As I look back on the past 365 days, I am humbled and overpowered by how much can change in just one year. This past year has been complete with ups and downs, challenges and accomplishments, closing of old chapters and starting of new.
The most significant development in 2014 was my career change. During late summer, I received an opportunity to transfer from my role as an external auditor to an industry role in a successful and fun Chicago based Company. At the onset of 2014, I would never have guessed that I would be making such a significant life change - but I suppose that is what keeps life fresh and exciting. I began my role as an external auditor at one of the big four accounting firms during my internship in college and turned it into a full time career upon graduating with my Masters Degree. I was at a well known company with strong opportunities surrounded by colleagues that I admire and respect - I imagined myself there for the long haul. However over the course of the year, I started to sense that something was off (putting a variety of emotions very simply).
If you read my 2014 Chicago Marathon post, I am a believer that things happen for a reason and this opportunity proved to be no different. I am also a believer that you have to take chances. I tend to do well in the presence of challenges and often appear to be well composed when facing them, however deep down, I assure you they are very unsettling to me. When I received the opportunity, I held numerous discussions with my husband, family members, friends and colleagues. I want to take this opportunity to reinforce my gratitude to everyone who helped challenge me in considering all of the imaginable pros and cons of the scenario. I am grateful for those who supported the opportunity right from the start with excitement, and I am also grateful for those who challenged me in thinking that I was making a mistake. I was forced to truly challenge my motivation for making what appeared to be an out of the blue decision. Ultimately, I knew the decision was entirely mine but I was confident that others had helped me acknowledge a variety of perspectives and truly challenged me to ensure the opportunity was right for me. The transition proved to be both equally exciting and nerveracking, however, I am thrilled at the change and am glad I was open to a new opportunity that forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.
My change in my professional life also made room for one of my favorite 2014 developments - the launching of Sugar & Roses. It has been a hidden dream of mine known solely by my immediate family that I have wanted to start a blog. I love following lifestyle blogs and getting inspiration for new things to try and share. My creation of Sugar & Roses has helped me to reinstate and expand my focus on hobbies that I love. The blog also provides me opportunities to learn new things including photography, understanding the blogosphere and building a new network with other bloggers.
It has been fun and rewarding to see how many people Sugar & Roses has already reached. I am proud to say that in less than four months, this blog has already gone global. Sugar & Roses is nearing almost 1,000 unique viewers and has had almost 3,000 page views. I am humbled and amazed. Thank you to everyone who has supported my excitement in this new endeavor, and thank you to every single person who has visited Sugar & Roses. Your visits further motivate me to really see where I can take this. I am looking forward to what 2015 will bring!
THINKING BIG FOR 2015
There is a stigma about new year's resolutions that they are easy to make and easy to break. I have experienced this many times, and thus, I have tried to identify ways to change the way I set new year's resolutions in order to make them more achievable.
A common tip among many is that new year's resolutions need to be specific, measurable and attainable. Vague goals that are difficult to measure also make it difficult to achieve results. For example, setting goals such as "eat healthier" or "exercise more" are difficult to execute because it is hard to measure and recognize progress. By what standard do you measure eating healthier? By what standard are you considering exercise to be more than the baseline your are trying to improve upon? Be more specific and apply a measure. I will use eating healthier as an example.
Eating healthy is not something you can fully control or should fully control all the time. Life is full of opportunities for indulgences which I believe can and should be embraced - in moderation of course. Therefore, eating healthier is likely to set you up for failure because you are going to initially deny yourself many of the things you love. Here are some ways that you can set measurable and attainable goals that work towards the idea of eating healthier that provide you a greater chance at succeeding.
Limit the number of times you eat out. Eating out makes leading a healthy lifestyle difficult, however, oftentimes it is necessary for social situations or simply necessary based on your schedule. Therefore, consider limiting the number of times you will eat out in a week or in a month. You can also consider making a commitment to share meals with a friend or significant other to control portions (while also protecting your pocketbook).
