Category Archives: Goals

Breaking Out of a Rut

In a Rut

Recognizing a rut

What does a rut look like and feel like?

“Stuck in a rut” is an idiom that means being mired in routine. The figurative phrase calls to mind the image of a wagon wheel hopelessly trapped in a deep rut on an unpaved road.    It feels like nothing is changing, that your life is the same all the time.  Basically, it is a fixed, usually boring routine.  You can be in a rut in relationships, at work,  in exercise or diet.  Ever had that feeling that you were going nowhere?  Just spinning your wheels?  That every day was the same?  When you are out of inspiration and ideas, you are stuck in a rut.  How can you get out of it ?  How can you get back to being creative, energetic, enthusiastic?

  1. Remember what you want.  Do you want to participate in a marathon?  Do you want THAT more than you want the doughnut at work?  How about free time on the weekend? Do you want that enough to do laundry during the evening during the week?
  2. Listen to your gut, your instinct.  I have found that when I feel a situation isn’t right for me, I should trust that feeling.  If something comes up that is a little out of your comfort zone, but you are interested in it, take a chance and do it.  You may find out something about yourself or your hidden abilities!
  3. Look at your to-do list and start on small tasks.  Clearing off your list can help make room for new ideas, new projects, and new ideas.  It can also give you energy, believe it or not.  Sometimes simply getting moving in ANY direction can help you refocus.
  4. Work on a self-improvement project.  No, I don’t mean a DIY house project or anything similar.  I mean, improve YOURSELF.  Read a book outside of your normal interests or even one on a subject you are interested in but don’t know much about.  Write a letter to the editor.  Take an online course; there are a lot of them available from mainstream universities online and FREE.  Take a class at the community college.  Go to a seminar.
  5. Talk to a friend or go out to dinner or a movie.  Sometimes getting out and about and spending time with others can get your mind off of the rut and help you break out of it.
  6. Get some exercise.   Not only may that spur new ideas and energy, it will improve your overall health and sleep.
  7. Break your pattern by doing something that you wouldn’t normally do.  If someone asks you to go to an ethic restaraunt that you haven’t been to or t see a movie of a genre that you don’t usually choose, say YES instead of no.
  8. Amazingly enough, helping someone else can help you.  If you simply cannot think of a way to get out of the rut, help out in a soup kitchen, clean out the closet and donate to a veterans’ group or local charity.Now what
  9. Don’t worry so much about mistakes.  If you try too hard to avoid failure, you will avoid success as well.  Learn from your mistakes; that is how you grow and develop good ideas and stimulate creativity, rather than stifling it.
  10. Remember that “this too shall pass.”  Everything passes, given enough time. If you are in a rut, remember that you will move through this; there will be brighter days ahead.
  11. Check your diet; sometimes eating too much junk, drinking too many things that are bad for you can make you feel stuck or uncomfortable.  Check it out and try eating a little healthier, changing a little at a time.
  12. Try a change of scenery – something simple like a walk in a natural area or as involved as a vacation.  Change your location and your surroundings.  Sometimes that is all it takes to jolt you back to creativity.  In addition, time away from the tasks at hand can give your mind the break it needs.
  13. Believe it or not, doodling helps.  Draw simple drawings or repetitive designs on a notepad for a little while.  Do it every day.  Do it when you are listening to someone or while watching TV. You will be surprised at how well this works to jump-start creativity.  Check out “zen doodling” or “zen doodles” or “doodle art” online – you will find a lot of ideas.
  14. Go for a long drive and listen to loud music.
  15. Listen to some TED talks.
  16. If your rut is diet, buy a new cook book.  Try a new type of food.  Try a new spice or ingredient.  Go to a new restaurant or try a new dish at your favorite restaurant.
  17. When you are at the grocery store, pick up a vegetable or fruit that you’ve never tried before.
  18. To keep weight loss continuing or to get off a weight loss “plateau,” change up your exercise routine.  Make sure you do different types of exercise: walking, basketball, racquet ball, aerobics, et cetera.
  19. Learn something new.  Pick up a new hobby, take an online course, go to a seminar.
  20. Set some goals.  Find something that you’ve always wanted to accomplish, set a goal and a time to accomplish it, and then break the goal down into smaller steps.  The goals don’t have to be large to start with; accomplishing anything, even a small goal, will help.
  21. If you are in a relationship rut, do something with your partner that is out of the ordinary.  If you don’t go to the theater, find something local and go.  Try out the local symphony.  Go to see a local sports team play.  Buy a conversation starter pack (cards with conversation starters) and try that.  Surprise your partner with a night out on the town – or even out of town!
  22. Attend a lecture with your partner – then go discuss it over coffee or dessert.
  23. Go out to dinner, try a new cuisine – and TURN OFF THE CELL PHONES!  Talk to each other, hold hands, go for a walk.

