Mark Twain once wrote, “New Year’s Day: now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Ouch. Kind of harsh, right? But if there was ever anyone who didn’t hesitate to tell it like it is, it was Mark Twain. (And that’s why we love him.)
The crazy thing about his statement, though, is that it was written in 1863 – which means that we’ve been making and abandoning New Year’s Resolutions for more than 150 years. Now, a lot of people like to ask why that is. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find dozens of pages of articles dedicated to figuring out why people seem unable to follow through on them. I mean, they’re things that come from good intentions, they’re positive changes – we should be able to keep them. But the thing is, it’s not that hard to figure out why we don’t: we just lose our motivation. End of story. So, if you want to do things differently in the new year, the key is to find a way to keep yourself motivated.
So, here are my resolutions for 2018 and how I plan to keep that motivation going strong all year.
Get Back into my Workout Routine
My husband and I got married in July 2015. For the solid year leading up to our wedding, I had gotten into the habit of working out five days a week. Okay, that’s a lot. But it was especially a lot for me because up until that time, I had NEVER kept up any kind of workout schedule. I didn’t work out at all. What changed was that I discovered Zumba. See, the university where I worked had an awesome fitness center, and as part of that, they offered various exercise classes. I knew I needed to be more active, so when I saw that they offered Zumba, I thought, “Why not?”
I have no rhythm WHAT. SO. EVER. But, I had so much dang fun in that class! Our instructor, Ruthie, would turn all the lights off, start up the disco ball, and crank the tunes. I was hooked. Because I actually started to see and feel progress in regards to my muscle strength and stamina, five days of Zumba eventually became three days of Zumba plus two days of Bootcamp circuits. I had never felt or looked better.
And then I moved to Germany. Where, unfortunately, I no longer have that kind of access to Zumba. There is basically only one place within 30 minutes where I could take a class, but it’s only offered twice a week and it’s pretty pricey. I have let that keep me from getting back into my routine for way too long now.
My goal for 2018: I would love to get back to the intense workouts I had kept up in Texas, but that’s just not realistic. I’m out of shape, and I no longer have that Zumba rush to push me into other types of workouts. So, my (starting) goal for this year is to do Zumba at least three times a week.
How I plan to hit that goal: Through the miracle of the internet that is YouTube. My former instructor in Texas started up her own YouTube channel where she uploads her latest choreography. She has them set up just like her classes – roughly one hour, including warm-up and cool-down dances. Using her channel is free, and I can have access to it anytime, so all of my excuses for not being able to get back into my routine go right out the window.
Improve my German
Before I came to Germany, I audited two semesters of German at the university where I worked. About four months after I got here, I took an intensive language course that lasted roughly six months and brought me up to B1. Since then, however, I have plateaued (to put it nicely).
My husband and I speak German about 20% of the time, I basically only speak German with my in-laws, and I read a lot of YA books in German. But other than the daily chit-chat at the grocery store, I don’t get any real practice anymore. Even in my job – because I teach in an English department, there is almost no German at all. I mean, people get by with B1 all the time, but whenever I think, “Meh. B1 is good enough,” I hear Gene Simmons. Though his language is a bit extreme for me, I can’t help but feel a little guilty when listening to him because I haven’t put 100% into learning German, and I mostly watch English language films and TV shows.
My goal for 2018: It’s not enough for me to maintain my German skills, I want to actively improve them. So, by the end of the year, I want to hit B2. Whether that means taking an official exam through my local VHS or a practice exam from Goethe, I will prove to myself that I have attained B2 German.
How I plan to hit that goal: Through a four-part approach. First, although it’s frustrating and mundane, I will work my way through a grammar workbook. The book I’ll be using is called Practice Grammar of German. There are a total of 63 sections, which sounds completely overwhelming, so my (starting) goal will be to just get through one each week. The second thing I’ll be doing is reading those YA books I mentioned more often. The first one on my list is Ada von Goth und die Geistermaus. Apparently, this was originally written in English, so if you’re interested in the book (or the whole series) but don’t want to read it in German, the English title is Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse. My goal will be to read three chapters each week. The third part of my plan is to watch at least one entire TV series in German. We just got Amazon Prime Video not too long ago, and on there, I have access to the first four seasons of Ripper Street. My (starting) goal is to watch at least one episode each week. The last part of my plan (which my husband is NOT HAPPY about) is playing games in German. I recently discovered a game called Black Stories, and I am totally hooked on it! It’s a card game about death. I know, very macabre. On one side of the card, you have a description of a crime scene. And on the back of the card, you have a story about what happened and why. To play the game, one person reads out the details of the crime scene, and the other players ask “yes” or “no” questions about it to try to figure out the main points of the story. It’s way harder than it sounds, but it’s so fun and just a really creative idea. The catch of it, though, is that it’s all in German. Not just the reading, but also the speaking. I mean, I could ask my husband the questions in English, but what good would that do me? This way, I get a lot of speaking practice that doesn’t feel like speaking practice. Unfortunately, my husband thinks Black Stories is the most boring thing ever, but he’s a good husband, so he’s agreed to play it with me from time to time. The game has 50 cards in it (so 50 crime scenes), and my (starting) goal will be to play one round each week.
