Here’s the good news: the fact that you’re reading this article will make it much more likely that you make any progress on beneficial changes to your life this year. It is way too often that we give up on goals because we are overwhelmed by the word “resolution”. When we make our lists every December, we can never find goals that are ambitious enough but still achievable. Either our resolutions seem like moonshots that become too inconvenient after a few months. Alternatively, we make resolutions too easy for ourselves that won’t make any substantial change to our lifestyles. But the secret is that resolutions are not about going out of your way to make your life more difficult. The word resolution comes from the Latin word “resolutionem” which is literally the “process of reducing things into simpler forms.” And this whole time we were trying to make things harder for ourselves every new year. No thanks! This year let’s commit to resolutions that make our lives simpler, free our minds up for more happiness, and allow ourselves to be more open and kind to others. Share these New Year’s resolutions worth keeping with anyone who puts too much pressure on themselves to set extremely ambitious annual goals that they will probably never achieve!
1. Invest in developing yourself
If we stop learning, we stop growing, and that can be stifling to increasing ones’ happiness and self-esteem. Doing something to better yourself will boost your confidence, perhaps make you better at your job, give you a unique skill, or open up new opportunities. The EdX platform allows you to search through hundreds of free courses that you could take to increase your knowledge base or help you pick up a new skill. I recommend taking a peek through their selections and signing up for at least one free course this year. Then share the website with a friend if you think there’s something available that they might take an interest in. Spread knowledge!
Don’t limit yourself to academic or professional skill development. Learn a new language just for fun (you can learn Klingon through Duolingo), or maybe learn how to knit so that you can make personalized gifts for friends and family. Don’t have time to take any in-person classes or read a bunch of self-help books; just look at EdX. Have even less time? Commit yourself to learn a new word every day or a 5-minute podcast on the daily news.
2. Give your body a break
We all want to become healthier, but this commitment is hard to keep. Every single day our minds are attacked with eye-catching and mouth-watering advertisements on TV and social media that remind us of all the delicious processed foods available at our fingertips. Fad diets are a recipe for disaster – to your immune system and your emotional wellbeing. Start small, start by drinking enough water to remain constantly hydrated. That means having a reusable water bottle or glass around you at all times (see tip #3), but it also means making water a beverage you’re excited to drink. For me, I like my water ice cold. To always ensure I have a frigid bottle ready to go, I always keep two reusable water bottles in my refrigerator. That way, I know I’ll always have one ice-cold bottle ready for me at any point during the day, and if I forget to refill one and put it back, I always have an extra. You can incentivize yourself to drink more water by leaving post-it notes everywhere, but you could be even slicker and set an hourly reminder on your phone to drink more. Here are some other quick tips! Add fresh fruit to your water to make it more flavorful. Fill up your bottle as soon as it’s empty. Have a hydration buddy, someone who will hold you accountable. Use a reusable straw! Out of the house? You can ask your boss or office manager to get a Bevi installed. Bevi is a smart water dispenser that allows for complete customization of your beverage, including 16 flavors, temperature, level of carbonation, among other things. Having a machine that makes hydration more exciting will do wonders for your health and wellness, plus you’ll be helping your dehydrated colleagues as well!
3. Incorporate Reusable Basics into your life
It’s about to be 2020, everyone. Save yourself some money and invest in a reusable water bottle. The average human needs to drink around 4 plastic water bottles per day to stay hydrated. Those can range from $1-$4 depending on where and how you’re purchasing them, which will add up to about $3,000 spent on water bottles per year. Let’s say, instead, you invest $20 in a reusable water bottle that you love because it comes in your favorite color. It’s just an estimate, but that comes out to $2,980 in savings, which is pretty compelling to my wallet! That’s just the cost-savings and doesn’t include all the positivity reusable water bottles provide for your health and the environment.
Don’t stop at water bottles if you don’t have to! Let’s start reusing everything. I’m talking silverware, straws, and bags. Even if you don’t have products that are meant to be used over and over again, there are still some products that are defined as single-use that you can use multiple times (please just make sure it’s safe). Some examples are plastic baggies, take-out containers, and tin-foil. For your bathroom, think about investing in reusable make-up remover pads or direct-to-consumer shampoo/conditioner that lets you refill your bottles if you send them back. Ladies, what about checking out the Diva Cup? Get creative and see what else can be done with some of your disposable products. The internet has extensive lists of DIY projects if you’re the handy type, plus they reduce your environmental footprint and leave you with a special item afterward.
