5 Areas to Look at That Will Help You Reset for the New Year
Before you make your New Year’s resolution to work out, save money, and eat healthier, consider what a real fresh start would look like for you. Take a moment and think about what type of life you truly want to have and how it may be different from the life that you have already built. Perhaps they are the same (lucky you!), or maybe you are questioning how you got to where you are and whether or not it is too late to change. This type of reflection and realization is why many people struggle during the holidays. They question their choices, their living conditions, or their circle of friends/family or lack thereof.
Although the end of the year can be a time of regret for goals not reached or poor decisions made, it also leads to a new year, which brings with it the opportunity to mentally reset yourself. A new year can be a time of rejoicing and celebration (from a social perspective), but it can also be a time to consider where you are in life and where you want to be. Some people believe that you can will yourself to success by thinking good thoughts and being open to new opportunities, but the reality is that you have to establish a clear vision of what your success looks like and make small, daily choices that will get you closer to that goal. So, instead of making cliché resolutions or setting grand, unrealistic expectations that lend themselves to failure, spend this time to take a mental assessment of your situation—both good and bad. Take inventory of what you like about your life and what elements you would like to bring into it, as well as those behaviors or ideas that you want to release. Think of it as spring cleaning for the mind, body, and soul–only in winter.
We all want more money, better health, and an array of material and social validations, but sincere self-assessment is about being honest and realistic without settling. So where do you begin? Start with the following five areas.
Take a Look at Your Finances
Now is the time to gather your year-end tax materials, so it is also the perfect time to look at your income, how you are spending your money, and what your current debt looks like. Make a quick spreadsheet outlining all of your current expenses (be realistic) and include your true average monthly credit card charge levels. Then identify at least three areas where you can improve. Can you take an online safe driving course to save 10% on your insurance premium over three years? Should you drop collision on your car? Can you pledge to cut your credit card spending by 15-20%? Can you refinance any loans to save premiums and interest payments?
Next, determine your current income and see how you can improve it, even marginally. Can you move your accounts to yield better returns? Should you ask for a raise at work—do you deserve it? Should you start to set a path for a career shift? Do you have any rental opportunities/roommates, etc.?
Once you understand exactly what money you are taking in and how you are spending it, you can target specific areas to improve savings and put yourself in a better long-term position.
Your next step: Create a new, separate account to deposit all loose change every three months or so, and any expense or tax credit checks. Consider reducing your monthly expenses by $100 and depositing the money in that account, as well.
Take a Look at Your Well-Being
Make an appointment to get a full physical and identify your critical health numbers. What is your fat density? Cholesterol level? Blood pressure? Discuss with your doctor what your options are to correct whatever needs adjusting. Do you get enough sleep? Can you fit in some daily exercise? Maybe you need to do something as simple as taking a daily vitamin or drinking fresh juice in the morning. Whatever effort you make, big or small, will be an improvement.
Once you’ve addressed the basics, consult with your physician again about what screenings or immunizations you may need, based on your age and circumstances. Many conditions are treatable or even reversible when caught early enough, so catch them.
Your next step: Make an appointment for a full physical, including blood work. Schedule it during the first few months of the new year so you can work on any issues as soon as possible.
Take a Look at Yourself
Do you like yourself? Hopefully you do, but we all have aspects of our personality that we can work on. Perhaps you can be a better manager/leader/employee. Maybe you can be a better follower of your faith. Or maybe you can curb that sarcastic commentary or work toward being a better listener. An online personality assessment can guide you to areas you may need to work on, or you might consider asking a trusted friend or family member to observe you and provide feedback and assistance.
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, you can make some adjustments that, over time, will yield significant improvements. Maybe you can start by going to church just once a month, making an effort to meet up with some old friends, or pledging some form of donation or volunteer duty that will make you feel both humble and fulfilled.
Your next step: Ask your spouse/partner or best friend to identify one thing that you can improve upon. He or she probably knows you better than you know yourself and will be able to offer fair and honest advice. Pledge to work on making whatever it is better, or even to just be aware of it.
Take a Look at Your Stuff
Chances are, you have too much stuff. Even if you want more or don’t think you have enough, there are always things you can get rid of. Decluttering and organizing is the best way to give yourself a mental reset. At the office or at home, going through old files, donating or tossing unused clothing or supplies, or emptying junk drawers can give you a fresh perspective.
Don’t challenge yourself to live up to the level of those TV home-show make-overs; just set aside specific days or times to start to make a dent in the clutter. Keep a bag in your house to toss things in that you don’t like, want, or need at the moment. If you don’t go back for them after a certain period of time, make a trip to a donation center. Repeat this process on a regular basis.
Take inventory of the key things you use, and ask yourself if it is time to replace them (and get rid of the old stuff). This is the perfect time to go through makeup (six months to a year is its usual shelf life); shoes (how many pairs of black pumps do you need/use?); jeans (if they don’t fit, don’t keep them. You can reward any weight loss with a new pair); beauty electronics; and even socks and undies (you should replace them seasonally or at least bi-annually). Go through your medicine cabinet, as well, and toss any outdated pills or supplies and replenish basic items like adhesive bandages, bath items, and nail tools.
You will love the feeling of purging old, used items and organizing their new replacements in clean drawers, closets, and cabinets. It’s a quick fix, but you will see the rewards of your efforts every day.
Your next step: Start the year by filling three big bags of stuff—clothes, gadgets, shoes, home goods, etc.—and bringing them to a local donation center.
Take a Look at the People Around You
It is hard to make choices about the people you will and won’t spend time with, but consider your social time as currency. If you surround yourself with people who don’t support and reward you, limit your encounters with them. Time is finite, so don’t waste it by filling it with guilt or laziness. Make sure you are in healthy relationships; if you are not, improve them or move on. Look for ways to meet new people on a regular basis, perhaps by joining groups/clubs or taking classes.
Make sure that you spend your time the way you truly want to spend it. If you enjoy going to movies, go. If you like to eat out now and then, make plans to do just that. If you’ve always wanted to learn about wine, take a course. If you spend your time pursuing your interests and passions, the right people will come along with them. It’s a win -win situation.
Your next step: Identify four things you have always wanted to do and plan events during the year around them—concerts, vacations, reunions with friends, a spa weekend away. Book them, do them, and repeat.
This may seem like a lot of work, but you are already making daily choices in these areas. You just need to make better informed, educated choices. And once you become more mindful of the decisions you are making, you will be able to continue the behaviors. Try it and see!22