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How To Set New Year’s Resolutions during Hard Times

So 2020 was something, wasn’t it? Now, I’m usually all for starting over and setting goals and resolutions at the start of the year, but I feel like 2021 New Year’s Resolutions need to look totally different than previous years and I think this is true for any really hard season in your life. Over the past several weeks, I’ve thought of several ways to approach goals during Hard Times and I think I’ve settled on what I think it should look life for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this is how you should be doing it. (If you need to just treat the New Year like any other day and keep on surviving, by all means, DO THAT.)

If you can adapt any of the following to yourself this New Year’s resolution season, go for it:

Reflect

In “normal” times, this looks like reflecting on what you did well this year and what you would like to improve upon. But in the middle of Hard Times, this turns into self-shaming and that’s not going to get anyone anywhere. So, here’s how I plan to approach “end of year reflections” this year: Stream of consciousness write your thoughts and feelings of 2020. Seriously. Just write everything. Does that mean you just write down a bunch of angry words? Do it. But this moment is historic (in 2020, this is true both globally and in your own life, but tough times are personal historic moments). Document it. Add details that you’ve found notable this year. Here are just a few of mine:

  • We moved this year and the elderly new neighbors came over and tried to shake my hand at the front door and I had to decline but still try to seem friendly and happy to be in the neighborhood. It was a weird, notable moment for me.
  • The absolute horror I feel when I find someone wondering the grocery store completely maskless. It’s a cross between indecent exposure and fearing for my life.
  • One of my big regrets of 2020 was not watching Tiger King. Not that I feel like I’m missing out on the actual show, but at the beginning of all this, it was the first way the US came together in a collective experience binging that crazy show. And I was too busy with work because I’d just been thrown in the deep end of being the office COVID research expert. I feel like I missed out on a notable, collective experience in this lonely year.

What is this supposed to accomplish? Well, catharsis if nothing else. It’s not ever and we’re still in Hard Times. But reflecting helped me work through some emotions about this year and also find some humor in the insanity that is this Hard Time.

Set Just ONE Goal: Feel Better next year at this time.

See? That wasn’t so bad. I even set your goal for you. And it breaks all the goal setting rules. Other than being timely (one year), it is not specific or measurable. But it’s the only goal you need this year. I promise. Let me explain.

During Hard Times, all the fringe stuff falls away and you’re just surviving. It’s super easy to be like: I have eaten terribly this year, I’ve hardly exercised. My meditation time is down to zero. I haven’t hustled. etc etc etc. DON’T DO THAT. You’re in the middle of Hard Times. It’s okay to not be improving in all areas of your life. And you’re probably feeling yucky about lots of things. Pick just the yuckiest and set a simple goal to feel better about it next year than you do now.

This could mean many things. Maybe in order to feel better about that thing, you need to process it or approach it differently in order to feel better about it. Maybe you need to take some sort of action. Do that.

Example: My sedentary 2020 lifestyle has led to hip pain (yes, I’m a 35-year-old really old lady). My entire goal is to have my hip feel better at the end of next year. That will involve me moving it sometimes.

No Guilt Allowed

The goal is to mainly empower you to do SOMETHING helpful to yourself during Hard Times. It is NOT to give you something else to feel guilty about. What if all through January, I exercise the same amount I did 2020 and my hip still hurts? I can get up and move that hip once and feel great about doing that one thing. Was my goal exercise X amount each week? Nope. Was my goal to have zero hip pain at the end of the year? Also nope. It was just to FEEL BETTER. That’s it. I can’t have guilt about that at all because a) it’s not the end of the year yet and b) these are Hard Times and I’m just going to try to feel better.

Now, Happy New Year’s friends. May 2021 be way less terrible than 2020. And may we all feel better next year than we do this year in some way.

Why We're On the Slow Route to Early Retirement

Why We’re On the Slow Route to Early Retirement

Our family is on the slow route to early retirement. Our story will never be shared on big news outlets because it just isn’t that interesting: “Couple saved money for 15 years to retire in their late 40s!” – 12 years? late 40s? But this is a conscience choice for us.

Why we’re heading to early retirement

The “Why” is always the most important question about a journey to early retirement. In our case, it’s not because we hate our lives now. It’s because we would rather take money out of the equation. Mr. T doesn’t love his job, but he also doesn’t hate it. He’s not the one stuck at work with tight deadlines, no sleep, panic attacks googling: “How do I retire early?”

Why the Numbers Don't Matter Right Now

Why the Numbers Don’t Matter Right Now

If you are early on your journey like we are, I want to make the case that maybe the numbers don’t really matter right now.

