Author Archives: Hope

What We Ate Last Week!

Good nutrition plays such a huge role in a healthy body and mind. And my job revolves largely around helping my clients promote good health in their lives through things likeย meal planning, learning to read nutritional labels, choosing healthy foods at the grocery store, making healthy choices at restaurants, knowing which ingredients to avoid, the list goes on and on.

During sessions with my clients, I’m frequently asked, “So, what do YOU eat? What kinds of meals do you cook at home?” I love giving my clients ideas for simple, healthy meals that can be prepped in 30 minutes or less. Even though I love to cook and relish the idea of having hours in the kitchen to make everything from scratch and present a 4-course meal to my husband every night, the reality is that I don’t have time for that. And neither do most of my clients and friends. We need meals that are easily prepped, quickly prepared, and ready to be served ASAP. Most of us have busy, hectic schedules and dinner needs to be simple and easy.

healthy-eating-ecardAlthough the ideal is that everything would be homemade, with no prepackaged foods, and only organic, locally grown produce, the reality is that most people don’t have the time – or the money – for that. Sometimes heating up a bag of frozen green beans is the only way we’ll get our veggies in at dinner. I’ve learned over several years of being a Holistic Health Coach that if I give my clients complicated recipes that call for weird ingredients and take an hour to pull together, they’ll just end up driving through McDonald’s instead.ย  ๐Ÿ˜›

For most people to invest in cooking healthy meals, they need to be as healthy as possible while still being as SIMPLE as possible, which is where I come in. ๐Ÿ™‚ My goal is to provide my clients with recipes that are as healthy as possible, while also ensuring that they (and their kids, which is often the real challenge) will be willing to eat the foods involved.

I thought it’d be fun to do a weekly post on here about the meals that my hubby and I are eating each week! Hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration for those who are looking for healthy meal ideas.

I haven’t done my meal plan for this week yet, so here’s a look at what we ate last week, instead:

WHAT WE ATE LAST WEEK:

Monday: leftovers from the weekend!
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Tuesday:
Crock Pot Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
– this is one of Rob’s favorite recipes that I make, so we eat this pretty often! ๐Ÿ™‚ I always use drumsticks instead of wings, though (our personal preference).
– I made a pot of rice with this and some sauteed green beans for our veggie!

Wednesday: Trader Joe’s Shitake Mushroom Chicken
– about once a week we have a night where we need a super quick meal and I don’t have time to cook much of anything. Our go-to for those nights is Trader Joe’s frozen section! This was our first time trying this particular entree and it was delicious!ย We had leftover rice from the night before and ate that with the stir-fry.

Thursday: leftovers!lemon-chicken-veggies-1

Friday: Lemon Chicken with Veggies
– first time trying this recipe too, and it was delicious!
– I didn’t have room in my pan for everything, so I roasted the potatoes in a separate pan with just some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (our favorite way to eat potatoes!)

Saturday: out for dinner (at a friend’s adorable gender-reveal party with aย Pasta House buffet!)

I’ll be back soon with a post sharing my favorite resources for healthy, easy recipes!
Time to get a meal plan going for this new week! Enjoy your Sunday, friends! ๐Ÿ™‚

Lessons from the First 4 Months of Motherhood

Motherhood is sure stretching and growing me in many ways. I’m only 4.5 months in, so I’m a total newbie still, but if there’s one lesson that stands out in my mind so far, it would be this:

You are not in control.

Ha. Any mom who is reading this right now is probably chuckling and nodding her head. ย I sat next to a really sweet lady at church a few weeks ago and we got chatting about our kids. Hers were several years older than mine and she asked how I was adjusting to life with a baby. I said, “Well, it’s definitely teaching me that I’m really not in control!” She laughed and said, “Honey, control is an illusion. None of us are ever in control.”

