The end of the Christmas season always makes me a little sad, but fortunately, the New Year brings welcome optimism. Looking past the winter reminds us that the gloomy days are relatively few and the renewal of spring is just around the corner. The long evenings of winter, though, allow us to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. Here are ten suggestions for making 2011 the best year of your life:
1. Renew Old Relationships.
Most of us are busy, and communicating with friends sometimes takes a back seat. Career moves, children’s activities, house maintenance, and myriad other distractions contribute to a gradual separation from our cronies. The distancing process starts as young adults, and by the time we’re ready to retire, some of us can count on only a spouse as a true friend.
It’s never too late, however, to reestablish contact with folks you care about. Renewing relationships is easier than ever with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, email, and competitive telephone rates. Christmas and birthday cards are heartwarming modes of communications, as well.
2. Spend Time With Family.
Resolve to see your family members often and to talk to them frequently on the telephone. If you’ve ceased communication with anyone, especially a parent or child, it’s time to mend fences and begin rebuilding a meaningful relationship. Someday it may be too late to do so. As we grow older, our priorities naturally shift from aggressive participation in the workplace to humanistic attitudes and community activities. That means spending more time with the people we love.
3. Eat Healthfully.
No time is better than the present to begin consuming food that will contribute to health and happiness. Your list of healthful victuals should include raw vegetables, fresh fruits, lean meats, whole grains, vitamin supplements, and pure water. Cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and foods that are high in saturated and trans fats should appear on your list of bad stuff to avoid. I enjoy a protein-vegetable drink for breakfast, a turkey-on-rye sandwich for lunch, a fruit-and-vegetable drink as an afternoon snack, and a veggie-laden, protein-rich dinner with a glass of red wine.
4. Exercise Consistently.
Exercise is usually the first thing that is cut when people become busy with work, kids’ activities, social commitments, and home projects. Daily physical exertion is a positive contributor to sound sleep, weight control, stress reduction, and general health. Foregoing it for any length of time is risky, and the price of doing so is high. Put a limit on the number of activities in which your kids can become involved, and try to get home early enough to walk or work out. Keeping your life rolling in a healthful direction requires setting priorities and putting them into practice.
5. Update Your Financial Plan.
The beginning of the New Year is a perfect time to review your financial goals. You can reset paycheck withholdings, establish 401(k) and IRA contributions, plan charitable donations, calculate estimated tax payments, and program other investments for the year.
Included in your financial plan should be some notion of what you intend to do with the money you put away. Savings accounts and certificates of deposit provide relative safety, but low interest rates may subject your funds to slow erosion by inflation.
Setting money aside for the long term is important, and educating yourself about it is a must. You may decide to take a class or attend a financial seminar before committing hard-earned assets to a given investment vehicle. Whatever you do, make sure you fully understand the nature of any financial instrument in which you invest. For some suggestions on how to save more effectively, see Saving money – Forty money-saving tips – Part-I and Part II.
6. Learn To Adapt To Change.
Life is dynamic, and those who adapt well to its changes will thrive. Non-adapters will suffer, perhaps becoming destitute, depressed, ill, resentful, or angry. Never has the skill of adaptation been more important than it is today. The Internet, advanced communications, and industrial computerization are changing our world faster than ever before, and those who refuse to make the adjustment will be left behind.
7. Get Plenty Of Sleep.
Sleep, like diet and exercise, is part of the foundation upon which all else rests. Without enough sleep, the quality of everything we do diminishes. If you need an alarm to wake up, you are not going to bed early enough. The body wakes up naturally when it’s had enough sleep. Try to organize your activities such that you get eight hours of sleep most of the time.
8. Help Someone.
Giving back to the community improves the giver’s life. When you are raising children, giving your time to them may be top priority. As your parents get older, helping them may take first place for a while. If your spouse becomes ill, your personal-care effort may leap to the forefront. When you retire, you may volunteer your time to a philanthropic organization or engage in some other productive project. Sometimes giving consists of simply listening and allowing people around you to reflect on their lives.
9. Reach For Your Dream.
Most people have at least one talent and one dream. Some have more, but few are born without one of each. Working hard to develop our talents and reaching out boldly for our dreams are fundamental to our development as human beings.
10. Make A Life Plan.
Write down your life plan. It need not be detailed, but the more precise your vision of where you are and where you want to be, the better. Where are you with respect to your primary relationship, your finances, your dream? Where would you like to be in one, five, or ten years? Making a life plan that you periodically review and revise will improve the quality of your life and help you reach your dreams.
So there you have it—ten resolutions for making 2011 the best year of your life. The list is not exhaustive, though, so I encourage you to be creative as you devise ways to make your life better in the coming year. The world is changing. Old ways are dying faster than ever before, and new ideas are bubbling up all around us. We can either step up and become part of this exciting, evolving world or stand by timidly and be left behind. It’s our choice, and that’s part of what makes it fascinating.