Because a fresh start begins...inside your mind.
By Leigh Newman
Rethink: "I have to get a room of my own!!!"
Let's say this is the year you start designing your own clothing line or composing country-music lyrics. The first thing to do is to shut yourself up alone in a room and get to work, right? Actually...not right. "For centuries the myth of the lone genius has towered over us like a colossus," writes Joshua Wolf Shenk in Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. The reason we think that powerfully artistic people work best solo, he concludes, is mostly because it makes a romantic story. Most every artist, writer or thinker -- from Pablo Picasso to Jerry Seinfeld to C.S. Lewis -- had a creative collaborator (Georges Braque, Larry David, J.R.R. Tolkien) "The pair is the primary creative unit," writes Shenk. "We're set up to interact with a single person more openly and deeply." Our advice: Find a buddy, hold hands -- and leap.
Rethink: "Taking my daily B12 pill -- or going on my daily jog -- is good for me, but exhausting."
When we think of habits, especially the ones we most want to encourage, we usually think about the hard work they demand from us. But they may just save us energy -- and make life easier. Think of it this way: "A habit requires no decision from me because I've already decided," says Gretchen Rubin in her latest book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (coming out in March). "Am I going to brush my teeth when I wake up? Am I going to take this pill?" she writes. Once we've established a habit, we never need to ask these questions again. We've already chosen once (brush my teeth, take the pill) and now we can simply execute that choice, over and over mindlessly, which frees us from decision-making and stress, not mention a daily argument with ourselves.
Rethink: "My moodiness is messing up my life!"
"From a young age, we are taught that moodiness and all that comes with it is a bad thing," says Julie Holland, M.D., who is author of Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy (coming this March). "We learn to apologize for our tears, to suppress our anger, and to fear being called hysterical." But, writes Dr. Holland, "Women's emotionality is normal. It is a sign of health, not disease." To prove her case, she examines our brains, our sex drives, our diet, our thyroids and more. Her advice: We need to monitor our moods and manage them, such as, say, boosting our serotonin levels during PMS episodes with amino-acids supplements or by trusting, with by our anxiety (within limits) to make us hyperaware of crucial details at work. When we recognize and respect these ups and downs -- instead of try to suppress them -- she writes, they become "our natural source of power."
Rethink: "I'm only going to focus on the important things."
Most of us spend our days running around, trying get an insane amount done. And most of those tasks and commitments are important. Finishing your kid's costume for the play, turning in that sales report, choosing a color to repaint the bedroom on Saturday -- it's all important. But it might help to consider what that adjective means, writes Rory Vaden in Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time. Though many of the ideas in the book verge on the familiar (and can even a little pat), one caught our attention. Importance can be defined, Vaden writes, as "how much does this matter?" Significance, on the other hand, is "how long is this going to matter?" By considering what's vital -- not just now, but later -- he suggests, we are "able to resist the temptation of the tyranny of the urgent."
Rethink: "All I have to do is follow the Golden Rule."
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you is a pretty life-affirming way to live -- no matter your religion. But maybe it's time to incorporate an addendum, writes Roman Krznaric, author of Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It. "What happens when others' experiences, cultures, and world views are very different from our own?" he writes. In these cases, we may end up treating people in a way that would suit ourselves but doesn't suit them. Thus, he advocates the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them. For example, "One day you might give your elderly mother a call because you are aware she is lonely, and you would probably want someone to phone you, too, in similar circumstances (Golden Rule). But on another day, you refrain from smoking on your friend's balcony because you know she doesn't like the smell wafting into her apartment, even if you wouldn't mind it yourself (Platinum Rule)."