Some people think New Year’s resolutions are stupid. After all, who doesn’t want to lose ten pounds? Others enjoy the satisfaction of articulating goals in writing and striving towards them. Research shows 40 percent of us make resolutions but only 8 percent achieve them. In hopes of bumping that latter number up a bit, here’s a few that are attainable enough for the carefree, yet lofty enough to satiate even the perfectionists.
1. Quit Complaining
“Think positive” sounds better, and while I agree that would steer the rudder of your ship in an altogether more sunny direction, some people need to plug up the leaky holes in their boat before they start sailing anywhere.
Myself included. I’d like to think I’m not a chronic, loud, annoying complainer. Sometimes I don’t say anything when annoyed. But ask my husband about the eye roll I have perfected. Nothing says gratitude like sarcastically showing the whites of your eyes, eh? I know, I know. You don’t want to part with your old friend, but complaining is a lot like eating hot, fluffy, maple-syrup-drizzled pancakes. It feels so good for a few minutes, then regret inevitably follows. Sure, things could be better; but they could be worse. After you complain, have your problems disappeared? Has a solution surfaced? Proverbs 27:15 says, “A nagging wife is like a leak that keeps dripping.” Ouch. This is the year we swallow hard and bite our tongues for five seconds before we voice that needless grumble, and then when we taste that tinge of blood from biting so hard, let up and shut up or twist it into something positive.
2. Go (Online) With Purpose
I used to be really curmedgoningly about social media, especially Twitter. John Mayer and I are homies like that (solidarity, John!) Wait, never mind, he’s back on Twitter—how 2014—plus probably no one says homies anymore, either. While there is actually research from Pew that says being on social media isn’t all that bad for you, I still find it too difficult, when trolling Facebook and the like, to maintain positivity or focus on my real work. I either sit there and stew over what appears to be someone’s Pinterest-perfect life or the notifications and the dings and the ringing bells interrupt my every waking thought and action (or I sneak online just to check my really “important” stuff). My kids have never told me I spend too much time on my smartphone, but I have had my toddler hand me my phone from across the room as if it were as important as my car keys—maybe that’s kind of the same thing?
There is a place for connecting to people and places and work (and restaurants!) via social media. But research shows the average adult spends 21 minutes a day on Facebook, which translates to roughly 128 hours per year. Is Facebook so important—and are you fostering so many healthy relationships using it—that it’s worth 128 hours of your life every year? I won’t even attempt to be all Orwellian about the entire experiment, but consider this: When you’re 80 years old, sitting on your couch with an afghan spread over your knees, what will matter to you? Which memories will you hold dear?
3. Do Big Things
Forget about losing weight and drinking more water and walking 50,000 steps a day. I mean sure, being active and healthy is great—it’s something I strive for— but like Anne Lamott says: “What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly…It will break your heart..” I’m not saying sit around and eat potato chips. I’m definitely not saying you should only do what you want to do. Throw away the chips and get out there and go for a run and then come home and do the thing God put you on this planet to do. Don’t think about 2015 like it’s only 12 months in the year of your life when it’s actually a piece to a much larger puzzle that will, one day, look beautifully complex and complete. Ask yourself what the world needs and what God gifted you with to meet those needs—and go do that thing.
4. Engage More
North Korea, the lying, bullying censorship-moguls. The Islamic State, the inhumane, cruel, freedom-haters, Ferguson, racial-criminal, frustrating fiascos. The news is depressing. Either out of ignorance or disgust, people are putting their heads in the sand. Half of the folks Pew Research Center for the People and the Press polled last year in its regular “What the Public Knows” survey couldn’t find Egypt on a map and only 30 percent could identify the swing vote on the Supreme Court.
While knowing the news may not instantly change anything, knowledge of events and a plan to create different results can encourage progress over time. Find a few trustworthy news sources and filter that stuff through some more. Discuss current events with people who know better, but don’t just sit around the water cooler: do something about what you’re hearing. There is no excuse in this world of modern technology, both which frees us up from previously tedious tasks and allows us to be hyper-connected, not to know, to plan and to act accordingly.
5. Think About Others
I’m sure you’d like to wrap up your list with a few Oprah-style things about self-care and self-love, but the thing about making New Year’s resolutions is they tend to be a lot about you.
The world would be a better place if we thought about others more than we thought about ourselves. This is hard. Self-preservation is inherent to each of us. But psychologists say giving to others can make you happier too. Who needs help in your neighborhood, your work, your church? What organization can you come alongside to further their work helping others around the world? Maybe it’s as small as delivering a meal to a new mom or as big as—well, you fill in the blank. After all, it’s your list.