10 Great Books for New Year’s Resolutions

There’s something about a fresh new year that makes us feel hopeful. Many people start off the year with a resolution: to lose weight, travel more, get a better job, find love, etc. I’m not a big believer in making resolutions specifically at the beginning of the year. I like to set them whenever I think of them, and I call them “goals.”

But if you’re thinking about resolutions, or making changes, or setting goals, I have a few books you might want to take a look at.

  1. This Year I Will… How to Finally Change A Habit, Keep a Resolution, Or Make A Dream Come True, by MJ Ryan This is a great step-by-step guide to how to actually form a new habit, and why willpower and desire to change aren’t enough. It goes into some of the science of how our brains work to form new habits. She breaks it down into chapters, so that you can work on one skill before moving to the next.
  2. Habit Changers: 61 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals, by MJ Ryan I’m all about using a small quote as motivation. I’m someone who’ll get caught up in old habits and actually forget I’m trying to change. Having a mantra can help keep me on my toes because I’m more likely to remember that than a long drawn out internal dialog explanation of why something should change.
  3. Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending, by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton We all want to be happier; that’s what most resolutions boil down to. If I were thinner, I’d be happier. If I were more fit, I’d be happier. If I had a better job… You get the idea. Happy Money talks about the ways that money can buy happiness, and you don’t need a lot of it in order to do it. You just need to be smarter about purchases.
  4. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin I really enjoyed this book and the little experiments she did. There is a lot to learn from her example, though I certainly don’t think everyone needs to focus on one goal a month for a year. Though, then again, why not? It would be more effective than trying to start everything at once on January 1.
  5. Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spencer Johnson This parable is short, to the point, and endlessly discussable. It’s the story of 4 mice and how they dealt with the “cheese” being moved. Change is hard for everyone but inevitable. So how we deal with it really does inform the amount of stress in our lives.
  6. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert I read this at the urging of Ramona over at While I Was Reading. I was feeling stuck and uninspired with writing. I felt kind of the same about my whole life and needed something to help me get unstuck. This book was great for that. I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a creative outlet in order to be their best selves, whatever that creative outlet might be. This book is lovely encouragement that with creative pursuits, it’s the doing that’s important, not how good you are.
  7. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi Dr. Kalanithi was a neurosurgeon, and only 36 year old when he was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Before he died, he wrote this book to talk about the transformation in his understanding of what it is to live a meaningful life. It was profoundly affecting. When goal setting, I think it’s important to ask yourself, “What’s actually important about this goal? What does it mean to me?” While this book doesn’t directly address any of this, I think it will make you take a closer look at what brings meaning to you.
  8. Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl I will recommend this book over and over in any situation or circumstance because it applies to everyone. Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist working on a book when he was sent to a Nazi death camp. While surviving there, he maintains that his purpose, finishing his book, is part of what kept him alive. The first half of the book is a memoir about his time in the concentration camp, and the second half is is philosophy on life. It’s important for people who want to live a better life to assess what creates meaning for them.
  9. Start Where You Are: A Journal For Self-Exploration, by Meera Lee Patel I don’t you necessarily need this book (or any other) to journal. But if you’re new to it, this has some interesting prompts, and it’s set up in an attractive way. Each page has a quote or mantra that relates to the prompt. While I don’t think that people have to keep a diary they write in every day, I do think journals can be a positive tool for wellness. Writing things down is powerful, and journaling goals and resolutions can be a positive step toward keeping them. Knowing thyself can help identify patterns of behavior and why you are (or aren’t) following through with what you think you want.
  10. Pollyanna, by Eleanor M. Porter What’s this book doing on the list? A positive attitude goes a long way in life. I believe that. Pollyanna’s “glad game” is just another way of saying “be grateful,” but I love the way this book presents it. Some people will find it saccharine, but I think it should be required reading for all people. In fact, just read every book on this list. It’s good for you. 🙂

Do you have any books you’d add to this list? Any you disagree with?

How to Win at Life



Longhorn Cavern State Park, Marble Falls TX

There are no great stories that start without adversity. No one wants to hear about the rich man who got richer or the smart woman who got smarter.

We want to hear stories about people who beat odds. Who overcame obstacles.

Sometimes those obstacles are external. Life situations like poverty or bad parents. Racism. Oppression.

