Managing Mom’s Money

My mother is sixty-four. She’s struggled with mental illness for over a decade. About eighteen months ago, my family came to the tough conclusion that Mom needs constant care. Though she’s still relatively young, we found help for her at a nearby assisted-living facility.

Mom is doing better now that she has round-the-clock professional care. In the meantime, her three boys have been watching the homefront. We each have our own responsibilities.

Every month, for instance, I pay Mom’s bills. You’d be surprised at how much it costs to keep a house, even when nobody’s living in it. It costs $250 every month for electricity, maintenance, and more. Plus, it costs $4118 per month for the assisted-living facility and there are a host of medical expenses (even after health insurance).

It’s not the big expenses that worry me, though — it’s the little things that have a tendency to slip through the cracks.

When I took over Mom’s finances eighteen months ago, I found a number of odd recurring charges, both to her credit cards and her checking account. When I began calling the phone numbers listed on the statements, I discovered that most of these charges were different types of credit and life insurance.

I was able to cancel a couple of these charges by phone, but most required more effort and more detective work. In other words, they needed more time. Because time is scarce in my life, I put off the problem until the next month. And the next. And the next. Eventually, a year slipped by, during which time I continued to diligently pay these miscellaneous fees.

Finally, last Tuesday I took action. I spent an entire morning calling around in an attempt to cancel these charges. I didn’t have much luck.

While companies make it easy to obtain services, it’s much more difficult to quit. I’m certain they didn’t ask Mom for any sort of ID verification when she signed up, but in order for me to cancel, it’s not enough that I know her name, address, birthday, and Social Security number. It’s not enough that I have Power of Attorney. In order for me to cancel, they need me to sign forms, to fax copies of the Power of Attorney, or to have my mother herself grant approval. So, my work isn’t finished yet.

I also discovered that Mom has six different life insurance policies through two different companies. “I wonder why she has so many policies,” I said to my brother. “She doesn’t even need one — nobody relies on her income, so there’s no need for her to have it.”

“You have to be careful,” my brother said. He’s been getting Mom’s mail. “I’ve noticed that sometimes these places send what look like bills, but if you send in payment, you’re actually signing up for yet another insurance policy. It almost fooled me once. There’s no way Mom would have caught it. No wonder she has six different life insurance policies.”

Together, these life insurance policies are costing Mom nearly $1500 per year. And for what? We’re not sure. We can’t find any sort of documentation, so we don’t know what her coverage is.

After spending a few hours digging into her accounts, I was able to track down about $2500 of wasted annual expenses. No, that’s not a fortune, but it’s enough to pay half of one month’s rent at her assisted-living facility.

Mom doesn’t have a lot in savings. She only has about $25,000 total to her name. Because she’s the president and majority owner of the family business, she receives an income every month, which — coincidentally — comes to about $4000 after taxes. That’s enough to pay for her room and board.

The bottom line is that Mom isn’t even treading water financially. She’s losing a little bit every month. Her meager savings are being eroded by a variety of unnecessary small recurring expenses.

My experience has made me much more aware of the difficulties older people face when it comes to money. My mother believed she was doing the right thing when she signed up for an $8/month credit protection service through her credit card, but it never occurred to her that the $96/year was largely wasted. If she’d asked me, or if I’d talked with her, I could have explained that there are other, free ways to monitor her credit.

If you have aging parents, take the time to talk with them about money. Ask if they need help with their finances, if there are any questions you can answer. Volunteer to go through their credit card and bank account statements, searching for unusual charges and suspicious activity. Pull their credit reports to be sure everything’s as it should be.


As part of my renewed focus on fitness, I’m doing a 30-day detox. Since January 6th, I’ve had no caffeine, no alcohol, and no manufactured drugs of any sort. The experience has been…interesting.

I’m also trying to eat healthier than I usually do. I started with a day of fasting followed by a three-day juice cleanse. Since then, I’ve tried to avoid processed sugar (truly my one great weakness) and to up my intake of fruits and vegetables. It helps that Kim loves veggies, and that she’s teaching me to prep and eat them in lots of tasty ways, but getting enough vegetables is still tough for me.

Anyhow, as I said, the detox is interesting. There’s no question that I’m much more alert mentally than I have been in the past few months. My mind is active and agile. I’m able to process a lot. There are obvious advantages to this, but there are disadvantages too.

