiting teacher-stranger at the grocery store, budget planning, debt repaying, poetry writing, business building, man-of-my dreams-finding, weight losing, house cleaning super hero.

Like I said, I know me. I have a hopeful attitude and anticipate that I can accomplish anything and everything that I set my mind to. However, I generally find myself thinking that I can accomplish all of these things simultaneously and I have a short attention span. Have you seen the animated movie, “Up?” Do you know the cute dog in the movie, Dug?   Dug is happy and optimistic, loves everyone and wants to please everyone. Dug is easily distracted and will frequently get part way through expressing himself or accomplishing a task and he is very apparently distracted by what he thinks might a squirrel.  I am that dog. I get all excited and wag my tail about over so many things, only to drop what I’m doing and chase the phantom squirrel.

So I wrote up a plan for all of those wonderful things I wanted to do and let it sink in for a few days. Then I drafted a vision board. I know…..fancy! While I had pared the goals down quite a bit, the vision board was still, well, a tad bit overwhelming. Well, that is not quite accurate. It was very overwhelming and it seemed impossible to complete.

Here’s the one I made up to replace it.

vision-board-basic

Just kidding. That’s what I’ve been doing.  This, however, is my new vision board. I’ve been reading a new book called “The 12-Week Year.” I haven’t finished it yet, but it talks about how a year is too long to really stay focused on our goals–twelve weeks being the optimal time.  I will review the book in a future post.  These are my goals for the next twelve weeks (Starting February 1).vision-board-2I’m excited about these goals.  They seem reasonable to accomplish in the twelve week period, yet challenging enough that I will need to exert some effort.  I’ll break these down in more detail in future posts.  I’m especially excited about the Mirror Project–which is my only over-arching year-long goal. It is the one thing that I have been working on this month and I can already see some progress.

How do you approach goal setting? Do you do New Year Resolutions? I’d love to explore new ways of setting goals and hear about your experiences.

Clarity

I haven’t been posting regularly. I think I fell back into that comfortable hole where I’m constantly trying to fix what I think is broken–and fix all of it simultaneously–which, seriously? The thought alone is exhausting. That is not what I want this blog to be consumed with. Yes, there will be some fixing, of sorts.But I want it to be more about triumph and discovery and being open and optimistic about my future.

However, I’m tired of looking at my life and feeling like I’m broken. Like the only visible things are the flaws. Because, quite frankly, I am so much more than the things that I or society see as broken. I don’t want this space to be full of sadness, and remorse, and self-flagellation. Although….there will be some of that.

What I want for this space, and for my life, is to shed the things that are holding me back (aforementioned “flaws”) and to embrace the good, to push the boundaries I have set because of fear and feeling flawed, and live fully–enjoy the second half of my life in a way that I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy the past.

The other day, I was scrolling through facebook before bed and came across the following quote from Brene Brown (I love her work!). And my heart said  YES! THIS! This is what my intent is.

”I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.”  ~ Brené Brown

Being vulnerable and shedding the armor that has “protected” me thus far will not be easy. Things may seem a bit dark here from time to time. It is my hope that I can do this and that I can do it with lightness and love and an optimistic spirit.

 

Finding That Fine Line

Remember how I wrote a few weeks back about my grand scheme to complete the wellness challenge from work and collect my $$….even though I was starting late. Like really really late?

Well….way too ambitious goal.

But a very familiar pattern.

I have a hard time finding that sweet spot between setting an ambitious goal and doing something that is reasonably achievable.  I believe in aiming high. I am the definition of gung-ho. But then reality sets in and all I end up accomplishing is exhaustion.

I realize that more important that doing something extraordinary is doing something consistently.

How do I find that middle-of-the road spot where I’m challenged and stretching but not setting myself up for failure and disappointment? Help!

Be Where Your Feet Are

feet

One of my favorite features on facebook is the “on this day” in history feature. You know–its the one that reminds you of what you posted on the same date in years gone by.  Last week, I had a quote that I had posted last year show up and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  The quote is:

“I remind myself to ‘be where my feet are’ often. My mind tends to drift toward the future, sometimes planning or worrying about what lies ahead, missing the present. Being present is where life is the most rich and colorful. I’ve even found myself consciously feeling the soles of my feet on the ground to get myself there.” —-Artist, Cassandra Barney

It seems that lately I’ve been thinking a lot about being in the present. Part of that stems from simply having so many things that I want to do, learn, or need to get done. It is habitual for me to be thinking about the next thing or planning for what I need to do tomorrow. Part of the time I’m remembering things from the past–particularly mistakes or things I wish I had done differently.  Often, I trade this convenience for being fully present in the now. Lately I’ve been rethinking all things related to how much time I spend in the past and in the future. There are benefits to both as long as the time is moderate and as long as they aren’t a replacement for being in the present.

There are circumstances in my life that bring this home and make it very real for me. I have a loved one who has dementia and I never know whether or not she will know who I am–which makes me know and understand the importance of being really present in the moment. We can be having a fabulous conversation–one where I think that it seems like two years ago when I was less aware of her memory lapses–and then suddenly she fades away and I’m left wishing that I had given her my full attention when she–the real her–was really there. Even when “the real her” isn’t there, it is so important for me to be present with her in the moment now. I don’t want to regret not taking advantage of these times together because I know they won’t last.