Sometimes the obstacles are internal. Like mental health issues. Perceived messages from others, like “You can’t do it” or “you’re not good enough.”

If Scrooge had been a philanthropist from the beginning, there wouldn’t have been a story. The narrator in Fight Club started off feeling powerless, and went on to make something bigger than himself. Abraham Lincoln was poor and mostly self-educated.

I know many successful people who beat themselves up for not being perfect. Of course, they know they’re not supposed to be perfect, will tell you that it’s impossible to be perfect, but then stress out over mistakes.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe because we know we’re capable of being better than the mistakes we make? Maybe because we judge ourselves by our mistakes and worst behavior? Or we’re worried that others are judging us that way?

I’m sure that it’s all more complicated than just one or two reasons. Our brains are magnificent, frustrating, complex entities, capable of creating art and science, and capable of telling us that others have nothing better to do than remember when we say or do something we shouldn’t have.

Here’s the thing: your life is just a story. It’s a series of memories, and moments. You get to pick what you put int that story. You’re the narrator. Are you going to pick on your main character every time they screw up? Or are you going to treat them kindly, putting in only the learning from the mistakes?

Most of us don’t focus on all the times Harry Potter screwed up. He destroyed Voldemort in the end, so what does it matter that he drove a car into the Whomping Willow or that he didn’t learn occlumency? People still read Twilight, despite the fact that Edward was an emo sparkly vampire. (Maybe not the best example. And yes, as much as I make fun of it, I read and enjoyed Twilight. But please don’t tell anyone.) We still like Kevin Smith, even after Gigli.

Mistakes don’t define us. It’s how we deal with mistakes that counts.

Working Toward Goals

Hello!  It’s Motivational Monday.  Here’s today’s quote.

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep.”
-Earl Nightingale

I’m definitely happiest when I’m busy, but not busywork-busy, actual goal-directed, productive busy.  So as you start your week, when things seem tough, remind yourself of what goals you’re working toward.

Don’t Let Anything Stop You

On Wellness Wednesdays, I post about a wellness topic.

One of my all time favorite quotes is:

“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.”

-Chinese Proverb

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

There are always naysayers, people who say that you can’t do something.  People who try to tell you that you’re not enough to do that thing.  Most of the difference between success and failure is willingness to keep trying.  And in order to keep trying, you need to believe that it’s possible, whatever it is.  People who are ultimately successful usually have a lot of “failures” behind them, but they generally rename “failure” to something else, like “learning experience” or “practice.”

If you want something… if you have a goal or dream… don’t let anything stop you.  Not what people say, not your own internal voice telling you that you can’t.  If you have a story to write, a song to sing, a picture to paint, do it.  Do it without judgement, without restrictions.

I didn’t show my writing to anyone for a long time.  In high school, I showed a poem to a teacher, and she said, “Are you sure you wrote that?  I’m not saying you copied it; I’m just saying that maybe you saw it somewhere and forgot about it.”  (For the record, no, that’s not the case.)  I let her words deflate me, and I was afraid to show what I wrote to anyone, lest they be disinterested, or worse, believe I was plagiarizing.  I let that stop me for about 10 years or more, until I started bringing my writing out into the light again.

I’m sure that teacher has long since forgotten her words, but I never have.  I know that she didn’t mean to stop me from writing, but took her words and allowed them to wound me.  Much of the time, when others inflict wounds on us, they don’t even know it.

Don’t let anyone stop you.  Don’t give anyone that power.  Do whatever it is that makes your heart sing.


How to Make New Year’s Resolutions


Think outside the box. 🙂

I don’t normally do the whole “New Year’s Resolution” thing, as in my opinion, it’s just another way to procrastinate.  It’s like saying, “I’ll start that diet on Monday,” which really means, “Yay, I have an excuse to eat like crap for four days since I’m starting a DIET next week, which will fix everything bad I’ve done to my body in the form of sugar, fat, and sitting on my you-know-what.”

But I have to admit, around this time of year, I do start to get those thoughts about the previous year, sort of summing it up and thinking about all the things I’ve done well or not as well, and all the things I’d like to do differently.  The passing of the old year and welcoming the new is a good place to take stock and set some goals, not to delay the start, but just to say, “Hey, this is what I want to do in the coming year.”

