Over the years, New Year’s Eve has become my favorite holiday for a number of equally sappy and whimsical reasons (new beginnings and whatnot). It tends to not be a favorite for many as it’s associated with Christmas recovery, unreal hangovers, and self-promises you’ll inevitably break. But I’d like to reclaim resolutions. I’d like to bring them back. Resolutions do not have to be unrealistic or unmanageable or unruly obstacles that merely nitpick at our self-worth as we let them sway just out of reach and reasonability. Resolutions help us improve our year, our lives, and ourselves if we make resolutions that are actually achievable.
And so I present to you 16 resolutions that any person can make for the upcoming year. Moreover, each of these can be scaled up or down. They can be big or small, numerous occurrences or one-time, bucket list items. Do with what you will and join me in bringing resolutions back this year. Try one and do it multiple times, or be ambitious and try the whole list!
- Apologize. – Perhaps a dark note to start on, but an important one. I know very few people who spend time reflecting on who they have hurt in their lives past and present, but I know many people who have experienced deep hurt and never received an apology for it. I’m of the opinion that we hurt each other by accident more often than we realize. It couldn’t hurt to slow down and find someone you owe an apology to or make good on one that you’ve put on the back burner. It can be relationship-altering or it can be an omission of guilt that you’re bad at returning phone calls or being on time. This resolution acknowledges that you have impact on others and our imperfections don’t have to leave scars.
- Buy a book of stamps, and use them. – Go out, buy a book of stamps, and use one or two each month (20 total) for snail mail. Everyone loves getting mail that isn’t junk, and social media has encouraged our laziness when it comes to communication and thoughtfulness. This resolution will cost you $9.80 for the entire year and will take minimal time from you per month; also, for my local readers USPS just released some beautiful bicentennial stamps for Indiana. Some ideas on when to send a card/letter: breakups, pets dying, moves, just because, anniversaries of a favorite memory, and job changes. There’s also the obvious milestones, and you can always cheat and use the whole book for holiday cards.
- Write a positive review. – Many people only get the urge to write a review when they have a bad experience, which may feel validating but doesn’t really make the best use of your time. It only puts more energy into a business you’ve decided you won’t be using anymore. However, taking the time to write a positive review is both an opportunity to express gratitude for good service and also has the potential to drive more business to your favorite vendors and ensure they remain open to continue to provide good service. We all like credit going to where it’s due, so let’s stop giving a microphone and free publicity where it isn’t due. (Side resolution: If you need to address a negative experience, send a thoughtful email to management who can actually control the issue but may be unlikely to respond to inflammatory Yelping.)
- Forgive someone (maybe yourself). – Addressing old wounds and scars is intimidating, and it can be difficult to know where to start. I’m terrible at forgiveness because it somehow feels like giving consent and rewarding bad behavior (we teach people how to treat us). But that’s mostly ego and defensiveness talking. Every time I have forgiven myself for something it has felt like relief and the weight of the world sliding off of my shoulders. This resolution is challenging, but possibly liberating. Let’s stop letting guilt, angst, and hurt live rent-free in our heads.
- Say “No,” more. – The reason we don’t have time and energy is because we say “yes” to anything and everything available to us. Every time we say “yes” we also say “no” for the simple fact that we can’t be in two places at once. If you want to make room for a new person, hobby, or goal, you will need to say “no” more and take that time and energy from something else.
- Unfollow/unfriend/block. – Social media has changed how we perceive friendships and acquaintances as well as the amount and type of information input we have in our daily lives. I make no bones about it; I’m extremely protective of my friends list. I rarely pass 150 friends, and I often go through phases where I trim that number to something under 50. At present time, I also have 27 blocked users. I realize that I’m the extreme in this case, but I’d like to share why this works for me and maybe this can be scaled for others. I unfollow when I have people I love dearly whom I believe don’t really showcase their authentic selves online. I unfriend because every time we say “yes” we say “no”, and every time I let the number grow I dilute my privacy, my sincerity, and my engagement. I cannot truly keep up with the lives of 1,000 people, and I have no desire to try. That would be exhausting. And those extra 950-ish people clogging up my newsfeed prevent me from actually engaging with the people who deserve my attention and who may need it. I have 27 people blocked not because I hate 27 people, but because it feels healthier for them to not even be an option for interaction. People like the insecure wives of male friends, the friends of friends whose tagging just hurts, exes I don’t want to ever know how I’m doing, professional colleagues that I don’t want to send me a friend request, etc. The reasons vary, but the concept is this: We control our digital lives. Technology is not some malicious entity that changes how we engage or what we deal with. We control all of it, and if there are interactions you can avoid in real life, you can avoid them online. You just have to give yourself permission to make those decisions. You do not owe your friendship (digital or not) to anybody. Do not feel obligated to share it.
