In spite of failing to achieve my 2016 resolution and then reading this article about not setting too many resolutions, I have SIX resolutions for 2017. Yes, that’s a bit much. Yes, I think it’s a little nuts.
I picked them out the weekend of New Year’s Eve, and immediately started working towards them. Then after a week I thought that maybe it was totally impossible.
Admittedly, it’s over-ambitious to have six resolutions.
But in spite of second guessing my plan, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Each goal is something I truly want to do, so why not use this new year as a framework for following through on all six?!?
I’ve decided to post them here as a means of holding myself accountable.
Last year I told a few people my resolution, but this year I want to give myself a little more pressure, and I think writing it here is the way to go! I think it will prompt me to keep them in mind through the year, and give me a framework for sharing my progress.
Each resolution relates in some way to two of my long term goals.
First: financial stability coupled with an ultra-flexible lifestyle (read: working from anywhere, adapted to travel, and a comfortable retirement), and Second: living a long and healthy life. So broadly speaking, they are part of my longer-term plan to live a long, adventurous and fulfilling life.
Without further ado, I present you my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions!
Resolution #1) Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Last year I tried to get “healthy” while sleep deprived, and I never achieved my goal, to the surprise of no one. So to ensure success this year, I’ll set my expectations lower and try to get enough sleep.
Sleep Goal: 9-10 hours of rest with about 8.5 hours of sleep per night.
Exercise Goal: An article in the New York Times suggests people will live longer if they get their heartrate up for 2.5 hours a week and if they get another 5 hours of moderate exercise per week. Living carless in Paris means I hit that second target every week. As for aerobic exercise, my goal is to increase my current practice from zero minutes to 15 minutes a day. Maybe someday I’ll reach that 2.5 hours a week target, but let’s take baby steps, shall we?
Nutrition Goal: Even though I typically eat low-sugar and low-fat, I can easily create an entire meal of rice and chicken after having a breakfast of cornflakes and almond milk, with a snack of an apple with peanut butter. While those items are not individually unhealthy, you can see that this diet is not going to get me the nutrients my body needs! Since people who live to over 100 often have diets filled with fresh vegetables and fruits as well as a good amount of fish, I’m going to aim for that. I’m also pretty inspired to avoid alzheimer’s, so the “MIND” diet, which is very similar to the mediterranean diet, is going to be my guide.
Water Goal: I’ve always heard you need 8 8oz glasses of water a day, which is about 2 liters. Have you ever actually measured it out? I hadn’t! And I discovered I was getting about half or three quarters of a liter a day. Clearly not enough! So now part of my health resolution includes getting my 2 liters of water a day.
Resolution #2) Protect my health by reducing toxins from plastic
The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that chemicals used to make plastic “can leach out of products because they are not chemically bound to the plastic matrix.” What?!?
Apparently these toxins from plastics can lead to a whole litany of health issues including “asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.” The toxins in plastic are particularly bad for women (me!) and infants (hopefully someday!).
Unsure about this new information, I kept searching and found an article by the National Institutes of Health, and this one published by Yale, and another by the Centers for Disease Control and still another by Scientific American. So, this is really real!!?!
Apparently the phthalates group of chemicals is particularly bad, because they are fat soluble. They leak out of plastics when in contact with things like dairy products and meats. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often see these foods without any plastic packaging, so this poses quite a conundrum.
Another challenge is that some of these chemicals aren’t just inside the plastic, sometimes they are even added INTO products like shampoo and makeup to plastify them.
In these first two weeks of January, I’ve discovered that full elimination of plastic would be both time consuming and costly. *I’ve checked, and the bulk stores in Paris sell their goods for much higher prices than I can get at the regular supermarket or online.
Over the next 12 months, here are some steps we’ll be taking to reduce our plastic habit:
- Continue to use cloth grocery and produce bags to collect our veggies at the supermarket.
- Continue to use reusable water bottles, but I’ll switch to a stainless steel bottle rather than use one with BPA-free plastic.
