This is the year those resolutions are going to stick. How do we know? Because this year, you’re going to set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
It’s an easy concept, but it makes a lot of sense, and it can work with anything you want to accomplish, from losing weight to quitting smoking to spending more quality time with your family. What are S.M.A.R.T goals? They’re specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and have a timeline—all attributes that make it easy to know when you’re successful and can keep you on track. If you have a major goal, break it down into S.M.A.R.T. steps. Want to lose weight? Rather than saying you’re going to eat more healthily and lose some weight sometime, say you’re going to lose 10 pounds in three months. Then break that down and set a goal to eat three servings of fruit and vegetables every other day for a week. Then add that you’re going to drink eight glasses of water every Tuesday and Thursday. Or walk for 20 minutes four days a week. Add elements in increments to keep your interest up but always keep the goals attainable. If it’s all or nothing, you’re more likely to give up. It also helps to make yourself accountable by setting up a support group, telling friends and family what you’re trying to achieve and giving them periodic reports on how you’re doing. Be accountable, but also be flexible. Stuff happens. You may have a terrible day and be unable to resist having a cigarette. Don’t give up entirely because of one setback. This isn’t saying you should make excuses. It’s just saying be realistic. Take things in stride, and start again from wherever you are.
To be successful, it also helps to find your motivation. Oddly enough, guilt and fear—even fear of death—actually aren’t good motivators (think of the people you know or have heard about who have had a heart attack but still haven’t changed their eating or exercise habits). Positive motivators work better. You want to be around for your granddaughter’s wedding or you want to go scuba diving next summer. This isn’t a one size fits all thing. You need to decide what you want and let that motivate you. Of course, My Personal Valet can help, too. Just what could you accomplish if you had two more hours in your week, for instance? Suddenly, you might have time to go to the gym or to your son’s soccer game. You might eat more healthily if My Personal Valet did the grocery shopping and prepped the meals. We can run errands, do laundry, plan parties, wait for repairmen, and generally do all kinds of things that will give you a few extra hours in your week. Maybe your first resolution ought to be to give us a call. Now that would be smart, indeed!
The holidays are really a mixed bag, aren’t they? You love getting together with family and friends, but some of those gatherings can get a little rough around the edges. It’s fun to see people’s eyes light up when you give them that perfect gift, but getting the gift can be a hassle, and there’s always that worry about expenses this time of year. In other words, there’s lots that’s good, but sometimes there’s also plenty that’s less so. If you’re finding it hard to look on the bright side of the holidays (or any days), here’s a simple solution to keeping those blues at bay: say thank you.
The power of gratitude is big news these days. One study showed that practicing gratitude can raise your happiness by as much as 25%. Gratitude has also been linked to better health, sounder sleep, lower levels of anxiety, reduced depression, and higher long-term satisfaction with life. Gratitude even makes teenagers happier — and improves their grades. That’s pretty powerful. And cultivating gratitude is easy to do.
•Focus on the positive as often as you can. You don’t have to be Pollyanna. You just have to pause to think about what you do have rather than getting caught up in what you don’t have. Or stop to notice what’s right with a situation instead of what’s wrong with it.
•Take a few minutes every day to consider the things you’re thankful for. Do it as soon as you wake up, right before you go to sleep, or during your commute to or from work.
•Keep a gratitude journal, and record everything thing you’re grateful for—not just the big things. A beautiful sunset is as worthy of note as your baby’s first steps.
•Say thank you.
•Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life and give them specifics about what they did and why it mattered. Deliver the letter in person if you can.
These may sound like simple, common-sense type things, but they do take practice. Start with the easy ones, like saying thank you more often, then move on to the things that take more concentration and/or effort, like keeping the journal. And remember: even a slight shift can make a big difference.
And while we’re on the subject of gratitude….for five years, here at My Personal Valet, we have shopped, packed, organized, planned and helped our clients improve the quality of their lives. We are so grateful to all who have allowed us into their homes and lives. It has been a wonderful journey so far and we’re looking forward to the next five years. Thank you. Have a happy & safe holiday season.
- A good bottle of wine is the tried-and-true go-to that’s almost always a good choice. But spruce it up a little: pair it with a fancy bottle stopper, wrap it in a funky dishtowel they can use later, or personalize it with a monogrammed gift tag. And speaking of using later, maybe present two bottles—one for the host/hostess to share and one for them to keep.
- Put together a gift basket designed to encourage the host/hostess to relax once the festivities are over. Fill it with a good book, a baked treat or chocolates, bath salts, a candle–and maybe that bottle of wine.
- Candles are a nice choice, but check with your host/hostess to see if they mind scented (some people prefer unscented but still like a pretty candle).
- Fancy guest towels and equally fancy hand soaps.
- A small pewter or crystal bowl filled with candy or nuts.
- A nice set of bar tools and/or a bottle of their favorite liquor.
- Fun or fancy napkins.
- A vase full of flowers or a plant in a nice planter.
- Home-baked cookies on a pretty platter—and they keep the platter. Or along those same lines, any pretty serving piece(s) and a treat to go with them.
- A silver or a crystal frame (make it even better by adding a picture of you and your host).
- If you visit homesick Texans, take them tamales (they freeze and travel well) or hot sauce and chips from their favorite restaurant.
- Send a hand-written thank-you after the party or stay.
- A hug.
We all know that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but if you want your wrapping to do more than just hide the gift, here are a few tips to create prettier packages.
•The best way to make gift wrapping easy is to get organized. If you have space for rods/racks to hold rolls of paper and ribbon, do that. But you can also store them in specially designed boxes that keep paper from getting wrinkled and ribbons from getting tangled (the Container Store is a good place to find them—and lots of other great ideas).
•When you’re ready to start wrapping, gather everything you need (gifts, paper, scissors, tape, ribbons/decorations, pen, gift tags, ruler) in one place.
•Clear a space on a large, flat, hard surface (dining tables work well).
•Measure twice, cut once. If your paper isn’t pre-printed with lines, use a ruler to mark your cutting line to keep it straight.
•Allow extra paper on the overlap so you can fold it to hide the cut (and straighten out the line, if you need to).
•Use double-sided tape for a neater finish.
•Try layering papers for interesting effects. Start with a solid-color paper (brown craft paper is a good–and inexpensive–choice) as the base, then cut a strip of decorated paper the width you want, wrap it around the package (in the center or offset to one side) and tape it at the bottom. Finish by tying a ribbon or raffia around both layers.
•Wrap your gift in fabric. Some traditional Furoshiki methods are here, but the fabric can also be used like paper or just wrapped and tied.
•Layer different widths of flat satin ribbon in complementary colors on your package instead of tying a bow. Or create a weave of ribbon.
•Add a sprig of pine, holly, or rosemary or a small pine cone or two to the bow with a little bit of thin florists’ wire.
•If you go the gift-bag route, spruce it up a little with more than the usual tissue-paper filler. Use a hole punch to put holes in front and back near the handles, thread ribbon through those and tie a bow in front. It keeps the bag closed and adds a nice touch.