So, yes, I know we’re almost a week into the New Year. And yes, I know everyone has pretty much already come out with their suggestions on how to be better. I’m late, what can I say?
Seriously, though, with 2014 firmly locked in, here are my tips for making the most of it. I hope you like them, or at least they give you some ideas to think about.
1. Set Boundaries
There’s a lot of overlap in our lives – a lot more than when I was growing up. Technology has enabled parts of our lives to bleed into other areas. Out to dinner with your family? Your smart phone dings and lets you know there’s a work email waiting to be read. Getting ready to work out? Hang on, I have to check in on Facebook. Look at that! I have to Instagram that joint!
For 2014, try setting up boundaries. When you’re engaged in one activity, give it your full focus. If you’re at work, resist the urge to be distracted by emails, Facebook, Pinterest, or even the latest game app. Likewise, when you’re away from work, don’t work – play! You’ll find your focus improves and you’ll probably get more done. While splitting your attention may be necessary some times, try working on your focus when it’s not.
2. Leave the Drama Behind
We’ve all got people in our lives that we’d rather not have there. Negative Nancys, Passive Aggressive idiots. For 2014, resolve to get those people out of your life. Surround yourself with a better caliber of human beings. A rising tide floats all boats and if you are with positive and fun people, you will naturally find your attitude and outlook improving. Dump anyone who affects you negatively. This may sound harsh, but if you are interested in making your life better than last year, then you’ll need to make some cuts.
This is not to say that you should surround yourself with “yes people” who will tell you anything you want to hear. They’re actually a negative influence as well. You should find a circle of friends who are happy, positive, and accomplished – but who will also call you on your BS if need be. These people get things done and know how to have fun.
And by the way, family doesn’t get special treatment here. If you have family members who are always unsupportive of your dreams and goals, who are always negative, pessimistic, passive aggressive, or who drag you down in any way, consider parting ways with them. I’ve never understood why so many people sacrifice their happiness and put up with idiotic behavior simply because they share blood with someone. If anything, family should be held to even higher standards than your friends.
3. Do One Thing Everyday That Scares You
Eleanor Roosevelt said this and I happen to love it. And no, this does not mean you have to go tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon. It simply means that you find something everyday that challenges you in some fashion. Through continuous challenge we grow and expand our thinking. If you only ever do the same things that feel comfortable to you, you will never grow as a human being and you’ll never appreciate the richness that life has to offer. Get out of your comfort zone and explore the world around you. Try something that the old you would shake your head at.
4. Change The World In 5 Minutes Each Day
I know what you’re thinking, “that’s impossible. You can’t change the world in 5 minutes a day.”
Actually, you can. Right now, I’m doing a fundraising drive for the folks at NO KID HUNGRY, a wonderful charity that provides meals to disadvantaged children in the US. To help raise money, I’m doing 50 burpees every single day in 2014 for my BURPEES FOR BREAKFAST campaign. That works out to 18,250 burpees over the course of the year, but it also only takes me about 5 minutes (sometimes more) to do them. 5 minutes of my day devoted to helping children who don’t get enough to eat. Check out the website for more info and please be sure to donate!
And you know what? You can do something like this yourself! Imagine doing something tangible that will have a real, lasting positive effect on the world at large over the course of 2014. When you break it down into a manageable bit of time, like 5 minutes each day, then over the long run, you build up a substantial impact.
And this doesn’t work with just charity; you can set up any goal you have in this fashion. Want to write a book? Devote five minutes each day to writing and watch how fast the words add up. Want to get better at anything? Give yourself five minutes each day to practice and your skill level will improve dramatically.
Buy yourself a big pad of paper with no lines. Write “2014” on the cover. Open it up to the very first page and draw something.
Why do this? We live in a world with rules, laws, and expectations about what our behavior “should” be. The simple act of drawing whatever you want to draw is incredibly liberating. You can go in any direction. You can draw whatever you want. Cartoon away. Sketch out an invention you’ve always wanted to try to build. There are no lines on the paper and there are no limits to what you could draw. Let your mind enjoy this blank canvas and play. It doesn’t matter if you think you have zero artistic ability; it only matters that you free your mind and give it permission to go anywhere.
6. Once Each Day Find Your Hara
Your “hara,” as it’s called in Japanese, is the area about two inches below your belly button. It’s also the place where babies breathe from. As we grow older, many people tend to breathe from their chests rather than their lower abdomen. But the benefits of “belly breathing” are immense. You bring more oxygen into your body this way and better fill your lungs, plus it’s incredibly relaxing. Once each day, practice taking ten deep belly breaths. Do it before you go to sleep and you may drop off sooner than you usually do. Deep belly breathing is also an excellent way to calm down if you find yourself getting tense.
Simply lie on your back, place your hands over your lower abdomen, and take a deep breath in through your nose feeling your hands lift as your abdomen expands. Bring your awareness down to where your hands are. Exhale smoothly through your nose and repeat for at least ten breaths.
7. Help Two People Every Week
Make a conscious effort to help more people this year. It can be as simple as helping them spread the word about a new project they’re working on. You might offer to pick up a friend’s child at daycare.
Why two people? Because it’s pretty easy to help one person each week, but helping two means you actually have to look for the opportunity to help someone, rather than just cruising through knowing that the universe will inevitably throw someone your way who needs a helping hand. Putting effort into finding someone who needs help – no matter how small – means you are being active about helping and doing good, rather than just passively accepting. Two people each week means you’re helping over 100 people throughout the course of the year. That’s some pretty good karma you’re generating!
8. Be A Beacon of Positive Energy
Being negative is easy. It takes very little energy to bitch about life, to complain when things don’t go your way, or even moan about the weather. Resolve to avoid doing those things. There are more than enough people out there complaining and bitching and woe-is-me’ing about life. The universe doesn’t need you joining them.
Instead, focus on the good in your life. Share something inspirational. Compliment someone in your Facebook friends list. Put forth something positive and watch the effects. This isn’t to say you need to become all rainbows and unicorns – let’s be real, here. But by consciously trying to limit the amount of negative energy you put out, you’ll be doing everyone a favor. It’s not easy being positive all the time and it does take a lot of energy, but the rewards are a lot better than just dishing out the bad juju.
You need to. There’s no excuse for not doing something. You don’t have time? Everyone is busy. You don’t have the money? You don’t need to join a gym. You don’t have the willpower? Connect with friends and make it a group effort.
The simple truth is that exercise will make you feel better in so many ways, it would be impossible to list them all. Is it hard? Sometimes. But the struggle is worth it. Go for a walk. Skip rope. Do push-ups. Crank out some crunches. Think of your body like a car. If you simply leave it in the garage and never drive it anywhere, it will fall apart. The same is true of your body. Get the juices flowing. Get that engine churning. Work the pistons. Soon you’ll have a sports car instead of a broken-down jalopy.
10. Write This Stuff Down
Buy a journal, make a Google doc, video tape, or make an audio recording of all of this stuff. Especially the people you help over the course of 2014. No, you’re not jockeying to win sainthood, but having a concrete reminder of what you’ve done this year next December 31st is going to be rewarding on a number of levels. People and experiences tend to vanish from our memories and if you’re out there doing good, it’s always nice to remember what you’ve done for others – especially if the year doesn’t go quite to plan. Next December, when you’re reflecting on the previous twelve months, pull that journal out and look at everything you’ve done, and everyone you’ve helped. It may make you smile more than once!