One Week 2020 Resolution Check-In

Welcome to 2020! Welcome to a new year of Enough, but better!

For the first post of the new year (and new decade, woo!) I wanted to touch base with the resolutions I discussed in my last post of 2019. Have I been successful in sticking with these resolutions? 

Resolution #1: Each week, I will create at least one creative/non-personal finance post for Enough, but better in addition to any personal finance posts I make. 

On track, if you count this post.

As I explained in my previous post, one of my goals for the new year is rewiring Enough, but better to further align with its intended purpose–a navel-gazing and, perhaps, narcissistic exploration into my own personal self, interests, and values (although using that kind of language is not in line with goals of self-love, ha ha). Part of that rewiring includes writing one post per week for Enough, but better than is not related to personal finance. 

This blog wasn’t intended to be a personal finance blog. Personal finance and FIRE/FIOR is definitely a huge interest of mine, but it’s not what I want to focus all my time and energy on. And, frankly, I think it makes me obsess too much over money to the detriment of creating a life that I find fulfilling and enjoyable in the moment.

Does this mean I’m giving myself carte blanche to go crazy with spending money on art supplies and exotic vacations? No, no it doesn’t. But does this mean I am allowing myself to actually get supplies to paint if I fucking want to, because it brings me joy? Yes.

Channeling some Bob Ross energy.

Besides, what’s the point of retiring early if you don’t know what to do with all your free time? 

Resolution #2: I will get off the internet by 7:30 pm every night. 

On track.

I anticipated this being one of the harder resolutions to stick to–and I was right.

Especially since it’s winter and the days remain dark and cold (and yes, even though I live in California, I am constantly cold), I’ve made a habit of coming home, crawling under the many covers of my bed, and binging YouTube videos until I grow too hungry to ignore my stomach. Then I cook and sit my sorry self right back on the couch. No more, I say!

I just can’t anymore.

So far, the hardest night to stick to this resolution was last Friday, when I came home from the gym. On work days when I go to the gym, I usually don’t get home until around 6:45 pm or 7:00 pm. Since I currently live alone, I like to watch shows or YouTube videos while I cook and eat. On Friday, I had barely finished eating at 7:30 pm. Without this resolution, I would have sat and watched for another half hour or so before getting on with my evening. 

Gym nights are going to be tough.

HOWEVER…

…I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish by forcing myself to abide by this rule. By essentially giving myself an extra two hours or so each evening, I’ve been able to spend more time setting myself up for success in the morning. I pick out my outfit for the next day (which leads to me looking a little more put together at work, also a goal for this year, ha ha). I get my gym bag together so everything is ready for me to grab when I walk out the door in the morning, which means I actually have my headphones when I want them (hooray!). 

It also gives me time to plan my meals for the next day (which helps with Resolution #4, as you’ll see below). I’ve been making overnight oats for work mornings, so all I have to do is grab breakfast from the fridge, and that breakfast is actually healthy and well-balanced. I also have time to prepare a healthy lunch, which means more vegetables and delicious prepared meals instead of a hunk of cheese and crackers or whatever weird finger-foods I have lying about my house. 

It also gives me more time to read. I just started re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time in about ten years, and I’m already finished with the first book. (If you needed more proof about how big of a nerd I am, here you go.) I also might have gone a little crazy at the half price book store and bought three books about Buddhism over the weekend, so it’s good that I have more reading time now (cultivating that sense of peace, y’all).

Overall, although this resolution can be difficult to meet (and it is very tempting to watch just one more youtube video), I’m super happy with how it’s providing me with time to optimize the rest of my life.

Resolution #3: I will be active every day.

On track.

As I expected, this resolution is the easiest by far. I was already pretty active in my everyday life before making this resolution; this was just to ensure that I didn’t have any off days. Getting 7500 steps on days that I don’t go to the gym or lift at home can be a little challenging sometimes, depending on my schedule–for instance, on Saturday I ended up just walking in circles around my apartment for twenty minutes to make sure I got my final steps in (if I walk to work, this isn’t a big problem, but I don’t work on Saturdays).

She makes it look so fucking easy. Also, please enjoy the A+ gif quality.

Yesterday, however, was pretty easy–I had a health appointment in the morning and ended up at the hospital earlier than anticipated. I strolled around the perimeter about four times before going in for my apartment, and then I walked to work and back home. Overall, I netted about 11,900 steps without much effort on my part (other than lifting up my feet, that is). 

Resolution #4: I will track my macros at least six days a week and aim to meet my protein goal at least three days a week. 