You see, left to its own devices, my mind will spin and spin and spin without ceasing, morning, noon, and night. This is great when I need to get work done, but it’s not so fun when it’s time to sleep. Before this detox, part of my bedtime routine was to take melatonin and/or diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and/or a small glass of alcohol. This helped me to fall asleep. Without these crutches, I tend to lay in bed thinking deep thoughts until the wee hours of the morning. As a result, I’m tired most of the day.

But I’m tired for other reasons too, and I’m not sure why. Even when I do get a good night’s sleep (which happens maybe twice a week), I find myself dragging from the late morning until bedtime. For instance, it’s just after noon right now, and I’m exhausted. I feel like I could go sleep for three hours. I just got back from the gym, and I had absolutely no energy there. My workout was slow and sluggish.

I’m not sure what all of the implications are here. Have I been using caffeine and alcohol so long that my body can no longer operate on a normal cycle without assistance? Are the damned eternal Oregon winters acting as an anchor in my middle age?

There are other interesting effects of this detox too.

I didn’t used to drink alcohol. From the time I graduated college in 1991 until late 1999, Kris and I steered clear of beer and wine and liquor. Then, in late 1999, I suffered a couple of panic attacks. I was anxious all of the time. Believe it or not, my doctor recommended I start drinking wine in order to relax.

Since then, I’ve become a social drinker. I’m very aware that alcohol “takes the edge off” for me, allowing me to ease into group situations. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, Kim and I attended a holiday party for her dental office. The conversation was tentative at first, but as people sipped their wine and cocktails, the talk became looser and more natural. Except that I didn’t have any alcohol, and so remained a little on edge all evening. I’m not sure if others noticed it, but Kim did.

I told my therapist about this incident. She encouraged me to learn how to take the edge off without alcohol. That makes a lot of sense, of course, but I’m not sure how to do this. (Actually, this goes to the core of what I’m discovering in therapy: I put a lot of pressure on my self all of the time, so that I’m naturally tense and anxious in most situations. I need to learn how to relax.)

Part of me wants to end this detox early, after only twenty days instead of thirty. It’d be easier. I could go down to the coffee shop on the corner right now and order a coffee, which would jump-start my energy and help me to last through the day. Then when I see Kim tonight, we could share a bottle of bubbly as we talk about what happened during our weeks. Plus, I could then use melatonin and Benadryl to fall asleep.

I’m not going to do that.

It’s a Big Deal for me to be able to make it through this detox. I only have twelve days left. I feel like even taking a sip of coffee or beer would be a sign of weakness. Maybe that’s silly, but it’s important to me to see that I’m strong enough to do this for thirty days without compromise.

Meanwhile, I’m going to take steps to figure out why my body seems to be so fatigued. Maybe it’s just age, but I don’t think so. I have an appointment with a naturopath on Monday morning, and I’m going to have her do bloodwork. I especially want my hormone levels tested.

I’d love to hear from some of you about your experiences with this sort of thing. Have you ever done an extended detox? What was it like? What did you learn? Do you see a naturophatic physician instead of a regular MD? Why or why not? And if you’re getting on in years, what advice do you have for those of us who are reaching our mid forties? What can we expect? What should we watch for?

Brace Face

For years, I’ve wanted to get braces. But for years, I’ve been reluctant to do so.

In 2009, as I started doing more radio and television appearances for Get Rich Slowly, I began to grow self-conscious about my teeth. Actually, I’d been self-conscious about them for a while. Each of us has some part of body that bothers us (and sometimes more than one part); in my case, it was my teeth. (And my sensitive skin. I hate my sensitive skin.)

I asked my dentist about the possibility of getting braces. She agreed it’d be a good idea. We even went so far as to have impressions made for the orthodontist. But I never followed through. I decided I was just being vain.

Over the past three or four years, though, my teeth have continued to bother me. I’ve gone so far as to adopt a dorky toothless grin, especially for photos. (Actually, many people have noted that I don’t smile in photos. That’s for a couple of reasons, one of which is that I’m self-conscious about my teeth.)

My dorky “smile without smiling” smile.

Last spring, I started dating a dental hygienist. She never said anything about my teeth, though, until last fall. She was cleaning my teeth when she pointed out that an orthodontist could fix my crossbite. The dentist she worked for agreed, and he urged me to see a local specialist. So I did.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been consulting with the orthodontist, talking with Kim, and weighing the decision. It’s true that my bite is messed up and that my teeth are mis-aligned, but the orthodontist says I’m not causing any damage. I could go on indefinitely like this if my teeth don’t move anymore. If.

During the decision-making process, I talked with my friend Matt. He recently got braces too, and he’s nearly as old as I am. It was this conversation more than anything else that made me comfortable committing to the process.

