Ideas, not-Resolutions, to Make 2016 Great!

Resolutions come like waves upon the shore, at this time of year. There are endless ideas of what to do, how to do it, how to make it last, and how not to give up, give in, or give out. I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution; I had a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t make it to the gym after a couple of weeks, wouldn’t want to live a life devoid of donuts, ice cream, and beer, or couldn’t contemplate writing down all of the things I wanted to accomplish in the coming year—knowing it was an exercise in futility. What I do enjoy is reading other people’s lists of favorite things.

Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.
Watching the State of the Union with bubbly is always a good idea.

Top 10 lists (or top 20, top 5, etc.) are one of my favorite things to peruse when I have a few moments of spare time. Occasionally they are titled wrong (maybe, My Favorite Craft Beers would have been more appropriate) or seem way off base for a variety of reasons, and sometimes they are (in my opinion) spot on; but most often, I know far less about the list than the person/people who compiled it and I just enjoy learning about other folks’ favorite: restaurants/bars, state parks, tailgate traditions, music, bicycles, scenic drives, wines/beers, bad t.v. et al.  I’m sure that New Years resolutions and lists of things to: accomplish, avoid, start, end, learn, unlearn, and whatever else we can think of, will be read by millions of people over the next month. So as a kind of tangent to a “Best” list, I offer you 50 ways to make 2016 Great.

