Maslow and New Years Resolutions

image text: spoonie resolutions
image background: looking down on a book with the sun shining down overlooking a small pond and some trees through a wooden balcony.

A New Year, a new Decade even, is a time that for many will symbolize a start of new, improved habits and an end of old ones.

If you’ve followed along over the years, you know I’m not big on setting a resolution. It just isn’t feasible. Hell, this time last year I couldn’t even visualize goals that I believed could be fulfilled.

I set off to find something better that fit my needs: a theme.

At the end of 2018, I resolved to spend the next 365 days Recovering. It would be the year of Recovery, having followed 2018 a Year of Selfishness. I came to find out that abandoning “selfishness” didn’t truly serve my year of Recovery because what others view as selfish is truly just boundaries many of us who are sick or disabled are unwilling to cross at the expense of our health.

I’m happy to say, this was a successful Year of Recovery.

I may not be healthier, I may have 4 new conditions that have names to them (kind of), and I may not be done recovering. But, I am in a place where goals are attainable again.

In June, I revisited my theme for the year and took a pretty big leap – and no, not the whole moving back out on my own thing.

I set goals.

1 – Finish reading 1984 AND read one more book.

This one was huge. I felt like such a failure having been unable to read every night or read more now that I was always home and needing to fill my time. I finished 1984… and then I decided to really challenge myself to read The Stand. All 1100+ pages of it. Two weeks ago, I finished the first book in the large book… Luckily for me, I did pick up The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** and read that in a single sitting. Mission Accomplished.

I think what really matters that came out of this goal was dedicating time to relax. Giving myself the necessary time to not worry about always being productive when I’m not in high pain is a huge accomplishment and has given me a new outlet for when I just need to breathe.

2 – Try out an audio book.

I’ll admit, I really overestimated the time I’d have on my hands when I moved out. However, I’m currently listening to The 4 Hour Work Week and will most likely finish it by the end of the year. Mission Two Accomplished.

I had hoped an audio book would show me a good substitute for reading, turns out I actually prefer having to read the book rather than listen, because I stop listening incredibly quickly.*

*my mom can attest to this.

3 – Regain my confidence to grocery shop.

I don’t know if I can say Mission Accomplished or not. What I can say is that some days I’m up to going grocery shopping and that depends on how much pain I’m in and how many other symptoms I’m battling. I can also say I’ve gotten rather comfortable ordering groceries when I need to.

So I guess, Mission Accomplished because I think the confidence has returned, I just also have the confidence of opting out of going into a physical store when I’m unable to.

4 – Add at least one source of income.

First and foremost: Mission Freaking Accomplished.

Secondly, I cheated. I was not precise in setting this goal, therefore I don’t have to be as precise with how I’ve met it. And because I “cheated” my next 6 month goal is much more precise. I said add at least one source of income, but I did not refer to it as consistent. Since June, I began painting more often – and I actually managed to have four large commissions often for more than one piece of art. I also completed a typist gig and had my first paid writing opportunity.

Which is where I must add, my first paid writing opportunity isn’t a one and done deal, however I don’t know how regular the opportunities will be so I cannot judge it as a consistent form of income.

I added income. Not consistently. Not in a way that offset much of anything. Nothing that could remotely be compared to substantially gainful activity – but it’s certainly a start.

5 – Explore two new healing techniques.

I did not accomplish this in the way I had anticipated, however I accomplished it nonetheless. With the help of my patrons I was able to buy an acupressure mat – which has done wonders for quickly relieving neck tension and upper back tension. And, well, the moon is number two.

6 – Create the life I want to live.

This mission is still in progress.

Now let me just say, I am so fucking proud that I set goals on a whim because I had nothing else to write about and was feeling down and out about life. And I met every single goal.

This however, brings me to something really important: a gentlemen named Abraham Maslow.

Someone we have all heard of, especially in psychology courses, and someone worthy of extreme recognition when it comes to all of us setting goals as the new year approaches. We cannot extend our goals beyond the level we are at. Especially when we are chronically ill, disabled, and/or mentally ill.

And, I’ll rephrase a bit too. When setting our goals, we must first strive to fulfill the level we are on before striving to climb upward.

Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs with a pyramid broken into 5 sections. Starting from the base of the pyramid: Physiological needs (air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction), Safety needs (personal security, employment, resources, health, property), Love and belonging (friendship, intimacy, family, sense of connection), Esteem (respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom), and Self-actualization (desire to become the most one can be).

I point out this diagram and this concept as a way to push back on the social expectations and ideas of progress that others have for me and reframe where I am in the context of psychology.

Moving out was a rather abrupt occurrence, but rather necessary. Living with chronic illness means I need a certain level of control around my food and shelter. My largest obstacle was my shelter – being uninhabitable due to bugs – and food. You’ll notice these needs are the basic needs required according to Maslow.

