For the past few years I’ve made a list of four things I’d like to attempt in the New Year and in each of those three years I’ve only made it to incorporating two of those things. That’s a 50-percent batting average (or whatever the appropriate sports metaphor and/or statistic would be), but I suppose it’s better than zero. This year, however, I want to shoot the moon, and my advice to you is to do the same. Life is short, people! Might as well grab all the gusto you can. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 12 (2012, get it?) New Year’s resolutions we can all consider. Maybe you can’t tackle all 12, but I bet you can do at least three. A handful make the popular New Year’s resolutions list, but most don’t. Here we go:
1. No more mocking. While such a funny concept on late-night television, it really is hurtful (and immature) to get your jollies from making fun of others. We can be better than that. I think this quote sums it up well:
Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these. – Robert Goddard
2. Stop eating yourself to death and disease – or, if you won’t, accept the consequences of being overweight (including the “first-impression” factor when applying for jobs in this tough economy) without making lame excuses. While there is some research that points to a “fat gene”, even the tiny percentage of folks who have that gene can still improve their health and lose weight by eating right and moving more. It’s past time as a nation that we take responsibility for our overweight “issue” and do something about it. Yes, eating right and exercising takes discipline. But discipline is actually a good thing! Exercise takes time and commitment, but if you have an hour to watch television each day (and stats show you watch way more than that), you have an hour to walk (quickly, quickly) each day. And that hour, as long as you don’t undo it all by rewarding yourself with food or non-H2O drink afterwards, is all it takes.
3. Read this book. Doing so will help you with #2 above.
4. Make downward comparisons (aka cage the jealousy monster). There will always be people who have more than you do, and you’ll live with a feeling of scarcity as long as you compare what you don’t have with what the Jones’ do. On the other hand, if you compare your situation to that of those less well-off than you (and you can always find someone less well-off than you), you’ll see how blessed you really are.
5. Along those lines, commit to a gratitude list. Each day for the next year write down one thing daily for which you are thankful. You can go old school and write it in a journal, make a really cool wall display of Post-it gratitude notes or keep the list on Facebook. I’ve been doing this since Thanksgiving and it is amazing what happens when you pay attention to the little things. The main result is a reduction in our cultural tendency to whine.
6. Be kind. This one is similar to #1, but it bears repeating. Every life, no matter how amazing it looks from the outside, has some amount of pain in it and that pain can be eased by a little kindness. Besides, if you’re nice to someone, it tends to create a cycle of niceness. Ditto if you’re a jerk to someone… it creates a cycle of jerkiness.
7. Give the benefit of the doubt. Yes, there are real weenies out there. The President of Iran comes to mind. As do the teenagers who live under the false impression that they own the parts of Tucson they vandalize with spray paint and drug cartel leaders and their minions. But besides that, most people are trying the best they can to get by in this complicated world. Give each other a break.
8. Expand your mind. Take a class, take up the bagpipes (or something more tame), take yourself to the library.
9. Have coffee with someone you consider an “enemy.” Maybe it is someone of a different political persuasion. Maybe it would be someone of a different race, gender or sexual orientation. Maybe it’s your mother-in-law. Who knows! The possibilities are endless in our current polarized atmosphere. Lunch is too long, dinner is too serious, but coffee is just about right.
10. Listen. I’m a world-class interrupter. It is my Achilles heel; someone will be telling me a story and questions start popping up in my head like the whack-a-mole game and I blurt them out. I’ve gotten slightly better at listening over the past few years, but still have a way to go. As I’ve tried to develop better listening skills, I’ve noticed that very few people really are good listeners. (Keep in mind that just because you’re being quiet and looking at someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re listening.) Ergo, it seems like something we could all work on.
11. Do the right thing. Someone is telling a racist joke and we let it slide. Someone is threatening another person and we don’t intervene. Someone is lonely and we avoid calling because it will be a drag. Doing the right thing is rarely easy, but you know you should. Someone needs to so it might as well be you. (And me.)
12. Forgive – yourself, your parents, your boss, your children, your neighbor, your enemy, your in-laws, your 4th grade teacher, the publisher who rejected your work, Wall Street weirdos, etc. As the Eagles once pointedly sang, “Get over it.”