Nothing goes away until

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52 Ways to Brighten Someone’s Day

Things are tough.  The economy is bad, the job market is bad, the news is bad, and sports?  Well, the sports page used to be a place you could read about man’s achievements when everything else seemed bad, but these days, the reports in the sports page are just as bad as everything else: inappropriate emails and pictures, drugs/steroids/cheating, arrests, DUIs, and so forth and so on.  I have found that when things are bleak, one thing that can help lighten my mood is thinking about other people, thinking about people around me rather than obsessing about my own situation.  Here is a list of 52 ways to brighten someone else’s day:

  1. Listen – REALLY listen – to them.
  2. Give them a hug.
  3. Compliment one thing that you really like about them.
  4. Treat them to lunch, or coffee, or something else that you know that they would enjoy.
  5. Call them.
  6. Write them a short but heartfelt note and send it to them.
  7. Send an email – also heartfelt.
  8. Take them a flower or a plant, if they like those.
  9. Make arrangements to get together and do something fun.
  10. Smile – even if you don’t really feel like it.  Sometimes people just need a little encouragement, and you never know – the simple act of smiling at someone else might brighten your mood as well.
  11. Take them a bouquet of fresh flowers or a potted plant.
  12. Run an errand for them.
  13. Cook a meal for them – and take it to them.
  14. Share one of your favorite movies or books with them, if you think they would enjoy it.
  15. Cut the grass for them – or do another chore.
  16. Write a letter to them – or write one FOR them if writing isn’t easy for them.
  17. Give them the gift of a massage at a day spa.
  18. Pay for coffee for the person behind you at your local coffee shop – anonymously.
  19. Pay a compliment.
  20. Tell the people you love how much you love them.
  21. Spontaneously hug them – if they are a “huggy” sort of person.
  22. Offer to help a coworker out.
  23. Hold the door for someone who has their hands full.
  24. Make eye contact.
  25. Be polite and kind to people who are helping you – cashiers, workers at a store, waiters/waitresses, and so on.
  26. If you see someone that seems to be struggling, talk to them.
  27. Leave a thank you note.
  28. If you received really good service at a restaurant, say so to the manager.
  29. If your waitress/waiter is obviously having a hard day, be kind – say something encouraging or just smile and be patient.
  30. Use someone’s name when you talk to them – people love to hear their name.
  31. Be a courteous driver.
  32. Share good news.
  33. Take bagels or snacks to work for your coworkers.
  34. Put a note in your spouse’s lunch – or in your child’s lunch.
  35. Call your parents just to say hello.
  36. If someone drops something, pick it up and smile.
  37. Watch their favorite show with them.
  38. Send someone a short note, just to say you are thinking of them.
  39. If they are sick – take them a care package with tissues, chicken noodle soup, ginger ale, and saltines.
  40. Do your child’s chores for the day.
  41. Go to the hospital to visit a friend or relative – you’d be surprised how few people do this and how much it means.
  42. Say thank you to people who serve you –  wait staff, barbers/hair stylists, cashiers, etc.
  43. Hold the elevator for them!
  44. Tell them how proud you are of them.
  45. Take them a small, pretty plant.
  46. Take cookies to a nursing home or assisted living home.
  47. Donate nice, gently used work clothes to a group that helps people get a job.
  48. Leave a bigger tip than normal when you go out to eat.
  49. Make a care package for someone in the military.
  50. Donate blood.
  51. Participate in an “awareness” walk – epilepsy, breast cancer, heart….
  52. When you see something that reminds you of a friend, buy it and surprise your friend.

