15 Creative New Year’s Resolutions That Will Make You So Happy in 2019
Start 2019 with these smart, out-of-the-box New Year's resolutions.
When I turn over a new leaf in 2019, I’m going to try something new. I won’t give up my sense of ambition, but I’m also going to throw my arms around a few goals that will do nothing to pad my résumé or alter my waistline, and will instead focus on refreshing my spirit. If you have a hunch that life could be even more flavorful, if you’d like to hunt a little less and harvest a little more, feel free to steal any of the items on my to-do list for the year.
Throw a dart on the map and go there.
Everyone knows that Cabo or Maui are breathtaking getaways from an unrelenting winter freeze, but do they really enrich your life beyond a sense of relaxation?
The confines of a luxury hotel resort might afford you the comforts of shamelessly stuffing your face at the buffet or getting a deep tan, but they won’t challenge your ideas about the world and your place in it. What would you bring home with you other than sand in your suitcase and tacky t-shirts for your friends? If you have the means and the funds, go somewhere off the beaten path. Live as the locals do for a bit; you just might be surprised with what you discover about yourself.
Get out into nature more often.
When my brother Kevin and I camped out as kids, we were about 200 yards from our mom. But still, we took something from the trees and earth, from night air and morning light.
Though I still think of myself as a vigorous Teddy Roosevelt-type who hunts and climbs, I stream movies far more often than TR did. But every time I get myself to an overlook or a meadow on a mountaintop, it’s the same tonic it was back when I was the Lewis to my brother’s Clark.
“The galling harness of civilization drops off,” wrote naturalist John Muir, “and the wounds heal ere we are aware.” The venue needn’t be the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, but work to stay in touch with the exalting beauty of nature. Stargazing will smooth you out, keep your blood pressure down and your spirits up.
Learn to appreciate the people around you.
Find somebody to admire. No, not Beyoncé, but a regular human being with whom you’re actually acquainted and who goes to work every day and does it right. Your partner. Your kids. Maybe even your next-door neighbor!
If you can’t find somebody to look up to without reservation, then savor small slices of several people—a colleague whose work is always terrific, even a golf buddy who had the guts to rebuild his swing. And then tell them—straight on, no irony—that you admire them. Respect keeps you hopeful, and being impressed by others will tune up your own performance.
Find someone to mentor.
If you’ve got kids, the little dopes are practically required to think you’re a stellar grownup. Let that happen. But even if you’re not a parent, once you’ve got a few miles on your odometer, find a kid who could benefit from the painful lessons you’ve learned along the way. January is National Mentoring Month, so any teaching now amounts to citizenship, as well. Remember, while the rookie benefits from your wisdom, it also does you good to feel big in someone’s eyes.
Invent and host a yearly event.
It doesn’t matter what it is—an Iowa-Mizzou tailgate, a team 10K on Halloween. “How but in custom and in ceremony are innocence and beauty born,” wrote William Butler Yeats. It feels good to be a shaper of life, not just a shapee.
Be more giving in bed.
Twenty-five years ago, one of the central tenets of the Japanese business miracle was kaizen, the idea that constant small improvements in process were a better bottom-line bet than the lightning-bolt breakthrough. Bring kaizen into your relationship, especially if you’ve been in business with the same partner for years.
Sure, eureka moments in sex are tough to come by. But little innovations, as minor as new noises or speeds or pressures, keep a collaboration cooking.
Make a new friend (or two!).
In our 30s, lots of us stop making new friends. In part, we’re too busy for the holding-cell bull sessions that forged early friendships. And we tend to disqualify guys and gals for quirks—say, a mad gambling addiction—that just weren’t deal breakers back in college. Resist the sense that your roster is full; draft a new player.
To speed up the vetting process on a potential friend, confess to a disappointment, to something that hasn’t worked out for you. A good individual knows how difficult this is to do, and will respect the trust you’ve bestowed and work to reassure you that you’re not the world’s only loser—he or she has had setbacks, too.
Reconnect with old friends.
We tend to lose touch with the people back in our hometown or from college. New is good, but continuity deepens life. Reach out to someone you liked long ago and update them on your transit. They don’t have to become uncle or auntie to the kids, but just knit some threads back together. Friendships come in all sizes—from the guy you call when you need a kidney to the gal with whom you shared some good times back when you were kids.
Read this book by a Buddhist nun.
Too often, we shrink our experience by assessing everything. Is this new colleague smart? Is this recording worse than Queen? This habit of giving things a score is so deeply embedded that we barely notice how it distorts our interactions with the world.
Not long ago, during a family crisis, a good friend gave us a book called Comfortable With Uncertainty, by a Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön. Now, I’m no Eastern-wisdom aficionado, and I only cracked this book because I’m addicted to the printed page. But, whoa! In lucid, big-hearted language—a series of 108 teachings—it celebrates a spiritual practice called prajna, the ability to live contentedly without resolution, without knowing where everything fits. Apparently, we don’t have to figure all this out; confusion is more fully human. Apparently, life ain’t a struggle; it’s a delightful muddle. Hmmm… interesting.
Vow to use the phone more often.
We’re often so good at self-loathing that we sometimes don’t appreciate how much we matter to our people. As human beings, we’re endowed with an enormous influence we too rarely use—to encourage the downhearted and salute the successful. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have any particular wisdom to share; reach out anyway. Let your voice be heard in sympathy, celebration, and solidarity.
Undertake a quest.
Best if you can undertake a serious quest—say, raising money for the music program at your alma mater. But if not, settle for a stupid one. Become obsessive about a pointless goal—to climb every Colorado peak over 10,000 feet or read every book on arctic wolves. The kids’ music program is better, but everyone needs a target to aim for.
Keep looking for your path.
It’s easy to want the things everybody else wants. But we homogenize and shrink ourselves when that’s all we want. “There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance, that imitation is suicide, that he must take himself, for better or worse, as his portion,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Yeah, I added the italics, because himself is the key here. We earn peace and understanding from surveying the unique kinks of our DNA or our history. That’s the ultimate ambition: Finding the path that is yours and yours alone.
Spend less time on social media.
Setting a New Year’s resolution to stay off of Instagram is so cliché that at this point I’m sure even Mark Zuckerberg has thought about doing it. Plus, in this day and age, it’s pretty unrealistic to think that most people are going to be able to successfully stay away from the ‘gram for any period of time. But if you want to ring in 2019 with less social media stress, then consider using your iPhone’s new “screen time” feature.
With this function, you can program your phone to limit your time spent on certain apps and even schedule time periods when you want specific apps to be unavailable. Though it’s not yet the new year, I’ve already started testing out this feature, and so far I’ve been able to slash my social media usage by more than 20 percent (on my phone, anyway).
Find a shared hobby with your spouse.
In 2019, make more of an effort to explore new hobbies and spend time with your significant other by finding an activity that both of you enjoying partaking in. Whether it’s taking weekly cooking classes or learning a new language, this shared experience will strengthen your marital bond and finally allow you to expand your horizons like you’ve been meaning to for years.
Invest in a business you believe in.
You’ve been setting money aside from every paycheck for years (or at least you should have been..), and now it’s time to put those funds to good use. This year, find a business that you really believe in and use your discretionary funds to support whatever it is they’re doing.
Even if you’re not business savvy, you can still make a huge difference by buying stock in your favorite eco-friendly clothing brand or affordable watchmaker—and if these companies aren’t public, then just vow to buy as many things as possible at these companies to ensure that they’re around for years and years to come. For more January mood-boosters, brush up on the 23 Things to Let Go Of to be Happy in 2019.
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