This may be one of the harder tasks on this list because let’s face it, it’s hard to find any free time any more. But when I say volunteer, I don’t mean in the traditional sense of spending a couple of hours walking dogs for the local adoption center. Though that would be nice and is one of my preferred volunteer activities! Volunteering can be so much simpler and still have a positive impact on the people in your community. One idea is that you could volunteer to help a lower-level coworker by becoming their mentor. Offer to meet with them once a week for lunch or a coffee, chat about work or your personal lives, and give them tips based on what you’ve learned from climbing the organizational ladder. Even simple things that seem obvious to you would be super helpful to someone who hasn’t quite figured it all out yet.
The next idea could be paired with tip #5. If you’re out getting some air or walking your dog, bring a garbage bag with you. Volunteer for the time that you’re out and about, by picking up trash or recyclables from the ground as you walk. Not only are you helping out the environment, but you’re also making your surroundings much more beautiful for everyone. If you don’t know when the next time you’ll be taking a walk is, just keep one trash bag in your backpack or purse in case you feel inspired at any random moment.
If you want to commit to volunteering, there are so many ways to do so. Just figure out what’s important to you and get googling. Start here if need be: https://www.today.com/pages/volunteer-tips!
5. Refamiliarize yourself with your surroundings, don’t bring your phone
Now that we have the ability to be connected to the entire globe within a matter of milliseconds through our mobile devices, it has become difficult to live in the moment. And though it would be great for our mental health to get rid of constant bombardment from digital advertising and connection, that is just not going to happen. We need our phones for so much more than just calling these days. However, we don’t need it all the time.
For this resolution, just go for a walk. When was the last time you went on a stroll around your neighborhood without your phone? I know that I’m always afraid that I’m going to take a wrong turn on my way somewhere and be completely lost without my Google Maps, but our internal homing systems are much more functional than you might think. If you’re nervous about directions, map it before you leave and take a mental picture, or if you must, print out a map before you leave. As you walk around, undistracted by texts popping up on your phone, take in all the information of your surrounding environment: smells, sounds, sights, etc. And look at your fellow pedestrians and smile. You may have passed them 100 times before and never seen one another. Instead of snapping pictures of all the beautiful foliage that you pass, just admire it from within. Yes, you can still appreciate beauty without sharing it with someone else. Life continues to be beautiful, even if it’s not on your Instagram story.
6. Write things down more…on paper; declutter your computer files
It’s time to Marie Kondo that hard-drive! Don’t worry, you can save that final paper from your high school AP History class that you got a B on 10 years ago. Do yourself a favor, though, and store that bad-boy on an external hard-drive so you can let your computer breath a little. Prioritize only the documents and applications that you absolutely need for work and personal happiness, and put everything else on a storage unit. If you’re not using it or looking at it on a yearly basis, it does not need to be on your computer.
And as we declutter our computers, we should also declutter our minds. Unfortunately, they haven’t made hard-drives for memories yet, but I like to use old-fashioned storage myself. Get yourself a journal or just a notebook that you can bring with you everywhere or keep somewhere safe at home. Try to get into the habit of writing in it at least once a month. You can write about what’s going on with work, dating or your family, past travel and new experiences too. Make lists of music, movies, books, podcasts, and restaurants that your friends suggest to you constantly. Make lists of things you want within the next 6 months to a year, then make one for the next 5 years and then make one for 20 years. Make lists of what you like about yourself and what you want to work on. Make lists of everyone and everything you’re thankful for. Then anytime you’re feeling sad or uninspired, go back and read it. It sounds sappy, but often so many good ideas that we have go unheard. Or worse, we forget that we ever thought of them at all. And it’s even more significant to get the bad out on paper as well, because if you don’t… guess where it stays.
7. Wash your clothes less & upcycle those you don’t use
Recently I learned that jeans actually “never” technically need to be washed, but I’m not convinced enough to get rid of my washing machine entirely at this point. However, we don’t need to be washing our jeans after every individual wear. Unless you have some unavoidable unsightly stain or smell coming from your garments, why must they be washed?
On a similar note of doing more with the products that we already have, I’d like to introduce you to upcycling, if you don’t already know about it! There are so many great websites and programs that are already tackling the issue of the waste generated by the apparel and fast fashion industries. Upcycling is one way to increase the length of the life of a garment. For example, Patagonia’s Worn Wear website and brand makes it easy for customers to return old garments in exchange for money. Those garments are deconstructed to make use of the materials for new products, or sold at a lower price after being fixed up a little. You can even get some cool retro products that have been vetted by experts!
