We all tend to look at a new year as an opportunity to start fresh, to revamp things in our lives, and to fix what we feel is not working. However, what are the areas that we truly need to focus on to bring about real and lasting change that will have an impact on our lives and our relationships? Many people make wishes that they want to improve the relationship they have, or to start a relationship that they have not yet begun. The reality is that we can only have the best relationships, when we are at our personal best. When we are our best selves. So what are a few things that we can do to make significant changes this year, so that we can have the life we and relationships we want?
1) Get a physical planner: Read my accompanying piece on the best planners to get and why. I know with technology, there is something wonderful about being able to plug things into your phone, but if you are a visual person, a physical planner and being able to map out what we have coming up, what school work, teaching work, projects, and personal plans we have on the horizon, can be a powerful tool. This planner should be highly personalized, inspired, and keep you focused on your strengths and goals.
2) We need to finally learn what it is to have a good work-life balance. We need to cross off time in our planners for personal time, and when we are not to be at work or working. You are more likely to stick to it, and not schedule work related activities in an area that has a giant X across the area. Prioritize activities that you enjoy as much as any other activity in your life. Don't let your personal life be the first thing to go, make it significant. What are your priorities? How much time are your dedicating to each area?
3) Establish a firm and consistent AM routine. What do you enjoy? Yoga, mantras, a podcast, checking e-mails or the news, a light machine, watching a sitcom, what we do in the morning, and the mood it puts us in, sets the mood for the day. Carve our time, this is essential! Before the chaos of the day sets in, make sure you have set this tone and made this time for a more positive day.
4) Cut the fat in your life. By this I mean, learn to be assertive, and remove toxic people from your life. If they must be in your life in some way, learn to set very firm boundaries, and limit your time with them. Let go of negative thoughts and learn to replace them with positive and more realistic ones. Change the definition we have of restriction when it comes to people, food, work, or anything that is unhealthy for us. Remove what we put time and energy into that does not matter.
5) Learn what we do and do not have control over. This is an important and powerful lesson. When we learn what we do and do not have control over, we can focus our energy on what we do. We can free up time for it by letting go of the things we will never have control of anyway, and therefore do not matter. Break things down into small and manageable steps, and this will help us plan for meaningful progress towards our goals that does not feel overwhelming.
6) Make sure that you are showing a level of daily appreciation in your relationship. This is a main reason people enter couples therapy, and something that makes a significant difference once they put it back into their daily lives. Make it a priority to text, email, leave a note, call, or say the most minor thing face to face that you appreciate about them. The majority of the time, the couple comes back and says they had no idea the other person felt that way about them. They decide they want to keep the exercise going, as they enjoy it so much, and it seems so meaningful. This has a profound positive effect on them and their relationship.
7) Learn to relax amid the chaos of work, and in general. Learn grounding techniques (they are worth looking up), learn coping skills that work for you, invest in a pair of ear buds, take your breaks, go for a walk, and take lunch away from your desk. Little stress relievers go a long way, and really change your productivity and outlook towards your job.