This is the bottom line: My teeth affect my confidence. Perhaps that’s sad, but it’s true. I want to be able to smile without inhibition. I want to feel good when meeting new people or appearing on television. I want my teeth to be as normal as possible.

So, on Tuesday I got braces.

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Newly installed braces on a 43-year-old man.

The orthodontist says I’ll have the braces for at least two years. I’m okay with that. So far, I haven’t had any pain. The real challenge has been learning to eat again. Eating with braces is very different than normal eating. Usually when we eat, we don’t even think about it. With the braces — at least for the first two days — I think about every bite. I’m conscious of where I’m chewing and how. And once I’m done eating? Hoo-boy! It’s quite a production to brush and rinse to make sure my mouth is clean.

And as always happens, now that I’m a 43-year-old man, lots of people are telling me their stories about having braces as an adult. Who knew it was so common?

Now if only I could fix this doggone sensitive skin. Shaving is hell!

Four Years Later

Four years ago today, my best friend killed himself. Paul (aka “Sparky”) and I didn’t see each other much in the years leading up to his death, but every time we did, I learned something about myself and about life. I miss him. To commemorate Paul’s passing, today I want to share the eulogy I wrote for his memorial service.

Paul was one of my best friends for 25 years, but we never could remember when we’d met. It must have been in junior high school. In my eighth grade yearbook, he wrote: “Your a nice friend and a good bud”

Despite this, we had no real memory of each other until sophomore year of high school. We were seated together in Mr. Nichols’ second-period American Lit class. Paul was sat behind me on the left edge of the classroom where we quickly formed a coalition of wisecracks. Who knew John Steinbeck could be so hilarious?

Before long, Paul was my best friend. We shared a locker. We shared music. We shared clothes. And we began to share ideas. From the start, Paul and I had radically different world views, though that did not stop our friendship. Instead, we each saw it as a challenge: how could we persuade the other fellow that he was wrong.

1987-senior-class-willI remember one night I drove Paul to a football game in Newberg. I don’t know if we ever got out of the car. We sat in the parking lot and debated the existence of god and the nature of the universe. When the game was over, we drove home, more satisfied than if had actually sat in the bleachers and showed school spirit.

We shared soccer together, too. Paul was always the better player. He had more passion. He was more competitive. At one soccer practice at the start of our senior year, the coach had us play a game of “mob tag”. Paul took it upon himself to tag me, which he did by throwing me to the ground and falling on top of me. I was angry with him after that. He tore up my knee. For the rest of the season, he ran up and down the field while I hobbled on the sidelines, walking on crutches.

I forgave him for that, though. How could I help it? His laughter and enthusiasm and spontaneity were the perfect counterpoint to my own contemplative nature. He was yin and I was yang. He dragged me to see Frankie Goes to Hollywood in concert. I roped him into joining me for Bible study. He convinced me to go out dancing on a Friday night. I persuaded him to stay at home and watch foreign films with me the next.

We went to different colleges, but we still made time to see each other. During our freshman year, we managed to scrounge up enough cash to buy tickets to see U2 play in Vancouver, B.C. We boarded a bus in Portland at 9am, rode all day, watched the concert, and then rode back home all night. We were dead tired, but it was a transcendent experience.

As we grew older, I settled down. I got married and bought a house. Paul did not. Paul was a nomad. He worked odd jobs and traveled. But a few times every year, we’d get together to play racquetball or to go play videogames at the nickel arcade or to ride our bikes. Sometimes we’d argue about philosophy. Paul was always challenging me, and I tried to challenge him.

Summer 1998 — Paul and I rode our bikes 50 miles through the Oregon countryside

In 2002, I began to play soccer again for the first time in 15 years. I joined an adult league in Portland. My career was short-lived. In the second game of the season, my knee gave out, that old high-school injury coming back to haunt me. The doctor told me I’d torn my ACL and would need to have surgery. Soon after this — but before the surgery — Paul came up to see a movie with me. We were climbing a wet and grassy slope to reach the theater when my knee gave out. I fell to the muddy ground. “This is your fault, you know,” I said angrily over my popcorn. But I couldn’t stay angry for long. We laughed about it, and before the previews began we were reminiscing about the high school soccer team.

And that’s the thing about Paul. He always made me laugh. He pushed my comfort zone, and made life fun. He encouraged me to try new things, and to be better than I was. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. He made me a better person.

