Alternative Resolutions We Should All Have for 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!
Ah, the New Year. For me, having just hours ago settled into my new place up North (with no cable or internet yet, and very little furniture to speak of), it meant counting down to midnight on my phone and toasting champagne in my new cardboard-box-filled living room. For most people, it’s a time of reflection, anticipation, hope, and Best-Of lists.
Oh right, and resolutions.
Data from this recent ball drop indicate that 62% of Americans made resolutions this year, while only 8% of those who made resolutions in 2013 claimed to have been successful. I like this statistic, because one, it’s basically the equivalent of saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, let yourself off the hook and give it another shot in a year or so.” But on the other hand, I sorta like the discrepancy between the two figures. 92% of people FAILED in keeping these promises to themselves last year, and yet two thirds of that group are back for more.  There’s a certain tenacity to it that I admire. That being said, I think we might have a collectively better success rate this year if we take a closer look at what it is we’re actually ‘resolving’ to do.
The most common resolution, by a wide margin, was weight loss and/or fitness goals. Predictably, every year in January there is a huge spike in the sale of gym memberships. Possibly more predictably, attendance invariably drops off again by March.
Another common resolution year after year is some derivative of “spend less, save more” – this presumably resulting from the average American’s household credit card debt currently hovering around $7,000. Regardless of annual resolutions to the contrary, this figure is steadily increasing.
One of the third most common resolutions is to quit smoking. This is perhaps the only one on this list with which Americans seem to have had some tangible success. Most recent data indicates that 18% of adults would identify themselves as “smokers,” down from 19% in 2011 and 20.6% in 2009.
Aside from that last one, it seems as though on the whole, resolutions were made to be broken. This fact somewhat depresses me, but not for the obvious reasons. I don’t think that it necessarily denotes that we are blundering failures, or that we should just give up trying altogether. I think, rather, it just means that we’re putting our focus in all the wrong places.
Don’t get me wrong; I think a world with less obesity and tobacco-related deaths would be a great thing, and it would certainly be nice if everyone were largely debt-free. But rather than concentrate on these somewhat self-focused resolutions, I think the New Year should be an opportunity to reflect on how we can become better to the people around us. To put it in more cheesy terms, becoming a better citizen of the world. If I ruled the universe, here is what I wish the whole world would resolve to do in 2014:

1. Perform random acts of kindness. Recently, a friend of mine told me a story about how the person in front of him at a Starbucks drive-through paid for his drink. The way he told this story, you would honestly think he won the lottery or got Megan Fox’s phone number. He was completely floored by the gesture, and – here’s the best part – he, in turn, paid for the person behind him. We wondered together if the person in front of him had also gotten their drink paid for, and if so, how long the chain of do-gooders went. The fact that he paid it forward is my favorite part of the whole thing – he was given the option of free coffee, and instead still chose to spend money at Starbucks. So while the ultimate result of the adventure was technically no different… it brightened the day of everybody involved.
2. Recognize that the people with whom you interact on a daily basis are just that – PEOPLE.This covers all areas of human interaction. You may not want to actually contribute to the homeless man’s tin cup, but at least don’t give him a disgusted look as you walk by. When you’re on the road (I know this is hard to believe) everyone in the cars around you alsohave somewhere to be, and might also be in a hurry, so maybe just be nice and let them in instead of trying to “teach them a lesson.” Keep in mind that the customer service representative you’re dealing with is likely not personally responsible for whatever frustration you’re currently experiencing with their company/product, so try not to yell or condescend to them. If we try to maintain this mentality, we can start treating each other with dignity and respect.
3. Don’t hold grudges. You will never look back later in life and think “I should have stayed mad about that longer.” Anger and hatred are wasted energy, and the sooner you can learn to forgive and forget, the happier your life will ultimately be. If someone wronged you in a way you can’t forgive, fine. Remove them from your life. But don’t dwell, and don’t continue to harbor negative emotions about it – We are creatures of habit, and negativity breeds more negativity. Similarly, once you start to cultivate positive cognitive and emotional habits, those will multiply as well.
4. Pay somebody a compliment. Whenever someone tells me they like something about me – even when it comes from people who are contractually obligated to say such things, like my mom or my boyfriend – I find myself with a little extra spring in my step. Whether it’s a friend who just got a new haircut, or a coworker who did a particularly good job on a recent project, don’t let it go unnoticed. People like being acknowledged and appreciated, and a little kindness can go a long way.
5. Learn to apologize. Why is this sometimes such a difficult task to manage? If you make a mistake, own up to it. Whether it’s bumping into someone on the street or being a flake about returning your best friend’s phone calls, hold yourself accountable to being a good person. Nobody’s perfect, but part of the beauty of being “human” is having the ability to remedy it.
6. Remove envy from your emotional landscape. The other day someone mentioned casually that they thought Ana Ivanovic was sexy… and I immediately found myself poring through Google images trying to convince myself that my looks could compete with hers. Which UHHHH, they cannot, so my brain’s next logical conclusion was to hate her – and that’s unfair, because I’m sure Ana Ivanovic is a super person and is in no way deserving of my hatred. No good can come from comparing yourself to others, and doing so just generates unnecessary negative energy. Just do you!
7. Write handwritten thank-you notes. Or handwritten anything notes. It only takes an extra few minutes and means so much more than a text message or email. Which brings me to…
8. For the love of god, put the phone down. This one is tough, I get it. I’m battling with it myself. I cannot even remember a time when I didn’t use commercial breaks and stop lights to keep tabs on every single thing going on in my / everybody else’s life. First thing when I wake up, and last thing before I go to bed (and, oh, 62935691 times in between), I do my standard social media routine: Facebook–Twitter–Pinterest–Instagram–LinkedIn. Then, if I have time, check in on my favorite blogs, read a few news articles, take a Buzzfeed quiz… and then, because it’s been a few minutes now, re-check Facebook and Twitter again. Before I know it I’ve been on my phone for 45 minutes, and that’s time I’m never getting back. I’m now 45 minutes closer to my grave, and all I have to show for it are my Buzzfeed quiz results (my Mean Girls character is Cady Heron, and the city that most closely matches my personality is Paris. Thanks for asking). Let’s all commit to reversing this increasingly pathetic stereotype. This is your LIFE happening around you, after all.
9. Do a little something for the good of humanity. It doesn’t have to be huge – Donate your old clothes to Goodwill instead of just throwing them away. Pick up a stray piece of trash here and there and put it in the garbage. Rather than letting leftovers sit in your fridge for a week, give them to a homeless person outside the restaurant. Sort out your recyclables (and if you’re really adventurous, start a compost). Try taking small steps to contribute positively to the world around you.
10. Let someone know how important they are to you. I know this is cliché, and we hear it all the time, but there’s a reason for it. Life is too short to let “I love you”s go unsaid, and often times we don’t realize how much someone means to us until it’s too late to express it. Be it your parents, your best friend, or significant other – tell them you love them / miss them / how important and wonderful they are, loudly and often.
May 2014 be the year of good deeds and respect for our fellow Earth-dwellers.
Then again, if I happen to also lose a few pounds in the process, or start to bear a few similarities to Ana Ivanovic… well, we’ll just call it a win-win for everybody.

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