And this isn’t the only situation wherein I feel the urgency to be present. Fifteen months ago it seemed like things were moving along at a pretty good clip for me and my family. However, looking back over the past 15 months, I can see that they have been among the most trying of my life and the lives of my family members.  We were just starting to see consistent memory and cognitive decline in the family member I mentioned earlier. Since that time, my youngest brother was diagnosed with and undergone treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, my uncle passed away, and the formerly mentioned family member underwent multiple surgeries for a hip replacement, throwing her declining memory off the cliff. It’s been a rough year. I’ve been so much more aware of how fleeting our lives our. The status quo can change at any time.

This afternoon I found myself sitting in my car, crying. I had just read the sweetest facebook post from my youngest brother to his wife wishing her a happy anniversary and explaining how he wouldn’t have been able to make it through the trials of this past year without her by his side. Even now, writing this, I’m crying–mostly because I haven’t really allowed myself to cry a whole lot over the past fifteen months. I was too concerned with getting to the next thing.I didn’t want to take time to really let it all sink in because I was afraid that once the flood gates were open I wouldn’t be able to get them closed again.

So even though it was uncomfortable and I felt a bit silly, I let myself sit there in that car in the parking terrace and sob for a few minutes. I allowed myself to just be there in the moment. With myself. With my grief. With my gratitude. And cry.

I’m glad I did. I’m hopeful that I will take advantage of opportunities I have to forget yesterday for a few minutes, not worry about tomorrow, put down my smart phone and just be with the people and the things that are with me in the here and now.

When I’m Old and Grey

Last week I bit the bullet and met with a retirement counselor from the pension plan that my employer pays into. It’s not that I plan on retiring right away…..it’s just that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I’m all “middle-aged” and such and thought it would probably be a good idea to find out what my options are.

I am happy to say that I have options. Unless something goes totally off the rails, I should be pretty well taken care of in my old age (thanks to having started my retirement funding at age 20).  Given the length of time working for this employer, my options are attractive.

This has me thinking a lot about the budgeting/debt-reducing changes that I want to make with my life. I have some serious debt as I’ve mentioned before. This visit to the retirement counselor has me even more focused on paying off that debt, having a paid for residence, and having some $$ socked away in savings.  It also has me thinking about some of my hobbies and talents and how I might possibly be able to spend more time doing some things I love in a way that would provide me with a bit of additional income for debt repayment or paying off the house or traveling the world or sharing the wealth with causes that have meaning to me.

I am excited. It is looking like life really does begin in the middle.

Wellness Matters

I have a great job. I enjoy my work a lot. I must. I’ve been employed by the same employer for 27.5 years. One of the things I like about working where I do is that I have fabulous benefits. My employer really invests in providing employees and their families with good and reasonably priced health care, a reduced-price education program, on-site wellness programs and many other benefits.

In recent years, they have had a wellness program in place that requires some health and wellness markers be met and when they are a monetary reward is earned. I didn’t participate last year. This year as the time rolled around for sign up in the wellness program, I contemplated whether or not I should participate. It is just challenging enough to be meaningful, but reasonable if one gets in and participates on a consistent basis.

But I know myself. How many times have I started something with great aspirations, knowing full-well that it was an unrealistic target for me? And how many times when that happened have I used it as evidence that I am inadequate? The answer is many.

I considered the requirements and my fitness goals and decided to sign up. Shortly thereafter the band for my fitness tracker broke. I set it aside thinking that I’d get it fixed or buy a replacement soon. It never happened. Earlier this week I had a moment where I realized that I was letting myself down. I was setting myself up to beat myself up later. Its a familiar pattern and one that I would like to overcome.

It will be a rough uphill battle, but I ordered a replacement band for my fitness tracker and I’m going to do my best to meet this goal.  Here is what I need to do:

    • Walk at least 600,000 steps. Steps must be tracked using fitbit, pedometer or any other tracking device.
    • Complete a confidential general health assessment on my health insurance provider’s website.
    • Earn at least 100 points in each of three different categories.
      • Live Well–This category includes activities designed to get you moving such as attending exercise classes. This category also emphasizes the importance of seeking appropriate healthcare such as your age appropriate health screenings.
        • My choice for this category:  Attend the Employee Wellness Center, or any local gym, community center or rec. center 24 times between September 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016. For non-employer facilities please submit an attendance log from your gym. Most gyms will gladly print this out at the front desk.
      • Work Well–This category includes activities that are designed to help you become a more balanced and productive employee. Stress management videos and financial management consultations are examples of activities in the Work Well category.
        • Meet with your financial advisor to discuss your financial future. Financial advisor can be from any institution that you choose. You do not have to meet with the advisors available through the USU benefits program. (I already did this–just today–future post on this in the future.)
      • Be Well–This category emphasizes the importance of being well-adjusted and balanced individual. This category emphasizes the importance of building solid positive relationships and enjoying your time with others. Service and giving back are also important elements of the Be Well category.
        • Getting enough sleep does wonders not only for our physical health but also our mental health. Try to average 7 hours of sleep for 3 weeks and feel the difference a little shut eye makes! Track your sleep via fitbit or other device or simply track using an excel sheet.

