I remember the moment I decided I would go vegan.
I’d just read a book called Skinny Bitch, and it had persuaded me that I needed to cut animal products out of my life. So, just like that, I stopped consuming anything produced by an animal. For a while it was great—but as time trudged on, and life became more complicated (it’s called “adulthood”), I started slipping.
An occasional cheat day turned into something more consistent, and before I knew it, I was back to consuming whatever I wanted. When I realized what had happened, I tried doing the cold turkey approach again—and yet again, I failed.
I learned something from my attempts of doing everything all at once: it doesn’t work for me.
While I have a laundry list of things that I want to change about myself, I had to recognize what actionable steps I could take that would be sustainable. When the new year rolled around, people buzzed around me with their New Year’s resolutions, and I thought about how much they sounded like me when I decided to go vegan.
It was the all or nothing approach. Unfortunately, I saw the same results with their resolutions as I did with my attempt to go vegan, so I started thinking about alternative ways to get my desired changes to stick.
It wasn’t an immediate revelation, but life began to teach me that when I set smaller, specific goals for myself, I am able to fully commit. Not only that, I can commit without feeling like my efforts are sapping every ounce of my energy and changing my lifestyle.
So now, at the end of every year, I’ve started creating a New Year’s to-do list with small, specific goals that contribute to a longer-term goal. On my list, I address the normal things like health and fitness—but I also throw in fun goals too.
Here’s what I started with for this year:
>> Drink more water
>> Host a game night
>> Find a volunteer gig
>> Drink more water (yes, again)
>> Take a class for writing or music
>> Minimize clutter in my bedroom
>> Go to a wine tasting
Last year, my roommate told me that her doctor said the number one health issue in New York is dehydration.
This doesn’t surprise me. New Yorkers fuel themselves with coffee and booze and supplement with water when it’s available. When I heard what her doctor said, instantly my mind went to, “I need to stop drinking coffee. Really, if I’m going to spend money, I need to buy water when I’m out. I knew I was dehydrated! I bet I’d have so much more energy!”
While this may be true, the idea of eliminating coffee is pretty much ridiculous. So instead of drinking less coffee (or alcohol), I decided to approach it with the intention of drinking more water—and not 64 ounces a day, or five bottles, or anything crazy like that either.
This has worked well for me. For example, I frequent a restaurant, Empanada Mama, which is across the street from my apartment—but instead of ordering a ginger ale with my meal, I’ve started getting water. At work, I’ve made a practice of always having a bottle of water at my desk. These are the small steps I’ve taken to reach my goal of optimal health and crystal-clear pee. I still get to eat empanadas while also improving a major issue in my diet.
M.L. King Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
There’s a euphoric feeling that comes with checking items off of a to-do list and knowing that it’s 100 percent complete, which is why I enjoy adding to and checking off my list throughout the year. Some items are a continual practice (like drinking more water), while others are completed in a month.
I feel productive, organized and goal-oriented all year long—but most importantly, I keep moving in the direction I want to go.
Author: Sarah Anne Brown
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina