Making a Non-Milestone Birthday Count

I know this may come as a surprise to you.

In fact, it came as a surprise to me as well.

My father bought me the white house for my birthday. No, really-He did. He bought it when I turned four and we’ve been living in it for 19 years now.

Oh, you thought I meant this White House.

Sorry about the confusion. Although that would have been nice, I imagine that’s not even possible.

When I turned four, my family moved to a new house. Apparently I went around telling everyone that my father had bought me the white house for my birthday. Although I failed to see the humor in my innocent expression at the time, I now laugh when I think back on this memory.

Over the years I have received a plethora of wonderful gifts from friends and family.

Last week I turned 23.

There’s nothing especially exciting about turning 23-there’s nothing I can do now that I couldn’t do at 22 and it doesn’t represent a milestone birthday. It’s just-23. Seems pretty boring when you put it like that.

Sometimes I think we have to make our birthdays special for ourselves. Not because other people forgot about us. Not because we didn’t receive gifts. Not because anyone or anything failed to happen the way you imagined it would.

Just because. What makes one year any different than another is what you choose to do with it.

I’m a relatively shy and reserved person. Those of you who know me, know this to be true. Although I generally don’t have difficulty chatting with strangers, I’d say I’m more shy than not. I may have an idea about the way things should be, but may wait months or years to act on this idea. And by that time, I’ve probably already missed my chance.

I wanted this year to be different. I wanted to make 23 something worth remembering. It took me a long time to realize that being shy and reserved isn’t getting me anywhere. In fact, it’s overrated. Sometimes you have to take life into your own hands and see where that leads you. Whether it’s going after that special person you’ve had your eye on recently, or it’s finally having the courage to stand up for something you believe in, go for it.

A lot of people set New Years Resolutions and fail to stick to them past the end of January. I think this is a little different. Your birthday is the one day of the year that things really can be about you. Most of us probably receive loads of attention and gifts from others on our birthdays, but how often do you give yourself a gift? I know, it sounds silly, but you know yourself better than anyone else. Consider it a gift that will make you a better person and will be the one thing you can give yourself that no one else can. Make your non-milestone (and milestone birthdays, for that matter) count.

Make this year different.

Make this year count.

 

Maybe I should just get rid of the bar…

I’m not really good at setting New Years Resolutions. Over the past few years, I’ve thought of various things that I’ve wanted to give up or change about myself, but to no avail. Like many of you (and I hope it’s not just me), my goals are long forgotten within the first few weeks of the new year. I’d move on to more important things like starting classes again, catching up with family and friends, and spending far too much time watching the season premieres of various television shows. During the time period in which I did set goals for myself, they would be to a relatively high standard (for me) that would drastically change the lifestyle I had been living. Sometimes, they were unrealistic and often left me feeling upset and disappointed in myself because I didn’t accomplish what I had set out to do.

Don’t get me wrong-I am a very competitive individual and hold myself to a high standard. Fortunately (or unfortunately in some cases), I expect a lot out of myself (and sometimes others) and get really frustrated when my expectations aren’t met. It’s probably one of the reasons (at least at an unconscious level) that I stop setting goals at the beginning of each year.

While I was home for break, I had the pleasure of spending a considerable amount of time with many of my high school friends. Despite the years, distance, arguments, and lack of conversations at times, many of us have managed to stay close! Without fail, I can guarantee that I am going to see them and do something silly with them whenever I am home (or whenever other friends come home). One evening, I was at my friend’s apartment and we had a conversation that I’ve been thinking about since that time.

It was shortly after the new year and I believe we were talking about setting resolutions. At the time, I had been thinking about setting a specific goal for myself for the new year, but was worried that I would fall short of my desired outcome. Telling my friend this, she explained to me the difference between high-jump goals and long-jump goals. Despite my experience in the field of psychology in which we discuss such things, this topic was unfamiliar to me.

High-jump goals have a specific bar you have to jump over (like in track). If you don’t make it over the bar, you fail. For example, someone may start off the year by saying that they want to lose 15 pounds by the end of February. If they do in fact lose these 15 pounds, hooray! However, if they don’t lose them all (even if they’ve lost 14 pounds), they haven’t accomplished their goal and are often left feeling disappointed.

Long-jump goals are different than high-jump goals because they are more lenient in their presentation. With a long-jump goal, there is not a specific standard you have to meet (or bar you have to jump over). Your goal may be that in the first two months of the year, you want to lose weight. Regardless of how much weight you lose after those two months, you’ve accomplished your goal. With long-jump goals, you aren’t left feeling disappointed in the same way that you would be with a high-jump goal.

After this conversation (and reading up on this topic a little more), I realized that many of the New Year’s Resolutions I had been setting had been high-jump goals that often left me feeling disappointed if I didn’t accomplished exactly what I had set out to do (even if I was really close). I think many of us have a tendency to make high-jump goals for ourselves and when our expectations aren’t met, we become discouraged and don’t try anymore. However, by changing our frame of mind and the way in which we make goals, we can accomplish things that we might not have tried if we kept giving ourselves a bar to jump over.

So, I decided to take that conversation and apply it to my own life. This year, I’m not going to have a set goal that I need to meet. I’m just going to work on some long-jump goals. One goal is to be healthier. So far, so good. My fridge consists of mostly fruits and vegetables, my freezer is stocked full of frozen vegetables, and my friend and I bought gym memberships at our school on Wednesday. (We’ve already gone 3 times. Side note: Spinning is intense. Yoga is fun…ish).

Now, let’s not kid ourselves. Some things lend themselves better to high-jump goals. YThere are certainly times in which a high-jump goal is necessary. For example, at this time next year I should be done applying to PhD programs with the (high-jump) goal of getting in. If that doesn’t happen, I will be devastated…and you will have to hear about 🙂 (Umm…hopefully that doesn’t happen, though)!

So, how are your resolutions going? If you’re struggling, just get rid of the bar 🙂