It's that time of year when many people resolve to make changes relating to everything from finance to fitness. Unfortunately, by February, a good majority of us will have settled (un)comfortably back into our old habits and will find ourselves feeling just slightly more powerless against our ability to slay the dragons that stand between you and your best self. If you're like me and tired of seeing the same resolution on that list year-after-year (I will learn Spanish) perhaps these tips might help.
1. Figure Out What You Really Want (and Really Need)
I don't know about you, but I am amazing at coming up with new stuff to want. I mean, if I were to be reviewed on my ability to desire, I would get a promotion and raise every quarter. Now, consistency in my wants is a whole other story. I can want a pair of fantastic boots on Monday and forget all about them by Friday. But a date with Enrique Iglesias? That's a pretty consistent desire (sorry Anna). If you're like me, I've got a plan (and the first step is to get your own Latin pop star to love). Next, create a life pyramid. Place your ultimate goal at the top, your next biggest want and need below it, your next three and four below them. You now have 10 goals to focus on nurturing and flourishing. Now write down three ways you will work towards achieving or maintaining these goals and carry both exercises around with you to use as reminders to stay on-track. Some questions to always ask yourself: Is the way I am handling this situation working for or against these goals? Are my life choices helping me achieve my goals or serving as an anchor or distraction? How are the people I am spending most of my time with helping or hindering my progress?
2. Give Yourself Credit
So, you haven't really been all that responsible with your swipes? It happens. Still, ignoring the damage doesn't make it go away. In fact, it often makes it worse. Your credit score serves as a rating of your reputation and reliability to lenders, landlords and, in some cases, future bosses. Why wouldn't you want to take control and do the work to build up a solid score which can help you gain better rates and resources in the future? You can get reports from all three bureau's and find out your FICO score (and details on how to increase your score for $40.00) at Experian.com (Note: The first interview I ever did for print was with Suze Orman who made such a huge impact on me regarding credit scores that I check mine every six months).
3. You Aren't Jay-Z. Translation: Ball on a Budget
Pretty shoes, amazing trips and cab rides home from fabulous dinners are great, but stressing about how you'll live for two weeks while you wait for your next paycheck? Not so much. Instead of swiping without thinking (see above) figure out how much you make per month, what you need to spend money on, what you want to spend it on and how much you need to save in order to have three months of bills covered in case of an emergency. Ah, you didn't expect that last part, did you? Now, work it out. Look through old bank account and credit card bills to calculate how much you spent on extra's such as cabs, coffee, shopping trips, etc. Some of you should get ready for a shock. I once did this and realized I had spent $3,000 on cabs! That's a trip to Rome! To drive down debt, pick up the phone. Call all of your credit card companies and find out the APR on each. Then, start paying minimum payments on all but the highest, which you will send as much above the minimum payment as you can until it is paid off. Then move to the next highest. Repeat.
4. Take A Relationship Inventory
There is a saying that you become like the five people you hang out with most. Think about the people in your life who get most of your time and attention. How do they make you feel? How do they support you? Do you feel you can trust them? Count on them? If you have people in your life who bring you down (or worse, push you down) it's time to do a bit of summer cleaning. Life is hard enough without having to deal with those who don't have your best interests at heart.
5. Relationship RX
We all get busy, stressed and caught up in our thoughts and lives, but relationships are like plants: Water them and they flourish, ignore them or water only when they are wilting and you'll watch them die a slow death. If you have a relationship that needs a little extra TLC,move past pride, clear your calendar and reach out to rebuild.
6. Stop Making (and Accepting) Excuses
We all have "reasons" for saying hurtful things, making poor life choices, and engaging in behavior and relationships we know are unhealthy, but how do those reasons bring you closer to the moments, success, love and situations you are aching to experience? If you have someone in your life who chooses to excuse unhealthy behavior instead of addressing it, stand firm and let them know you're there to help, not enable. Ask the same of those around you when it comes to overcoming your own unhealthy habits. This also serves as a good way to gauge the sincerity of apologies. When someone apologizes and gives a reason for bad behavior, they may be sorry, but it will likely happen again. If they supply subtext with information as to how how they are working to make certain it does not happen again, it's more likely they're on a path of progress.
7. Watch Your Words
Once out, the things you say cannot be taken back and they are often processed through filters that contain unique personal projections. Think about the message you want to convey before you alert the media, and if you find you've said too much or the wrong thing, clarify and apologize (if necessary) and then learn your lesson. Avoiding situations where you engage in gossip or unnecessarily negative conversations will work wonders for your rep (and peace of mind).
8. What's Up, Doc?
Those who know me are going to laugh when they read this because I am known for reciting the seventh grade STD lecture just about every time I am out at a bar with friends (whatever, you have weird habits, too). If you're sexually active, get an STD check-up every six months. If you're female, make sure to get to your OBGYN every year and do your monthly breast exams and yearly mammogram after 35. We should all be getting a yearly physical. If you don't have health insurance, call your local Planned Parenthood and ask if they can help guide you as to where to go. About to sleep with a new partner? Don't be afraid to ask them to get tested. Sex that is safe feels safe, and both make it much, much hotter.
9. Strengthen Your Weaknesses
No one gets to adulthood without having packed a few bags and "issues" are usually traumas, fears and misconceptions that need to be addressed and sorted out. You could just continue to allow these things to impact your life, job and relationships negatively or you can choose to take a proactive approach. If you are finding that you're needing a bit of help navigating through a situation, don't be ashamed to reach out to a professional for a little help. A lot of people face depression, anxiety or just have a lot going on and don't know how to handle it and find that talking to someone really helps them move through it. Doctors are doctors for a reason.
10. Value Accountability
Blaming others for your own poor decisions, bad behavior and unhappiness is the best way to hand over your personal power and remain in a funk. When we hold ourselves and others accountable, we accept that we are in total control of ourselves which not only builds confidence, but allows us to see ourselves as the masters of our own lives (and fate). Knowing where others end and we begin (and vice versa) is a really powerful tool when building your best self.
11. Be Prepared To Walk Away
Whether it is a deal on a bag you want, a job or a relationship that lacks respect, knowing that you are not so controlled by your desires or fear that you're willing to ignore your good senses or self-respect offers a great sense of peace and freedom. It also sends a message to those around you that you're not someone to try and manipulate or walk over, which will bring you less frustration overall.
12. Do Your Very Best
Whether you're making pasta, writing a card, engaging a neighbor or making an apology, give the thing you do your full attention and do them to the best of your ability. When you ask someone how they are doing, keep looking at them and pay attention to their answer. When you're working on a project for work, don't rush it "just to get done." Those around you will take notice of your attention to detail and the way you fully immerse yourself in conversations and tasks, thus building a reputation for respect and reliability. That said, when you have done your best know that it's enough.