When I turn over a new leaf in 2018, 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 some goals that will do nothing with my résumé or my waist line, and 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. And for more ways to start your year in the best way possible, here are the 25 Biggest New Year’s Resolution Mistakes Everyone Makes.
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 off the beaten path to somewhere you’ve only read about in nature magazines. Live as the locals do for a bit; you just might be surprised with what you discover about yourself. And get inspired by checking out the 20 Most Zen Places on Earth.
Seek celestial navigation
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 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. And you can expand your mental horizons even further with the 15 Podcasts that Will Make You 15 Percent Smarter.
Give a testimonial
Often, skepticism is the only redoubt for a reasonable person. But beware if it becomes the default position. Find somebody to admire. No, not Beyoncé for her bountiful self, but a regular human being with whom you’re actually acquainted and who goes to work every day and does it right. Your parter. Your kids. Hell, the editors of Best Life!
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 money, 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.
Help somebody put you on a pedestal
If you’ve got kids, the little dopes are just teed up 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 at work 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. And for more great parenting advice, don’t miss the Secret to Raising Healthy Kids.
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. And put the finishing touches on any gathering you host by paying mind to the 5 Best Cocktail Trends for 2018.
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 with you into the sack, 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 (or hats), keep a collaboration cooking. Have you ever given any attention to that part of her foot? Or tried the massage techniques favored by folks from the Far East? Small invigorations tend a flame. And for more ways to really spice things up in the bedroom, consider getting one of these.
Add a player
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 friendship. And we tend to disqualify guys 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’s had his setbacks, too. If he doesn’t, drop them.
Look up old friends
We tend to lose touch with the people back in your hometown or college. New is good, but continuity deepens life. Reach back to someone you liked long ago and update him on your transit. The story of our lives deserves at least a few people who have cared about us through every act. He doesn’t have to become Uncle Tim to the kids, but just knit some threads back together. When you’re in town on business, have dinner and reminisce about that night at the quarry when the big man got his nickname. Friendships come in all sizes—from the guy you call when you need a kidney to the guy with whom you shared some good times back when you were a boy.
Read a 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 face-to-face 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. And keep your spirits up by reading up on the 15 Feel-Good Stories of 2017.
Vow to use the phone more often
We’re often good at self-loathing and so we sometimes don’t appreciate how much we matter to our people, especially the women and children. Simply by virtue of my gender, 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. If you’re a man, you’ve got energy and strength. 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 portion that is yours and yours alone.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!