Most resolutions fail, and fail before the end of January.  Why?  The reason is that people often set large resolutions with no clear idea how they’ll get there.  For instance, weight loss is one of the most chosen goals.  People want to lose weight and go on a super-strict diet and exercise regimen for awhile, then stop.  Unless you are being paid millions of dollars for a movie and have a personal trainer, it’s just not realistic that you’re going to lose 20 (or 50) pounds without planning for it.

So how to make resolutions successful?

1.  Set smaller, attainable goals.  For instance, if your resolution is to lose weight, break it into smaller steps.  Start slowly and build good habits.  Studies show that slower weight loss is more likely to last longer than rapid weight loss.  The reason for this is that a healthier lifestyle becomes a maintainable habit, not just something that you drive yourself crazy doing until real life sets back in.  Any positive change will become a habit.  The Tortoise and the Hare taught us this lesson: slow and steady wins the race.  Remember, your resolutions are for the whole year, so you can take the whole year to make positive changes.

2.  Make your goals concrete.  When we set goals, sometimes they’re vague, like “I want to be happier.”  What does that even mean to you?  Sit down and make a list of what makes you happy, and then figure out how to have more of that.  If relaxing makes you happy, figure out how to take more vacations.  If spending time with friends makes you happy, set a coffee date with a friend.  Concrete goals make it easier to stay on track.

3.  Set measurable goals.  You’ll be more likely to stick to goals if you can measure them.  In the last example, don’t just say, “I’ll go out for coffee more often with friends.”  Say, “I’ll meet with a friend once a month for coffee.”  You’re more likely to do things that you can measure.  Plus, if you can measure something, it makes it easier to be accountable.

4.  Set a manageable number of goals.  Don’t sit down on New Year’s Eve and decide that you’re going to remake your whole life.  Set 2-5 reasonable goals, things that you can stick with.  After all, if your goals become too easy, you can set new ones later in the year.  There’s no law that says you can only set goals for the new year.

5.  Write it down.  Don’t count on your memory.  Write down what you want to accomplish, and the steps you want to take to accomplish your goals.

6.  Failure is okay.  I really believe that failure is just success that hasn’t happened yet.  Everyone fails.  JK Rowling was rejected by numerous publishing houses.  Thomas Edison made many lightbulbs that didn’t work.  The only difference between someone who “fails” and someone who “succeeds” is how many times you’re willing to try.  If you fall off whatever wagon you’re on, get back up and start again.

“There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.”
-Tom Krause


I’m a great goal-setter.  I’m not such a great goal-reacher.  My problem is that I get all excited about something and intend to go full speed ahead with it.  Then, real life intervenes, and I decide to start tomorrow, or I tell myself that I don’t have time or something came up.

The fact is that when something is a priority, it gets done.  Priorities take precedence over everything else.  Case in point: I go to work every day I’m scheduled.  It doesn’t matter if I’m feeling poorly or if I don’t want to or if I have other things on my to-do list.  I go every day.  So what happens to self-care?  What happens to writing?  How are the things that feed me spiritually and emotionally NOT priorities?

It’s hard making time for myself.  It’s easier to mope and complain that I don’t have time.  I have time if I really want to.  If a man without legs can climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I can find time for the things that I say are important to me.  There is no such thing as can’t.

Part of goal-reaching, in my opinion, is cleaning out the clutter.  Back to the work example.  If I had 10 different jobs going on at once, I might not make it to all of them or I might not do a good job.  I’d sure be exhausted.  I think it’s the same thing with everything.  If I have too many writing projects going on or too much to do, I get distracted and do nothing at all.  I like having a simple life, but I’m as guilty as the next person of bringing more clutter into my life, physically (more stuff), emotionally, and spiritually.

Today, I’m working on cleaning out my office.  I’m trying to rearrange so I can find the things I need and get rid of much of the stuff I don’t, that I’ve been hanging onto for no reason.  After all, a clean office is easier to work in.  I still love chaos, and I’m not cleaning that out, but clutter and chaos are two very different things.

I read an article that I’m going to try to emulate.  It said to only keep things that you use or that bring happiness or beauty to your life.  Several candles bring beauty.  24?  I can probably put some away.  If I wouldn’t notice if someone threw it away, then it’s probably time to send it to charity.  I’m starting with my office, but I plan to work my way through the rest of the house and mentally clear out some clutter as well.

Where’s the major clutter in your life?