So. True.
But before having a baby, I definitely lived under that illusion at times. Okay, most of the time.
My life was so orderly, running like a well-oiled machine (for the most part). And there’s nothing like having a baby to teach a Type-A, schedule-loving, extremely organized person that life will be so much betterimg_2379 if you just let go of trying to be in control!

You realize as a mom that everything is flexible. I used to hate that word!! ๐Ÿ˜› Now it is my lifesaver and my mantra.

Want to meet for coffee? Ok, I’ll be there around 10:30. Oops, baby had a diaper blowout…be there at 11! ย Need to run to the grocery store? Wait, she’s falling asleep so I think we’ll just go after nap-time. Babies are great at helping us crazy Type-As learn to just go with the flow. ๐Ÿ™‚ It wasn’t an easy transition for me, but I’m slowly getting more used to it and becoming more…dare I say it, flexible. ย ๐Ÿ˜‰ ย let-go-of-control

Because I’ve always been a timely person who hardly ever cancels on anyone and hates to make changes to the original plan, I feel horrible when I have to reschedule or arrive late to a coffee date with a friend. It doesn’t happen too often any more (I’ve learned to build in a 20 minute buffer to get out the door, haha!) but when it does I always apologize profusely and struggle not to feel like an awful person for keeping someone waiting. Did I mention I also have a perfectionist side? I’ve also been learning a lot about being okay with imperfection in my life. (Not that I ever thought I was perfect, but I definitely tried to be.) ย I think I need to re-read the book The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. My counselor recommended that to me during my recovery from anorexia, and it was very instrumental in my healing. Anorexics are notorious for being perfectionists, and I was definitely not the exception.

Speaking of imperfection, motherhood has helped me be okay with an imperfect house too! While I still maintain a pretty clean home and keep up with the dishes and laundry for the most part, I’ve loosened the reigns a lot when it comes to dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathrooms. I realized one day that my friends would still love me and come over to hang out even if my coffee table was dusty and my bathroom hadn’t seen Windex in a couple weeks time. Imagine that.

All of this to say, I’m really grateful for these lessons that motherhood is teaching me so far. I’ve got a long ways to go, but my other favorite mantra in this stage of life is “one day at a time” so I’m just going to keep chugging along. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not only is this little cutie an amazing joy and blessing, but she’s teaching me so much every single day. I’m really thankful for this mama life. ย โค

Favorites of Fall with Lydia

I’ve loved this Fall season with our little girl! Once she hit the 3-month mark, she became so alert, interactive, and responsive to the things around her, which makes everything more fun!!

We went to the pumpkin patch with my family one evening and she was fascinated at all the people and pumpkins.
After picking out some fantastic pumpkins, we went back to my parents’ house to eat IMO’s pizza, the best!!


For my birthday on Oct 18th, Rob planned a fun day of surprises for me!! He let me sleep in (what a treat that is nowadays! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) and I came downstairs to him cooking an amazing breakfast: omelets, bacon, fruit, OJ, the works!! Then we went and worked out (he knows me so well, haha!) and then he told me to pack up and we headed off to apple picking!! It was such a beautiful day for it, and even though we were near the end of the apple picking season, we managed to come away with a great haul. Lydia’s favorite part was riding behind the tractor through the orchards.

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That night, Rob had arranged for his parents to come babysit for us and we went on an awesome date night to a new-to-us place called The Rack House Winery in Cottleville! Our meals were amazing, and when Rob mentioned it was my birthday they brought out an incredible dessert: homemade brownie with caramel ice cream, bourbon whipped cream, and a sprinkling of bacon on top! We weren’t too sure about the bacon atย first but it actually went really well with the sweetness of the brownie. Overall we loved this restaurant and definitely want to come back sometime!!

We ended our date night just chatting at Starbucks… it’s crazy how special those times are now since we have a little one at home! Having some time to just sit and talk without distraction is something we never take for granted any more! ๐Ÿ™‚
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Speaking of time to chat, Rob’s mom came over on Wednesday so Rob and I could get out for a little date-time in the afternoon! We went to a park just a few minutes away with a blanket, some coffee, and a deck of cards. Loved getting to enjoy this beautiful fall weather with my guy.

