So talking about 2012 goals is all well and good… but just naming them isn’t enough. You’ve got to make a plan so that they’re more than a memory by February.

I’m not speaking from accolades of success here. This is Tsh, Normal Person, writing here. Like you, I’m busy, too quickly overwhelmed, and so often distracted by the next shiny object. “Get in shape? Who wants to do that? There’s cookies.”

Remember, grace is important. So is striving for excellence, not perfection. Don’t forget to siphon through the reasons behind your resolution—do you want to accomplish it so you can cross it off? Or will it genuinely make you more available to enjoy God?

Let’s practice this.

From my e-book, One Bite at a Time, you’ve got at least 52 projects that could serve well as a 2012 goal. It might serve you well as a springboard to give you ideas, encouragement, and motivation. As an example, let’s take projects 3 and 47 and mesh them together for one goal: to wake up earlier and enjoy a morning routine.

How could you approach this goal? Well, for one, you could wake up an hour earlier tomorrow morning and tackle a five-item checklist while rubbing sleep from your eyes. It’s possible… for some. Not for me, admittedly. My covers are warm in the morning.

Let’s say you manage to wake up early for a solid month—you’re good into early February. Then one day, the kids stay home from school because of a snowstorm, or you’ve got a particularly stressful week at work, or your husband’s out of town. You’re thrown a curveball, in other words. Your new morning routine might not magically work.

Perfectly fine—remember, we’re going for excellence, not perfection. But this resolution is sorta up to you, and you alone—no one else is required to wake up early and perform a five-item routine. You’re in it alone. What if no one knows about this goal of yours? How easy will it be to get back into the groove after a less-than-normal week?

There are two keys that seem essential for resolutions to stick: going a little at a time, and finding accountability in other people.

1. Kaizen—baby steps, baby.

As I mention in project 47 of One Bite, kaizen is a Japanese word that means very small, continuous change. It’s little drips of water that fill a bucket over a long period of time, not a firehose in a few minutes.

What does it have to do with reaching goals? It’s easiest to see kaizen in action with the goal to wake up earlier:

First, set your alarm for one hour earlier tomorrow morning, and see how you feel. Not so great, perhaps.

Now, set your alarm for two minutes earlier, and see how you feel. Probably exactly the same as your normal morning. Now set it two minutes earlier the next day—you’re now waking up four minutes earlier than usual. I’d wager you’re doing fine.

Rinse and repeat for a solid month—in 30 days, you’re waking up an hour earlier, and it probably wasn’t terribly painful. That’s kaizen.

You can apply the kaizen approach to anything—start with a one-item morning routine and do that for a week. Then add two. Then three. In five weeks, you’ve got a lovely little routine of five things every morning. Nice.

Want to lose a lot of weight? Don’t aim for 100 pounds in 365 days. Go for five pounds in 30 days.

Photo by Dawn of My Home Sweet Home

2. No woman is an island.

I asked my Twitter followers for one key thing to make new year’s resolution stick. The most popular answer? Accountability, or making your goal public. Getting others involved, in other words.

You might feel weird asking a friend to keep you accountable to lose 10 pounds, or to stick with a menu plan, or to not watch as much TV. But guess what? She’s got something, too. You could reach goals together, even if they’re not the same ones.

A few ways to use the power (and fun) of camaraderie:

• Gather a small group of friends at a monthly coffee date, and encourage each other to stick with your goals. If you’d rather do it online, meet with a friend over Skype or Facebook. Kat and I meet monthly via Skype, where I encourage her to reach her blogging goals; she helps me meet my fitness goals.

• Write a post about it on your blog, and commit to writing a monthly update.

• If you’d like to use my e-book, Jeannett of Life Rearranged will be writing about her personal progress on the first Friday of each month on Simple Mom—and we invite you to share your progress in the comments. It’ll be readers encouraging other readers, together.

On Facebook, Kitchen Stewardship readers are going through the book together each Monday.

Life as MOM has a great online book club, and the first selection of the year? One Bite. Read it together, for motivation.

