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Be realistic about 2014

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Beth Veenkamp, author of the e-book Build a Better Year, advises people to be realistic about setting new goals and to take stock after the chaos of Christmas.
Our biggest mistake when the new year rolls around is we make sweeping declarations almost impossible to fulfil, says Kelowna author Beth Veenkamp.
A certified life coach, Veenkamp has heard all the resolutions this time of year. Clients tell her they're going to lose weight, exercise more and change their habits. They hurl themselves into ambitious promises and lose interest by mid-January.
Veenkamp calls it the trap of Jan. 1. The trick, she says, is to be more realistic about setting new goals and to take stock after the chaos of Christmas.
"We're all recovering from this really stressful time of year. If we just allowed ourselves to get quiet for the first couple of weeks of January and recover from that and think about our lives and where I want to be, we'll do better.
"Be thoughtful about what you want to be feeling next Christmas . . . December is going to come as quickly as it did last year."
Veenkamp's new e-book Build a Better Year offers a guide to prepare readers so they're not as stressed trying to live up to the high expectations of the holiday season. Too often people get attached to the past, she says. They expect everything to be harmonious - the house is clean, Grandma compliments the turkey and the kids love the gifts they get.
The expectations and supposed-tos can be crushing. On top of that, people panic because the year is almost over and they feel they've wasted it. They become their own worst critic.
"We're not doing a good job of acknowledging the high points along the way," she said. "Instead, we focus on the things we didn't get done on our list. 'I said I'd drop 40 pounds, and I gained 20 pounds so I'm a complete failure.' The fact you sold your house and changed provinces - you glaze over that and focus on what you didn't do."
At 40, Veenkamp shifted gears last January by leaving her secure job to start the book and work full-time as a life coach. She has a steady base of clients that includes engineers, architects, musicians and women looking for a career change.
Surprisingly, she works with more men than women. She coaches them on where they're going and how to get there. She subtitled her book "Twelve months of coach-yourself exercises to build your bliss."
To write and market the book while juggling her coaching practice, she had to divide her goals into smaller chunks - an appropriate strategy for making resolutions after the Christmas festival.
"Think about what you could take control over and change. Maybe it's . . . taking time to get out of debt," she said. "It's getting through the mini milestones that happen throughout the year that are classic trip-ups. How do you keep (the goals) active so you're still working on them in March?"
Another tidbit of advice - keep a journal during the holiday season so you know what works. Veenkamp has a client who grew obsessed about cooking cinnamon buns for her family on Christmas Day last year. Despite staying up late the night before, nobody enjoyed them. She ended up throwing them out and recording the disaster so she'd never repeat it.
"The better strategy is to be thoughtful about what really matters to you - what are the priorities?" Veenkamp said.
The e-book costs $6.99 and is available through iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

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