A few years ago, my husband and I were talking about small changes we wanted to make in our lives, things like exercising more, finding time to work on little projects we'd been meaning to do for ages, read more, write, paint..... Even starting to do just one new extra activity in your life can be a challenge to the best of us and it often means you end up having to stop doing something else or change the way you approach an everyday part of your life. With this in mind, we came up with a plan we called 'Give-up/Take-up'. It involved choosing one thing to give up and one thing to take up each week or each month.
One week we decided to give up 30 minutes of sleep and to take up sitting down to breakfast together. Turns out we really liked sitting down to breakfast together rather than grabbing a quick bite before rushing out the door. So, we never went back to the extra 30 minutes in bed and we didn't miss that little bit of sleep, or maybe it was just that we enjoyed the breakfast together more.
The Give-up/Take-up plan is an easy one and a way to try doing different things or not doing things that you usually do. It works like this:
- at the start of a week, think of 1 thing you want to give up and 1 thing you want to take up in the forthcoming week or month
- write them down and put the list somewhere visible during the week/month to come
- check the list every day as a reminder
Here are some suggestions of things you might want to give up or take up. The idea is not to choose huge life-changing resolutions but very small manageable things that you can try for one week. That way, it is realistic for you to follow-through and yet you still feel a sense of achievement with having fulfilled these small aims. It's also a good way to find new habits that you enjoy and want to incorporate into your daily life. Don't feel bound by these suggestions, the list below is simply some ideas to get you started. I've listed under categories to break up the list.
- give up watching 1 hour of TV every evening (or give up watching TV altogether!)
- take up cooking two new recipes per week for dinner
- give up 15-30 minutes of sleep and get up earlier to have breakfast with your partner or go for a run.....
- take up 10-15 minutes of reading/writing a journal/painting every evening
Health & Fitness
- give up coffee/alcohol/chocolate/smoking
- take up some form of exercise 3 days during the week
- give up a couple of stops on the bus/train or park a couple of blocks away from where you need to be and walk the rest of the way
- take up something relaxing 2 nights a week (a candlelit bath, a massage, yoga, meditation - whatever helps you unwind)
Family & Relationships
- give up using your Blackberry/iPhone/computer after 9pm to ensure you get some time to switch off and relax with your partner/family
- take up sitting down to dinner together without TV or other distractions so you can chat about your day, plans for the weekend, news, holidays etc
- give up 10-20 minutes of morning sleep/work to spend extra time with your children
- take up doing something for your partner every day (something small like getting breakfast, paying a compliment, doing a household task that the other person usually always does....)
By committing to only two small changes over a short time-scale of either a week or a month, the goals you set yourself won't feel demanding or difficult to accomplish. You'll definitely feel better for making these small changes and in the process, you might find that you want to make some of the changes permanent in your life.