As always, the time that I spent back home with my family for Christmas was fabulous (although already becoming a faint memory) and went by MUCH too quickly. Especially whenever I am with my sister, it seems that we have a million and one things that we want to do and accomplish, but never have nearly enough time. Although we had a lot fun and I wouldn’t have changed a thing, we had wanted to meet up with more friends, visit a Christmas lightshow, check out a new restaurant, take a barre class together, and so on. I guess time does fly when you’re having fun. And in many ways, I think the same is true even for the more mundane. My To Do List is ever expanding and although I am being productive and making good progress, I do have a lot on my plate and this past week decided to take a step back to assess and break things down into some more manageable steps. Because as Bill Gates once said, we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do in the long run. Although it is usually not realistic to expect a dramatic, sweeping and lasting change to occur overnight, we shouldn’t let that stand in our way of getting started or persisting. Small steps add up over time and good things come to those who are consistent.
With the first month of the year behind us now, the initial energy and enthusiasm for your goals and resolutions may be waning, making now a great time to check in and give yourself a month-end review. If you haven’t started yet or have gotten off track with some of your aspirations for the year, there is still plenty of time to course correct and make it happen. And if you have been working on whatever it is you set out to do, but are feeling frustrated or discouraged by the fruits of your labor to date, it’s worth reminding yourself that being consistent lays the foundation and positions us to achieve that which might not be immediately attainable. Each small shift or step in the right direction builds the foundation for major growth and transformation over time. And they really do add up when they are done repeatedly; building upon one another, so that over time it becomes easier and you’ll likely look back and be astonished by just how far you have come.
I recently read The How of Happiness by psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky which presents research based strategies for increasing one’s subjective wellbeing. One area she describes in detail is committing to one’s goals and she cites studies which have demonstrated that “people who strive for something personally significant, whether it’s learning a new craft, changing careers, or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. Find a happy person, and you will find a project.” Her research shows that we reap big benefits throughout the process of working towards our objectives if we are consistent and learn ways to break down higher level goals into more lower-level and concrete sub-goals. Since we are so likely to overestimate what we can do now or in the short term (leading to frustration or forfeiture of the dream), we should instead work to “[create] plans to take specific steps regarding where, when, and how to pursue a goal [which makes us] more likely to realize [our] bigger, and more abstract goals. She outlines the following method to do so:
- List your personal aspiration, dreams, and high level goals. You can be audacious, abstract or even impractical to start. One exercise I did awhile back and found to be extremely helpful was to create my List of 100 Dreams.
- Identify your highest priority goals and consider them in depth, identifying the resources and effort required as well as what you believe the impact of achieving such as goal would be.
- Select a single goal and describe it in concrete terms.
- Make it tangible by writing it down or finding a way to make it visual (although I might have formerly dismissed it as somewhat cheesy, in light of my recent experiment – I would now highly recommend trying a vision board – Still loving mine!)
- Develop what Lyubomirsky refers to as “implementation intentions – where, when, and how actions will be taken… anticipate obstacles (e.g., boredom, lack of time, frustration, family disapproval) and think of strategies to manage them (i.e., switch gears, prepare your family, set aside time to study when energy levels are high, etc.).” I was originally introduced to this idea by Melissa Hartwig of the Whole30, who outlines the concept as “If/Then Planning.” When we invest some time in advance considering and anticipating specific potential circumstances or challenges we might face, we can already start to formulate a plan or strategy to manage them when they come up. When we have a plan, we are much more better equipped and more likely to stick to our commitments.
- Execute! Take small and incremental, but consistent steps. Persist through challenges, using your If/Then plans when required and maintain flexibility to revise or change your goal in the event it needs to be deprioritized.
Over time, it does become easier. A few years ago I remember making Jonathan a dinner which remains one of his favorites to date – a chicken pesto pasta dish. At that point, I was pretty proud of myself for cooking at all and considered it (rightly so I would still argue) more healthy than dining out which we were in the very frequent habit of doing. Throughout the years though I have learned a lot about nutrition and have gained so much more insight into what works well for me personally and what doesn’t in terms of my health, my habits, and my relationship with food. And over time and with consistent practice, I have picked up quite a few new tips and tricks in the kitchen. Although it didn’t happen overnight, I am shocked to see how far I have come and now find it so much easier to make delicious swaps which don’t compromise my goals, my health, or my desire for food that tastes great. Like this revised Chicken Pesto Pasta which is a Paleo, Whole30, dairy-free, gluten-free version of that beloved favorite.
- Chicken Breast 4 each
- Avocado Oil 1 TBSP
- Dried Oregano 1 TSP
- Dried Sage 1 TSP
- Dried Thyme 1 TSP
- Zucchini/Courgette, Spiralized 2 Large or 4 Small
- Sundried Tomatoes, Drained and Chopped 1 cup (55 g)
- Marinated Artichokes, Drained and Chopped 1 cup (170 g)
- Dairy Free Pesto - Recipe Here
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line a baking sheet with foil
- Drizzle half the avocado oil on the pan and then top with the chicken breast and drizzle the remainder on top.
- Sprinkle the oregano, sage, and thyme evenly over the chicken breasts.
- Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
- Meanwhile, prepare your pesto according to the recipe and then place the pesto in a large mixing bowl.
- Spiralize your zucchini/courgette and drain/chop the sundried tomatoes and artichokes, placing all the ingredients into the mixing bowl.
- Use tongs or a spatula to toss the ingredients to combine well, coating the zoodles/courgetti with the pesto and then separate the mixture evenly on four plates.
- Once the chicken is finished, slice and layer over the top of the pasta dishes and enjoy!