Mostly on track. 

I love spreadsheets. That should be fairly evident, considering that my hobbies include personal finance and I currently track every grocery item I buy, the date, the price, the store it came from, and whether or not it was on sale. I make budget spreadsheets for fun, for the enjoyment of people at large. Tracking my macros is just another way for me to express my love of spreadsheets (otherwise known as my deep-seated need for control in an uncontrollable world). 

However, focusing on six days a week instead of every day leaves me with the flexibility to have a meal out or eat weird and/or complicated things without feeling like I’m failing at meeting my goal. 

For example, on Saturday I met my best friend for brunch at a place in Berkeley (The Butcher’s Son, a vegan deli and bakery). I had their Fried Chicken Bagelwich, which (WAS DELICIOUS AND) included house-made “fried chicken”, “bacon”, and “cream cheese.” What were the macros for this sandwich? I’m sure someone in the universe knows, but I sure as hell don’t. Could I estimate something similar? Maybe. Would I rather do something else with my time? Yes, 100%. 

If I had a strict track-everything-everyday resolution, I would be miserable, because I would feel stressed out whenever I went out to eat or found my way into a free lunch situation at work. However, by giving myself a day off every week, I can still achieve my goal and track my macros without getting discouraged by complicated meals or turning down invitations for free food (I just love free food). 

The reason I’m only “mostly on track” with this goal is the protein. Part 2 of this resolution is to meet my protein goal three times a week. Calculating my macros to align with my athletic goals has given me a protein goal of 99 grams a day.

I’m a vegetarian who can’t eat eggs or more than a quarter of a cup of beans or tofu (obligatory shout-out to my IBS!), so protein has always been a challenge for me. I didn’t realize how little protein I was actually getting until I started counting my macros. 

Previously, I was averaging around only 40 to 50 grams of protein in a day. This is fine for the average bear, but since I’m working harder at achieving my fitness goals (bouldering V6 indoors* consistently by the end of the year and maybe breaking into V7?), I need more to maximize my performance. Also, I’m incredibly vain, and I would love to have some muscles. 

#spongebobgains

Because of the aforementioned dietary limitations, I’ve been supplementing my meals with pea protein powder. This gives me an extra 30 grams of protein spread throughout my day, which really helps in meeting my goals. 

If I can meet my protein goal today (the last day of the week), I will have met it three times for the week. Huzzah! 

Overall

Overall, I’m doing pretty good. However, it’s only been a week, so it’s a bit early to be clapping myself on the back too much. Some studies suggest that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Let’s check back in then to see how the resolutions are progressing (and if I’ve still managed to break my late night internet addiction, ha ha).

How are your resolutions going? Feel free to share your struggles or successes in the comments!


*Feel free to make fun of me for having indoor climbing goals, but I hate to be cold, so there, ha ha.

My New Year’s Resolutions (and how I’m going to achieve them)

In last week’s post I talked about how to create your New Year’s resolutions in accordance with your goals. Part of this involved creating resolutions that speak to your ‘Whys’–as in, what’s the point of anything? Why are you here? What makes you feel that life has meaning?

My Three Themes

In this week’s post, I’d like to explore three of my ‘Whys’ for the new year. These themes will help guide the resolutions I make to live the best 2020 I can. At the end of the post, I’ll share the resolutions I’ve made for the year and how I intend to keep them. 

Theme #1: Recalibrating Enough, but better

The morphing of Enough, but better from an artistic project of self-exploration to a personal finance blog occurred with my six-part series The Thing About Money. The purpose of that series was for me to explore my complicated relationship with money and how past experiences have affected my view about money and comfort with my personal finances in the present. However, one consequence of that series was getting more involved in the personal finance blog-o-sphere and twitter. I think that surrounding myself with content and creators that focused exclusively on personal finance warped my vision for what this blog was supposed to be.

Me too, Tina.

I don’t want to write exclusively about personal finance. Frankly, I think I obsess over it to an  unhealthy amount, and kind of in opposition of what the original goal of this blog was supposed to be–an exploration of the self and a quest to convince myself that I do, in fact, have intrinsic value. However, while there are some ‘normal’ personal finance bloggers out there, the space is overwhelmingly taken up with people making significantly more money than me (hello, engineers and finance people!). As such, it has become just another arena where I compare myself to others and find myself lacking. 

I realize this still stems from the original problem of a lack of self-worth and has nothing to do with personal finance bloggers, but still.

