By Dana Harris

 

As we ring in the New Year, what do we want to celebrate, accomplish and focus on in 2020? This time of year evokes the possibility of change more than any other month on the calendar.  Each January, millions of people set goals for themselves. Unfortunately, many will notoriously give up their goals within a few weeks. Researchers say about 60 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions but only 8 percent are successful in achieving them. Most resolutions unwisely focus on making sweeping changes, or changes that require staggering efforts to pull off and maintain over time. Regardless of your resolutions, you must be committed.

Although living your best life may seem difficult, it is not outside your grasp.  Learning to embrace happiness and achieve inner peace can happen simply by incorporating some healthy lifestyles. Focusing on the good in our lives can sharpen our focus and help guide our actions and emotions.

Countless studies have been conducted on optimism. Most of them are well established and support the same conclusions: Positive and optimistic people take the lead by constantly finding encouragement within their soul.  They live longer, have better functioning immune systems, better productivity, and maintain healthier and happier states of mind. It’s more important now than ever to look on the bright side. It is not unusual to have challenges and struggles throughout life, and being an optimist won’t change that.  However, acknowledging we have a choice in how we respond is powerful.

Often, many people wander through life without understanding their active role. As a result, some miss critical opportunities. Instead of doing what is meaningful, they blindly drift from job to job, relationship to relationship, or city to city. Well, why not use this time of year to construct a road map for yourself that is fulfilling and meaningful? Taking ownership of your choices will create a new sense of self-respect, efficacy and worth. After all, it is worthwhile to better understand ourselves and our purposes.

Here are several things you can do to help empower your journey.

• Set a Limit with Good Intentions.  One of the keys to success is intentionality.  Setting goals helps you act with purpose and drive. But be mindful to keep goals realistic. Take it slowly.  For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, it’s unrealistic to try to lose 20 pounds in the first month. Resolutions are more like marathons, not sprints. Don’t get discouraged if you start slow. Keep at it over the long haul.

• Meditate. It may seem overrated, especially in a world when it is increasingly difficult to be still, but meditation is an amazing practice for mental health and clarity.  It is beneficial as a way to step back from the busyness of life and get in tune with your inner self. Sometimes we need to slow down to move forward. Slowing down is a deliberate choice. It is one that can lead to greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness, which yields better results in one’s endeavors.

• Invest in Your Health.  Another step toward your best life is your health journey. Conscious steps to take better care of your physical health is one essential part of improving your overall well being. Take the time and effort to plan meals, and cook at home more regularly. Set yourself up for long-term success.  When you feel good, you look good. 

• Practice Gratitude Daily.  When you cultivate gratitude, you access true joy and contentment, no matter what you do and don’t have in your life. The best way to practice gratitude is by recognizing gifts that most people take granted.  If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes in your closet and a roof over your head, you are better off than 75 percent of the world’s population. If you eat three meals a day, you possess more than a billion people who eat only one meal a day.  These daily conveniences are gifts that most people in the world do not enjoy. Celebrate the simple things. Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.

• Don’t Accept Failure and Get Rid of the Negative Voices in Your Head.  Never give up! There is a solution to everything, so why would you want to throw in the towel?  Make this your mantra.  Succeeding through great adversity is a confidence booster.  Low self-confidence is often a result of negative thoughts running on auto-pilot.  If you are constantly bashing yourself because you’re not good enough, aren’t attractive enough, aren’t smart enough or athletic enough, and on and on, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You are becoming what you speak inside your head. The next time you hear negativity in your head, switch it immediately to a positive affirmation and keep it up until it hits the self-confidence boost.

• Follow Your Passion and Do What Makes You Happy.  When you are doing what you love, motivation comes easy. Rewards, applause or payment are not your end goals.  Following your passion is. Learn as well to practice self-care. Creating your dream life will not happen if you are neglecting your intuition and emotional state.   

• Helping Others.  It’s no secret that helping others makes you feel good. It is an amazing feeling to know that you have helped someone to live a better life by bestowing a little positivity. While it’s not your job to make everyone happy, it doesn’t hurt to perk up someone’s day. At work, compliment someone about a good question raised in an e-mail or salient points that they brought up in an important meeting.  At home, praise your child for how hard they worked on their math homework.  Or, tell your partner how much you appreciate them. Being a vehicle of help to others is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life.

• Be Courageous and Educate Yourself about the World Around You. Life takes courage. There are many obstacles to overcome on the path to a purpose-driven life.  In most cases, we simply are too comfortable within our comfort zones.  In other situations, negative habits keep us from making progress.  For this very reason, it is important to be courageous and step out to new opportunities. Feeling that you’re making a difference— that what you’re doing has meaning— can have significant impacts.  A sense of purpose and being courageous can help you get up each morning feeling excited about the day. When it comes to education, continue to read and learn. When you are intellectually stimulated, you are more likely to be productive in other areas of life.  So, start reading the newspaper every morning, or pick up a few books to keep on the nightstand instead of scrolling through social media before bed.

George Washington Carver once said, “No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.” Life is too short and unpredictable to keep dreaming and talking about what you need and desire to do. If you’ve never taken the time to define your core values and beliefs, here’s your chance to do so. Find the activities that interest you and add meaning to your life for the New Year!

This article appears in the December 2019/January 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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