Commit to making healthy recipes a set number of times per week. There are numerous blogs and cookbooks that have wonderful recipes for eating healthy. Find a few and commit to trying recipes a set number of times a week or month. This tactic may also help you break out of normal meal routines and start to teach you tips to make healthier substitutions. One of my favorite healthy blogs and cookbooks is SkinnyTaste.com. One of my favorite cookbooks was a recent Christmas gift - Williams Sonoma Healthy Dish of the Day (365 recipes for every day of the year).
Pick a new healthy habit to add or unhealthy habit to remove each month. We are creatures of habit and change is hard. Drastically changing a diet at the onset of the year is often unsuccessful because we punish ourselves and try to change too much too fast. Therefore, choose something new to add or remove each month. By the end of twelve months, you will have evolved into a completely different lifestyle.
Hopefully this shows that almost all goals can be broken down into more specific and attainable goals that will set you up for success. Also know that you will likely not be successful all 365 days so do not expect this of yourself.
My final tip for setting resolutions is consider your motivation for setting the goal. Oftentimes, people set goals to fix something they are unhappy about - for example "I want to lose weight." Phrasing a goal like this has a negative connotation that you are currently unhappy with yourself and feel something needs to be fixed. Whether or not this may be true - that attitude is not going to be a long-term motivator. From experience of going up and down in weight loss and always having a motivation to want to look healthier, I have learned that being down on myself is much less effective than trying to focus on how good I feel after my husband and I go on a run together or how after a week of eating healthy, a greasy meal does not taste as good as I remembered. These are the attitudes of wanting to feel great about yourself that you should latch onto to help you get through your toughest goals!
Now I would like to share three of the new year's resolutions I have chosen for 2015, my motivation behind them and how I will try to achieve them.
I love learning, and more importantly, becoming proficient at new things. My big birthday and Christmas gift this year from my husband was a brand new, pearly white Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR Camera. All photos to date on the blog have been taken with my iPhone edited with the Camera + iPhone app and Photoshop. While I am pleased with these pictures for the initial onset of my blogging experience, I am motivated to learn how to use a photo to capture the subjects I blog about in the most appealing way and enhance the quality of my blogposts.
Resolution: Learn how to take full advantage of my new DSLR camera in order to translate into better photos.
Motivation: Enhance the quality of my blogposts by capturing quality photos of the subjects I blog about.
How to Succeed: Learning how to use a camera is too vague of a goal for me to maintain motivation and measure success by. Therefore, I have identified a few concrete techniques I want to ensure that I learn over the course of the year:
- Complete my online photography course by April 2015. Thanks to a Gilt City offer, I have registered for an online photography course at Pics Academy that will teach me basics of the camera and get me comfortable with the camera functions and settings.
- Transition all blogging photography from my iPhone to my DSLR camera images by July 2015. My iPhone currently offers me quick photo taking and editing options to quickly turn around blog posts. Given that this is my sideline hobby, I appreciate the ability to quickly turn around photos. I acknowledge that I will have a tremendous learning curve with the camera and want to wait to transition until I can have true quality photos with my DSLR camera. Therefore, my goal is to meet this objective halfway through the year.
- Master the technique to use manual functions to incorporate blur into images and manipulate lighting conditions. These are two techniques that I admire in photography from other blogs I follow and are in the forefront of specific techniques I would like to learn. I am choosing not to set a deadline within 2015 for the accomplishment of this goal as it is heavily dependent upon how quick the learning curve is for the camera.
With my husband and I now having been married and living in the city for a year and a half, we are starting to talk about other things on the horizon whether it be purchasing a condo or home and family planning. Therefore, one of our goals this year is to challenge ourselves to go even further in setting aside savings.
Resolution: Between our savings account and 401K, set aside (insert $ amount). We have discussed a lofty yet attainable savings goal that is personal between us both.
Motivation: Begin thinking longer term and thinking about our future family. We have already started to set aside money, however as we progress in our careers, we want to make sure we are appropriately allocating our higher incomes to achieve our savings goals.