Paul is gone now — but he’s not. I’m reminded of him every day in countless little ways. First thing in the morning, when I get out of bed and walk downstairs, I have to shuffle sideways like a crab. My bum knee hurts. That’s Paul. When my knee hurts, I think of Paul, every single time. It’s as if a piece of him is in me. When I hear U2, I think of him. When I get on my bike, I think of him. And every time I meet and talk with one of you, I will think of him, too.

Four years later, I think about Paul all of the time. I think, especially, of the memorial service at the University of Oregon. An overflow crowd squeezed into a room in the library. We shared memories of our friend. A week later, after the church memorial service in Portland, a group of us went out for drinks. That brought a bunch of us together who hadn’t really reconnected in years. Four years later, we’re still in touch.

I’ve regained some old friendships because of Paul’s death. It reminds me of a Spanish proverb that means a lot to me: No hay mal que por bien no venga. In English, that would be “There is no bad from which good does not come.” Or, more colloquially, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I’m grateful for the friendships that have been rekindled due to his departure, but I still miss Paul very much.

Focus on Fitness

My head is full of things to share with you, but my time is scarce. I shouldn’t even be writing this now. I have an Entrepreneur article that is two days past due! But, as I say, there are so many things to tell: I’ve had an offer accepted on a condo, I’m getting braces next Tuesday, and I’m learning all sorts of little lifehacks from my friends lately.

Today, though, I want to take a few moments to talk about the strange world of weight loss. As you may recall, I lost fifty pounds from January 2010 to June 2011. I did this through a combination of smart eating and dedicated exercise. (To be honest, though, the exercise accounted for 80% of the success; my diet has never been stellar.)

I’ve managed to maintain a healthy weight and fitness level for eighteen months. Sure, my weight fluctuates over time, depending on how much I’m moving and what sorts of crap I’m eating. But mostly, I’ve kept the weight off.

During December, however, I went off track for the first time in three years. Because of a shoulder injury, I wasn’t able to exercise as much as I’d like. And because of the holidays (and because Kim and I spent a week vacationing), I ate like crap. More to the point, I drank like crap. I had a lot of alcohol last month. Bottom line? I entered the new year feeling and looking awful.

No worries. I had a plan.

After I returned from Houston last weekend, I stepped on the scale to get a frame of reference. On Sunday night, I weighed in at 181 pounds, the first time I’ve been over 180 in…well, almost two years. After seeing that shocking number, I implemented emergency measures.

  • I fasted for 24 hours, from Sunday evening ’til Monday evening. (Kris and I met for Hawaiian food on Monday night. I ate chicken and salad and rice.)
  • From Tuesday to Wednesday, I did Dr. Oz’s three-day cleanse, during which I drank fruit/vegetable smoothies for my meals.

The results were impressive. This morning, I weighed in at 169 pounds, a drop of twelve pounds in four-and-a-half days. Admittedly, these pounds were mostly bloat from too much salt, sugar, water, and alcohol. But that was exactly the point of the fast and cleanse, right?

Moving forward, there are a few more things I plan to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle:

  • Tomorrow (or tonight), after about a month of no regular exercise, I’m heading back to the gym. Bring on the Crossfit! Plus, Kim and I will shift some of our food-oriented dates to exercise-oriented dates.
  • Kim has shifted from a paleo diet to one that’s far more plant-based. While I’m not willing to go that far, there’s no doubt that I need more fruits and vegetables in my meals. That’s a focus for the next few weeks. (And, I hope, beyond.)
  • I had a glass of wine with my brunch on Sunday morning. From that point until Valentine’s Day, I intend to drink only water. No alcohol. No coffee. No soda. No juice. No nothing. (Well, except for green tea. I’m allowing myself green tea.)
  • Actually, I’m eliminating all mind- and body-altering substances until Valentine’s Day, including ibuprofen and melatonin and caffeine. I want to see what it feels like to have no chemicals in my system.
  • I’m going to re-focus on running and biking. These two activities fit my body type, and I really enjoy them. For the past few years, though, I’ve mostly done strength training. That’s great (and I’ll continue to lift weights), but aerobic activity is more my thing, so I’m going to return to it.

My focus on fitness was a key component of the life changes I’ve made over the past few years. I grew a little complacent this summer and fall, though, because I’d reached a sort of fitness peak. But the truth is, that peak cannot be maintained without effort. Injuries and busy-ness and dating are no excuse.

I’m excited to be back on track. Healthy eating and exercise can actually be a lot of fun. They make me feel great.