Personal finance is definitely still an interest of mine, and I still intend to post about it (and probably on a fairly regular basis), but I need to expend more energy on pursuing projects and topics that have more value to me personally (art, literature, fitness, etc.).

Besides, what’s the point in retiring early if I don’t have any hobbies anymore? Which leads us to the next goal…

Theme #2: Creating More than I Consume

Y’all, I spend a lot of time on the dang internet. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially since I live in a cold apartment with no insulation and it gets dark at like 4:30 pm now. 

I find myself coming home, sitting down with a mug of tea at my computer with a blanket thrown across my lap, telling myself that I’ll just watch one YouTube video and then I’ll do… something. Clean. Paint. Start a new embroidery project. And then four hours and the entire catalog of Michelle Khare videos later, I realize I’ve wasted my whole evening and I still have to cook dinner, make my lunch, do the dishes, and take a shower before bed.

The same thing happens in the morning. My alarm goes off, I struggle my way into the kitchen to put on water for coffee, and then I creep back into bed and pull up twitter. Or instagram. Or reddit. Or some other way to waste time and clog up my brain before work. And then, when I get to work, I have to pull up twitter again, as if I would have missed something essential in the hour it took me to get dressed and walk to work. 

All this focus on others and what they are creating and putting into the world is making me forget that I, too, have things to say and projects that should be made.

In August, I completed my first project from Learning to Love You More. In that post, I spoke about my love of art, how I miss making it, and how I thought using the assignments from Learning to Love You More could help me rediscover my creative self. I completed Assignment #51: Describe what to do with your body when you die. And then what did I do after that?

Not a damn thing. 

And that’s something I’m not proud of. It’s just so much easier to go online and view images of other fiber artists whose work I love, to read tweets from people funnier than me, and to watch videos of people doing things I imagine myself doing. 

But what the hell’s the point of living if you’re only doing it vicariously? 

I’m getting up there, too. I know 32 is still young in the grand scheme of things, but I’m starting to feel old. I’m tired. My knees hurt all the time. I simply don’t want to do some of the things I wanted to do when I was younger anymore, because everything sounds so exhausting

That’s why I need to change my attitude and habits now, before it gets too late. I’ve spoken before about my health issues and the desire to achieve FIRE so I can slow down and have more time to live. But I need to start slowing down and living now, as well. 

Theme #3: Focusing on Health, Fitness, and Strength Training 

Previously on this blog, I mentioned that one of the reasons I am pursuing FIRE/FIOR is because of my health. This year, I was diagnosed with IBS. The fun thing about an IBS diagnosis is that it’s essentially the doctor saying “Yes, you’re right, there is something wrong with your digestion, but we have no idea what it is.” This has started a really fun exploration of food sensitivities–right now I’m up to not being able to eat eggs, onions, and more than a very small serving of soy, almonds, lentils, and beans (so, not ideal for a vegetarian).

The struggle is very real.

I also don’t have a great relationship with my body (I know, I know–a woman with body issues? How unique!). I’m in my thirties, and my metabolism has started slowing down. I feel more tired than I used to, and I don’t want to. I want to be strong and active, and there are still physical things I want to do–climb V7, complete some really long trail hikes, and maybe even run a marathon. However, I’m not going to be able to do those things (or at least not very easily) without an increased amount of attention to my health and fitness. 

I’ve started tracking my macros and taking my vitamins again, and I have noticed a difference–last Saturday was one of the strongest gym days I’ve had in a long time. However, I want to ensure that I continue to feel this way.

Creating Achievable Resolutions from These Three Themes

As explored last week, resolutions mean nothing if you don’t have a plan about how you’re going to enact them. I took my three themes for the year and created the following resolutions. These take the form of SMART goals (mostly) and, for the most part, quantify my intended results: 

Resolution #1: Each week, I will create at least one creative/non-personal finance post for Enough, but better in addition to any personal finance posts I make. 

As I mentioned in theme #1, I want to get back into my more creative and thoughtful pursuits. By resolving to make one post each week that is not related to personal finance, I am (a) encouraging myself to create more paintings, miniatures, embroidery projects, etc. and (b) increasing the amount of writing I am doing each week. I’d love to get into freelancing eventually, and improving the quality and amount of my writing will help me get there. 

Resolution #2: I will get off the internet by 7:30 pm every night. 

