Seven Ideas for Igniting a Brighter 2013

Most people I know spoke of 2012 as a year that couldn't go away fast enough, myself included. We didn't want it to go away in a Mayan apocalypse sort of way, but I think many of us were collectively calling out for a fresh start.

Globally, wars, violence and poverty seemed to pervade the news. Nationally, we also dealt with high unemployment, and of course the tragedies in Aurora and Newtown, not to mention Superstorm Sandy. Everywhere you turned, Americans were fighting with one another over election-related issues. It was ridiculously negative and impossible to escape ever day. For Detroiters it meant the start of yet another chapter in the seemingly endless Kwame saga. It has all left me determined to help make 2013 a better year, and I invite you to join me.

Often this desire to start anew manifests itself in the form of resolutions, and all too often those resolutions have already been broken by now. Whether you made resolutions and are successfully on your way (kudos), or abandoned them at 12:01 a.m. on January 1, the prospect of a fresh start is not lost. You don't need a new year to make improvements, just a fresh outlook. Here are some ideas to jumpstart your way into a brighter 2013.

Change something: Just because the year listed atop a calendar has changed, doesn't mean anything else has. If you want this year to feel different, you have to change something... anything. Paint a room a different color, change the route you take to work, eat or shop at that little place you pass all the time, but have never been in. It's true that variety is the spice of life, so give yourself a dash or more.

Organize your distractions: When things are crazy in the world, the chaos can start to invade our own lives and distract us from what we want or need to do. Regain some control by getting organized. Sort through drawers and closets, organize files on your laptop, reduce unnecessary email, throw out old expired stuff in your frig and cupboards. It's amazing how much more in control one can feel as petty nuisances are eliminated.

Step up: Think about those unfinished projects that gnawed at you all year. Pick one, step up, and get it done. The amount of time it will likely take you to do it, is nowhere near the amount of energy it drained from you thinking about it or feeling guilty last year.

Let yourself off the hook: Think back on that same list of projects, especially the ones you skipped over to come up with one you could actually do. Take a second glance at those. Why are you skipping them? We actually do what we care to do, and typically what we have to do. Anything else that is repeatedly left undone must not matter that much. Pick a couple and just drop them from your list, and drop the guilt along with them.

Focus on someone other than yourself: We cannot change the fact that tragedies occur, but we can choose how we respond. In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a wave of kindness emerged. People all over the nation began surprising one another with sweet gestures. It doesn't bring those little angels back, but it is an opportunity to be a catalyst for joy. Don't worry about doing 26. Just start with one. Clear the snow from a sidewalk, look up an old teacher and write a note about the impact they had on you, hold a door open, let someone go ahead of you in line, or pay someone's tab. There are tons of ways to do it.

Spread good news: Bad news surrounds us every day, but there is plenty of good news too. Just because it's less common in the media doesn't mean you can't give it a boost. Spend more time seeking and sharing positive developments. When you hear something good, instead of "juicy," share it in conversations and through social media.

Find the fun: When we're kids, most of the time fun finds us. As adults, we need to find it. Play with your kids, call or get together with someone who always makes you laugh, rent a couple of comedies, host a game night, hit a comedy or improv club, and inject a little levity into your life.

The world is vast and complex. Naturally there are many aspects of life that will fall outside of our control, yet imagine the possibilities if we spend less time on those issues and instead, focus our energy, interactions and resources toward elements that are within our control. If each of us ignites a little flicker of light on our own path, together we will brighten our communities. Be the change you want to see in your world.