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Happy New Year! 2018 is here! Every Monday, I will be publishing a post on how to live your best year. Let’s do this together!

The new year is so full of possibilities. It’s a time to make a fresh start or build on accomplishments achieved in the old year. Of course, much of the new year will unfold in ways we have yet to realize … even in ways we could never imagine.

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When 2017 dawned, I had no idea that I would be writing this post from a new home in West Virginia, having relocated from Virginia Beach. We had just learned that we were to become grandparents and were struggling with the idea of living 240 miles away from her. By July, both my husband and Son #2 had gotten new jobs, we had bought a new home, became landlords for the first time when we decided to rent out our previous home, and had relocated ourselves and six cats, all of which I could never have envisioned as we rang in the new year.

I had plans/goals/resolutions, to be sure, but many of those plans were put on hold in order to make the move and get settled into a new town (one with a population about 90% lower than the city from which we had moved).

Settled in and back to the future

But this is, indeed, our home now. Instead of being 240 miles away from our granddaughter, we are less than 10 miles from her. That alone was worth the move.

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Now I’m ready to get back to some of the goals I had to postpone. While I have specific objectives that I want to achieve, the overarching theme for 2018 is to live my best life. For me, that means ensuring that my health is good enough to have a full and active life, arranging my finances so that I can spend time at the beach, becoming a full-time blogger, and being able to roll into 2019 having achieved all that and more.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back)

So, as we head into this new year, I invite you to join me on my journey to achieve my goals. And I’d like to help you achieve yours.

I want to begin this first day of 2018 by taking a look at one way we can achieve the things we want for ourselves in the next 365 days.

My goals: The usual suspects

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For many of us, “lose weight” is on our list of resolutions. For me, it’s been on my New Year’s resolutions list every year since 1975. Often when we think of how to lose weight, we assume willpower is an important factor. The same is true for other goals, such as saving more money or cutting back on alcohol. Maybe you want to go back to school to finish your degree or you want to start a business that could make you financially independent. Those things require willpower, too, because it’s a whole lot easier to put off registering for classes or put off writing a business plan.

As David DeSteon writes in The New York Times Sunday Review, the big problem with keeping New Year’s resolutions or setting our sights on long-term goals at any time of year is that we tend “to value the pleasures of the present more than the satisfactions of the future.” This tendency is complicated further for those of us who are stress eaters or who rely on retail therapy for comfort. When our willpower fails us, many of us feel that we, ourselves, are failures.

I can resist everything except temptation

“White-knuckling” through our days (as Dr. Phil puts it ), trying to resist the doughnuts or birthday cake at the office or forcing yourself to turn away from that fabulous pair of boots in the store window, sooner or later is probably going to fail. Most humans are capable of fighting with their own mind for only so long. And when we finally give up the fight, we often fail spectacularly. We’ve all heard stories of people who have lost 20 pounds, only to “fall off the wagon” and gain back 30 pounds.

The key, writes DeSteon, lies not in resisting the temptations of the present but in placing greater value in the future. “Self control,” writes DeSteon, “isn’t about feeling miserable.” The fact is, because willpower wanes over time, we often find ourselves stressing over the struggle to maintain control, and it can actually take a toll on our health.

Negative thinking will never produce positive results

A better approach, DeSteon asserts, is to think about doing positive things for yourself in the same way that you think about doing things for others. When we feel that someone is depending on us, we tend to step up to the plate and get things done. If a friend needs a shoulder to cry on, we usually stop what we’re doing to focus on our friend. The gratitude you feel for the times when your friend was there for you or for the joy she has brought to your life cause you to want to help her with whatever she needs. And afterward, we usually feel pretty good about ourselves.

In fact, there are scientific studies that show that an act of kindness can boost energy and self-esteem, make you happier, lower blood pressure, and help you live longer. Performing acts of kindness can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

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The reason is because you feel proud of yourself, you feel compassion and gratitude, and these feelings help us to see a greater value in the future, which is essential for being successful in embracing delayed gratification.

Willpower is all about getting your mind right, but it turns out that relying on willpower is an ineffective way of reaching our goals. When we cultivate emotion — gratitude, compassion, and kindness — it is far more natural than trying to force ourselves to do — or not do — something. Not only does this mean being kind to others, but it means being kind to ourselves. Celebrate the small victories. It’s okay to be proud of yourself and feel good about what you’ve achieved.

I hope you’ll join me on this path to living our best lives in 2018. Start today. Think about the things you can do today that will positively affect the future and get you a bit closer to reaching your goals. I’ll be reporting in regularly on how it’s going for me, and I encourage you to share your own journey.

Live your best year in 2018.

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