A few months ago, I went in for my physical. My sweet doctor entered the room and the first thing she asked was, “How are you?” Ahhh, the lovely three-word question that most people answer with a simple (and empty) four-word response of “Good. How are you?” Lucky for me, I learned an invaluable lesson at Honey Space for Moms where they teach everyone to answer the question, “How are you, REALLY?” Meaning: be open and honest and say whatever you feel. I spent the next 10 minutes talking without taking a breath.
After I finished, she kindly said, “What I’m hearing from you the most is that you don’t feel in control of your life right now. A global pandemic throws everyone off their axis. Let’s give you a sense of accomplishment again with small, daily tasks.” Yes! That’s what I need. Control. Ownership. Pride. Accomplishment. Just…something. At the start of 2020, I was ready for the Indy 500. At the start of 2021, I’m ready for the Tortoise and the Hare…with emphasis on the Tortoise. If you’re like me and feel as though you spent the past year on a hamster wheel, let me share the wisdom my doctor gave. It’s time to give yourself a gold star for the day—three of them to be exact.
A System for Success
Pick three small daily tasks/goals/habits/whatever you want to call them. One should be an exercise goal, one should be a nutrition goal, and one should be a self-love goal. The process is simple: pick them, do them, and give yourself a goal star for the day. Rinse and repeat. You can change them each month if you choose to build upon your success. Over time, maybe they’ll become habits or maybe they won’t. The key is to have control over three things every month if nothing else.
Kick it old school and buy one of the little pocket calendars and some stickers. I used to be a scrapbooker, so I have stickers by the dozens, but naturally I went out and bought new because fresh starts deserve fresh stickers. I picked up everything at Dollar Tree. (Super budget-friendly and more money to spend elsewhere…like Target, obviously!)
Gold Star #1: Move It
My first daily exercise task is to walk my dog. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great about daily walks with him. (Sorry, Henry!) Insert the cold of winter and suddenly the tennis balls that I normally refuse in the house come in for a good ol’ fashioned game of fetch. That’s his exercise and mine is negotiating with a three-year-old. Oops. For the readers out there, my doctor suggested reading Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain to understand how exercise truly changes your brain for the better. I almost asked her if reading the book counted as my exercise gold star, but thought maybe I shouldn’t press my luck.
For the next month, I’m going to give myself a gold star for walking my dog once a day. I can do that.
Gold Star #2: Eat Up
My first daily nutrition task is to add collagen powder to my morning routine. If you’re not familiar, collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It helps to give structure to our skin, muscles, and tendons. As we age, collagen production decreases. By adding it back into our diet, we can help regenerate what’s lost. It’s known to help with skin elasticity, joint health, and hair and nail growth. Basically it’s like a little fountain of youth in a scoop!
For the next month, I’m going to give myself a gold star for putting collagen powder in my tea every morning. I can do that.
Gold Star #3: Love Thyself
My first daily self-care task is to put mascara on. I don’t know about you, but I’m extra conscious about smiling with my eyes behind my mask these days. I naturally smile at people as I walk by and masks just make it seem like everyone is staring blankly at one another. Every time I pass someone in the grocery store or the dollar section at Target, I find myself smiling extra hard as if to say, “I just like to smile! Smiling’s my favorite!” I look forward to the day when I can see people’s faces again. Until then, I want to give a little TLC to my eyes and heart and, for me, that’s feeling pretty with a little makeup.
For the next month, I’m going to give myself a gold star for putting a swipe of mascara on my lashes every morning. I can do that.
Side Note: If your eyebrows need some TLC to go with those lashes, go straight to Jackie at Vinnie and June. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and most importantly, do not pick up the tweezers. She’s a goddess among women and an artist among the unibrow.
Progress Over Perfection
When you look back each week, the goal is to see three stickers in the boxes for 5 out of 7 days.
5 out of 7.
A solid 71.4%.
That’s it. This isn’t about being perfect and getting an A every week. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life can change on a dime in a second. Take your tasks day by day. This is about building up a sense of accomplishment. If some weeks you earn an E, so what? Put your (stretchy) rally pants back on and give it another go the next week.
Stop worrying about being perfect and just start.
Be You, Not Them
Maybe you’re reading this whole thing and thinking, “Wow, Jenny, way to set the bar low for yourself.” Look—my bar has been on the ground and stepped on or tripped over for an entire year. Let me raise it an inch first before I try my hand at limboing, ok? Besides, I’ll be 40 this year. I’m not sure I’m even equipped to limbo anymore anyways. My bar is set low with intention. I’m going to start with my January tasks, see how I do, and then reset each month from there. The extremists out there would probably laugh at my first goals. That’s fine. I’ve done the due diligence of unfollowing them on social media or my life so they aren’t in my way. I’ll do me and you do you, boo.
2020 was full of lessons we didn’t know we needed and courses we never wanted to take. However, it did teach us a lot of amazing things. One thing in particular is to slow down. The zero to 60, all or nothing, go-go-go mentality isn’t realistic. Nor is it healthy. Nor is it sustainable. Don’t get me wrong—you can absolutely have big goals for yourself. I’ve hosted a goal party for over 15 years with those kinds of goals. If that’s where you’re at this year, go get ‘em! If you’re starting your year with a giant exhale, I’m right there with you.
Here’s to 2021 with a fresh start and lots of gold stars. What are you going to do to earn yours?