I've never been big on New Year's resolutions. Setting grand, lofty resolutions only to be forgotten weeks into the year may be well intended, but for the most part, are ineffective.
I am a true believer that it's the small, everyday changes we make that collectively result in great change. So this year, instead of creating a new set of goals and resolutions, I've decided to create a contract. This is a contract with myself, on the everyday behaviors and perspectives I can incorporate so I can grow -- so that I can be the best version of "me," that I can be.
1. Spend less time shopping, more time traveling.
Yes, those stilettos have a slightly different heel than the ones already have in your closet, and yes, they are gorgeous. But you'll forget about those shoes in a season, and could have spent that money on a trip where you would have met new people and savored a heart enriching memory. Invest in experiences, not things.
2. Start honoring your intuition.
You know that feeling of resistance and hesitation you've ignored all these years? Well, it's time to start listening. You've been through enough life situations and met enough people to give your intuition the trust and respect it deserves. Next time your gut tells you something, don't make excuses to justify it into silence. Listen.
3. Remember that your parents are aging. And one day it will be too late to call, write and make time for them.
There is this naivety that comes along with youth, where you think that you're invincible, and nothing bad will ever happen to you or the people you love. But as you grow older, you start to realize this isn't the case. No matter what your relationship is with your parents, you will miss them when they are gone. Make the time now to show that you appreciate them. Learn their stories, ask them new questions and find out as much about their history as possible. "Don't wait until a crisis to discover what is important in your life."
4. When you're feeling impatient, adjust your reaction.
Yes you're busy. But don't think you're more important or more entitled that you actually are. Before you roll your eyes because the cashier is being too slow, or silently judge someone's intelligence because they are taking too long, adjust your reaction and remember, it's not your place to make someone feel anxiety because they aren't performing a task at the pace you'd prefer.
5. Each week, do something to show appreciation for someone.
Write a card, send flowers "just because," or pick up the phone and call. Do something random to show someone you love that you appreciate and care about them. Making someone feel special shouldn't be reserved for birthdays or Hallmark holidays. Make proactive gestures of appreciation a part of your weekly routine.
6. Start your morning with "me" time.
Before the rush of the workday begins, start your morning off with some "me" time. Fill that time with something that feeds your spirit. Meditate, read, go for a walk... Don't make the first thing you do before you get out of bed to grab your phone and check your email. If you start your day with a sense of calm, you can set precedent for the tone of the rest of your day.
7. Say a positive affirmation aloud every morning.
Seems cheesy. But it works. Every morning, look in the mirror, say a positive affirmation. Start your morning that way and it will affect the attitude you choose for the day.
8. Carve out time every day to feed a passion.
Make it a daily habit to carve time out to do something that feeds a passion or builds on your personal development. Write, doodle, make something with your hands, dance.... It's easy to get caught up in the minutia of every day. If you need to, schedule that time in your calendar. If you woke up half an hour earlier and slept half an hour later each day to feed a side project, by the end of the year, you'd have over two extra full weeks spent doing something that is soul enriching.
9. Before bed, write or say aloud something you're grateful for.
Gratitude rewires your brain for happiness. Write down something you're grateful for every night before bed. Make that ritual of gratitude be the last thing you do before you sleep.
10. The person in front of you is more important than your phone.
As someone who prides yourself on having good manners, since when did it become normalized to check your phone in the middle of a conversation? We've become so accustomed to racing to react to the sound of a new message or email coming in, that we forget that such constant "connection" is what's disconnecting us more than ever. Remind yourself that the email can wait. Your Instagram followers will understand if you don't post that photo of our meal in real time. Remind yourself that being present is the most authentic way of truly experiencing something - whether that be a dinner conversation, a concert or a hike. That urge to capture the moment in a picture, document and share with the world doesn't add to that experience's authenticity, in fact, it detracts from it.
Being a slave to your phone is addictive. Start by small changes. When someone is speaking to you, stop typing, looking at your screen and pay full attention. When you're having a meal with someone, leave your phone off the table so that you're not tempted to keep checking it.
11. When you're feeling judgmental, remember, empathy always wins.
People are going to frustrate you, hurt you and even enrage you. It'll be easy to hate or judge these people. But try to think about why that person is behaving that way. Remember that "hurt people hurt people." Think about what their childhood may have been like, what they may be going through, what they're scared of. When you're angry or blaming someone, it's easy to dehumanize the person. But even the target of your frustration has a history and a story. Ask yourself why the person is affecting you so much as there's likely something you can learn from the challenging interaction.
Lastly, don't be so hard on yourself. You will slip. There will be times where you'll be lazy and lack the discipline to follow the points of this contract. Don't self loathe when you do. Remember to be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission to be soft, to not know all the answers, to be vulnerable, and most importantly, to be human...
Amy Chan is a relationship and lifestyle columnist. To read more of her articles, visit www.JustMyType.ca
This story appears in Issue 83 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Jan. 10 in the iTunes App store.