New Year’s resolutions are so trendy that I seldom make them; I save the major overhauls for my birthday, if ever.
After reading a host of fascinating and quasi-scientific books the year before last (that would be 2015, as those clever people who have already adjusted to writing the correct new year on their checks have deduced), though, I was intrigued and inspired by the notion of implementing effortless incremental changes in pursuit of sustainable long-term progress.
But it took me about a year or so of mulling and processing before some of the ideas about forming habits, nudging toward optimization, understanding intuition, and stumbling on happiness really began to take practical shape.
Here, in no particular order of importance or priority, are some of the habits I’ve resolved to form this year. Some of them I’ve tried out half-heartedly in the past, but not maintained long enough to form a certifiable habit:
- Brush my teeth after finishing every meal. This will not only ensure good hygiene, but will discourage snacking and mindless eating between meals.
- Start and end each day with reciting the Lord’s Prayer. This will ground my thoughts and focus my mind on God’s will for the day, not mine.
- Dabble with make-up each day. Lipstick is already a pretty reliable staple, but I want to challenge myself to spend one extra minute a day—literally 60 seconds; surely I can spare that—putting in a little extra effort and thought about personal appearances, without going overboard in the vanity department.
- When I think of something nice to say or do, act on it immediately (or as soon as reasonably possible). I have a tendency to want to “optimize” my activities and thoughts, as evidenced by the following hypothetical thought process: “How nice of D. to like my post! I should send her a quick note expressing my appreciation for her friendship.
Actually, I should make a list of all my local friends and jot them each a quick note to let them know how meaningful their relationship is to my life, even if we don’t cross paths as often as I’d like. Which, actually, is a great reminder that our paths should cross more often! Maybe I should plan a way to get together and catch up with some people I haven’t seen for a while.
I probably won’t be able to follow through on individual coffee dates with each friend…maybe I could open my home for a morning play date? Although, that sort of thing would really be better when the weather improves, so we could meet up at a local park…”
And so, like the hapless sailor from A. A. Milne’s classic poem who couldn’t figure out what to do first and ended up doing “nothing but basking until he was saved,” I fail to follow through on any number of excellent notions in fruitless pursuit of the ideal. I should just seize the day and do what good I can, never mind about how much better it might be “if only” this or that.
- Embrace hilarity, and don’t be afraid to welcome fun of the “Just Because” variety. It is amazing to me that I still occasionally trip up over this one, but I grew up within arms’ length of a particular homeschooling sub-culture that taught that levity and frivolity were on a par with folly, and thus to be studiously avoided. “Just for fun” wasn’t a good enough reason for something—it had to be justified on practical grounds. So I want to remind myself—and model for my children—that having fun is a fine goal in and of itself, as long as it’s not inherently destructive. After all, a merry heart does good like medicine.
These aren’t grand, sweeping changes. They probably won’t turn the world upside-down or revolutionize my life. But they probably will make me—and everyone around me—much happier, which means that, in the long run, we’ll all be more productive! Because nothing boosts productivity like improved morale. Not that improved productivity or efficiency is the goal here. My goal is not to stress out about goals this year. We’ll see how well that goes.
Photo Credit: Second, third, and fourth images courtesy of Rose Focht.