Work on my Spiritual Health
One of the hardest parts of moving to a foreign country (at least, for me) is finding a church home. I grew up in Texas and spent my whole life in Southern Baptist churches. That makes finding a church in Germany a tad bit difficult since the vast majority of churches are Catholic. There are also a number of “Evangeliche” churches, but the majority of them are Lutheran. Baptist churches do exist in Germany, but they are few and far between in my neck of the woods.
Since I have basically stopped going to church since moving to Germany, I’ve also spent less time with the Bible – both things that I am really not okay with.
My goal for 2018: Basically, I’m ‘gonna have to suck it up and accept the fact that I will not find a Southern Baptist church in Germany that is exactly like the one I attended in Texas and actively look for a new home church in Germany. On top of that, I want to start reading the Bible daily.
How I plan to hit that goal: To find a new church, I’m just going to have to try a few out. That will take time and prayer, so I’m not going to line out a “plan” for that. However, to hit my goal of reading the Bible daily, I downloaded an app called Read Scripture. A friend of mine actually told me about it last year, and apparently, it’s been around for a few years already. It has a reading schedule that you can set to begin on any day (I started mine on Jan. 1), and it’s broken up into sections so that you kind of get a visual overview of the Bible as you read it. And they have videos embedded throughout that give you overviews, or sometimes refreshers, about the different books. What I really like about this app is that it shows you your progress, which I think will keep me accountable. Working out with Ruthie’s Zumba channel will also help me to build my spiritual health as much of the music she uses is worship / Christian dance.
Start my Ph.D.
Just writing that title out makes me cringe on the inside with anxiety. I have talked about getting my Ph.D. for at least three years now, and although I would love to rest on my laurels here, to be competitive in Germany, I have to get it. I have been so blessed in that I was able to get a teaching job at a university here, but I am the only one in my department without a Ph.D., or at least who is not in the final stages of their dissertation.
The process here is so different from the one in the States, and there will be a number of hurdles to jump, but I have an amazing support system at home and at work. I’m a little nervous because I’ve been out of school for a number of years now, so my brain is a bit out of practice, but it’s something I need (and want) to do.
My goal for 2018: Start the process, basically. I’m still learning how it all works and what I have to do, so at this point, my goal is to get the ball rolling. I have a working topic and an advisor, so my next step is to have my proposal accepted by the university. The next chance to do that is April, so that’s my goal.
How I plan to hit that goal: By stress eating and crying a lot. Well, hopefully not, anyway! I have put myself on a schedule with specific target dates to have different tasks completed by.
Step up my Blogging Game
I actually really enjoy writing this blog, but I haven’t always taken it as seriously as I’d like to. I also don’t always have the time to keep up with my posts, but that’s really by choice. What I mean by that is that I often use my blogging time for completely non-productive things (see social media and Netflix).
What I’d really like to do is establish a base of readers and then eventually one day turn this blog into a side business of sorts. What exactly that would be, I don’t know. But that’s what I’d like to do with it. Posting once every few weeks, though, and inconsistently, is never going to get me there.
My goal for 2018: I could list out a hundred different things here, but in the spirit of keeping things manageable and realistic, my (starting) goal will be to post one blog post per week for eight weeks consecutively.
How I plan to hit that goal: Because I really like making lists and schedules, I have scheduled in time on my calendar for each week between now and March to write. And, I’ve sketched out an outline of topics based on all of the places we went last year that I never got around to posting about.
Now, here comes the secret to motivation.
I know that everybody out there has the best intentions with their New Year’s Resolutions (as Mark Twain so nicely pointed out), but most of us lose our motivation, like, real fast. And that’s because most of us need to “see” our progress. I think it’s for that very reason that Bullet Journals took off like they did – because we could all create charts and color in squares and give ourselves a picture that we could look at and see the fruits of our labor in.
Now, if you can keep up with a bullet journal, more power to ‘ya. I was obsessed with mine for a couple of months until I ran out steam. It just got to be too much for this wholly un-artistic girl who spent way too much time trying to teach herself how to draw and stencil.
What I started using in place of my bullet journal was an app called Strides. Now, they’re not sponsoring this blog or anything, and the app is free to download, so there is no outside bias here at all. I played around with it last month to kind of try it out first, and I have to admit that it has really kept me motivated for the very reason that it gives me that picture of my progress.
So, yesterday, I cleaned it out and set it back up with my New Year’s Resolutions.
Bring it on, 2018. Bring it on.
So, tell me – what are your resolutions for the new year and how will you stay motivated?