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Time moves fast and it never seems to move faster than around the holidays. In the dark, short days before the new year, it can be easy to get lost in all the frantic frenzy of buying gifts, reconnecting with friends, visiting family, and the general responsibilities and requirements of daily life. With so much going on, most of us are going to be tempted to put personal growth on the back burner, and if we’re not careful, that’s where it’s going to stay.
It’s the times when we’re too busy to think about the future that we most need to focus on it. Whether we’re looking to improve our health, sharpen our skills, or strengthen our minds, that improvement won't just show up on its own, it's going to take planning.
For the guy looking to be the best version of himself in 2023 and beyond, these are six parts of our lives worth getting serious about in the new year.
1. Really Commit to Taking Care of Your Teeth
When life gets stressful or work hours run long, oral care is usually the first thing we neglect. Making things worse, it’s around this point in our lives that bad habits will start catching up with us, with poor diet decisions and caffeine and alcohol intake all making their effects felt (or even seen, depending on the severity of the situation). As our enamel wears down and our gums recede, the chance for damage and disease doesn’t just grow, it increases exponentially.
Gum disease is the most common reason for tooth loss. Caused by a build up of plaque that hardens into tartar – which can form after just 48 hours – gum disease is usually the result of a poor brushing and flossing routine. No matter how easy it can be to forget our teeth in the hurry and hecticness of daily life, if we’re wanting to keep our smiles bright and our teeth strong (or just keep our teeth in general), we need to get serious about stepping up our oral hygiene now.
Brush and floss regularly, brush and floss well, and if you’re lucky enough to have insurance that doesn’t treat your teeth as “optional bones,” do take advantage of any preventative care that’s offered to you. When the alternative is suffering through the pain of dental issues (and the agony of paying to get them fixed), make the investment in brushes and oral hygiene equipment that you can depend on.
While plenty of dental products can be painfully expensive and notoriously unreliable, Ollie’s subscription boxes offer a comprehensive oral care kit for a fraction of the cost of just one mid-tier electric toothbrush.
On top of including three different brush head options that let you find the perfect fit for you, Ollie’s SmartClean Sonic Toothbrush comes with five different brushing modes and a two-minute timer, all designed to help you give your teeth the attention they need. The brush’s legendary battery life (lasting a whopping six weeks) also means you’ll always be able to rely on it even if you forget to charge it. Best part yet? There’s a solid chance the SmartClean will be the last brush you’ll ever have to buy – coming with a lifetime warranty and routinely-delivered replacement brush heads (and floss and floss picks and toothpaste) for less than $12 bucks a month.
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2. Figure Out Where You’re At With Retirement
As with our health, simply thinking about retirement can be enough to stress us out.
We’re not just forced to confront the fact that we’re aging, we’re piling on the tasks of confronting how long we’re expecting to live, the standard of living we’re expecting to have, what our family situations will look like, and more. Simply put, it’s a lot, and even if you already have a 401K or pension plan in place, the temptation might be to simply set-it-and-forget-it, hoping that everything eventually works out.
As uncomfortable as it can be to dwell on, though, retirement remains the best-case scenario we should be shooting for. While we don’t have to have every last detail figured out, we should, at the very least, have a basic understanding of where we’d like to see ourselves financially in a few decades and what it will take to get us there.
That kind of long-term security and prosperity needs to be built and now’s the time to start laying the foundations.
→ Start Here:
- If you haven’t already, check in with your company’s HR department to determine what retirement benefits are available to you. If your company offers matching, don't miss out on free money.
- Better yet, reach out to a financial advisor for some pointers or a plan on building a future worth working towards that makes sense for your income and situation.
And speaking of the long run…
3. Get Better at Preparing Food Yourself
While we should always be challenging ourselves and getting out of our comfort zones, one area where everyone should be strengthening themselves is the kitchen.
By this point, most of us will (hopefully) have learned how to keep ourselves fed – we might’ve even found a few dishes we really and truly enjoy. The unfortunate truth, however, is that plenty of folks will never push themselves beyond that point.
We can do better.
As intimidating as it might first look, the surprising reality is that it doesn’t take all that much too seriously up our game as home cooks. Knowing some basic knife skills, how to make some sauces from scratch, the simple secrets behind making vegetables taste amazing, and more all take comparatively minimal investment in our time and energy in exchange for some truly incredible results that will help us the rest of our lives – from helping us stretch our budgets to improving our diets to impressing a special someone on date nights to just making life more enjoyable.
Let’s be clear – this isn’t to say that you need to become a master chef or that every meal you cook should be worthy of a Michelin star. This should, however, encourage you to start taking a few minutes out of every day to start stepping up your game when it comes to your abilities. There’s just too much we’re risking missing out on in the long run by not challenging ourselves culinarily.
→ Start Here:
- Begin with just one: Look up a meal that is A) Something you're interested in, B) Considered easy to make, and C) Relatively healthy and try it this week. If you like it, build it into your repertoire. Slowly try new things and add them too.
- Salting is the most important part of cooking: And you're probably not doing it right.
- Find a method for making every meal not a last-minute emergency that works for you.
- Jump light years by learning these 50 cooking tips from Gordon Ramsay.
4. Master Being an Effective Host
This can be a tough one. Necessary, but still tough.
