When it comes to new year’s resolutions, I recommend making promises that are easy to keep.
This is just a friendly suggestion. I don’t want to discourage anyone from striving for excellence. Self-improvement is important work. I know there are amazing people who annually resolve to do things like go to the gym, or learn new languages, or rescue and rehabilitate orphaned, three-legged alpacas, and then actually do what they said they’d do. I am not one of those amazing people. I’m not too hard on myself about it, though.
I have been, however, that person who, when the champagne corks pop at midnight, boldly declares they’re going to spend the next 12 months training for a marathon, despite knowing that training will begin and end with buying expensive new sneakers. But I am not that person anymore. I’ve learned from experience not to set myself up for disappointment.
Here’s how to make sure your New Year’s Resolutions don’t turn into Old Year’s Regrets: resolve to become a better person by setting achievable goals at a pace that can be maintained. Don’t reach for low-hanging fruit, but do, by all means, stand on your tippy-toes and grab middle-hanging fruit, I say.
Here’s a cheesy self-improvement quote I’m going to paraphrase: Just as every journey begins with a single step, every big life change is actually made up of many, many small changes. Think of it this way: It’s like eating a whole pizza all by yourself. You don’t roll the pizza up into a giant burrito. Ha, ha. Trust me, this method doesn’t work. No. In order to eat an entire pizza, you must eat it methodically, slice by slice, bite by bite. The greatest metaphors about life are pizza metaphors.
So, there is no need to read further if you’re a multilingual long-distance runner who saves wounded animals. But, if you’re more like me, then consider the following realistic New Year’s resolutions. They’re all pretty easy and, by next year, you’ll be proud of yourself for pulling them off. New Year, new-ish you.
1. Get Up, Every So Often, And Go For A Walk
I got one of those wearable health trackers for Christmas. It is a fine gift. I don’t know if I’ll be able to pound out 10,000 steps a day anytime soon, but I do know that getting up and just walking a little bit is something I can definitely do. You should, too. Stretch a little before. Then stroll to the corner store. Don’t worry about how many steps you get in.
2. Go To Bed Earlier Than Usual
I have random quotes from the internet for days: Early to bed and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise. I think the inventor of the hundred dollar bill wrote that. Anyway, resisting reading my phone until 2am means that I can get up feeling fresh and ready to procrastinate.
3. Eat A Vegetable Or Piece Of Fruit Once A Day
This is one of those simple habits that, in theory, will pay off. Yes, technically, having broccoli on pizza would count. French Fries don’t count, however. Replacing one serving of fries with an apple will help you down the road. I’m pretty certain of this.
4. Call Your Mom More Than You Do
She loves you. She wants to hear from you. You may not think time is a valuable gift, but it’s the most precious resource in the world.
5. Do Your Laundry
Seriously. Take the time to wash and dry that pile of stinky clothes in the corner of your bedroom. And do it regularly. Make it a personal ritual. Stare into the window of the spinning washing machine and contemplate the universe. You will learn to appreciate small things like clean underwear.
6. Don’t Order Take-out So Often
Take-out can be a minor miracle after a long day. But it’s also expensive and, let’s be honest, no one really orders a spinach salad. And if you do order take-out spinach salads, then I hope you realize that you’re ordering the unhealthiest version of a spinach salad. Go buy groceries. By all means, treat yourself from time to time, but, again, go buy groceries.
7. Say “Hello” To Every Dog You Meet
I guarantee you will feel better about life if you stop to politely greet every and any pooch who crosses your path. I’m not lying when I say that it’s extremely pleasurable to doff an invisible hat while you say “hello” to a doggo.
8. Log Off Social Media For A Day
Nobody ever said, “I should have tweeted more” on their deathbed. There is a big world out there to explore. And don’t you worry, social media will always be there waiting for you. Patiently. Hungry for all your personal data.
9. Sing In The Shower
You are the star of your very own episode of The Voice. Sing loud, sing proud, sing ugly. Make a joyful noise with a head full of shampoo. Most people don’t make this a lifelong practice, but they 100% should — it’s an easy commitment to make. Plus, belting out songs while you’re sudsing up is like cleaning out your soul’s lint trap.
10. Don’t Be A Jerk
Be gentle. Be brave. Never lie. Listen. Ask for help. Lend a hand. Lend a shoulder. Do not be afraid of the following: looking silly, being honest, slurping delicious soup. Dance like everybody’s watching and you just don’t care. Take leaps of faith, or just jump into rain puddles. Remember that compassion is love without the fine print. Smile when you meet people for the first time. Smile when you say goodbye to a loved one for the 1000th time. Don’t be impatient with others. Don’t be impatient with yourself. Breathe.
11. Read A Chapter From An Actual Physical Book
I’m not suggesting you finish an entire book. But do crack open a book that looks interesting and read a chapter of it. Just one. It’s good for your brain. And then read another chapter the next day. Then, who knows, maybe you’ll finish a book… but no pressure!
12. Quit Smoking
Okay, this is not an easy resolution to make and stick to, but I snuck it in anyway. I was a smoker for almost 15 years and tried, over the course of 5 years, to quit. Eventually, I did. But it took many tries and many failures. And what I want you to know, I guess, is that it is possible to accomplish if you never give up because, hoo-boy, smoking is bad for you.
13. Talk To A Friend In Real Life
I love all the apps and messaging services and video chat platforms. But seeing someone who makes you laugh and cares about your happiness can’t be beat. Go to lunch with a friend and laugh and gently poke each other in the bellies. One hug equals a billion retweets.
14. Sit Really Still For A Few Minutes And Try Not To Think About Stuff
I find meditating to be intimidating. First off, I have a very busy mind. Also, I’m not really sure when I’m meditating and when I’m just sitting still for a few minutes and trying not to think. The truth is: Both are perfectly fine and totally worth doing.
15. Be The Best Person You Can Be
This is easier said than done. But even saying it out loud still counts for something. Try it. Right now. Say “I want to be the best person I can be.” Don’t worry if your coworkers or partner or cat look at you funny. This is a very important slice of pizza (I can’t let go of this metaphor.) And, just in case you’re wondering, I say this to myself all the time. I am not a perfect person. I make mistakes and sometimes I am not the best person I can be. But I try. Every day, every week, every month, every year. This time next year I hope I’m a little more perfect than I am now. I hope I am a better person than I am now. I hope I’m kinder and that I’ve called my mother more. I hope I’m getting to bed a little earlier and eating more kale and fewer nachos. Over the next twelve months I plan on taking more steps, even if they’re small ones. I’m going to try, and keep trying, and I hope you do, too. Happy New Year.