Humans of BRAVE: Mini Resolutions for an Empowered Life

by Andrea McDermott

I am so excited to be writing a blog post for the BRAVE Institute! My name is Andrea and I was first introduced to BRAVE as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. After that first year, I became a Board Member, Treasurer, and leader of the Development and Advancement Committee.

Even before I became a part of the BRAVE community, I have always believed that we are makers of our own happiness. This idea is an essential part of the way I live my life and make choices. I also believe that when you need to make a change in your life - whether that’s moving somewhere new, picking up a new hobby, kicking a bad habit, or even changing your career path - you have the power to decide to make those changes. I find a lot of personal fulfillment in challenging myself in my choices.

Something I have always found challenging is New Year’s Resolutions (and yes, I know it’s April, but I’m sure a lot of people have already given up on theirs!). Why do I (and many others) wait until the new year, when we have the ability to start something new every day? For me, I know a part of it is being able to label it and categorize it. When the date changes, it is a good time to make changes for myself, too. It’s a clean slate, a fresh start.

Sometimes you need that #newyearnewme motivation just to make that first step. However, I often find that my New Year’s motivation dwindles quickly. The change almost feels obligatory, and speaking personally, it’s usually changes that I’m not particularly excited to make. E.g.: I definitely fall into the category of people who use New Year's Resolutions as a way to try to be healthier, and three weeks in, I’m skipping the gym and ordering take out.

Why was I always making resolutions that I knew I wasn’t excited about? Why would I set myself up for frustration and potentially failure? After all, the resolutions I’ve made didn’t contribute to my happiness - they took away from it.

* * * * *

I decided that this year I would try something new. In this article by CNN, author David G. Allan talked about creating mini-resolutions. Instead of doing something for the entire year, you try committing to one mini-resolution each month. The resolutions that you like you can keep up with, and the ones that you don’t - well, that’s okay, you made it through the month!

I thought that this approach would be much easier to achieve, and that I could make it more fun and more challenging. If I learned anything in my time with BRAVE it is that I can choose to make decisions that empower me anytime I want to. Instead of one of my typical boring resolutions, I decided that each of my mini-resolutions would be something that would make me happy and/or would challenge me. That way, the turn of each month would now be something to anticipate, not to feel guilty in the back of my mind for quitting my year long resolution.

In typical Andrea fashion, I made a list of every thing I could think of that I’d want to do in 2019. My list included:

  • Explore/cook new cuisine

  • Practice sight singing each day

  • Go vegan

  • Read each day

  • Play piano each day

  • Do Duolingo app each day (Duolingo is an app that helps you learn another language)

  • Jog more

  • Eat foods with no added sugar

  • Don’t use social media

  • Play the guitar each day

  • Complete the 30 day yoga challenge with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube

  • Meditate and stretch each day

  • Play the cello each day

  • Pray each day

As you can tell, I had more than 12 month’s worth of options. I decided at the end of each month, I would look at my list and choose the next month’s mini-resolution. I also decided that it was okay if I came up with something that wasn’t on this list. I didn’t set myself up with the expectation that everything had to go perfectly, either, and that just because I may not like what I did for that month, didn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying.

I believe that in order to grow, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. On January 1st, I looked at my list and decided I would try to pray more. When I was in high school, I was quite religious. As I’ve gotten older, religion has become less of a priority. So, I thought this would be a great opportunity to challenge myself to try something that used to bring me great comfort and peace. After my 30 days were up, I was glad that I stuck with it.

Throughout January, I was in a bit of funk, so I decided that in February, I would try to do something that would benefit my mental health. My mini-resolution was to stay off of social media. I never realized how much time I wasted on those apps - it was truly a challenge at first! But, it ended up being one of the best things I could have done! That month, I felt a lot less stressed, and was able to recharge my own battery (not my phone’s!). Even now, I haven’t been back on Twitter, and definitely use social media less. Yay for positive change!

Last month, March, I read every single day. On some days, I read 10 minutes, and others I read for hours. It was definitely a challenge, but this mini-resolution was a fun one for me! Some books I read were “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn and “God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy. (In case you were wondering, my all-time favorite book is “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan. It’s a collection of short stories and essays that reflect on life as a young person, particularly navigating the transition from college to the “real world.”) In March, I was able to rekindle my love for reading, and I’ve continued reading almost every day of this month, too.

I wanted to continue this streak of positive, challenging mini-resolutions that push me to be a little braver. As April and promises of warmer weather approached, I so wanted to do my yoga challenge or jogging mini-resolution. However, I am still recovering from a bad ankle sprain earlier this year, and wasn’t able to realistically do either of those.

So, I chose to combine the general idea a few of my mini-resolutions, and be more conscious of what I am consuming - both as a customer and a human being. This month, I have made a more conscious effort to buy unprocessed foods, dine out less, buy products with little or no plastic or packaging, and try to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible.  This makes me feel empowered because approaching my consumption habits with the environment in mind makes me feel like I am doing my part to help the planet. It also makes me feel like I am being healthier. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m throwing away less trash (both in the garbage and down my gullet), but I feel less tired and have more energy since changing my consumption habits.

For the rest of this year, who knows? A dream of mine has always been to learn to play the cello. My wonderfully thoughtful partner got me one for Christmas, so, I’ll be challenging myself to learn that new instrument this year! Either way, I will continue to do the things that bring me happiness and challenge me to be the best version of myself.

We always have the power to make choices that can contribute happiness to our lives and empower us. They can make us better, and they can make us braver.

Ask yourself: When is the last time I went out of my comfort zone? What is something I can actively choose to do that will add happiness to my life?

I challenge you to make changes as often or as little as you need to seek a life of happiness, growth, and self-compassion.