For Halloween, my mom got Lydia an adorable little butterfly costume! We went to a party at a friend’s house and Rob and I threw together some last-minute costumes when we heard our friends were dressing up. (Cowgirl and Crocodile Hunter, in case you were wondering!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )


We’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible outside with Lydia before the weather gets too chilly! Pretty much every morning, she and I go out on the patio for a bit; she loves to watch the falling leaves, and I get some work done while we sit there together. When Rob gets home from work, he’ll often take her for a run at the park; being outside is her favorite! Yesterday I took her for a run at Creve Coeur Lake, and she stared at me almost the entire time with one finger in her mouth. Never fails to make me laugh, this one. ๐Ÿ™‚
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She’s been waking up earlier and earlier these days, which makes me a tad bit terrified about what’s going to happen tonight with Daylight Savings!! I got spoiled because for the first couple months of her life she would sleep til 8:30 or 9am. We’re doing great now if she sleeps til 7! Thankfully her naps have gotten longer, though. They used to only last 30-40 minutes but recently we’ve had a pretty good streak of 1-2 hour naps going!!

Rob and I are loving this stage of life with Lydia. It’s amazing to watch her taking in everything around her. She’s so curious and fascinated by the simplest things. We love her to death and can’t believe how fast she is growing!!! I’ve never felt like time was flying by so quickly until I had a baby.

Can’t wait for the fun of the holiday season with our little cutie!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Sovereign Over Us

(originally written July 30, 2016)

If you have a Facebook account, youโ€™ve probably noticed from time to time that Facebook will remind you of memories from years past of what you posted on any given day. I donโ€™t usually give them much notice, but this morning the memory Facebook popped up with was one that brought back many emotions along with it.

11694089_667929953306560_6350319234625176378_nA year ago today, I shared a picture of the whiteboard on our fridge. Rob had written lyrics on it from a song called โ€œSovereign Over Usโ€ by Michael W Smith. I wrote in my post about how these lyrics were such an encouragement to me; a reminder that God is in control even when it doesnโ€™t necessarily feel like it at times. I wrote about how this song had been playing on repeat in my car and home for the past week.

What I didnโ€™t say in my post was that the reason this song meant so much to me was that we had been trying for several months to get pregnant, with no success. With each month that passed, I felt like more of a failure. I felt like something was wrong with me. I had already been nervous about my ability to get pregnant because of my history with anorexia, and it felt like each month that fear was becoming more of a reality, no matter how hard I tried to trust God and have faith.

Rob introduced me to this song somewhere around that time, and it quickly became my lifeline, my reminder that God was with me. I literally played it on repeat over and over again in my car during every tough day, and wrote the lyrics in my journal many times. I listened to it on my trail runs, and sung it, through tears sometimes, while I cooked dinner.

One weekend we went to a wedding where it seemed like every woman around me was pregnant. It felt as if everywhere I turned there was a reminder of the ache in my heart that had yet to be satisfied. I felt pretty defeated by the end of the night, despite my best efforts to keep a smile on my face. However, the next day at church, this same song came on the screen during our worship and I had tears of hope running down my cheekse as I sung the very familiar lines:

โ€œThere is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trustโ€

Up until now, I’ve been afraid to talk or write about how much I struggled emotionally with this journey of trying to conceive, because I know there are so many couples out there who tried far longer than we did to get pregnant. There are so many who have had to wrestle with long-term infertility or are faced with the inability to ever have children.
My heart breaks for them. I can’t even come close to imagining or understanding how painful that heartache must be.
I feel embarrassed sometimes with how much I struggled through the months that it took us to conceive.
But Iโ€™m learning as time has gone by that although my story quickly pales in comparison to so many others who are dealing with far more painful circumstances, this is still my story, and I hope that perhaps by sharing it, it will be an encouragement to someone else in their journey too.