This is a really important resolution for me, as I expressed above. I spend way too much time on the internet, including on twitter as soon as I wake up and on YouTube before bed. I like to watch videos while I cook and eat dinner, so the 7:30 pm time will allow me to continue to do that, even on afternoons I go to the gym. This might not seem like a big deal, but quitting the internet at 7:30 pm will give me about two and a half extra hours each night. That time can be fueled to writing more, making more art, or even just reading a dang book. I also like having time in the evening to make my lunch and pick out my clothes for the following day, but unfortunately sometimes I goof around too much to get those things done. With my 7:30 pm quitting time, I’ll be able to complete those tasks and set myself up for a better tomorrow.  

Resolution #3: I will be active every day.

Every day, no exceptions. However, what I do to be active can differ depending on the day. If I go to the gym? BOOM, active day. If I don’t feel like going to the gym, but do some sets of weights or planks and push-ups at home? ANOTHER ACTIVE DAY. What if my muscles are buckling under the heavy weight of so many gains and I can’t possibly lift another thing? Then 7000 steps counts! 

These penguins know what’s up.

This resolution comes with no exceptions. On a business trip? Well, it’s either take a walk around the airport or try to stay at a hotel with a gym. Not feeling well? Some gentle yoga or stretching can count for those days–anything that gets me out of bed. 

To be honest, I’m not too worried about meeting this resolution. On days I don’t go to the gym and I don’t have to work late, I usually walk, It’s about 25 minutes or a little over 3000 steps each way. So, if I walk to work that day, it’s basically already enough to be an active day. It’s less of a stretch goal, and more of a make-sure-I’m-not-too-lazy goal. 

Why not 10,000? The 10,000 steps-per-day was actually popularized during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as part of a marketing campaign for a pedometer. Some studies have shown that the benefits of walking max out after 7500 steps (although this study centered on older women, and I’m about 40 years shy of that category). I’m also not trying to lose weight, so I can walk a little less than someone with a weight loss goal would want to. 

Resolution #4: I will track my macros at least six days a week and aim to meet my protein goal at least three days a week. 

This resolution is more of a continuation of my current habits. For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to track my macros to see if that makes a difference in how I feel at work and at the gym. What I first discovered from tracking my macros is that I was way under the amount of protein I need, especially if my goal is to gain more muscle. I also haven’t been eating enough calories–on days I go climbing, I should aim to eat around 2100 calories. However, I’ve been averaging around 1700 per day. That’s fine for normal days, but when I’m doing a lot of exercise, I need to be fueling my body better.

After I adjusted my diet and started taking my multivitamins again, my climbing performance improved dramatically. I have more stamina now and feel better on the wall. 

How funny, it’s almost like diet and energy levels are related! WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?!

Meeting my protein goal is going to be the hardest part of this resolution. As a vegetarian with all the food intolerances mentioned above, I’ve had to find different ways to force in more protein, including two protein shakes a day and eating my body weight in yogurt. Probiotics, woo!

Isn’t this…. Excessive? 

Some would say that four resolutions is overkill, and that I’m setting myself up for failure. I say that I THRIVE ON STRESSFUL STRUCTURE. 

In actuality, this is probably excessive. However, these are all goals that I think will greatly improve my life and well-being, and some are just continuations of behaviors I’ve already started in the last month. 

Next year I can work on being less Type A, ha ha ha.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? What’s your plan for achieving them? Or have you achieved self-actualization already (and if so, will you tell us how)?

Making Resolutions that Mean Something to You

It’s nearly the end of the year, and this one’s a doozy. The 2010s are coming to an end, and a new decade is dawning. It’s a fresh start; an opportunity to make better, improved versions of ourselves. 

But can we actually achieve these shiny new dreams, these visions of self-actualization that we see in our mind? Absolutely! However, there are a few things we should keep in mind when we’re making our resolutions. 

First, I’d like to reflect on one of my resolutions from last year that was a big fat failure.

A Failed Resolution

One of my resolutions for 2019 was to study more German.

My partner speaks German. Quite well, actually. He’s over in Germany this very instant working, volunteering with a refugee organization, and finishing his second Master’s degree (yes, I’m bragging about him). He’s told me before that it would be great if I spoke German too, so we could tell each other secrets when we’re out and about. 

Additionally, we have several mutual friends who are Austrian, and it would be great if I could also converse with their friends and family whenever we visit. The last time I went to visit these friends in Vienna, one of them had to read the menu out at the restaurant to me to make sure I ordered something vegetarian. At the time, I felt like a little kid depending on their dad to help them navigate the adult world. It wasn’t a great look.

I’m flying out to Munich soon (two days after this post goes up, actually), and I told myself that this time I was going to study and work hard and be able to order my own food like a ‘big kid,’ etc. etc. And guess what?

