Every year around this time the natural human tendency is to take stock of the previous 12 months, our failings, our triumphs, and everything in between. As the annual odometer rolls over to the “0” of January, many people are compelled to take advantage of what they feel is a fresh start. Enter the phenomenon of the New Year’s resolution. “This year I’m going to hit the gym every day and lose these love handles.”; “This year I’ll quit smoking by April 1.” You’ve heard them all a million times. Maybe even said them yourself. If you accomplished what you set out to do, bravo, because you’re in the extreme minority. According to Forbes, just 8 percent of New Year’s resolution-ers actually meet their goal.
If you’re as sick as we are of hearing about the typical resolution so frequently doomed to failure, we’ve put together a list of 10 New Year’s resolutions you can actually achieve. Maybe even more than one. When it comes to personal growth and development, success tends to have a snowball effect. Actually crossing an item off a list comes with a sense of accomplishment that makes you want to go out and cross off the next item.
1. Host a dinner party.
Getting together with friends for an evening of food and stimulating conversation is a great way to build on your relationships. People always say “we really should do this more often” after getting together for such an affair, so why not actually do it? If you’ve never hosted a dinner party before, make it your mission to curate a guest list, choose the food, wine and music, and host the hell out of the thing.
If you’re a kitchen newbie, some great tips can be found here and here. If you’re stuck for ideas or need advice, it might be a perfect excuse to give mom a call. Chances are she’s hosted her fair share of dinner parties and would be thrilled at the chance to help you host one of your own. It takes work and costs some money to host a real adult dinner party, but with planning (and maybe a little help) it can be a lot of fun. There are few more “adult” feelings than sitting in your guest-free apartment after hosting a successful dinner party.
2. Reach out to a friend you lost contact with.
People come in and out of each other’s lives. It’s natural. But sometimes for whatever reason we stop talking to someone close to us out of anger. And sometimes that stings. Friendships are complicated, and evolution of the male friendship in recent decades (think “bromance”) makes the old days of a fist fight and an “f-you” far from a fatal blow to a friendship. Especially one of long duration.
We all have that friend with whom we spent what seemed like the best days of our lives but now only lingers in our minds like the fading smell of perfume after someone leaves a room. All it takes is one text or phone call to get the ball rolling on a possible reconciliation. If it blows up in your face, at least you can take heart in the fact that you tried. They may not be in the same mindset you are about rekindling the relationship, and that’s ok.
3. Apologize to someone you wronged in the past.
Everyone has made mistakes in their past they aren’t proud of. Maybe even something you weren’t 100% honest about at the time. Whether you dented a friend’s car and didn’t tell them or forgot to feed your Aunt Trudy’s goldfish during her vacation and they all died, owning up and apologizing for your past behavior has a freeing effect as the burden of guilt or keeping the secret is suddenly and forever gone.
If you have a hard time expressing yourself verbally or are embarrassed about the incident for which you are apologizing, consider the dying art of a hand-written letter. Write a draft or two to gather your thoughts and make sure the final version isn’t marked up with cross-outs and speak from the heart.
4. Read three novels you’ve always wanted to.
We’ve all had those moments at a party or with friends where someone drops a literary reference in casual conversation and four-fifths of the group guffaws in delight while the remaining fifth politely chuckles, not actually getting the joke but too embarrassed to admit it. Everyone wishes they read more, and pretty much everyone lies about how much they read. Come up with three books that you distinctly remember thinking “I really should read that one of these days” and then commit yourself to reading all of them over the next 12 months.
Most classic novels of the past century are within the 250-page range and can be had at a book store usually for under $10. So this is a totally do-able goal if you set aside 30 minutes or so per day. Everyone has heard of Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, but have you actually read them? A lot of classic works are also available free in the public domain for e-readers, so it doesn’t have to cost you a dime to enrich your brain, word power, and finally get your friends’ Queequeg jokes.
5.Take three weekend road trips.
Throwing a few outfits and a toothbrush in an overnight bag and getting out of Dodge for the weekend is a time honored tradition that we don’t do nearly often enough. It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip, perfectly clean and acceptable hotel rooms can be had for $100 per night or less pretty much coast-to-coast. And there’s no need to fly, as chances are wherever you live there’s a town or city with something to do or see within an hour or two’s drive. Whether alone, with a buddy or a squeeze, hitting the road and getting a change of scenery for a few days is an enriching and refreshing experience.
6. Plan that activity your girlfriend has been wanting to do.
Relationships are about compromise, and sometimes that compromise means doing something you don’t necessarily want purely because it’s important to the person you love. Whether it’s having her parents over for dinner, seeing the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the local art museum or going to a Justin Timberlake concert, surprising your best gal by suggesting one of her ideas out of the blue is sure to earn you huge points. Especially if it’s something you’ve resisted for a long time. You know full well she’s compromised for you, so it’s time to man up and return the favor.
7. Make at least one meaningful donation to a cause you care about.
Whether time, goods, or money, we all have something we can give towards a cause we believe in, but so often our busy schedules give us the perfect excuse to only wish we could contribute. Stop making excuses and get proactive with at least one action working towards something you’re passionate about.
Do you love animals? Volunteer a day at a local shelter or make a donation of food and litter. Has your or your family’s lives been touched by a disease? Find out if there’s a fundraising 5K or other charity event in your area and participate. Are you obsessed with democracy? Why not volunteer to be a poll worker or carpool driver on election night? We all believe strongly in something, and it takes surprisingly little to quite literally put your money where your mouth is.
8. Make a meaningful effort towards training your pet.
You may think it’s adorable that your Great Dane Toby excitedly jumps up on every guest that enters your apartment to greet them, but I promise you they don’t. Getting a trainer for your animal may feel like you’ve failed as a pet parent, but it’s really a gesture of love that helps ensure they have the best life possible. It takes effort, but is a completely achievable goal if you have certain specific behaviors you’re looking to add or eliminate from your furry pal’s repertoire and properly research trainers in your area.
If you have more time than money, you might consider researching effective self-training methods online. Or even consult your veterinarian next time you take Fluffy in for her distemper vaccination. They’re likely a great resource for information or can at least point you in the right direction.
9. Take a class.
Community centers and colleges in every state offer casual enrichment classes and programs. Do you have a green thumb you’ve been wanting to develop? Maybe you’ve always had a burning desire to learn how to weld? Odds are somebody teaching something you’re interested in learning is closer than you think. It doesn’t have to be a major time commitment either. Some classes can be taken in a single session. Find out if your employer offers any sort of employee reimbursement program for continuing education and see what’s out there.
10. Develop passable skills in a foreign language.
Learning a second language tops many people’s lists of self-improvements they wish they had time to make, and modern technology has made it easier than ever to at least be able to build your skills to the point you can ask where the bathroom is or order more sangria. Services like Duolingo even offer free options for sharpening your language skills, so an expensive commitment isn’t necessary. Of course when learning a language you only get out of it as much as you put in, but even a few hours a week can have you noticing a dramatic improvement in your understanding a foreign tongue.
Resolutions tend to so often focus on the mistakes we’ve made or the unhealthy habits we’ve developed. We thought it would be much more Primer’s style to focus on the positive self-improvement aspect of this annual tradition. So there you have it. Ten New Year’s resolutions you have a serious chance at achieving next year with a little grit and determination. And you don’t even have to give up cheeseburgers.