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May 2010 Really Useful Sites

May 2010 – hard to believe we are already 5 months into the year.  And yet – here we are.  Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, warming temperatures…so much happens this month.  Here are some sites that I have found that are very helpful.  I hope that they will help you as well.  If you have suggestions for future articles, please email me or comment below! 🙂

  • Mother’s Day
    •’s_Day – this is an interesting Wikipedia article on the day(s) celebrating mothers and motherhood.  It contains the various dates used, as well as history and traditions from other countries.
    •’s_Day – this site contains ideas or links for crafts, gifts, parities, books, songs, and famous mothers, among many other things.  Very interesting and very useful!  Ther are links for funny quotes about women, Christian mother quotes, quotes by famous mothers, funny mother’s day quotes, single mother quotes, and sayings for grandmothers, for example.  I recommend taking a look!
    • – this site has sections on celebrations, history, Mother’s Day Proclamation, as well as gift ideas.  It has some really good ideas and is well-organized.  Everything is easy to find.
  • Memorial Day
    • – This site is very nice.  There is a calendar, as well as sections for history, a prayer, e-cards (links to sites that provide Memorial Day e-cards),  and grief and healing.  The information and/or links have been carefully gathered and organized.   I highly recommend taking  a look and reading some of the information; it is well worth the time to really get a view of the true meaning of Memorial Day.
    • – the History Channel site is fantastic in general.  This section indicates that there are 23 videos, 2 speeches, and photos.   There are also links to specific people, areas like Arlington National Cemetery, and events and related topics.
    • – this site suggests ways to recognize the day and celebrate safely, links to war stories, descriptions of the origins, suggestions on ways to support the troops, as well as patriotic songs.  It is an interesting list of links.  There are also safety links to help you enjoy the holiday weekend safely.
  • Warning Signs – Heat and Sun and Dehydration.  It is so very important to pay attention to how much time you spend out in sun and heat.  I realize that it is only May, but we have already had temperatures around 90.  The humidity is right up there as well.  So – despite the fact it makes me feel like a mother hen – here are some pages with information on sunscreen, symptoms of sun stroke, heat stroke, and other heat/summer type issues.  Please, please, please pay attention.  Melanoma can kill you before you know you’re sick; I know – our family has a history of it.
    • – there are actually articles here on keeping cool in summer, sunscreen, and more.
    • – this site contains good information form a collegiate site on dehydration and heat stroke.  Good information – it is easier than you may think to become dehydrated.
    • – this is a very helpful site for information on heat exhaustion.  People tend to think that they are fine, until they’ve pushed themselves to the limit.  Please look at this.  People most at risk are the elderly, people with high blood pressure and people who exercise or work in hot temperatures.

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Resolutions? Throw those things out!

How many years have you set resolutions in January only to give them up within the first week or two? How frustrated do you get at setting them and failing so early to complete any of them?

Something I’ve found that works better is to set goals. I know it sounds like semantics – “resolutions,” “goals,” whatever – but there IS a difference. Goals are defined as “the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective.” Resolutions are defined as:

1. A resolving to do something.
2. A course of action determined or decided on”

The problem with resolutions is that they generally simply represent a desire to do something, to achieve something, but with no plan of action. As a result, a few weeks after setting your “resolutions”, you’re off the path completely. When you set up goals, you generally also come up with smaller steps that will help you achieve the goal – a plan of action. With a plan of action, you can see when you drift off the path sooner and decide more clearly if you need to adjust your goal or what you need to do to actually achieve your goal.