I like to think sometimes that I am in control of my life. I love making lists, planning out my day (and my month, if Iโ€™m being honest) being organized, and feeling confident of how “the plan” is going to go. Needless to say, I approached our efforts to conceive with my usual Type A mindset: if I do XYZ, I should be able to guarantee ____ outcome.

trust-godWhen one month after another passed by with no sign of a baby, I was forced to admit that I really wasnโ€™t in control. This is one of the many lessons I was reminded of again and again during those months of doubt and fear. It felt as if the Lord was gently whispering, โ€œLet go of your need for control. Stop exhausting yourself with this struggle. Surrender. I know whatโ€™s best for you and I have good things in store for you. Trust Me.โ€

Itโ€™s a lesson that Iโ€™m still learning to this day. I donโ€™t think Iโ€™ll ever be done with it. Itโ€™s a continuous endeavor, and some days and weeks are better than others. I still struggle to let go of my desire for control. I still try (often) to hold the reigns to my life, but God gently reminds me again and again that I can trust and rest in Him. ย Surrender is not a dramatic one-time event, but rather a journey of many little steps, just one foot in front of the other. And Iโ€™m trying to make those small, moment-by-moment choices to have faith in His sovereign plan. He has good things in store for me, and for you. You can trust Him, friend.

โ€œYour plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
You’re faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over usโ€
–Sovereign Over Us by Michael W. Smith

Back to Blogging!!

I’m back!! After a VERY long hiatus from blogging, I’m excited to get back into this!! I’ve been wanting to start up my blog again for awhile now, primarily because a lot has been going on in my life and blogging is one of my favorite forms of journaling and remembering milestones and events.

Now that I’m a mostly-stay-at-home-mom who only works a few afternoons a week, I’m hoping I’ll actually have more time to devote to putting my thoughts on paper screen. Ideally, the little babe will take some nice long naps during which I can sit on my couch with coffee in hand and write, write, write! That’s the plan anyway. But if there’s one thing having a baby has taught me, it’s that I’m really not in control. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Can’t believe how fast the time has flown; she is already 4 months old!! I’m planning to write up her “birth story” one of these days and share it here on the blog! But for now, here are some pictures of her teeny newborn cuteness!! ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Beautifully, Wonderfully Made

I used to hate so many things about my body. I know hate is a strong word, but that’s really the best word for it. I had a whole list of flaws about myself that played on repeat in my mind, eating away at me, through each and every day. I was obsessed with controlling my weight, controlling every bite that went into my mouth, and trying to change the shape and size of my body.

Looking back now, I realize how self-centered and inwardly-focused anorexia made me. How much time, energy, and effort I wasted on something that didn’t deserve that kind of attention.

god's love is deeperThankfully, God brought people into my life who cared about me and wanted to help me heal. Through a lot of counseling, prayer, and incredible support from my family and friends, God brought me out of this obsession and helped me develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. When I think about how much has changed in the past 4 years, it truly leaves me in awe of God’s power and grace.

But today I was struck with something I don’t think about often in terms of my recovery. Yes, I have much different habits these days. I have learned balance and moderation in the way I eat; I enjoy dessert and junk food when I want to, while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I exercise because I enjoy it, not to punish myself or compensate for something I ate the night before.

These are all huge changes for me and have given me so much more peace and joy in my life. But what struck me today is how I have actually come to LOVE my body and be THANKFUL for the way I was created. The things I used to hate and loathe about myself are things that I can now appreciate. I’m not saying I don’t still struggle with my body image. (And I think any woman who denies ever having a rough day with body image might need to be a little more honest with herself.)

I still have those days when I don’t feel very happy with the way I look. There are times when the constant bombardment from our culture to be skinny and to have a “perfect body” drags me down, and I have moments when I don’t really like my curves or my legs. And there are definitely still days when I get sucked back into the comparison trap and find myself envying another woman’s body.