Right now, though, it’s back to work. I still have that Entrepreneur article to write. Soon, though, I’ll tell you more about my condo, about my braces, and about all of the little lifehacks I’ve learned lately! Life is fun, isn’t it?

A Weekend in Houston

One of the best parts about blogging is meeting readers and colleagues. I go out of my way to have coffee, lunch, or dinner with anyone who asks. As a result, I’ve formed some great friendships.

Eighteen months ago at Savvy Blogging Summit 2011, I met Amy Gross from VineSleuth, a wine blog. She and I hit it off instantly. We spent the entire weekend talking about travel, writing, and wine. When she came to Portland for a wineblogging conference last August, we spent an afternoon touring the town, drinking Chilean wine. And in October, we reconnected at Savvy Blogging Summit 2012.

Wine Bloggers Conference
Drinking wine with Amy at the blog conference in August

In early December, I called Amy to ask for advice regarding a possible Real Job (about which I may speak more of in the future). During the call, she asked if I’d be willing to fly to Houston for a weekend in order to share blogging advice with her and her husband. “Of course,” I said.

On Thursday, I flew out of Portland to join Amy’s sister-in-law (Toni from The Happy Housewife, a popular blog about frugal homemaking) for a marathon brainstorming session.

Work and Play

I’d only been to Houston once before. In July 1985, I was part of Oregon’s delegation to the national Future Business Leaders of America convention. I competed in the business math event (in which I placed eighth), but mostly I flirted with the girls. What I remember most about the city is the humidity — and the fact that a bunch of us went out to see St. Elmo’s Fire in the theater.

This time, I didn’t do any flirting. This time, I worked. (And played…a little.)

On Thursday night, we sat by the fire on the back patio, drinking wine and talking about the direction of VineSleuth. I tried to keep pace with Gary, Amy’s husband, drinking whatever wine he was drinking. That was a mistake. Gary is bigger than I am, and a far more experienced drinker. By the time I went to bed at two, I was a mess.

I woke at seven on Friday, and by nine we were working again. We sat around Amy’s kitchen table, talking about the ins and outs of blogging. We discussed content and marketing and networking and SEO and affiliate programs and post titles and workflow and everything else we could think of. Amy never stopped taking notes. I wish we’d recorded the session.

In the evening, Gary took us out on the town to celebrate Toni’s 40th birthday.

Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert
Toni snaps a photo of her 40th birthday dessert

We dined at The Four Seasons, then took a taxi to Max’s Wine Dive. Having learned my lesson the night before, I put a brake on my alcohol consumption and let Gary blaze ahead. Good thing, too. Next, we headed to Rebels Honky Tonk to practice our line dancing and bull riding. I wasn’t good at either, but I had fun trying.

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Riding the mechanical bull

Saturday was much more sedate. We spent all day working around the kitchen table again. And again, Amy filled page after page with notes about the business of blogging. We broke for Mexican food at one point, but otherwise we stayed on task. In the evening, we did try some wine (and beer), but otherwise things were mellow.

And on Sunday, we spent our last few hours together making sure Amy had a solid plan for VineSleuth.

Blog Consultant

For years, folks have been encouraging me to become a blog consultant. I’ve always thought that was kind of crazy. Who would pay for that kind of thing? Turns out, there’s more of a market than I thought. Plus, I know more than I give myself credit. It’s actually a viable idea for a business.

So, this is something I plan to pursue in the months (and years) to come. I’ll have to find my way at first, making things up as I go along. But that’s what I did when I started blogging, too. And that’s what we’ve done while putting together the World Domination Summit. You make things up, you do your best, and if you’re fortunate, things work out.

My Goals for 2013

On Monday, I shared my year in review for 2012. The past twelve months were a time of transition, and I’m happy with how my life has changed in the past year. Now, however, it’s time to look forward to 2013, to prepare plans so that life can be even better.

In recent years, I’ve consciously shied away from New Year’s resolutions. I’ve used a “one goal at a time” technique to achieve major changes. By focusing on just one thing at a time, I don’t get distracted, and I’ve been better able to achieve success.

I didn’t set any major goals for 2012, though. This was largely because I knew my life was going to be in a state of flux: I was in the process of getting a divorce, was moving temporarily to an apartment, and was preparing to leave Get Rich Slowly, where I’d been writing for six years. If I had a goal, it was to get through all of these transitions in a smooth and orderly manner. Which I did.

This year, though, I want to be more directed. And I’m willing to take on more than just one goal in 2013. As my discipline has improved, I’ve found that I have more brainwidth to devote to self improvement. I believe I can pursue more than one goal at a time, so long as the goals aren’t in the same parts of my life. (In other words, I can probably pursue just one fitness goal at a time, but I can pursue a fitness goal and a financial goal simultaneously.)