When you are setting your goals for the year (or whatever time frame you chose), consider areas of your life that you would like to work on, improve, or change.  Some areas frequently on that list include Work, Personal/ Relationships, Family, Social, Spiritual, Exercise/Weight Loss.

One method I’ve found helpful in setting up goals is to make “SMART” goals. SMART goals are generally considered to be:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

S: are your goals specific, rather than vague? If they are too vague, there will be no way to know when you’ve achieved them. To make a specific goal, make sure that you include what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, and how you will achieve it.

M: are your goals measurable? If they are, anyone should be able to look at your progress and determine if you’ve achieved your goal. For example, “I want to learn to dance” is vague and immeasurable; most of us are born being able to “dance” (i.e., rock back and forth to music). A smarter goal would be “I want to learn to foxtrot by January 1, 2010.”

A: are your goals attainable? That is, can you achieve them realistically? It is a good thing to have goals that stretch you, that take you out of your comfort zone, but it is possible to set your goal in such a way that it isn’t realistic. For example, a person with a goal of “I want to be a professional dancer in six months” isn’t likely to achieve that goal if he’s the average person on the street. A more attainable goal for the average person would be “I want to dance a waltz at my daughter’s wedding in six months.” On the other hand, don’t set your goals too low either – a goal should challenge you to some extent, otherwise you’ll get bored with it.

R: are your goals realistic? Are they results-oriented? Are they reasonable? If they aren’t relevant to you, to your purpose in life or your belief system, then you aren’t likely to achieve them. For example, you may love commenting on football games to your friends, but do you really have the knowledge of all the positions, the training, and so forth to fill the air during a real game? Or, you may really enjoy cooking and do it well, but do you really have what it takes to run a successful big city restaurant?

T: are your goals time-based? Do you have a time frame for each one? If not, there is no motivation to get moving, no sense of urgency, no reason to take action today. An example of a time-based goal would be something along the lines of “I want to read one classic book a month for 12 months” or “I want to read one classic book each month from January to December 2009.”

Regardless of what you call them, they can really be motivating and stimulating, if done properly! Go out … and DO IT!

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Expand Your Horizons: Try One New Thing a Week for a Year

I have decided to expand my horizons. I am trying one new thing each week. Some are life-style changes (eating more vegetables, meditation) and some are small (learning to do anagrams, doing crossword puzzles). I think that it is very important to stretch yourself. It is important to stay active both physically and mentally to stay sharp mentally.

I got this idea from 43 Things (here) and I have found that it is a great way to stimulate personal growth. I’m also finding out more about myself – what I enjoy and what I don’t, what foods and beverages I like and what I don’t. Since one of my ongoing goals is to get to know myself better, I’m also working toward another goal while working on this one.

Another benefit of this is that expanding your experiences can benefit your overall outlook. According to part of an article in Time (here), people who have a range of experiences and try new things are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize the negative than people who have fewer experiences.
If you are afraid to try new things, try breaking the process down into smaller steps. Take one step at a time. If that doesn’t work, try something a little more familiar but still new. Basically, this can also be a good way to face your fears as well as expand your horizons. If you are afraid if heights, try something like riding in a hot-air balloon or simply going to the top of a well-known building or monument (the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building come to mind). If you are afraid of doing things alone, try something simple like a walk in the park or a lunch in your favorite restaurant. Take along a book. The fear is frequently worse than actually doing the action.

Examples of things that I’ve done since I started this are:

  1. Sudoku – I tried these puzzles but it just isn’t my thing.
  2. Reading historical speeches: I decided I wanted to read the complete “I Have a Dream” speech, as well as the “Pearl Harbor” speech, and a number of others.
  3. A genre of book that I had not read before: political autobiography. I read Colin Powell’s My American Journey. It was far more interesting than I anticipated.
  4. I tried a Galia melon. I had never had one before; it was interesting. It looks like a cantaloupe but tastes (to me) more like honeydew.
  5. Playing around with photography – this is fun since I have a digital camera and I just delete the pictures that I don’t like or that don’t turn out well.

