By Elizabeth Fritzler
Lose weight. Eat less sugar. Practice guitar more often.
New Year’s resolutions like these are fairly common in America. Weight loss and fitness goals regularly top the list of most popular resolutions. One trip to the gym on January 1 will show you just how many more people occupy the treadmills than in December.
“I swear I’ll keep it this time!”
We all start the year with the best of intentions: this time we’re really going to follow through! We’re going to make it all the way to December 31 without reverting to our old ways! We made a resolution for a reason—because we want change!
But if every New Year’s Eve, you find that you didn’t stick with your resolution (don’t worry, 92% of people are in the same boat), perhaps it’s time to think about some different ways you might facilitate change in your life.
The secret to resolutions that work
I’ll share a secret with you:
The most effective New Year’s resolutions—that is, the ones you’re most likely to develop into habits—are less self-punitive and more altruistic than weight loss.
One resolution that works quite well is generosity. Why? Because generosity begets gratitude, and gratitude begets a positive outlook on life. By doing things for others, you may be surprised to find that after just a short period of time you begin to see the little things for which you are thankful. This paves the way for a greater sense of life purpose, lower stress levels, and stronger identification with community life.
What can you commit to?
Now it’s time to get specific. What does generosity look like to you, in a way that feels fulfilling and keeps you going back for more?
Maybe it’s donating your time to a community center, where you read to kids once a week. Maybe it’s always giving your significant other the bigger slice of cake. Maybe it’s inviting old friends over for a home-cooked meal, or offering to give someone a ride home, even if it’s out of the way.
Acknowledging your accomplishments is another key to success. Use a calendar or journal to record your Random Acts of Generosity, and be sure to make note of how you felt after giving. Whatever you do, just make sure to establish how, where and when your generosity will take shape each day or week.
What if I fall off the wagon?
Unfortunately, no matter how good our intentions are, life will sometimes get in the way of our plans. You may not find you’re able to be as generous as you want, 100% of the time.
But you know what? It’s okay.
If you fall into bed after a particularly busy day and realize you’ve forgotten your Random Act of Generosity for the day, know that tomorrow is a fresh start and a new chance to try again. The point of a New Year’s resolution is to nourish your health and happiness, not set you up for failure. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Get out there and get giving!
The best thing about consciously activating your generous side is that it’s flexible. You have the freedom and power to choose how, when and why to give. Whether you’re building trails or teaching a stranger how to juggle, your generosity will cultivate a greater sense of self-worth and better the world around you at the same time.
What resolutions have you kept in the past? What do you intend to do this year? Let us know in the comments below.