Between a culture that doesn’t stress in-person interactions as much as it once did to a pandemic that kept us indoors for the better part of two years, it might’ve been a while since any of us had a chance to host, and for those of us who are natural introverts, bringing people together might even have been something we spent our previous years avoiding (or at least, leaving it up to friends and coworkers who seemed to have a knack for it).
Not having an instinct for hosting, however, isn’t an excuse to avoid it, it’s an even stronger reason to get good at it. For better or worse, at this stage in our lives, our long-term success and growth are going to depend more and more on who we know, rather than what we know. Whether it’s maintaining the social circle that we have or building a new one, knowing the ins and outs of bringing people together is only going to become more essential.
There’s a celebration coming up at your office? Now’s the time to volunteer to help plan it. Are your college buddies planning a bachelor party? Now’s the time to speak up with some suggestions that don’t involve Vegas. Spring’s finally just around the corner? Now’s the time to start prepping for a backyard soirée.
From sharing cigars to helping a houseguest feel at home, your abilities as a host can help you forge new friendships, open up new opportunities, and simply show the most important people in your life that you care for them. No, there’s not going to be a guide for every situation and yes, you will make mistakes along the way (which should be all the more motivation to start upping your game now).
Being a good host won’t always be easy. It will always be important.
→ Start here: While we often equate “Hosting” with being the one throwing an event, being a great host applies to everyday life as well. A host's job has 3 primary functions at any level:
- Hospitality: Offer a drink and make an effort to foster a warm and inviting atmosphere. Create and maintain the desired mood. Make everyone feel seen and welcome.
- Curate: When offering food or drinks, provide a specific set of options to choose from.
- Anticipate how to make someone feel comfortable beyond refreshments. Have the bathroom ready with extra toilet paper, air freshener, and a toilet brush. Introduce people that don't know each other.
5. Start Spending Money (Smartly)
At the same time that we’re putting away funds for the future, one of the most important steps we can be taking is learning how to part with our hard-earned cash.
If you’re a regular Primer reader, chances are that you’ve gotten good at squirreling away money – especially if you came into adulthood during or in the wake of the Great Recession. While the media accused our generation of blowing our cash on avocado toast, a lot of us (yours truly included) actually veered to the other extreme of the spectrum, teaching ourselves to hang on to every last cent in face of crushing student loans and economic uncertainty.
It won’t apply to everyone, but with research consistently suggesting tightwads outnumber spendthrifts by a 3-to-2 ratio, there’s a good chance that one of the biggest areas we should be growing is teaching ourselves to undo years of skinflint mentality. Venturing to an unknown part of the menu when we’re dining out probably isn’t going to be the thing that ruins us. Investing in a high-quality pair of loafers likely won’t put us out on the streets (it might even save us money in the long run).
Is that an invitation to blow our paychecks on anything and everything? Of course not – but it is a warning not to rob ourselves of either short-term pleasure or our long-term well-being by feeling guilty or anxious over shelling out a few dollars.
If we’re consistently finding ourselves shying away from trying new things because of the price tag attached or even turning down basic comforts, now’s the time to start teaching ourselves to loosen up our grips on our wallets. Freeing ourselves from a decade of relentless penny-pinching isn’t going to happen overnight – which is why the work needs to start happening now.
→ Start here:
- Align your spending with your values. If, for example, you believe experiences are the key to life, accept that often they cost money to orchestrate and allow yourself to invest in them. If buying a pair of shoes you love that are made to last is important to you, continually buying cheaply made pairs because they're on sale isn't only going to be disappointing, you're going against what you believe.
6. Dedicate Time To Working On Your Emotions
Even if cheapskate instincts aren’t something you’re personally struggling with, there’s a solid chance that you’re dealing with something when it comes to your immediate and long-term mental health.
Life isn’t easy, and while our generation hasn’t had to harvest grain for some bloodthirsty god-king or defend our yurts from marauding horsemen, our generation has had more than its fair share of struggle and bewilderment. While some of us will be worse for wear than others, nobody gets out unscathed and every last one of us is going to accumulate some issues worth working out.
“Ignore it and hope it gets better on its own” might be the approach a lot of guys take when it comes to physical or psychological wellness, but the harsh reality is that it simply doesn’t work (especially when it comes to our minds). Issues, hang-ups, and negative habits that we’re not actively addressing don’t just continue to hurt us, they actively fester into things far worse.
Don’t wait on the world to give you some prompt to sort out your emotions. The things that finally force most guys to confront their inner demons usually aren’t positive. Whether you start searching for effective strategies for managing your stress, untangling your emotions with journaling, or getting some therapy, investing in looking inward should be part of every guy’s week. The specific steps are going to vary from person to person but if we’re looking to live life on our own terms, now’s the time to start taking them.
→ Start here:
- Try meditating. It is often the most accessible and first line defense for becoming aware of what you're experiencing before it becomes a problem. If you think you're bad at meditation, you're probably doing it right.
- Acknowledge you are feeling things and reacting in ways that have felt outside of your control.
- Take a stand and decide that you're going to do something about it. Our guide How to Fight Anxiety and Win, lays out a strategy for getting started, whether it's anxiety, anger, depression, fear of failure, insecurity, low self-esteem, procrastination, or a million other things men grapple with.
When it comes to building a better you, what parts of your life are you ready to strengthen? Keep the conversation going in the comments!