Do you have your resolutions thought out yet? I have. It is the same as the previous year’s but I am keeping to it not because I didn’t achieve them, but because it is the only new year resolution list I ever need.
Making New Year resolutions has become more of a tradition than a true reflection of what we want in life. Most of us don’t know what we want in life. Some of us want the "wrong" things, the things that did not change anything and thus make us feel like our lives have been stagnant after all this while.
Far from being judgemental here, this post is here to help. Feel free to walk away any time, if you want an easier guide to making your new year resolutions because this one will require you to do a lot of thinking about your life, and you may not like the answers that you arrive at.
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1. Reevaluate Your Career
I’m sure you’ve heard of the difference between a career and a job? The short and simple answer is that a career spans years, while you can hold one job for this week, and another for the next. But let’s look at the longer version. Where do you stand in your career?
Before you jump into "I’m up for a promotion", don’t. A promotion is just a concept that has meaning if you stay in salaried employment. If you suddenly find yourself out on the streets one day because something happened to the company you work with, where will your accumulated skills take you?
To put this into context, if you were to turn freelance, is what you know enough to keep food on the table? Do you have a reputation, a portfolio or a string of achievements that keeps you relevant in the industry you are in? Put some thought into that, and start drafting a plan to actually give value to your skillset.
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2. Change Something About Your Life
Sounds like this is a broad one, right? Yet, I’m not referring to your hair, or your job (because it’s usually more of the same, see point 1), or your car, or another degree. I’m talking about life-changing events like finally tying the knot, or buying that house, or expanding the family.
I’m talking about that something that leaves a mark on your life, a stain you can’t get rid of, yet are proud to flaunt for all to see.
Stop hiding behind materialistic pursuits, thinking that they can make you happier. Invest in something that you can call yours: a relationship, a home, your attitude towards your parents, your spouse, your children, your life, yourself. Strive to be a bigger better person, so that when you reach December you can say, I did that, or I’ve been there or…
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3. Fight for Something
If the previous year was smooth-sailing for you, then the new year is when you fight for something. Step out of your comfort zone, and make a stand. It doesn’t have to be something that needs you to take to the streets. This is personal. This is an exercise to liberate yourself. Be brave.
Muster up the courage to ask for a raise, ask that cute girl out, stand up to that professor who clearly has issues with you, or that noisy (or nosy) neighbour, or that colleague who’s all words and no work, etc. We all have our own battles to fight. Find yours.
Demand to be taken seriously, have an opinion (that’s a statement, not a question), fight for your say, fight for your right to be part of something. Everyone loves a good hero; and this sudden burst of courage will definitely fuel other similar actions.
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4. Do Something Unexpected
This can be considered an extension or an alternative to item 3. If you have nothing to fight for, nothing to confront, then do something totally unexpected of you.
The catch here is to do something you are proud to tell your children, not your employer. Take up a cause, join a flash mob, support an awareness campaign, run for charity, adopt a pet from the shelter, get a tattoo, try food with names you cannot pronounce, make amends with family etc.
Can’t find anything? Look back at the criticism you have been getting from your family members (that’s the reason for the "make amends" item up there) over the holidays at home, and ask yourself what you can do about it.
Aunt Laura said you can’t cook a meal to save your life? Learn. Uncle George been laughing at your beer belly one too many times? Work it off. Mom upset you haven’t found a suitor? You know what to do.
And then, show up next Christmas and show them what one year can do to someone who is determined.
The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do – Walter Bagehot
5. Be Human Again
It is quite normal these days to spend more time with your gadgets than with people. There are side effects from this but there are plenty of ways to regain control. This item has to do with reconnecting with your emotions, your humanity.
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I’m sorry to say that no one owes you anything, not the company you applied to, not your university you are studying at, not your co-workers in the office, not even your parents at home. What anyone does, they do it for something in return, or because it is their responsibility.
And yet, there is kindness in the world, and it can come from the strangest of places, even though we are told not to expect them. The important thing is that when you are in the presence of an act of kindness, participate, extend it or if you are on the receiving end, appreciate it.
Learn to cry again
Over the last year, I’ve had this routine where I look at news items, articles, photographs or videos that make me cry, right before I get to work. It wasn’t planned or even expected but the exercise helps me put my life in perspective when compared to the horrible or heartwarming things reported by the media.
Of course, some of them are publicity stunts, while others are primed to make you shed a tear or two. Don’t be cynical and ruin a good thing. At the end of the day, it’s the stories that really call out to your emotional side that will leave a mark on you, or haunt you.
Stories that make you feel (and shed tears) are the best kind. Allow yourself to react. It will change your perspective of life and let you reconnect with yourself.
Life is too short to hold a grudge. Before you say that this contradicts "Do Something Unexpected", note that that exercise is for you to better your life, not to stick it to their faces. At the end of the day, if they can’t find anything about your life to criticize, you have won, and now have better control of your life.
When the lesson has been learned, forgive and move on.
6. Find a reason to be happy
Because that’s all we ever wanted, isn’t it? We want a reason to be happy, yet instead of working for that, we choose to ignore it to strive for things that don’t make us happy.
Here’s a secret. Any of the items above will do that for you. In #1, being honest will give you satisfaction. In #2, being responsible for something will change your world. In #3, being brave will make you (and probably the people you know) proud while #4 will make your young nieces, nephews or kids say you’re cool (if you ever want honesty, ask a child).
And #5 is… well, a long time coming.
Lists can serve at best, a reminder for the coming new year; at worst, a reason to hate yourself at the end of the new year. Don’t fall into the same trap. Make the coming new year a different one and happy new year.