DEAR HARRIETTE: A good friend owns a gift shop in a nearby town. I usually buy gifts from her for my family for Christmas, but I didn’t buy any gifts this year. I feel bad that I didn’t support her, but I couldn’t afford it. I decided to stick within my budget for a change. I have been avoiding her because I feel bad that I wasn’t able to patronize her store. What can I say to her so that she will know that my not coming in to make any purchases was not personal? -- No Holiday Shopping, Tampa, Florida
DEAR NO HOLIDAY SHOPPING: Stop avoiding your friend. That is what is making things awkward. Reach out to her or stop by and wish her a happy New Year. Then tell her what you told me: You are sorry you couldn’t buy anything from her this year, but your budget was tight. Tell her you hope she had a good season, and that you wish her the best for the coming year.
What your friend already knows, if her shop is even marginally successful, is that she cannot depend on friends to keep her afloat. Friends are great for goodwill and emotional support. Being in business requires that you find and cultivate other clients.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I think I’m like a lot of people in that every New Year I try to commit to doing something for myself to make my life better. In theory, this is a good idea. The problem is that I never follow through after the first month or so. I know that isn’t unusual, but still, I want to be different this year. I have a couple of goals, especially about my health. I gained a lot of weight last year, mainly due to stress on the job and eating late at night. I want to turn things around for myself, but I’m afraid that if I say I’m committing to it, I will just fall off like always. Do you have any tips for how to reach a New Year’s goal? -- Ready to Change, Boston
DEAR READY TO CHANGE: The way to stick to a goal is to make up your mind and then make a plan. What I have done that works is to say that I will exercise every single day. It hasn’t worked for me to commit to three days a week, because that often turned into no days a month! By committing to every day, I usually get in five to seven days every week. That includes holidays and vacations. If you decide not to put your priorities on hold, it is easier to fulfill them.
Use a calendar to remind yourself of your promises. If you have a smartphone or watch, set alarms that tell you when you are supposed to work out each day. Same goes for when you will eat your last meal. Decide you will stop eating late at night, and that when you eat after dinner, it will be non-fattening, healthy food. Check in with yourself every day, and at the end of each month, reflect on what you have accomplished. This will help you to stay the course. Good luck!
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)