Projecting is Harder Long-term

Just like the 10-day weather forecast is never right, the 10-year projections won’t be right either. I can tell you firsthand that projecting can be frustrating when you have so little in savings. Conservative estimates make early retirement look impossible.

Living More in the Present: A Success Story

Living More in the Present: A Success Story

As I stepped away from the blog this summer, my focus was on enjoying the moment more. Sometimes being so involved in this community of awesome optimizers and hustlers becomes a whirlwind of motion. It’s good and it triggers important change, but sometimes it’s hard to really focus on the progress we’ve already made and enjoy what we have now.

Living More in the Present this Summer

This summer, I stepped back from pumping out posts on optimizing your finances or seeking entrepreneurship. I only calculated my expenses at the end of each month for the monthly plan updates and only checked my accounts a few other times each month. I stopped actively following all my favorite blogs (though would often binge because I can’t stay away for too long!). In short, I stepped back from the current hustle and started living more in the present. The break was tremendous and I learned a great deal. Here are a few things I learned:

An Honest Look At Your Awesomeness

An Honest Look At Your Awesomeness

An Exercise in Self-Reflection

  1. Grab a Piece of Paper and a Pencil
  2. Write down 5 things you are AWESOME at.
  3. Write down 5 weaknesses you have.
  4. Write down 1 thing you want to actively get better at.

Are you Too Hard on Yourself?

Do you have the patience needed to reach financial independence?

Do You Have the Patience Needed to Reach Financial Independence?

If you don’t know this about me yet, let me just tell you that I am NOT a patient person. I have zero patience. When I decided I wanted to have a baby, I wanted her to arrive yesterday!* When I apply for something or have to wait for results, the world ENDS until I find out. If none of this sounds like you, GOOD NEWS! You are already one giant step ahead of me on your journey to financial independence!

Patience is Needed on any Financial Journey

I, myself, am famous** for saying: “Financial Independence is not a marathon. It’s more like a sprint followed by a rest on a moving sidewalk.” We all know the power of compounding and the numbers behind how easy it is to become a millionaire when time is on your side, but sometimes it’s just plain hard to remember.

Is it Time to Quit Your Job?

Is it Time to Quit Your Job?

In the book Born for This by Chris Guillebeau, he recommends setting a date to resign from your job each year. On that date, you commit to resigning if your job is not the best fit. This exercise forces you to re-evaluate every year with an ultimatum. Are you miserable? This is quitting day! Things going great? Reset the calendar reminder for next year and carry on.

What if?

Many advocate that if you prepare for the absolute worst case scenario, you’ll get over your fear. So, what if you lost your job tomorrow? What is the worst that could happen? Your family goes hungry. You lose your house. Jobs are scarce. Keep the thought experiment going. What would you actually do?

A Grateful Year in Review

A Grateful Year-in-Review

In preparation for Thanksgiving this year, we’re going to do a practical gratitude exercise. This is Thanksgiving week. (YAY!) Think about where you were last year at this time: how old were your kids? who was with you Thanksgiving week? where were you? what were you working on? what things were you wishing you were doing better?

Do not focus on the negative. Life happens. Maybe this year had a lot of bad things happen. Now is not the time to talk about those.

Focus on the growth. Pick (at least) 2 things that are better this year than last year.

Practicing Escapism

Practicing Escapism

What day of the week would you guess searches for jokes are at their peak?

I would guess Monday. How else would you get through a “bad case of the Mondays”? Turns out, I’m wrong! Searches for jokes are at their LOWEST on Mondays! And highest on Fridays-Sundays (when I commonly search for lunchbox jokes for the kids for the week).

So what search terms are highest on Mondays?

Depression. Anxiety. Doctor. 

This is devastating. Joke searches also dive after traumatic news events like bombings. This information suggests two things:

Be an amateur and an expert

Why You Should Be An Amateur AND An Expert

On Monday, I made a case for not swimming alone, but finding people passionate about your subject and swimming with them. You’ll notice I did not use the word “expert.” When you’re seeking out someone with that passion, you want them to be both an amateur AND an expert.

“Amateur” Definition (Oxford English Dictionary):

1. One who loves or is fond of, one who has a taste for anything.
2.  a. One who cultivates anything as a pastime, as distinguished from one who prosecutes it professionally; hence, sometimes used disparagingly, as = dabbler, or superficial student or worker. b. Often prefixed (in apposition) to another designation, as amateur painter, amateur gardener.
3.a. Hence attrib. almost adj. Done by amateurs. Cf. amateur gardener with amateur gardening.
b. Used disparagingly. Cf. sense 2.

Following this list of definitions, “amateur” both means someone with such a passion about a subject, it goes beyond everyday interest as well as someone that “dabbles” instead of seriously studying.

“Amateur” comes from the Latin “Amatore” meaning “Lover of.”

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