I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. Years of high expectations and even higher disappointments have built such a negative connotation around the idea that no matter how realistic your goals are, if you call them resolutions, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
The thing is, we try to do too much too fast. We tell ourselves we are going to volunteer once a week, lose 40 pounds, run every day, revamp our wardrobe, put ourselves out there more, stop eating chocolate and cease doing all of our bad habits.
We try to change our appearances, personalities, happiness and overall outlooks on life, all within a mere 365 days (sometimes 364, depending on how bad your New Year’s Eve hangover is).
The last thing you want is to look back a year from now and be disappointed. You want to look back and be proud; you want to look back and remember a year of experiences and stories, a year of challenges and growth.
Here are 15 small and tangible goals you can set in 2015 to make it a year filled with worthwhile memories.
Live someplace you’ve never been, where you know no one and no one knows you. Whether it’s across the state, across the country or across the world, start over. Then, start over again. And again.
Immerse yourself in a new place, a new culture, a new way of life. Find out who you become when there are no expectations of who you're supposed to be.
2. Force Yourself Out of Your Comfort Zone
The most remarkable life moments are the ones that make you uncomfortable, the ones that get your heart racing and your palms sweating. Force yourself into those situations and get out of your comfort zone.
The moments that make you unsure, the moments you've never experienced before, are the ones you’ll remember.
3. Work Hard, Play Harder
There is no such thing as a work-life balance; you need to create it. Take a lunch and read a book in a park. Leave early to go to happy hour on a Tuesday. Take all your vacation days; put your email away and keep work at work.
If you let work take over your life, it most definitely will. It’s up to you to create a life for yourself outside of your job.
4. Allow Yourself to Be Alone
Being alone is uncomfortable and scary, but it is also essential to your sanity. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, being alone gives you the time to think about yourself, your life and your decisions.
It makes you acutely aware of the things happening around you and gives you an opportunity to take in your life. See a movie, eat at a nice restaurant or go to a bar and order a drink. Don’t hide behind your phone or rush through it.
Let yourself be alone, observe the people around you and be open to conversation.
5. Do Not Settle
Throughout life, you will feel spurts of loneliness, unhappiness, desperation and thousands of other emotions relating to your unperfect job, nonexistent relationship, empty wallet or countless other perceived shortcomings. Through all of this, however, never settle.
Do not stay at a job you hate purely because it pays the bills; find something else. Do not stay with a guy who is not good enough purely because he’s convenient. Settling is easy, but not settling is worth it.
6. Take Care of Your Body
This is the only one you’ve got; you don’t want it to deteriorate before your mind is ready. Eat well and exercise. Know what you are putting into and onto your body and make sure you keep it up and running for as long as you can.
You may say you can't get those new boots, those great tickets or that second drink because you’re “poor.” But, let’s face it: You’re probably reading this on your very own personal Mac, in warm clothes, on a comfy couch (or an uncomfy office swivel chair).
You’re not poor. It may feel like it when you have to hand over two-thirds of your monthly paycheck to a landlord who probably can’t even bother to fix your sink when you ask, but you’re not poor.
An important aspect of life is realizing how fortunate you are. Volunteer to serve food at a soup kitchen, help at-risk high schoolers prep for the SATs or play soccer with kids. Put your life into perspective, and help others along the way.
8. Shamelessly Date
Never say no to a first date, even if you meet him on Tinder and he takes you to McDonald’s. You will miss invaluable experiences if you say no before you give it a try. This is not desperate or sad, this is you, figuring out what you like and don’t like, which is a part of life.
You never know what could come out of it -- a boyfriend, a friend, a work connection. At the least, you’ll get a free meal, and at the most, you’ll get a good story.
9. Explore What You Love
Everyone has passions, but not everyone is lucky enough to work with those passions on a day to day basis. Life is made for exploration. Take a painting glass, even if you can't draw a proportional stick figure. Join a running club, even if you have to stop after three blocks.
Try new things and revisit the old. Figure out what you're passionate about and never forget it. Sometimes, five minutes of doing something you love can make up for eight hours of doing something you hate.
Read books; they are not to be ignored. Pick up the reading habit and get addicted to books. They introduce you to new worlds, take you to foreign places and teach you about other cultures.
Books help you to feel love, hate and everything in-between. They’re the best learning tool you can possibly find and a great conversation starter. Never in your adult life will you wish you read fewer books.
11. Keep a Journal
Write about it all: the boy you kissed in Central Park just as the streetlights came on; the date you wanted to leave the second you saw his white New Balance sneakers; the time your boss yelled at you and you cried in the bathroom.
Write it all down and read it when you're feeling nostalgic (or when you need a reminder of the fact that you survived it all).
12. Spend Money on Experiences
The saying, “You only regret the things you don’t do” couldn’t be more accurate. Frugality is important, but so is living your life. Buy the concert tickets. Go to the expensive rooftop bar. Take a spontaneous weekend trip to a new city.
You’re alive to do these things. In the end, it’s the experiences that matter. They make up the stories you’ll tell your kids. Looking back, you’ll be happy you went on that cross-country road trip, and you won’t even remember how you had to eat Ramen for three months to pay for it.
13. Stay in Touch
People move, things change and life goes on, but don’t let miles or time ruin your relationships. Between texting, calling, tweeting and Facebooking, you have no excuse to lose contact with someone.
Make an effort and take the time, and don't let a great friendship die out because it's no longer convenient.
14. Make a Bucket List
Sometimes, the only way to accomplish something you never thought you could do is by visualizing it and making sure you know it’s attainable and within reach.
It keeps you motivated to try new things and see new places, and it ensures you're always working toward some bigger goal. So, make a list and never stop adding to it.
15. Learn to Love Yourself
Everyone has awkward moments, and sometimes, being awkward isn’t always charming like the television shows suggest.
Being awkward means always having the perfect comeback to say a few seconds too late. It means smiling at him without realizing he’s looking at the girl behind you.
It means falling on the sidewalk because you’re distracted by a puppy, landing in poop (with no Prince Charming there to spontaneously catch you and ask you out) and having to wear that brown stain on your butt the entire walk home.
Being awkward is rarely charming -- until you find the right person with whom to be awkward. So, embrace your weird tendencies, your clumsiness, your affliction for always having the wrong thing to say. It is what makes you, you.