I still don’t speak German. 

What happened? Well, I studied a bit. But nothing ever seemed to stick.

Frankly, learning languages has never been my forte. It took me an entire summer of four-hour-long classes to scrape together a ‘C’ in French so I could meet the language requirement for getting my ‘BA.’ My high school French teacher mostly told us stories of him being in Vietnam and how one of his daughters was great and the other daughter was a huge disaster. I passed that class with the help of google translate. 

The sentiments of my entire high school French class.

To me, languages in my brain are like water flowing through a sieve. Most of it just goes right on through. Occasionally one word or phrase will inexplicably attach itself to my brain–die katze! der schnee!–but the rest of it just leaves as soon as it arrives*. 

Look at me. I have excuses upon excuses. But what’s the truth? 

The truth is I just don’t care. 

I don’t care about speaking German. Other than my partner and a handful of friends, I don’t know anyone who speaks German. The only type of German I encounter in my work is Middle German, which isn’t what is used now (Modern German). This will be the second time I travel to a German speaking country, and the first time I will be there for more than five days. 

Would speaking German be helpful? Yes. 

Will I be perfectly fine without it? Also yes. 

It takes a huge amount of effort and energy to make a language stick, and frankly, I don’t think the payoff is enough with this particular goal. I’d still like to take a class or something at some point, but the motivation to self-study just isn’t there.

This resolution was bound to fail because I didn’t have a ‘Why.’ 

Finding a ‘Why’

What’s important to you? What type of life do you envision yourself leading?

I’d say the main problem is we haven’t invested enough time thinking about why our resolutions are important to us.

If you didn’t have to worry about financially support yourself, what is the ideal life that you would want to live? 

The answers to these questions can help you figure out your ‘why.’ Those of us in the FIRE/FIOR community may have already thought about this a lot. It’s the reason so many of us are trying to get out of debt and stash money away to become financially independent–we desire a life that aligns with our deepest goals, desires, and beliefs. 

I encourage you to take a long look at your life and pinpoint hobbies or goals that will more closely align your life with the one your heart wishes you could life. 

There are a lot of articles out there that claim early retirement causes early death. However, this seems to be associated with these individuals increasing the amount of time they spend sedentary and decreasing the number of social interactions they have. So, it’s not retirement that kills them, it’s a dearth of hobbies or friends. They don’t have activities or relationships that have significant meaning to them.

What gives you meaning? What makes life worth living? What’s something you always wanted to do? When you find the answers to these questions, you can start forming the basis of your resolutions. 

Supporting Your ‘Why’ with a Plan

Piggy over at Bitches Get Riches wrote a great post two years ago about how she has achieved her resolution every year for the past few years. Her secret? She makes her resolutions SMART goals. For those of you unfamiliar with SMART goals (a staple of corporate and nonprofit growth), these are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. 

If I were to re-imagine my resolution of learning German as a SMART goal, it might look something like this:

“By December 2019, I will have learned 100 German vocabulary words and 20 useful phrases.” 

“Study German” or “Learn German” or “Speak German” don’t really mean anything to me. How can I see progress or stay motivated if I don’t have any concrete indicators? By making a number, I give myself an easy concrete goal to hit. “Speak German” is difficult. Learning languages takes a long time, and making a goal of “Speak German” feels to me like Sisyphus rolling that damn rock up that hill. The task never ends. I will never achieve the goal.

I’ve a very numbers-motivated person. I have about fifteen spreadsheets between my personal finance and fitness hobbies alone, if that gives you any idea of how obsessive I can be with numeric goals. By quantifying my goal, it becomes achievable. 

Quantifying works for me, but may not work for you. Are you more of a visual person? Create a tumblr or pinterest board to help curate images that inspire you to reach your goal. Make a chart or coloring sheet that you can fill in as you accomplish your goals–for example, there are all kinds of free debt-repayment coloring charts online. Print one out and stick it on your fridge to help motivate you to reach your goal. 

Moving Forward

Next week I’ll delve into my personal ‘whys’ and the goals I created that use those ‘whys’ as their framework. 

What are your resolutions for the new year? What are your ‘whys’, and what steps do you plan on taking to achieve them? Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know!

*The only exception to this was Korean. When I lived in South Korea, I picked up enough to get around, go to the dentist, speak with my students, etc. But I lived there for three and a half years, so the exposure rate was pretty damn high, and in my first year and a half only a handful of my coworkers spoke English, so it was basically a do-or-die situation.