Lose weight. Hit the gym more. Go back to school. Make more money. Quit smoking. Eat healthy. Drink less. The most popular New Year’s resolutions are so commonplace not because they’re tired but because they seem all shiny and full of hope. You want to be better, do more, see the world. This is the year you change your life! But the problem is that all those promises to yourself are nebulous at best.
Typical resolutions are too unwieldy to be practical or too hyperfocused to be useful. This year, instead of setting your sights on unrealistic expectations—and setting yourself up for failure—take these actionable alternatives out for a spin.
Rethink Your Circle of Influence
That’s a fancy way of saying it’s time to cull your Facebook friends list—and while you’re at it, go through your real life friends list and connections on every other social media platform, too. Jim Rohn, a noted motivational speaker, once said that we become the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time.
Who have you invited into your inner circle? Are those people supportive or are they dragging you down? Do they post uplifting stories and thought-provoking musings on the state of the world or videos of skateboarding crashes and poorly spelled memes?
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is much the same as dressing for the job you want—you have to manifest the change before anything actually shifts.
Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is much the same as dressing for the job you want—you have to manifest the change before anything actually shifts. If there are people around who aren’t bringing value into your life, it’s time for them to go.
Make a Gratitude List
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” – Zig Ziglar
Negativity is like eating too much popcorn – it expands, often leaving you feeling uncomfortable and full of regret. When you start infusing your life with positivity, in particular gratitude, you open yourself up to receiving more of the same.
Does it sound a little woo woo? Sure. Does that make it any less true? Nope. Set aside five minutes every morning to make a list of what you appreciated about the previous day. It could be the burger you had for lunch, the beer you had with your buds, the fact that your annoying coworker called in sick, or that you slept in past 7am for the first time in a month. There’s nothing too big or too small.
Commit to (At Least) One Random Act of Kindness Per Week
Volunteerism is incredible. When you give back, you give yourself the gift of stepping outside your own sphere of privilege and experiencing the needs, wants, and lives of people different from yourself. In that way, it’s almost a selfish practice, but it’s one in which everybody wins, so it’s a wonderful thing to incorporate into your busy schedule.
When you give back, you give yourself the gift of stepping outside your own sphere of privilege and experiencing the needs, wants, and lives of people different from yourself.
That said, slapping “volunteer more” onto your New Year’s resolution list isn’t enough. Before you know it, January is long gone, February and March have whizzed by, and you’re heading into summer with nary a single service hour logged. Avoid that pattern by thinking in the short term. Commit to one (relatively) selfless deed every week.
– Pay it forward at the coffee shop and secretly buy someone’s latte
– Set aside an hour every Monday to tutor kids for free
– Offer your skills or professional resources to someone just starting up their own business
– Send a thank-you note when it’s least expected
– Share one positive thing every day on social media
– Shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway in the winter and mow their lawn in the summer
– Plant a tree (Mother Nature will appreciate it)
– Tell a stranger you love their hat
– Take a garbage bag and rake to clean up your neighborhood
– Walk dogs at the local animal shelter
– Bring a sick friend some soup
Some acts are smaller than others, but they all count.
Give Yourself Permission to Say No
In the midst of listing all the things you’ve decided you’re going to start doing, decide there are also some things you absolutely, positively won’t do anymore. Allow yourself to say no.
– No to cleaning up other people’s messes at work when you get all the burden and none of the thanks
– No to going out when all you want to do is stay in and creep yourself out watching Bird Box for the eighth time
– No to guilt and self-recrimination and doubt. Chances are you’re way too hard on yourself, and that has to stop.
– No to the fear that’s holding you back from success
– No to laughing at dumb jokes just because you feel like you’re supposed to
– No to fast food that makes your stomach hurt
– No to kale or sprouts or tofu that make your taste buds hurt
– No to putting everyone else’s needs first
– No to mediocrity
– No to faking your life on Instagram
– No to friends who take way more than they give
– No to bad dates
– No to the futon you still have from college—buy a grown-up couch, dude
This year, resolve to stop resolving and instead start living a life that feels good not in the future but right now, today. You might be surprised what happens when you get out of your own way.