By now you will be tired, exhausted and irritated by the idea of New Year resolutions, people posting their amazing holidays on Instagram, and everyone comparing exciting December adventures – even though you should be re-energised and ready to tackle a brand new year. Don’t feel bad. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. The start and end of each year is actually an arbitrary calendrical invention anyway… the sun, the animals, and your cells don’t care whether it’s 2016 or 2017.
What a new year does give, is a chance to set some goals, refine your ideas, calibrate the amount of energy you’re going to spend on certain people and tasks, and throw out the stuff you didn’t like about 2016. That is to be welcomed by all.
Start with what you can guarantee: yourself. We’ll expand out from there, but let’s start with the attainable. It’s hard to know where to start, so I’ve cobbled together a list of things other people have told me they’ll be doing – feel free to throw out anything that doesn’t appeal to you:
1. More kindness. This doesn’t mean giving beggars money or smiling at the lady at Home Affairs. You may already be a kind person, but we can all improve. The root of the word comes from ‘kin’ and treating everyone you meet as if they’re kin. That unfortunately means having to be nice on social media too. You’ll find it easier to navigate your real and digital life if you’re kind. One of my friends told me that kindness is the number one attribute a person can have. I think I agree.
2. Less worrying. You can’t change what has already happened and you can’t be neurotic and paranoid about what might happen. I suppose a lot of people do, but they’re all very unhappy people. Don’t worry about Trump or Syria (take an interest in them by all means, but don’t let them weigh you down – your brain and biochemistry aren’t wired to care about everyone on earth, even if you’re a compassionate person). If you can help or get involved in something do it, but please stop moaning and cogitating about stuff that you can’t influence or change – it make the people around you tired.
3. Less swearing. This is something I’ve decided I’m going to do. I don’t mind swearing, and sometimes it’s the best way to use words in an appropriate setting, but I’m cutting out the unnecessary swear-words. It gives people who don’t like me a stupid reason to criticise me – and I’m not giving away any cheap shots.
4. Exploring ideas that are opposed to your point of view. This is really important, especially in a world where politicians and interest groups try to divide us. You can’t critically engage with something you don’t understand, so make it your business to deconstruct the precious held beliefs you have and construct an argument against your own position. One of two things will happen; either you will improve your original point of view and argue your position better – or you’ll change your mind. Try not to say you’re a Marxist or alt-right or BLM or an activist – rather say that these are positions you’re exploring. There’s almost nothing more embarrassing on earth than being passionate about something you know nothing about.
5. Work is life, you don’t exist for the two weeks you get at the end of the year to go on holiday. Make sure that the work you do fulfils you. You’ll be spending a lot of time doing it, so if you’re not happy, quit and stop wasting your life. You’ll make money and have satisfaction after you start doing something you are good at and care about, don’t do something for money and hope you’ll find satisfaction. It never works that way round.
6. Stop caring about celebrities. They couldn’t help Hillary win and they will never help you. Every time you buy a tabloid magazine or watch a disgusting reality show, you’re feeding that awful machine. The people in your life are probably more interesting anyway.
7. Don’t become self-absorbed. There’s a lot of narcissism online – people showing off their lifestyles, experiences, bodies and possessions. These people are doing this because they don’t get any attention in real life. If you’re pursuing a fitness goal, you don’t need likes, you need time in the gym. If you’re doing things for attention, you need therapy – a smartphone will make things worse.
8. Celebrate little things, often. If you had a really good day, kept your cool in traffic or heard a song that made you think of someone you love, take a moment to high-five yourself. This sounds cheesy and stupid, but we get so caught up in chasing the big achievements that we forget how much joy there is in the little things. Try it, and if you think I’m talking nonsense, let me know.
9. Unclutter. Your house, your desk, your laptop, your camera roll and your fridge are full of items you really don’t need or even want. Get rid of them. Clutter and chaos will impact negatively on your ability to zero in on the real problems and potential solutions. We all accumulate so much rubbish – make this your year to throw out anything you haven’t used in the last 12 months. Less is more.
10. Sleep properly. Get more than 6 hours of good sleep. Smart, effective people are even more smart and effective if they’re not tired. I know this seems obvious, but we always think of sleep as something we can sacrifice if we need to get more done. You’re doing yourself a lot of damage – for years I have been undisciplined about sleep. This year that changes. My phone isn’t going to be next to my bed at night and I don’t have a TV in my room. If you can’t reach me, I’m asleep. Try later.
There will be ups and downs. Famous people will die. There will be fools on social media and the government will be corrupt. There will be fake news and clickbait and people will do dumb stuff, usually in large groups. When these things happen, don’t act all surprised. I told you so, and I’m no Nostradamus.
Happy New Year 😉