  1. Use common sense. This may be obvious in thought but that doesn’t always translate in deed. See # 2.
  2. Dress for the weather. This is unsolicited advice for anyone who is too cool to wear a hat when it’s -6° with a windchill of -23° (this applies to adults as well as teens).
  3. Try a new cuisine. Be it Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, or Mediterranean, try it, you’ll probably like it. And if you don’t, well, at least you won’t have to wonder anymore.
  4. Be really nice to a complete stranger. It makes them feel good—and nervous, simultaneously.
  5. Exercise your brain. Engage in civil debates/conversations with those who hold views with which you disagree. Try to understand why they feel the way they do and then explain your stance and how you’ve come to believe it. You may be surprised to find you have much more in common than you thought.
  6. Exercise your heart-Part 1. Walking, biking, swimming, x-country skiing, skateboarding, movement of some sort for some extended period of time at least a couple of times a week. And a glass of red wine each day doesn’t hurt.
  7. Help raise a generation of girls that are more concerned with wavelengths than weight, more interested in philosophy than hair styles, more connected to their community than to glorified images that are too often not representative of reality, and more invested in their social well-being than they are in the misinformation provided by the “experts” in the media and magazine trades. Girls’ obsession with body image and appearance is not healthy for them, psychologically, physically, or emotionally. Praise girls for their intelligence, strength, curiosity, independence, courage, determination, forthrightness, astuteness, wit, cunning, and perseverance. And tell them they are beautiful; not because of outward appearances but owing to the fact that they are wonderful & amazing & kind, & compassionate, & thoughtful. Reinforce, daily, the attributes that are truly the most important in the grand scheme of life.
  8. Laugh. You may need the assistance of Wanda Sykes, Richard Pryor, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, or other comics, but don’t let that stop you. Laughing is an excellent stress reliever.
  9. Exercise your heart-Part 2. Love unconditionally. Don’t ask for or expect Love in return, just Love for the benefit of giving Love. It feels good.
  10.  Splurge on something you really enjoy. This doesn’t require the expenditure of hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you love coffee, grab a cup of Dogwood (Minneapolis), High Grounds (Baltimore), or Deeper Roots (Cincinnati), sit, relax, and savor it; be present for the experience.
  11. Jump around. You don’t need to be at a Wisconsin Badgers football game to do this. Just don’t do it in the middle of a really important meeting.
  12. Make fun of yourself. Nobody has ever achieved perfection (not even the Holiest of Holy figures) so why not make light of something you did that was not very bright. We are human, therefore we occasionally screw up. So long as you learn from your mistakes, it’s easy to look back and laugh.
  13. Spend a day, or three, without a screen. This includes p.c.s, laptops, phones, nooks, i-pads, kindles, apple watches, t.v.s and everything else. It’s quite interesting to suddenly notice the everyday events that you’ve been missing for years.
  14. Play a game. Even if you don’t particularly care for games or competition, find a few friends and play a game of Yahtzee, Scattegories, or Sheepshead.
  15. Meet a neighbor. This is happening less and less as we become more and more polarized and concerned with privacy. We isolate ourselves from anyone we don’t meet at work, church, or school. Who knows, you may live next to a brewer (bonus), baker (bonus), or Marine (double bonus).
  16. Go to your local bookseller (not Amazon) or library and ask an expert for a recommendation. Reading exercises the brain and provides the reader with new ideas and new ways to view the world.
  17. Shop small & local. Skip the superstores and get to know the business owners, and employees, at the little quaint/quirky places that make a community what it is.
  18. Make something delicious and drop it off at the Police Station or Fire Department. They work hard for the good of the community and don’t often receive accolades for their daily grind. Additionally, our society tends to forget that for every misguided act by a First Responder, a thousand outstanding acts are accomplished without any acknowledgement. Whether in Farmington, New Hampshire, Minnesota, or New Mexico, or anyplace not named Farmington, show them some Love; and while you’re there, get to know them by name, they’re part of your community.
  19. Volunteer at a school, nursing home, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or on a community project that is providing hope to all those who are experiencing difficulties.
  20. Dance. Fast or slow, the Whip/Nae Nae, the Dougie,  choreographed, or free-style, Celtic or Krump, two-step or Step Up (2). Don’t worry about looking foolish, just have fun.
  21. Make a card for someone. Birthday; Get Well; Congratulations! Whatever.
  22. Learn something new. The options for on-line learning are seemingly endless. Many are free or low cost and learning helps exercise your brain. Other options include: read a “how-to” book; volunteer at a business; or take up a new hobby; and once you learn the basics, practice, practice, practice.
  23. Make a plan to incorporate better work-life/school-life balance into your schedule.
  24. Go to a gallery opening or art museum. If you aren’t sure that you like art, google something that you like and add “art” to the end. Like, “fishing art“. Use the results to find an artist or gallery that is nearby or coming to your area.
  25. Learn about the issues & candidates for the 2016 election. If you choose not to vote, you give up your voice in the process (which is one way to communicate your belief that the politicians don’t connect with you). It’s not simply whether your chosen candidates/ballot measures win or lose, it’s about engaging with society and keeping democracy alive and well (even if we still use the electoral college for the top office).
  26. VOTE.
  27. Donate to a food shelf. There are organizations that supply human food (Baltimore, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Orange County, Tyler, Lexington, Albany, Honolulu, Jacksonville, & Rusk County), to name a few, and places that supply pet food; do what you can to help.
  28. Help create and/or change policy. Engage with your elected representatives. Write a letter or email, call, advocate for a cause, help raise money, engage others in conversations and make your case.
  29. Teach someone how to do something. While much of our nation seems to have forgotten the importance of passing on information via individualized learning (apprenticeships, coaching & cultivation, guidance, training, whatever one chooses to call it), it’s hasn’t yet been erased from our collective memory. Help someone, young, old or inbetween, learn how to do the basics of a job. Look at it as an opportunity to carry your legacy forward.
  30. Thank Service Women & Men and Veterans, whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you’ve served, you know the deal. If not, be thankful for those who have.
  31. Find out the history of your community. It’s good to know why your city/county chose the figures they did, for commemorative statues and plaques. It’s also fun to learn about the immigrants/groups that first called your locale home; and learn about the events that have since shaped that place.
  32. “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.” Mizuta Masahide (Japanese Poet: 1657-1723) was telling people to find something good in whatever tragedy comes upon us. This doesn’t apply to every bad thing that happens. Some events have no upside—none. But many do.
  33. Don’t text or use social media et al. while driving. (refer back to # 1)