- Don’t save the good soap. Find your luxury and stop hoarding it. – This is a mom-ism. My mom used to have this habit of always saving the “good soap.” You know, the bath salts and fancy foot soaks, etc. After she got diagnosed with cancer, that changed. There was suddenly no reason to save the good soap, because what was she really saving it for? You only have the day you have and no promises for tomorrow. Now, money might be the exception to this rule. But honestly, why do we save things? We save them because we believe there is a day or time or place when not saving will be more worth it. This resolution is about making today worth it. Whether it’s a candle you haven’t burned or a journal you haven’t written in or a steak you haven’t thawed, just do it. We have a tendency to hoard what we view as luxury or a treat and sometimes you need to stop and make today a special day just because. Try doing it once a month and see how good it feels.
- Implement the “Fuck yeah!” test. (Or the “Oh yeah!” test for the non-cussers.) – I read a blog post from a random writer I don’t usually follow that was talking about walking away from relationships. The concept was that if your response to your partner isn’t “Fuck yeah!” then why are you with them? Why would you have any less of a standard for someone you share you life with? I thought it was refreshing and perhaps accidentally insightful. Wouldn’t we all love to wake up every morning and think, Fuck yeah! I love my life! but if we aren’t holding this as the standard, how would our lives ever magically reach that level of awesome? I realized that this standard can and should be applied to improve my quality of life. Now, I apply this to many things and it has helped me clean out my closet, make some needed Goodwill runs, and eliminate some useless friendships. Hesitation is a sign you don’t love that shirt/vase/etc., and again, you don’t have to waste your affection or energy or closet space on things and people that don’t bring that love of life out of you.
- Read something (anything) non-Internet for any duration. – A book, magazine subscription, a poem, a billboard, a recipe, anything. Read something non-Internet for any amount of time and frequency. It’s good for your brain, and it comes without trolls.
- Do something that scares you. – That doctor’s appointment you’re putting off? That pain you’re not confronting your friend about? That song you always want to dance to but never do? Do it. Taking risks is how we continue to grow and expand beyond who we’ve always been. This resolution will make you braver and, whether your risk is successful or not, you’ll feel more confident even just for trying.
- Experience something from a culture other than your own. – No, this is not a #checkyourprivilege moment. This applies to majority and minority alike. Whether it’s a restaurant or a movie or an event, learning about another culture can actually help you better understand your own cultural identity. As someone with a bicultural identity, it’s difficult to enter the binary discussions of race relations or authentically discover who I am and what I value. With every new culture I learn about, I understand a little more about who I am. I hope everyone gets that chance.
- Disconnect to connect. – This is harder to implement than I’d like to admit. Unplugging can be a great way to connect with friends, family, pets, or even yourself. Pick one day this year–even one evening this year–and turn off your phone, tablets, game systems, and television. Do something you’ve never done or that you’ve been putting off. Listen to a thunderstorm and have a cup of coffee or the crickets and a sweet tea cocktail. Sit through your favorite album with your favorite snack. Write. Listen. Cook. When the technology is turned off, there’s room for so much more that we forgot was good.
- Find a signature scent. – This one sounds silly, but scent is strongly tied to emotions and memory. Baby powder. Aloe. Ginger. We all have those scents that give us a sense of comfort and immediate happiness or remind us of a special person. If you haven’t discovered that scent, please do. Then find ways to immerse yourself in it (incense, candles, cooking, etc). Find the scents that bring you joy, and identify the scent that is most you. It may come in a bottle, but it may just be the smell of machinery or kitchen grease. The signature scent(s) for your nose and for your personal “brand” will both tie you to positive emotions and memories to come.
- Stop reading the comment threads. – I struggle with this, because there are sometimes reasons to read comment threads. Mostly, it’s toxic and time lost. Energy spent on reading trolls or being taken aback by others’ audacity or ignorance is energy not spent on things you care much more about. Take the toxicity out of your social media and stop giving trolls an audience. Your mental energy is worth so much more.
- Master a single recipe. – Between Pinterest and foodie T.V., there are always a bazillion and one recipes to try and often we don’t adopt many of those into the regular food queue or weekly grocery list. So try this instead: Take a single recipe that you want to try or you already know you love and master it. Try it at different scales, with different seasoning and spice blends, with different sides, with different eaters, with different beverage pairings, cooking in different moods, different seasonal ingredients, or any other variation you can think of. I’ve just married a chef, and I continue to be astounded by how many variables impact a meal and its taste. It fascinates me, and I take more joy out of trying round 18 of chili than I do out of hunting down new culinary challenges. I suppose the comparison would be trying every sport one time, or choosing a sport to get good at and conditioning for it. You might love proteins or you might love salads, but choosing a single dish to master really unveils a kind of creativity and accomplishment I’ve never uncovered in other artistic endeavors. Try it. Even Ramen noodles can surprise you.
- Find a mantra. – This resolution sounds incredibly cheesy, but it’s stupid how well it works. Basically, give your year a theme. Maybe even a monthly rotating theme. As any party host will tell you, it all starts with the theme. When you have a statement or phrase to focus on, you can improve your ability to prioritize. If the theme of your year is “fiscal responsibility” you’ll be better able to turn down invitations and you’ll find yourself saving in unexpected places. If the theme of your year is “trying new things” fiscal responsibility might go out the window. In short, our internal dialogue and self-talk shapes our year one day at a time; we can shape it better if we name what kind of a year we want to have.