But, instead of being the norm, those moments are now the exception. I no longer live in that vicious and endless dungeon of self-hatred. It doesn’t consume my thoughts like it once did. I’ve learned so much contentment and gratefulness with the way that I am built, shaped, and formed. And it definitely didn’t happen overnight.

But I remember one of the turning points: an evening in 2011, while I was living in India and thick in the throes of my anorexia. I had shut myself away in my room that night, crying and desperately wanting help but not knowing how to ask for it. I had finally begun to see what a sick disease had taken control of my mind, and I was having a brief moment of clarity as I realized how much I wanted out from these chains of addiction.

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Praying with a woman in a leper colony in India

 

Isolated in a tiny village and awayย from any sort of support system, I didn’t know how I could possibly begin to break free. But in that moment, God brought a verse to my mind, and I flipped my Bible open to Psalm 139:

“I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14)

I realized that night that I couldn’t possibly imagine PRAISING God for the way He had made me. Because, well, I hated the way He had made me. And that was the crux of the problem. That was the real issue behind my horrible body image. I didn’t really believe God had done “wonderfully” when He designed and created my body. In essence, I thought He had messed up. If He had really loved me, He would have given me a different shape, smallerย measurements, and more attractive features.

But as I read this verse over and over again, I actually began to DESIRE to feel that same gratitude and appreciation for my body. I knew I had a long way to go, and a huge part of me wondered if it was even possible to get there, but I had a tiny glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, God could heal me, and free me from the self-hate that had riddled my mind for far too long. I didn’t have a lot of faith, but I had a little. And the beauty is that God can use even the littlest seed of faith to bring His grace and power into our lives.

I wrote that verse down that night in India. I wrote it on a blank 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper, with neon markers in all different colors. I took my time writing out each word of that verse, and then I taped the paper to the back of my door. Every morning when I woke up, I would read it out loud in my empty room, and ask God in a simple sentenceย to help me really believe and feel the words I was sayComparison-thief-of-joy-printableing. I asked Him to heal me, help me, and change me from the inside out.

And it didn’t happen overnight. It took time, just like any lasting, heart-change does. Shortly after that night in India, I moved back home to the States, and began my journey to recovery. That verse became one that I returned to time and again during the years that followed. And slowly, subtly, my heart and mind began to heal. God began to grow in me a heart of praise, and I started to believe the truths of this verse.

And then, a few weeks ago, it popped up in my life again, but for a much different reason. My husband and I were at the 20-week ultrasound for our little girl who is due in June. As the ultrasound tech ran the wand over my belly and the image of our little girl popped up on the screen, this familiar verse came to mind once again.

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Our little girl at 20 weeks!

I felt tears forming in my eyes as we watched our little one kick and squirm on the screen, and the tech pointed out her strong little heart, lungs, and essential organs. We saw her tiny fingers and toes, and my heart ached with love for this precious girl we can’t wait to meet. In that moment, I praised God for how wonderfully and beautifully He has created thisย little baby. And that verse that has meant so much in my past has come alive again as I anticipate the future with our little girl.

I pray she will always know that she is incrediblyย beautiful, and that it’s got nothing to do with how she looks or what size she is. ย It’s a crazy world for a little girl to grow up in, and I know we can’t protect her from the pressures of the culture, and the focus it places on size and weight. But I hope she will always know that she is tremendously beautiful and beloved in our eyes, and even more importantly, in the eyes of God. Because she has been wonderfully created and designed by Him.