So there you have it. I have a lot of steps to walk in less that two months. It’s a huge goal. I’m not sure how possible it is, but I’m going to do my best reach it. Wish me luck.

Money Matters

I mentioned in my inaugural post that I’m in debt. I didn’t say how much, but I’ll come clean….its nearly $45K (not counting my house). Seriously–a ridiculous amount, especially when I make plenty for my needs. I’ve just not made being a good steward of my financial resources a priority.

One of my big “turn-my-life-around” goals is to get a handle on this, pay it off, save for emergencies and for retirement.

I’ve done a lot of research about different methods for approaching this situation. I’ve taken Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey a few times, but never made it a priority. I am recommitting. I already have Baby Step 1 conquered (savings of $1K). However, I have still been using my credit cards. I know myself. I know that it takes me time to really commit to something, so I’m not going to beat myself up about this. So here’s the plan:

  • I didn’t set up a November budget. This weekend I’ll go through my account and get a budget for the rest of the month completed.
  • I will go through all of my auto payments that are coming out of credit card and get them switched over to my debit card.
  • I have already set up an amortization schedule for all of my debt that includes information on the interest and set up an anticipated pay-off plan. If I pay minimums with an additional $200 per month, I can have this debt paid off in 3 years and 1 month.
  • I will start to identify areas where I can trim the budget and put more funds towards payment of debt so I can hopefully pay it off sooner.

I am really excited to move this up the priority chain. I’m meeting with a retirement counselor tomorrow–not with the anticipation of retiring soon, but with the anticipation of seeing what my retirement picture looks like right now in order to make a plan so that when my debts are paid off I can start saving more for retirement.

Do you have any great strategies for saving money? What are your biggest struggles surrounding money, debt or savings?

For What Will You Cast Your Vote

vote

It’s election day here in the USA. It has me thinking a lot about what a privilege it is to have the right and the opportunity to cast a vote. I get to express what I believe in and who I support by casting my vote.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a vote is. Dictionary.com defines “vote” (verb; without an object) as, “to express or signify will or choice in a matter.”

In reality, we get a chance to vote multiple times every day by our words and our actions, thereby signifying what we value. When we purchase a particular item, we are, in essence, voting for that item and/or showing support for the vendor or manufacturer. We vote daily by how we spend our time. By spending an hour with a friend we are showing that we value that relationship over the other things that were vying for that time. We may profess to value health and fitness, and yet “vote” for delicious cookies and sitting on the couch instead. We vote every day by the words we say to each other and how we treat those we come in contact with. We “vote” or validate that person or their actions by how we act towards them.

This has me thinking about how I vote every day with my time, with my money, with my words. Are my “votes” in those areas accurately reflecting my core values? Could someone watch me throughout the course of the day and say, based on how I use my vote,

  • “I know that Teresa values the people in her life.”
  • “I know that Teresa values her health and fitness.”
  • “Teresa clearly believes in eating foods that nourish her body.”
  • “I can see that family is a priority to Teresa.”
  • “It is clear that Teresa loves Jesus.”
  • “It is clear that Teresa believes in being a good steward of her financial resources.”
  • “Teresa really values the talents she has been blessed with.”

I’m going to challenge myself to be more aware of what I’m voting for with my daily actions. I don’t think that my current actions clearly identify what my values are. Which makes me ask myself whether or not I have a clear and concise understanding of what my core values are and how they related to what I do every day.

These are all questions I hope to flesh out as we move forward.  Happy election day! May the odds be ever in your favor!

I like to read…

I like to read. I really do. But I’m not a good candidate for most book clubs. My preferred reading materials includes a novel here and there, but leans heavily toward books that would be considered self-help, non-fiction, or philosophy. I love thinking about ways to improve my life and I tend to pick out books that are considered more of a professional or personal development ilk.

I’ve recently discovered audio books. I love Audible! Its a bit of a mixed bag as I usually like to highlight and make notes in my books and that is hard to do when driving down the road. I’ve loved listening to something that makes me think while I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, etc.

Here’s just a sample of what I’ve read/listened to the past year:

  • The Power of Starting Something Stupid, Richie Norton
  • Start with Why, Simon Sinek
  • Rising Strong, Brene Brown
    • honestly, I’ve listened to this one 3 times
  • The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
  • The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy
  • The Power of Habit, Charles Duhig
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Dale Carnegie
  • Retire Inspired, Chris Hogan
  • The Legacy Journey, Dave Ramsey
  • EntreLeadership, Dave Ramsey
  • Eat That Frog!, Tracy
  • Love Your Life, Not Theirs, Rachel Cruze
  • Currently working on: The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks

What have you been reading? Do you have any recommendations? I’m even open for a good novel.  In fact, a novel next would be a good change of pace.