I admit that I haven’t really tried anything big so far – but the things I’ve done are things that are easy to work into my life and schedule. Right now, that is very important. I have an infant and I have to work around her schedule and needs right now. I also find trying new things to be good for my mental health right now as well – it gives me something to look forward to each week, as well as a break from daily routines and ruts into which I’ve fallen.  At any rate, I highly recommend trying this.  You never know…you might find out something surprising about yourself!

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Setting Goals for Yourself

I’ve found that I am much more productive if I set concrete goals for myself at different levels: weekly, monthly, and yearly. I also tend to have a few longer-term goals than that, such as earning my college degree, but they do tend to be fewer. I’ve found that if I start with long term goals, I can usually break them into smaller steps, then break them down again as much as I need to in order to get them to more manageable size.

For example, I am working toward my college degree. I started this years ago, but got sidetracked when I left the engineering program I was in; I got caught up in day to day life. So, about 4 years ago, I set the goal of finally completing my degree.

Then I broke it down into steps:

  1. Go to community college and take a few classes to see if I could really settle down and be serious about this.
  2. Determine what I want to study.
  3. Find out what is required to graduate with a 2-year degree in that and start classes.
  4. Talk to an advisor about my course of action and the required courses and ensure that my major will transfer to a four-year school.
  5. Break down semester which courses I need and take them.
  6. Find out what I need to do to transfer to the four-year school and then do it.

This sounds obvious, but it isn’t always: take a really big goal and break it down into steps. Think of it this way: “What can I do to work toward that this year? How about by month? How about each week?” It can make overwhelming goals easier to face and to achieve.

Something else to think about is setting goals for different parts of your life. I’ve got goals for education, my spiritual life, my family life, self-improvement, physical fitness, emotional well-being, and so on. Think of different areas of your life that you would like to improve and set goals for each. They certainly don’t have to be major life-changing goals like getting a college degree or changing careers; they could be as simple as “read a classic book once a month” or “learn to cook one new healthy recipe a week.”

Sites that I’ve found that may be useful:

  • 43 Things (one of my favorites)
  • My Goals (I haven’t actually used this site but it sounds interesting)

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101 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up