“You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

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Can Pasta be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Pasta is often fiercely frowned upon in the health and fitness world. Thanks to the low-carb diet craze, everyone is all concerned these days about eating enough protein and limiting their carbohydrates. In fact, almost every time one of my new clients admits to eating pasta for dinner, it’s accompanied by an embarrassed attempt to justify or excuse their choice.

pastaThe war against pasta stems primarily from the fact that pasta is a high-carbohydrate food. And carbs have developed a pretty awful reputation in the health industry these days. But, when it comes down to the science, your body actually NEEDS carbohydratesย – and a good amount of them, too – in order to function and thrive. Added bonus:ย pasta is delicious. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

We need to stop feeling like we’ve “messed up our diet” because we ate lasagna or fettuccine or some other delightful form of noodles for dinner last night. And maybe the night before that.

Because, honestly, pasta isn’t the problem.ย 

Now, before you run out to Pasta House for an all-you-can-eat pasta feast, let me clarify my views on noodles:

There are several components of pasta dishes that often make them not-so-great choices, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. ย However, there are also some simple changes you can make to health-ify (for lack of a better word) your pasta and enjoy it without regret.

Here are a few ideas:

1) Try gluten-free noodles.
This one goes without saying. Because of the way our wheat is processed and the horrible digestion issues that many of us have, it’s more than likely that your body has some level of sensitivity to gluten. Even if you don’t have any specific symptoms that you can link to those pasta dinners you enjoy, chances are that gluten could still be undermining your health. It’s worth it to experiment by going off of gluten for 30 days to see if it changes the way you feel. Bonus: you can’t even taste a difference with gluten free noodles! My favorite is either Brown Rice or Brown Rice and Quinoa noodles, available at Trader Joes, Schnucks, Dierbergs, you name it. They’re inexpensive and much easier on your digestion.

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2) Watch the sauce.ย 
The sauce is what usually sends the calorie count through the roof on pasta dishes. If you’re eating out, try to order pasta dishes with an olive-oil based sauce, rather than a cream sauce. Or if you absolutely must get the Fettuccine Alfredo, try to eat half and take the rest home for another meal. When making pasta at home, use Extra Virgin Olive Oil or full-fat dairy products for your sauces (not low-fat, sugar-laden junk!) and look for recipes that use real-food ingredients and not processed packets and pre-made sauces.

3) Add veggies to your pasta dishes.
Almost every pasta dish I cook has some sort of vegetable in it. Broccoli, asparagus, and tomatoes are my favorites. The fiber from the veggies will help fill you up and keep you from going back for endless plates of noodles.

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4) Watch your portions.ย 
This is my mantra with pretty much any food out there. Everything in moderation. A healthy diet doesn’t mean extremes and restrictions and lists of “bad foods” to avoid. That’s why I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo a few weeks ago at Maggiano’s and enjoyed every bite. Life’s too short to miss out on pasta. Right?! ย Just make sure that you’re eating until you’re comfortably satisfied, and don’t stuff yourself to the brim.

Eating more slowly and savoring each bite will often help you eat less as well. Your hunger and fullness signals take 20-30 minutes to kick in as you are eating, so try not to scarf down multiple plates of pasta before your brain has a chance to say “that’s enough!”

Now, go find a delicious pasta recipe you can make this week! Here are a few ideas…

Teriyaki Noodle Bowls

Lemon Chicken Pasta with Broccoli

Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti

When all else fails, search “healthy pasta recipes” on Pinterest and feast your eyes on all the delicious goodness that appears on your screen. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me, that I LOVE goals. And lists. Lists of goals. Goals on lists. Basically, any combination of these two things is enough to get me excited.

love listsI’m the kind of person that adds items to my to do list that I already finished 5 minutes ago, just so I can have the immense enjoyment of crossing something off my list.

The other day, as I searched feverishly for a wedding invitation in the mess of papers on my desk, I ended up sorting through the entire pile and organizing everything, quite accidentally. So, of course, I grabbed my to-do list and wrote down “organize papers on desk” and then drew a very satisfied line through it with my blue pen. I’m not kidding.

(Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)

Without goals and lists, I’m pretty sure I would go insane. Goals keep me focused and motivated. Goals help me push through distractions (i.e., mindless Facebook surfing) and remind me of better things to do with my time.