Set yourself up for success. if you really, truly want to reach your 2012 goals, do what you can to remove obstacles. It’s much easier, and it’s more fun, too.

What 2012 goal of yours seems insurmountable? What’s one thing you can do to make it happen?

  • http://N/A Helen Tisdale

    Tsh, I enjoyed your post today so very much! I think the most insurmountable goal I have is to get my house in order; as I have so much clutter. I can just begin to get rid of the stuff. There is so much I don’t need. I am sure the book, One Bit AtA Time would be helpful!

    • Laurie Wallin

      I know what you mean Helen… With a family of 6 here, I always feel like “even if I DO get to that project, some little hands somewhere will be unraveling the thing I got in order yesterday!” :)

      What about one pile of papers at a time? Or one corner of a room at a time? Or setting a timer and doing what you can for 10 minutes and only that?

  • Pamela Braue


    I’m the single-mom of two girls, 13 and 20. I spent the last 15 years at home raising my girls. In 2009 my 13 year old had a bone marrow transplant and I spent the next year and a half keeping my house immaculate and germ free, being the nurse and mother to one daughter and being the mom to the other as well as being a wife. When that time was over where i had to keep my house germ free, i started slacking a bit. I’ve realized that I was burnt out and just couldnt do it all myself anymore. So my new years resolution i find insurmountable is getting my house back in order and learning how to ask my girls for help. I think your book would be a great asset to getting my life back together.

  • Tabitha – From Single to Married

    great post – I love the tip about baby steps. Makes sense of course, but I’ve never quite thought of it that way. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Jen Millett

    Great post Tsh! I really like the idea of kaizen – especially for getting up earlier. I’ve just started reading One Bite at a Time and find it to be a great read with a wealth of information. I just have to remember not to try to implement too much at once and truly take it one bite at a time. Thank you. You are an inspiration!

  • Brittnie (A Joy Renewed)

    Great tips. Love the concept of kaizen/baby steps. I really need to incorporate this concept into my daily to do lists. Sometimes I put WAY too much on my check list for the day or week and then get discouraged when at least half of it doesn’t get done. Yet by taking it little by little I can actually succeed at my goal and also feel a sense of accomplishment which will spur me on to continue meeting future goals. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Laura Gail

    Accomplishing all my chore cards everyday seems impossible with a toddler who I can’t take my eyes off for a minute or he is into something or pulling something down on himself. My goal is to get up an hour earlier every morning to get ready and start on my chore cards to get at least the majority of them out of the way b/f baby and hubby get up. It worked this morning but I think I can only make it happen until my next baby arrives in June. I will be too sleep deprived for early mornings and will just have to let some things go at that point since we will just be in survival mode.

  • Becky M

    As a cancer survivor who is now diabetic – one bite at a time is an appropriate message for where I am. Thanks for your encouragement and some of the tools you mentioned – this isn’t new years resolutions this is getting healthy for family.

  • Allyson @ A Heart for Home

    Tsh, I loved your post today. I completely agree that accountability is key. I’ll be publishing my goals on my blog and revisiting them each month.

    We also have a giveaway going for one copy of One Bite at a Time.

  • Sara Tetreault

    I think it helps to realize that just because you mess up one day on a goal/resolution, you can still get back on track the next. It’s not an all or nothing type deal. Our family likes to do a “family” resolution – one year we didn’t buy anything new and last year we did “technology frees Sundays” for the year. The technology free Sundays really stuck and we’re doing it again this year. I like that our kids get into the act and since they’re young teens, I think they like it too, although they’d never admit it!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Absolutely, Sara. I’ve been very aware of that truth this year—that one slip-up doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel. At all. You just get back up and keep at it, trusting in the strength God will give if it’s a God-honoring goal.

      It’s that perfection demon that says we’re done if we screw up. What else is grace for, if not to pick us back up, again and again?