  34. Sports should be undertaken as a means of improving: physical fitness, discipline, hand-eye/foot-eye coordination, working as a team, camaraderie, & building character. Vince Lombardi’s adage about winning not being everything… only applies to athletes who get paid to play the game. When it comes to youth sports, specifically the highly organized type, try to remember that your child’s odds of making it as a pro are 1 in a really big number (#s vary depending on the sport). So encourage children to have fun, learn, and most importantly, understand the realities of competition (some kids are bigger, faster, stronger—due to genetics, drive, opportunity, & access). Likewise, parents should know when to back off and let their kids focus on other activities. It’s just a game.
  35. Don’t “Just Do It”. Think about the potential action and the consequences of said action, before engaging in it.
  36. Keep everything in perspective. Our world has enough drama. The person who didn’t clean out the microwave, make a new pot of coffee, or unjam the copier, didn’t do it to spite you personally. They are just not thoughtful or may be pre-occupied with a deadline, a family emergency, financial uncertainty, medical difficulty, etc., etc.
  37. Keep “context” at the forefront of every situation. Context is the main idea that is missing from so many highly charged arguments. If two people are talking about social security, one being a retired teacher, the other being a 30 year-old investment banker, they may talk in terms of “benefits” and “entitlements”, respectively. If they were to clarify why each uses the language they do, their conversation may be less heated and more productive. Politicians and each party’s base are often guilty of not understanding (and not caring about) the context before engaging in rhetoric.
  38. Rock the boat—just don’t capsize it. When you encounter situations that are obviously not in keeping with maintaining civility in the workplace or society at large, or are undermining the public’s confidence in the company/org/gov’t/partnerships, point it out and work to right the wrong. This is not easy, but then, what worth doing is? Recruit friends, co-workers, like-minded folk, to help (strength in numbers). Whether it be a loudmouth who is always injecting their thought into “a-to-b” conversations, equity in funding schools and programs, or gross negligence on the part of upper management, Do[ing] the Right Thing will make the community more civil, the organization more trusted, and the day-to-day routines more manageable.
  39. Re: -build; -use; -new; -cycle. Until we come up with a better way to use trash, we should try to cut down on it. Environmentalists shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with the long-term viability of our planet.
  40. Do things right the first time. When we half-ass a project, in order to spend time on another project, we often end up with two half-assed projects. This is: a) non-sensical; b) not efficient; & c) ends up creating additional work because we have to fix both projects.
  41. Strengthen your spirit. This might mean doing something you’ve been avoiding, because it’s not fun, or really time consuming, but once it’s done, your spirit is likely to feel a boost because the “job” is no longer hanging over your head.
  42. Support a local non-profit/charity. You might only have a few dollars to spare, or you might have a few thousand, either way, help out a charity that speaks to you. Lots of smaller charities are doing great work on budgets that are a fraction of what the United Way has.
  43. Love Yourself. This can be really difficult when things aren’t going well personally, professionally, spiritually… but remember, nobody is perfect. Give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing for self, family, work, and move forward with a renewed passion for life.
  44. Be nice to everybody (until they give you reasons not to be nice). Even people that are a-holes most of the time like it when someone is nice. We don’t know what others are going through so try to be nice for as long as possible. When you can no longer be nice, try to walk away and/or ignore the rude/hateful/angry/demeaning/childlike behaviors. If they persist, a quick splash of ice water in the face usually shuts them down.
  45. Be somebody’s “bootstraps”. The fallacy of pulling one’s self up by his/her bootstraps is alive and well. The problem with it is two-fold: 1) Nobody has ever gotten from “here” to “there” entirely via solo effort; 2) Some people don’t have “boots”, let alone the straps to pull them up. Bootstraps, in real terms, are the people that provide the education, opportunities, and access required to do anything in life. Parents/guardians, teachers, mentors, employers, co-workers, friends & extended family, and sometimes perfect strangers, play a role in helping us achieve success. The amount of success we achieve is determined by two connected notions: 1) our individual idea of success; & more importantly 2) the circumstances into which we were born. If you have the opportunity to help a person in any way, do so. Be a part of somebody’s “bootstraps” and see the difference (R.W. Emerson) you can make.
  46. Consider others’ feelings. The owner of the NFL team from Washington refuses to change the name/mascot of his team. He says that the term is used out of respect for Native Americans. And while it’s true that some First Peoples may not take offense with the name, many do. If you still aren’t sure about this and think it’s just being politically correct, imagine this scenario: People start calling your spouse/partner “ass-face”. Not because s/he likes the name, just because said people think it’s fitting. Some even say, “it’s a term of endearment and said out of respect for his/her smart-ass comments” (which doesn’t make any sense to you or your spouse). You really hate the name but can’t convince others to stop using it because they think it’s ok. The situation in Washington D.C. is different in-so-far as it pertains to several million people being offended, as opposed to one.
  47. Eat healthy. A lot of healthy foods can be expensive (almonds, wild-caught fish, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh cherries) or kind of expensive (granola, coconuts, blueberries, leaner cuts of meat, chia seeds, olives) but many aren’t (avocadoes, broccoli, peppers, onions, garlic, oatmeal, spinach, brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes, milk, apples, eggs, fresh pineapple, ginger, & legumes of all sorts).
  48. If ever you are occupying a space that sits more than 10 feet off the ground and you overhear someone remark that they believe the “structural integrity of the edifice may have been compromised…” make your way to the nearest exit as quickly as possible, especially if they look like they know what they are talking about.
  49. Support efforts to end domestic violence
  50. Hold your own, know your name, & go your own way. (Jason Mraz-Details in the Fabric). If you don’t know who you are or what you stand for, figure that out. Don’t let others determine the arc of your existence. Some pretty wise Greeks told us to “Know Thyself“. If we spend our lives constantly conforming to others desires/beliefs, we are not truly living, we are merely surviving. I’m not saying “grab life by the horns and take control of everything around you”, rather, understand the person you are and embrace that being. Work on improving the aspects that you are unhappy with but don’t attempt to make sweeping changes to the self that resides within.

I hope you are able to take away a few ideas for the upcoming year and those acts/concepts make the day-to-day better in some small way.

May 2016 be Healthy, Happy, and filled with Wonderful Surprises.

Salute!

Woo-Hoo New Years!
Woo-Hoo New Year’s is here!

Published by

Leif

Bent on making public education more equitable, economic opportunities more widely available, the general public more empathetic, and food more tasty. Rich experiences in Inner-city public education, rural America (farm to factory), restaurant industry professional, and animal & plant caretaker extraordinaire. 40 States visited and counting.