My daily goals – some people might call this their “to-do list” – are the things I’m hoping to accomplish that day. I love to write down my daily goals first thing when I wake up in the morning (or sometimes the night before) because it helps me prioritize my time.

work from homeSince I am self-employed and work from home, there’s no boss waiting for me at the office, no outside accountability as to whether I worked all morning or laid in bed watching Netflix in my pajamas.ย I’m responsible for making sure I actually get things done every day. So, goals are essential in my world.

My daily lists have various types of goals: some are tasks related to developing my business, others are reminders of client emails I need to send or workout plans that need to be designed. Some of the items are simply errands that need to be done or a reminder that it’s probably time to do laundry. (Especially if my husband has been wearing the same holey pair of black socks for several days in a row because every other pair is waiting to be washed…)

These goal lists help me stay motivated on a daily basis (and ensure that laundry does get done at some point…) but I also like to have bigger, over-arching goals to help structure my entire year.

As you can imagine, the end of December is one of my absolutely favorite times, because, well, there’s Christmas, yes, but ALSO…. I have a socially acceptable excuse to make lists, set new goals, and dream about the fresh 365 days ahead of me. My inner nerd really comes out in full force around the new year, as my husband can attest. (When I asked himย if he thought my obsession fascination with goals was over-the-top, he declined to comment. Something about it being a trap, he said.)

We actually had a date night at Starbucks early in January, just to talk about our goals for 2015 – both personally, and as a couple. Armed with notepads, ballpoint pens, and a steaming cup of coffee, we sunk into the leather couch at our local Starbucks and hashed out our goals for 2015. We brainstormed ways we wanted to grow, learn new things, change our attitudes and habits, and chase our dreams. It sounds corny, I know. The kind of thing you’d read about in Oprah’s magazine. It reeks of rainbows and unicorns and fields of daises with the headline “follow your dreams” in a scrolly font. But I promise, it’s really quite practical and down-to-earth.ย FullSizeRender

We wrote down goals on an array of topics: everything from places we want to travel, special date nights we want to go on, specific ways we want to use our money more wisely, friendships we want to invest in more fully, and new skills we’d like to learn in 2015.

If you’re not the kind of person who naturally enjoys goal-setting, you might think this process sounds exhausting, like yet another impossible standard you’re setting for yourself that can never be reached. But it’s not meant to be that way at all.

As I studied to become a Certified Personal Trainer, one of the things I learned about was how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. You’ve probably heard of this concept:

S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. ย Once you focus on setting SMART goals, you no longer have a list full of vague concepts like “be more financially responsible” or “eat more healthy foods.” ย  Instead, you write down, “put together a detailed budget plan that I can realistically follow, and put $____ ย into savings every month.” ย Or, “Make home-cooked meals 3 nights a week and pack my lunches for work instead of eating out.”ย 

smart goal setting conceptThis is key to setting goals that you will actually accomplish. As an example, for most of my life, I’ve always set a goal at the new year to “journal more consistently” and every year, without fail, I do well for a few weeks, maybe a month, before it peters out and my journal goes un-touched for weeks or months on end. I love to journal, but it seemed I could never make it into a consistent habit.

Then, last year, I decided to make it a more specific goal, and I wrote down, “I want to journal every week day about 3 things that I’m thankful for.” ย And although it didn’t happen every day, it definitely became a consistent habit that I’ve kept up ever since. Because it became realistic (only doing it on weekdays when I’m actually home and around my journal) and achievable (not pressuring myself to journal pages and pages on end), I was able to reach my goal and grew to love journaling farย more than just the “3 things” that were part of my goal.

goal setting

Questions for you:

Do you currently set goals each day? What about goals for the year?

Do you have a good or bad taste in your mouth when it comes to goal-setting? Why?

What’s one goal you might want to make for the month or year ahead?