- Continue to use a silicone mooncup instead of bleached menstruation products.
- Swap out all my shower products for unpackaged (zero waste) products, like a shampoo bar and natural toothpaste.
- Clean with vinegar and baking soda, and other nontoxic cleaners.
- Swap our plastic tupperware for glass and metal food storage containers.
- Opt for food products with zero packaging, or opt for paper or glass when possible.
- Make our own yogurt. (After I get second-hand Ball jars I’ll be ready to proceed.)
- And the most difficult: buy our cheeses, meats and fish with our own metal containers, rather than buy products wrapped in plastic.
We are absolutely not going to become totally zero-waste in 2017, but I think these changes will make a big impact on our consumption of toxic chemicals, and hopefully prevent health disorders for me and our future children. It might even be good for the environment too! 😉
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Resolution #3) Save Money for Retirement (and generally SAVE)
I’m seriously in awe of what my Grandfather achieved in regards to his financial stability and I want to follow in his footsteps. He slowly and consistently built up a business and then sold it when he turned 60 to live a totally calm and fulfilling life in retirement: for another 30 years.
In that spirit, I’ve read the book Smart Women Finish Rich which seems to suggest that saving 15-20% of your annual income is what is most likely to lead to financial stability at retirement. This is the amount I’m aiming for this year.
This means our new plastic-free lifestyle cannot become an expensive lifestyle. Keeping tabs on my budget and reducing costs here and there must also be part of this resolution.
And once I’ve saved the money, what will I do with it? Well, Warren Buffett recommended people read The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, which basically says that investing in low-cost index funds is more stable than – and just as profitable as – taking risks trying to play the market. That’s pretty appealing! So, I’ll be squirreling money away into an index fund by the end of the year.
Resolution #4) Build an Online Language Learning Business
Wow, I’m actually nervous about putting this out there on the interwebs. I’ve been telling my family this plan for the past 6 months, but to make it public like this means I’d really better do it!
In order to achieve what I described earlier as “financial stability coupled with an ultra-flexible lifestyle”, I intend to have an online language learning business that sells products, rather than services. My first product will be an e-book for non-native English speakers who use English for work. Look out for some sort of announcement in a month or two of the website name and the initial offerings.
Resolution #5) French language
Folks, my French skills are not fantastic. Yes, I can talk to anyone about a variety of topics. Yes, I know how to be polite. Yes, I can order a turkey for Thanksgiving. However, I make a ton of little grammar mistakes and sometimes I’m really searching for my words. The problem is that I don’t get to practice French much and I never study it either. I spend most of my time in English: teaching it, talking to my friends and family in it, and reading news online in it. Even the receptionists where I work want to talk to me in English. In 2017 I really must crack open my grammar books and make a better effort to improve my French. I have an excellent French grammar book that I studied in college, and my aim is to review one chapter every two weeks.
Resolution #6) Focus my mind.
This last one might be the most important resolution of them all, because it will help me be successful with all of my other resolutions!
For years I’ve enjoyed reading self-improvement books, and most recently I’ve gotten into a book called Talent is Overrated, which led me to watch some videos of Daniel Goleman, the author of Focus: the Hidden Driver of Excellence.
If I could sum up their work in just a few words, it would be this: the best predictor of a person’s financial success and overall health later in their life is their level of cognitive control. In other words, if someone can delay gratification, focus on their goals, and inhibit impulses, they are more likely to succeed.
Lucky for everyone, there are specific actions a person can take to train themselves to have better cognitive control.
First, Goleman explains that mindfulness meditation can help because it is essentially training the brain to focus. An experiment conducted by the US military suggests that 12 minutes a day is the optimum time to train.
Second, to really succeed with one’s goal, one can take time daily to visualize the precise steps needed to achieve the goal. This is similar to what Tiger Woods did to prepare for golf tournaments and what the Jamaican bobsled team did to win at the Winter Olympics.
That is all. Just those six resolutions. Simple, right?
I’ll let you know how it goes!