Presented before you is a list unlike others. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, a list of decidedly different goals you might have missed or have never considered. The affinity for resolve and bettering our lives leaves many with high hopes, unattainable and good intentions, forgotten. We promise to get work-out more, floss more, fight less or kick fear to the curb. The problem with these, they don’t have any legs. Exactly how does one pick fewer fights or feel less fear? Dental hygiene and gym memberships aside, changes are hard, inevitable facts of life. So, this year treat yourself to a list that’s a little off the beaten path, a list of options and idea starters to help you make the most out of change, and make 2011 the beginning of a lot of best years for you.
1. Yes! No! Say what you mean, and say it like you mean it. The quickest way to happiness is by looking out for you. The surest way to suffering and utter misery is to guess or assume what you think others want you to do. Trying to be everything to everyone seems like a charitable motive, but you’re not really giving anything to anyone by robbing yourself of what you want. Going for what you want, or withholding from things or activities that don’t align with your values isn’t to be confused with being selfish. By promising to invite contentedness into your life, by saying yes to what you want to do and no to what you don’t, will inevitably make everyone happier. In the Yes! No! strategy, the energy to assert your best self to anything and anyone you choose to share your life with will seem to spring forth from nowhere, but really, it came from right inside of you.
2. Waste some time. Resolutions often involve efficiency, doing things better, being a better person. A whole lot of better, better, bettering can leave a whole lot of busy on your calendar. This year, invite some empty time into your life. Give yourself the green light to kick buckets, doodle, watch a movie, play some games, space out, well, you get the idea. Don’t you feel more relaxed already? The thing about “time wasting” is it’s often exactly the opposite of that. Mental, physical and emotional breathers leave us feeling invigorated and refreshed, much like a good ‘ol fashioned nap. So snooze, giggle and daydream away; I bet you’ll even start to feel young again!
3. Eat more chocolate. Oh yes, who doesn’t love chocolate? Ok, there are those out there that don’t really dig on the melty, decadent deliciousness that is chocolate. Don’t just eat any chocolate though, eat raw chocolate. The difference between raw chocolate and all the rest is huge. Everyone’s been talking about how great dark chocolate is for you, but a lot of that good-for-you stuff is melted right out in the process of forming sweet little kisses, squares and rounds of chocolate. And more often than we think, a lot of not-so-good for you stuff is added in, yikes! Now raw chocolate gets it all right all the time with flavonoids, polyphenols, minerals, vitamins and stuff that some researchers believe can cure cancer. Your taste buds might take a minute to acclimate to the powerful flavor of raw chocolate, but it’s more than worth it. You’ll be doing your body and mind a favor by incorporating raw chocolate into you diet. Find out more by watching Food Matters or reading anything by David Wolfe*.
4. Write more letters. The art of letter writing seems to have been swept under the social media rug. The overwhelming blanket of information swarming our daily lives is less insulating and more on the overwhelming side. Sit down an hour, or whatever you have, a month to write letters to those you care about. You’ll gain experience communicating, documenting and sharing your life and feelings with your friends, family and perhaps coworkers. Writing a letter lend itself to a sense of personal accomplishment and shares a smile with others. Giving someone something besides a bill in the mail is a generous gift, one that we could all use a little more of in our harried lives. Writing is a thoughtful, focused act and a form of communication that will strengthen the personal and professional relationships in your life. All you need is a pen, paper, envelope and some stamps, which are all a lot more affordable than a phone or computer. Don’t worry if your penmanship is a bit rusty. It’s all about the practice of putting thoughts and feelings to real, tangible paper.
5. Pick up a new language. This one might seem like a tall order at first, but no one said you had to speak like a native. Learning languages reminds your brain to make new connections, which can lead to increased creativity and prevent things like Alzheimer’s down the road. A foreign language looks great on a resume and might just open more doors for work or leisure. Travel will seem less intimidating, and if you learn a language with a friend or loved one, you’ll even have a secret way to communicate amongst a crowd. Plus, learning a new language puts you in touch with different cultures. Actively cultivating understanding with language builds tolerance, which is something the whole world could use a little more of.
6. Be quiet. Be still. Meditation isn’t for everyone, at least in the beginning. While communication is important (see resolution 4 and 5), so is reflection. Start by setting aside a few minutes a day to do absolutely nothing. No TV, no computer, no driving, no talking. Explore the silence, see what enters and exits your mind. The peace you’ll find, maybe even some of the ideas that come to you are sure to at least better your life, if not change it entirely. A few minutes of daily, dedicated silence is quite powerful.
7. Invite chaos into your life. This one might have you wondering why in the world you’d want to invite more unpredictability and frenzy into your life, but hang in there. Inviting chaos into your life is less about throwing a wrench in your routine and more about letting go and loosening your grip on your list of have-to’s and musts. We’re bombarded with decision-making situations on a second-by-second basis. Schedules, routines and calendars often leave little time for the unpredictable. How often do our plans go according to plan anyway? So why not embrace what we cannot control, and enjoy the ride a little more! See what opportunities arise or are presented when you stop predicting and hoping for something to happen. Heading down a winding road doesn’t have to be scary. All you have to do is accept what happens and choose how you want to react to it. This gets easier with practice.
8. Complain less. Go ahead and sock me for this one; complaining less is something that might just be the hardest to accomplish on this list. It’s January, you had to go back to work, your raise was a little wanting and you’re ready for summer. Quitting the complaining routine probably has easier start dates than the New Year, but here we are. Complaining cessation is a habit that is probably about as hard as quitting smoking. Quite often, we don’t even know we’re doing it, making quitting even harder. You could use a complain bucket, putting some money into it every time you complain. Employ whatever methods you need to here, but complaining less will leave more room for gratitude. More room for gratitude means more room for happiness too.
9. Walk more. Putting foot to ground is a physically powerful act. Quite literally, walking connects our bodies to the Earth we inhabit. There’s not surer way to “ground” oneself than to walk. You needn’t have to work up a sweat every time you walk. Simply, move around, breathe, observe, get to where you’re going or meander somewhere new. We all know walking is better than driving for the environment, but it’s also better for you. If your life doesn’t make that possible in your routine, try it at work or at home, or even drive to someplace new and walk there. You might even lose a few pounds, but that’s not the point. Walking is a simple act, much like breathing, that will make you feel revived and more fully alive.
10. Act alive! You don’t have to be dead to be Zen, if anyone knows what that really is anyway. This is sort of in the same realm of fake-it-till-you-make-it. From an early age, we’re all taught proper behavior and work protocol, how to amicably get along with others, not offend anyone and by way of self-help books and lists similar to this one, retrain and restrain ourselves. At the end of the day, it can all be a little exhausting. No matter what you do or do not take from this list, take this little recommendation to heart. Being alive is, unarguably, the greatest gift there is in this world. All the pleasure and pain wouldn’t be possible if your heart weren’t beating, your eyes not blinking or your heart not singing. Step out into the world, however you can and get excited about something. Invoke the essence of your youth, your childlike energy and incorporate it into your life now. Whether you believe we live once or not, 2011 is going to be your best year if you get out there and act alive!
*David Wolfe and I are not related, aside from our love for humanity, health and really good chocolate.
Rachel is a freelance photographer and writer with a curious spirit. She writes about her photography on: WolfeLog and offers advice on how to live an artful life on The Art of Advice. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, the outdoors and concocting mighty tasty gluten-free dishes and deserts. Say hello at: email@example.com