Here, then, are the things I aim to achieve in 2013.

Professional Goals

To begin, I have a handful of professional goals. Though I only have a few of these, they’ll dominate most of my time from Monday through Thursday of each week.

First, I’m going to fully develop More Than Money. Since retiring from Get Rich Slowly in October, I’ve enjoyed writing here, finding my voice again, exploring a variety of topics. But I haven’t found any regular rhythm. I’d like to change that in 2013. I want to build a community here as I share the vast variety of information I explore in my daily life. I want to help others to help themselves. To do that, I want to make this site more robust.

Second, I’m going to write a proposal for my next book. Though I’m proud of Your Money: The Missing Manual, I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing unique about it. It’s a common-sense guide to managing your money. It’s not the “J.D. Book” that I wanted to produce. After two years of mulling it over, I know what the “J.D. Book” is: what it’s about and what it should look like. This year, I want to produce a proposal so that my agent and I can sell this book.

Next, I want to help produce the best-ever World Domination Summit. In July, we’ll bring 3000 people to Portland for a two-day event. As you can imagine, that entails lots of logistical challenges. Plus, we need to provide programming to engage this group. There’s a lot of work to be done over the next six months, but I want to make this conference something worthwhile for everyone who attends.

Finally, I want to continue to practice my public speaking. Last year, I spoke at three conferences. I already have three speaking gigs for this year. I’d be happy to do one or two more. But more than that, I want to improve my delivery. A lot of times, I feel unprepared for my talks, and I lack confidence. This year, I want to make sure that each talk is well-prepared and, most importantly, full of useful info for the folks in the audience.

Personal Goals

While I’m eager to tackle my professional goals, I’m actually keener to work on my personal life. My work has dominated my life for the past few years, and it was only in 2012 that I began to seek balance between the professional and the personal. I want to continue that work in 2013.

First up, I’m going to buy a house. It’s taken me a few months to prepare for the house-hunting process, but things are finally ready. I know how I’m going to pay for the place, and I know (roughly) where and how I want to live. Last week, I began looking at places in the Portland area. I’ve already seen a couple of promising properties. I’m hoping to have found a place by the end of January so that perhaps I can have moved by late March, before I travel to Europe.

Also, I’m going to do more volunteer work. Last year, I dabbled with volunteering. I did a couple of workshops about personal finance, for instance, and for nine months I was an English tutor for a woman from Spain. (Sort of. In reality, we became friends who liked to hang out twice a week.) In 2013, I want to find other ways to give my time and energy.

Next, I’m going to foster my friendships. I did a good job of connecting with friends during the first half of 2012, but as I got busier in the latter half of the year, I did a poor job staying in touch. I want to correct that.

And, of course, I’m going to re-dedicate myself to fitness. For the past few years, fitness has been one of my top priorities. I’ve learned how to eat right and how to make exercise a habit. As a result, I reached my peak level of fitness last July. But through a combination of injuries, travel, and a lack of focus, I’ve let my body go soft. I’ve gained about ten pounds, and I can feel my physical fitness beginning to fade. It’s not too late to put on the brakes, though, and that’s just what I plan to do. In 2013, I’m going to train for the Portland Marathon, reduce my alcohol intake, and pay more attention to healthy eating (including more fruits and veggies).

Through all of this, I’m going to relax. At the end of 2012, I started seeing a therapist. I didn’t have a purpose at first, but after a few conversations it’s clear that there are a couple of things I can work on. Number one? Tranquility. I need to learn to be calm, to go with the flow, to be present in the moment. “I want you to learn how to self-soothe,” my therapist told me at our last session. Sounds like good advice!

Finally — and most importantly — I’m going to continue building my relationship with Kim. I’m happy to have found a partner who supports me emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally; and I’m happy to be able to do the same for her. I’m excited to see how our relationship grows now that we’re leaving the early “get to know you” phase.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, these aren’t SMART goals. The aims I’ve shared aren’t all specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timed. However, for most of these goals, I do have private, concrete objectives.

Really, though, I’m aiming for a change in process, in the way I think and act. To me, the details are less important than making lasting behavioral changes. I want to build good habits that last a lifetime.

What about you? What are your goals for 2013? What do you hope to accomplish in the coming months? How do you decide which goals are most important? And how do you decide how to spend your time when pursuing more than one goal at once?