How to Succeed: There are a plethora of ways to save money. I could write for paragraphs and paragraphs about tips, however instead, I am going to refer to an acquaintance of mine, Terri, on her F This! Finances, Food & Fitness Blog. Her Finances section has several chapters covering life insurance, money management, retirement and more. Terri does an impeccable job discussing important considerations on these topics for young adults which served as inspiration in setting our savings goals. She also features the site that we are using to manage our finances, Mint.com. Terri provides two wonderful posts on the Mint application and how to make it work for you and your goals. To ensure we achieve our goal, I have set smaller more manageable goals over the course of the year:
- Set aside $XXX per paycheck into our savings account. This is a bi-weekly goal that we can achieve by setting up an automatic transfer on the date that we are paid to make the savings unavailable for our immediate spending in our checking account.
- Maximize employer matching contribution into our 401K. I have always made sure to take advantage of this employer benefit, however, I wanted to include it as a specified goal because it is easy to focus only on your readily available savings. Establishing the savings within your 401K is just as important.
- Manage budgets in our Mint application and stay on or under budget in the discretionary categories (i.e. shopping versus rent and utilities) at least 8 months of the year. I leave us an out here by requiring only 8 months out of the year as things are bound to happen that throw the budgets off course. More diligently managing our finances based on budgets will still be a significant improvement from the previous year and keep us more accountable for our spending thus translating to a higher success rate of achieving our saving goals.
- Reward ourselves. While our goal is longer-term savings, we will also consider rewarding ourselves with a small trip with our hard earned savings.
In 2014, I successfully completed my first half marathon and witnessed my husband complete his first marathon. The training process proved to be challenging but was equally rewarding in that I enjoyed that we did it together. While we often griped about getting up on Saturday mornings for long runs, I found it enjoyable by the time we got running that we could spend time together roaming around the city while working towards our goal. This year, I want to push myself even further. I want to run at least 500 miles - that is the approximate distance from Chicago, Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee!
Resolution: Run at least 500 miles and complete a marathon.
Motivation: See how far I can really go. I was thrilled that I was able to complete my first half marathon. After seeing how many people push themselves to go for a full marathon, I have decided that I want to add that item to my bucket list and cross it off in 2015 before starting a family. This goal also serves as my positive perspective on maintaining a healthy weight without focusing specifically on weight loss.
How to Succeed: 500 miles is a somewhat discretionary number. If I successfully complete the progressive goals below (half marathon and marathon), I will likely well exceed this goal, however, I wanted to maintain something manageable if an injury were to occur and preclude me from moving forward to the marathon. I also will caveat that it is a very broad goal.Typically, I would suggest breaking this goal up into a miles per week or month goal. The reason I leave the 500 miles open ended is that it will vary heavily month to month depending on training programs. Therefore, I have set other intermediate goals to achieve this objective:
- Complete the Madison Conquer the Capitol Challenge in Spring 2015. The Madison Conquer the Capital includes running a Twilight 10K the night before the Madison Half Marathon - a total of 19.3 miles in less than 24 hours. This goal is intended to make sure that I start off the year strong in training. I am working towards this goal with my husband and one of our dearest friends from college. We have been getting pumped up for this race for several months and will serve as great motivators for each other.
- Complete either the Chicago Marathon or the Madison Marathon in Fall 2015. This is my core coal for 2015 and represents another milestone to help achieve my overall objective of running 500 miles. I would love to complete the Chicago Marathon as it is an amazingly run race and is based in my hometown. If the lottery system does not allow for entrance, I will likely complete the 45.5 Madison Conquer the Capital Challenge by completing the trifecta with the Madison Marathon.
- Reward myself with new running kicks after each race. A simple yet effective motivator is outfitting yourself appropriately to achieve your goals. When running this much, it is important to make sure that you are replacing your shoes as needed to maintain appropriate foot support and avoid injury. Link this objective with making sure you love your gear and get excited to lace up those shoes and hit the pavement!
Best of luck to you and your resolutions, and Happy New Year!
Images herein were obtained from various internet sources.