  1. Do something nice for someone else.
  2. Go outside in the sunshine for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Take a break and read for 1/2 an hour.
  4. Soak in tub of hot water while listening to music.
  5. Surround yourself with candles and listen to music – or just peace and quiet.
  6. Write down what you are worried about and take a nap – or go to bed if it is time; you may have fresh ideas in the morning or after you wake up.
  7. Make lists; sometimes it helps to break things into smaller steps and check them off as you complete them.
  8. Write a letter to someone you’ve not heard from in a while.
  9. Write letters to older relatives; they will love it.
  10. Find a penpal.
  11. Show a child how to do something.
  12. Blow bubbles for a child.
  13. Set goals (do-able, achievable) for the day or week and check them off as you accomplish them. Start small.
  14. Read to a child.
  15. Have a cup of tea and a snack.
  16. Call a friend.
  17. Watch your favorite movie and have some popcorn (or your favorite treat).
  18. Start a movie night with friends.
  19. Get out of the house if you’ve been cooped up for a while.
  20. Buy some flowers.
  21. Raise a plant.
  22. Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish over the week, then spread them out over the week and check them off as you accomplish them.
  23. Meditate daily.
  24. Explore a subject that interests you.
  25. Fill a notebook with upbeat, inspirational quotes and affirmations.
  26. Try a daily affirmation.
  27. Read an upbeat, inspirational devotional.
  28. Add culture to your life; listen to classical music, look into art and find what you like, read good literature, etc.
  29. Declutter.
  30. Take a free online course about something that interests you.
  31. Take a class at the community college or university near you.
  32. For one week, try to improve one area of your life.
  33. Ask friends for suggestions of ways to cheer yourself up.
  34. Ask friends for suggestions of authors to try reading, or books in different genres.
  35. Get some exercise; inactivity breeds emotional troubles.
  36. Invent new reasons to celebrate.
  37. Take a stress-management course.
  38. Give duty a rest for once; put pleasure and happiness first for a little while.
  39. Have dessert for dinner one night.
  40. Have breakfast for dinner one night.
  41. Indulge in your favorite comfort food.
  42. Stop seeing yourself as a victim.
  43. Find a new hobby.
  44. Read a humor book.
  45. Read, read, read.
  46. Get more sleep.
  47. Eat better and drink more water.
  48. Look at your problems from a new perspective.
  49. Realize that the world has seen bigger problems that yours; put yours into perspective.
  50. Do one nice thing each day for yourself.
  51. Make a list of your accomplishments – over the last 10 years, or over your lifetime.
  52. Take care of yourself: floss, exercise, eat better, get more sleep.
  53. Be kind to yourself – as you would to others having a hard time.
  54. Do your best when it is really necessary; give yourself a break at other times.
  55. Be your own cheering section.
  56. Reach out to others when you can’t seem to get out of a rut.
  57. Ask others who have struggled with your issue for guidance or advice.
  58. Join a club.
  59. Try a new approach to your problem, or a new approach to whatever your facing.
  60. Talk to a doctor
  61. Exercise more in general.
  62. Keep a journal and write it out.
  63. Write it out on a piece of paper and burn it or shred it when you are done.
  64. Go for a walk.
  65. Go to the park.
  66. Go to the library for a little peace and quiet.
  67. Try something new to you: a new type of book/magazine, a new recipe, a new cuisine, write a book, write an article, a new craft, and so on.
  68. Try something new every week.
  69. Make time for yourself every day.
  70. Make meals in advance so you just need to warm something up on rough days.
  71. Order in when you need a break.
  72. Delegate household chores when you need a break.
  73. Remember that this too shall pass.
  74. Set up a website and experiment with it.
  75. Make a humor file and file cartoons, quotes, stories, and the like in it. Take it out when you need cheering up.
  76. Remember something funny that happened to you or around you and write about it. Submit to Reader’s Digest.
  77. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  78. Take a few deep breaths, and relax.
  79. Focus on someone else’s situation for a while. Offer help when you can.
  80. Help out in a soup kitchen or volunteer at a nursing home – or send holiday cards to people in a local nursing home.
  81. Send care packages to soldiers.
  82. Find a cause that means a lot to you and write your congressman.
  83. Give something back to your community: help pick up trash, keep your yard up, make sure your house is repaired, repair public things in your community, volunteer in the community, work on the the home owner’s association, take part in home owner’s association meetings.
  84. Find a women’s shelter and find ways you can help them.
  85. Join a church.
  86. Make a list of 10 people who have bigger problems than you, to gain a little perspective.
  87. Don’t start the morning with the newspaper; there is frequently a lot of “bad” or negative news. Read it later in the day.
  88. Keep yourself busy. Find things to do that you enjoy and focus on them.
  89. Choose your thoughts with care; they can really have an impact.
  90. Windowshop with a friend.
  91. Remember that no one can make you happy except you.
  92. Keep a self-improvement chart or make a journal/notebook for it.
  93. Change your hair color.
  94. Read a book that challenges you or makes you think.
  95. Try crossword puzzles.
  96. Try putting together a puzzle.
  97. Play with a kitten or a puppy.
  98. Go to a zoo.
  99. Visit an aquarium.
  100. Visit a friend.
  101. Set boundaries; if you need peace and quiet, let others around you know.


Filed under Depression, Goals, Lists, Self-Improvement