It took me almost 4 months to fully attain “shelter” and that involved a second move into a newer and bug free apartment

Once this need was met, I found the constant struggle I’d been having with food to disappear within only 2 months.

I had been fighting with how to always have food when I needed it and how to manage prepping food with unpredictable health. I achieved this by alternating between meal kits and ordering groceries to plan my own meals, and by cooking extra meals that could be frozen for future busy weeks or bad pain days.

Surprisingly, simply getting to the point where I had food frozen if I needed it and knew I could cook what I’d been planning was the key to everything. Once I reached that point it was smooth sailing.

I have now fulfilled the base tier on Maslow’s diagram. Now don’t be fooled, these basic needs are great, but even health isn’t considered in this section so my overall quality of life still remains relatively poor.

Because I’ve fulfilled that tier, I can only now start truly addressing needs like employment and health and create executable goals for the future.

Going with a concept I’ve learned in The 4 Hour Work Week I’m developing my goals for the New Year based on Dreamlining.

Dreamlining forces you to picture what you want to have, be, and do in the next 6 months and 12 months, and then narrow down on which four options would make the biggest difference in your life. The concept is designed more for entrepreneurs and people who want to be wealthy enough to do worldly things like travel around the world, own fancy cars, this and that. But in applying my understanding of my health and picking dreams that the average healthy person wouldn’t understand, I’ve developed a relatively solid set of Resolutions.

So, for my Year of Growth, I present to you my first four goals:

1 – In 6 months, I would like to have one steady stream of consistent income.

For me, this is huge and my initial steps to achieve this are already in the works. In my December bullet journal I’m tracking my “productivity” so for example, one day I have 1 hour’s worth and I spent it cooking. On another day, I have 4 hours worth and spent an hour cooking, an hour writing, and two hours painting.

The initial tracking of productivity will guide me in defining what the steady stream of income can be based on my health and available time. (You may have guessed, I don’t have initially high hopes for the weekly amount of hours hence my reading a book about 4 hour work weeks.) You see, I can’t commit every productive hour to work, because if my charts show most of the time is needed for cooking I either have to cook less, more efficiently, or opt for consistent income options that may be of lower financial reward due to lower available hours.

Cooking less isn’t actually a viable option – see food on tier one, employment on tier two. Can’t go up with holes in the foundation.

It’s also important to note that productive hours are no where close to pain free or symptom free either.

My first real step, that I took today, was identifying my core strengths so that I can develop a big picture of options I have at my disposal.

2 – Have stronger muscles.

My proudest accomplishment is that I have stretched every single day this year, doing yoga or another gentle exercise at least once a week. This came from wanting to improve my morning routine but also get my blood flowing and my body moving first thing, without inducing a painful migraine.

Next up, I want to build stronger muscles because sitting immobile for almost two years has certainly taken a toll, but not a permanent one.

First step? I created a workout plan that incorporates my legs, upper body, and core. It’s only 30 minutes long – but being shorter I am able to test out the initial workout on varying levels of pain days and develop necessary adjustments.

3 – Be able to cook without meal kits.

HelloFresh is expensive, but it has been my saving grace in not necessarily having to plan out meals and rather pick from a handful of recipes. So, being able to cook isn’t the problem – I’ve proved I can manage this. Needing to spend less money and shopping the ingredients/picking the meals myself is the problem.

My initial step for this is to identify better sources for recipes because I find Pinterest to be overwhelming and the recipes often aren’t that good. So, I’ll be researching other HelloFresh recipes since I do love their options, and then trying to make those at home. I’ll also work on going through the recipes I already have and making an effort to use those more regularly as well.

4 – Sell paintings.

Regarding something I’d love to see myself doing in six months, it would be selling paintings. This is something that is hard because I often have to be feeling relatively good to paint and having people order commissions that could take a few months to complete isn’t ideal.

My first step towards this is to finish the commissions I already have. And then, paint myself something just for me. I’ve found that in trying to always perfect something for someone else, I don’t love the whole process. But in making myself something it truly is project of passion.

I want to sell paintings that are a product of passion. To do that, I have to paint.

I think what’s important about all of these goals, is that they are relatively attainable and they don’t cost me much of anything to begin working towards them. These goals are different than the one’s I’ve set before, because they begin to strive towards things on Maslow’s second tier.

I primarily am addressing 3 areas of my life: health, employment, and enjoyment. Enjoyment doesn’t fall into Maslow’s pyramid, but it falls into mine. My final goal for this year was to create a life I want to live and that’s honestly something that is rather frustrating when illnesses have no cures and research for medications is years behind where I would like it to be.

And so with enjoyment, and slowly working towards these goals, hopefully my quality of life will begin to improve. Because life is more than having food. Life is more than a job that can support you. Life is more than any singular quality we wish for.

So cheers, to working on improving the whole picture of life.


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