  • Mel@MySunshine

    I enjoyed this post today. For me, I’m keeping things loose this year, having focus areas and looking at the overall picture rather than specific goals (which make me feel overwhelmed). If I can say, focus on saving money this year, it helps me make better decisions and I feel accomplished rather than disappointed if I don’t meet that specific goal of “I have to save $xxxx this year.”

  • Living the Balanced Life

    I have always loved the concept of Kaizen. Made me think of the old saying “Life is hard yard by yard, but inch by inch life’s a cinch!”
    We are currently on a detox diet, only fruits and veggies, so that is kinda extreme from the Kaizen standpoint, but really it does apply. Each week we are adding back in a food/group until we get to a level we are comfortable with. The goal is to eat clean 90% of the time, but we felt like the strict detox was the best way to start it out.
    Love the idea of using your book for a book club, will have to check out some of the options you mentioned!
    An important piece of getting things done

    • Laurie Wallin

      Love that quote Bernice! It’s so true!

  • amy

    i really enjoyed this post. something i try to do is break my big giant goals down to simple little steps and i might only put one of those steps on my to do list…so if i want to, for example, redo my website….all i will put on my list would be “get phone number for web designer”…it makes it baby steps which does not seem like a giant mountain that can never be crossed off the list…love crossing off the list!

  • Angie

    I am a songwriter and I want to complete a cd project of original songs and host a cd release party this year (preferably by June 2012). This goal is an enjoyable one but takes time, focus and lots of money and the ability to say no and yes at the right times. I know with God all things are possible. If you read my post – please send up a prayer for extra guidance and lasting joy for me this year. I want to give God this because He’s given me sooo very much.
    Thanks! Angie!!!

  • Archer

    I like your emphasis on doing things with a pure motivation. :)

  • Kaitlin Evans

    I am ALL ABOUT baby steps!!!

    I am SO quick to be an all-or-nothing girl. It’s something I really struggle with.

    If it cannot be PERFECT, forget it!

    In the last few years (probably coinsiding with having a baby) I have been forced to take it down a notch and focus on what is FATHOMABLE/realistic.

    It’s been incredible! Slow and steady REALLY does win the race!

  • Brad Kinder

    I agree COMPLETELY that small steps make ALL the difference in achieving.

    I just wrote a post about I don’t like “resolutions”, I “set goals”. My brain just likes the word “goals” better. :)

  • Tara Kerwin

    My cousin and I do yoga together at 6:30 in the mornings. We could try and go 5 days a week, but that’s never going to happen. Instead, we decided that we would aim for 2 days a week. I have to pick her up as she is on the way there and i feel guilty if i don;t go because she is counting on me and vice versa.

    As well, i have broken up my resolutions and goals into months so that i have a deadline. Get organized! Sure thing, I’ll get around to that. Buy a shredder and organizing supplies in January as my February goal is to have our bills organized in labeled file folders. Let’s hope that this works better for me as i don’t feel so overwhelmed and depressed when i don’t follow through

  • Laurie Wallin

    The hardest thing for me about “slow and steady wins the race” or the kaizen idea is that my strengths are in getting things done. It makes me a great person to have on a team, but it makes day in and day out life as mom and homemaker almost unbearable. I do and do and do and do until I’m sleep deprived. Ugh. I’ve had to learn how to create little milestones to reach so I feel like I’m doing what I’m best at and still not overwhelming myself. The kaizen idea for me is all about creating drops from the bucket of water I’m ready to tackle! :)

  • Lauren

    I’ve made several goals for myself this new year, and have tried to make a plan. I think accountability is important, but don’t feel really comfortable with other people sometimes. However, one of my goals was to be more extroverted, so I think stepping outside my box and asking someone to help me fits in there! Thanks for the concept of kaizen. I usually try to do too much at one time, so this was a good reminder!

  • Beth Williams

    Love all your posts Tsh! The idea of kaizen, baby steps, is a great one. My problem is, like a lot of people, I go full steam ahead for a while then quit.

    I also like getting things done & quickly–slow & steady is very very hard for me. Will give it a try with my resolution to get in shape for a 5K race this year!

    Thanks for the great post!

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