You could also bring the clothes you don’t wear anymore to a local thrift store, but you may not live in a city where this is easy. Using websites like thredUP makes thrifting easy from both the buyer and seller side. Ordering one of their CleanOut kits allows you to send all of the clothes you don’t wear anymore into the company for free, and they photograph and market your items on their website. They then send you cash or a shopping credit, or if you want, they’ll donate the clothes’ cash value to a charity (and you get a tax credit).
8. Attend a networking conference
For some people, networking comes naturally, and they quickly expand their professional connections almost organically. For others, networking can seem disingenuous and scary. To those folks, I’d say attending a networking conference is a great way to meet other professionals in your industry or a similar role. This takes away a lot of the pressure that goes along with trying to network in settings that aren’t meant for it, like the office holiday party. I always feel very awkward going up to someone in everyday life that I don’t know and asking them for advice about careers. However, if I’m at a conference where everyone’s goal is to get to know one another’s job, I don’t feel encumbered by awkwardness. It’s similar to when you just start college, and you have no fear of going up to a bunch of strangers and laying your cards on the table. You are unafraid because you can expect that everyone else is in the same boat and wants to find friends just as much as you do.
If you can’t attend an actual physical conference because of time or financial restraints, another great way to meet like-minded professionals is through industry webinars. Most professional associations will put on webinars whether your career is in marketing or hospitality. You can usually ask questions directly to the experts during these often free events and typically follow up with those experts afterward by connecting through email or LinkedIn. People are generally much more willing to talk then you would expect, and there is no penalty in asking for advice! The worst they can say is that they’re too busy or that they don’t think they can be of help!
9. Plan a trip or a reunion to look forward to
As you tackle a new year, let’s consider what’s going to be your motivation. What will make you the best friend or partner you can be in 2020? What will inspire you to work harder at work? It’s almost impossible to be good to anyone else if you aren’t good to yourself. This year, you must plan something to look forward to you. I don’t mean just one thing. I mean you constantly need to be reminding yourself of the good that lies ahead. That means if you have an exhausting 3 hour morning meeting, you should plan the day before to make sure you’ll be having your favorite lunch that day. Reward yourself for getting through tasks that make you miserable. Knowing that the misery will end eventually, and there will be a reward at the end allows you to focus on what is important, which is completing what you needed to get done.
Looking at the long term, you should plan a big event to look forward to. If you have the means, then work on planning that trip that you’ve always wanted to do. However, if you’re strapped for cash, then plan an event near you. Throw a reunion for all of your family or rent out a brewery for a random theme party for your friends. Whatever makes you happy, make it bigger, and share it with the loved-ones.
10. Pacify that voice in your head
Celebrity podcaster, Dax Shepard, mentioned in one episode that no one says anything meaner to him than what he says to himself in his head. This really resonated with me. So often we are more judgemental of ourselves than others. If you have a thought come up in your head like “I’m not good enough for that job” or “I don’t like the size of my hips,” you need to think if you would ever say that to a friend or family member. The chances are that you would never say something so mean and judgmental to another person, so why is it OK to say it to yourself? We need to stop being so mean to ourselves and instead lift ourselves.
A piece of this is getting to know ourselves again. Many of the tips above can help with this. Like going out on a walk with nothing but your thoughts or writing down lists of everything that you love about yourself. One thing that has helped me in the past is to meditate. I know… so millennial, but even if you aren’t interested in the mindfulness mobile apps, you can still gain a lot from just being in touch with your emotions and thoughts. Noting that the rude things that you say to yourself are simply just thoughts and not facts should become easier the more you practice noticing them through meditation.
Let’s sum it all up:
Invest in developing yourself
Give your body a break
Incorporate Reusable Basics into your life
Refamiliarize yourself with your surroundings, don’t bring your phone
Write things down more …on paper; declutter your computer files
Wash your clothes less & upcycle those you don’t use
Attend a networking conference
Plan a trip or a reunion to look forward to
Pacify that voice in your head
Even this might seem like a hefty undertaking, but in no way am I recommending that you try to tackle all of these at once. Simply just keep them in mind and if you see the opportunity to practice any of these good habits then give it a shot! Instead of throwing all of your will power into crash-dieting or putting your health at risk for the sake of a job promotion, try some of these reasonable resolutions that will put you on track to a more balanced and happy year in 2020.