With every new year we think about things we want to add to our lives. But sometimes it is just as important to subtract something. So here are some ideas that may help you do both and to look back upon 2014 with satisfaction when January 2015 rolls around.
1: What are you grateful for - and why not practice pronoia this year?
It is a good idea to start the year with a bit of appreciation for the people and events that enriched our lives. Lots of studies, as well as common sense, confirm that we feel better and have more energy when we remind ourselves of the people and things we appreciate.
I have mentioned before the concept of pronoia -the opposite of paranoia - in other words, the assumption that people are actively working in your favor. We tend to see what we look for, so why not make pronoia your default mod?
ACTION: As you go through this week give some thought to what you are grateful for and be on the lookout for people and events that seem to be working in your favor.
2: Make a happiness jar
It is very easy to forget the good things that happen, so here is an easy way to make sure you remember them, an idea from the writer Elizabeth Gilbert.
- Get an empty jar
- Before you go to sleep jot down on a small piece of paper the date and your happiest moment of the day.
- Put the piece of paper in the jar
ACTION: Create your own happiness jar. Of course you can do it as a file on your computer or phone but seeing those slips of paper growing in number seems more satisfying. You can wait until the end of the year to review the contents or do it any time your spirits get a bit low.
3: What do you want to change?
Start-of-year introspection usually reveals some things we want to change. It seems difficult to do so even though we haver tried again and again.
More likely to succeed is the strategy of trying something different. Regular readers will know this is one of my main themes and this seems like a good time for a quick re-cap.
If there are some results you did not get this year but would like to achieve in the coming year, here are the steps:
Be sure you are stating the outcome, not the means. Going to the gym is one of many possible means toward the end of achieving a certain level of fitness.
Jot down the means you have tried that failed. No matter that they may have worked for others, we are looking for what will work for you.
Come up with three other methods that might lead you to the outcome. If going to gym failed, three others might be finding an exercise regime you can do at home, going to group exercise sessions in a park, or doing a morning run.
Choose the one you think is most likely to work for you. If you are not a morning person, forget about the morning run. If you are self-conscious about your body, skip the group exercise. If you are motivated by having others around you who are trying to do the same thing, forget about the home alone routine.
Do the one you think is most likely to work. Give it a fair trial. If it works, congratulations! If not, repeat steps three through five until you find one that does.
ACTION: Consider applying this method to an area of your life in which you would like to get better results.
4: One thing to STOP this year
We tend to think of the things we want to add to our lives but sometimes it is just as important to subtract something. I am putting together a little collection of these, and one near the top of the list is to STOP taking ourselves so seriously. If you find yourself getting upset over small matters, this one is for you.
Here is the bad news: You are not the center of the universe. Even worse, neither am I. We are just two little ants on a very big playground.
Another disappointing fact: Nobody gets out of this thing alive. One day, and we hope it is a long way in the future but it could be later today, our number will be up. Somehow the world will survive without us. I know, I find that hard to believe, too. Unless you move in a lot higher circles than I do, there will not even be a national day or mourning, lowered flags, or moments of silence on TV. There will be a lot of crying from a small number of people, and that is about it. Even if you get a street named after you, in fifty years or so somebody will say, hey, who was this street named after anyway? Nobody will remember and they will change the name.
ACTION: If you let too many little things get to you, reviews the facts above daily. Second, stop to see the situations that upset you from the viewpoint of the other person. That rude waiter could be having a bad day. Ask him. He may break into sobs and tell you his cat died this morning. Or he may snarl, "My day is none of your damn business!"
If it's the former, hand him a napkin and tell him you understand. If it's the latter, smile and don't leave a tip.
Ask yourself whether this thing that's upsetting you will matter a year from now. How about six months from now? Three months? One month? A week? Tomorrow? Does it actually matter now?
Take a deep breath and imagine yourself at the point when this incident will have shrunk to insignificance. Put it into perspective with all the other things that will have happened by then. You should feel the anger or upset shrink to the point where you can let it go and get on with your life.
5: A simple way to be more productive
As reported in Fast Company, two recent studies conducted in Norway show that having plants around you in your office help you concentrate.
The report adds, "The new work adds to a long line of evidence tracing how the brain benefits from nature. Brief walks in the park help a person focus on a task, glimpses of trees reduce a driver's road rage, views of vegetation raise a hospital patient's spirits."
ACTION: Get some plants for your office or home work space. If, like me, you have a red thumb (is that the opposite of having a green thumb?) ask the florist or clerk which plants are the hardiest and best suited to the kind of light available. There's also a very helpful article about this from Lifehacker.
6: And a quote to consider:
"Each year's regrets are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the New Year." - John R. Dallas Jr.