Most of us are familiar with the actual 10 Commandments - the ones about stealing and killing and adultery. Well I've got a few commandments of my own that I think you should adhere to with me in the new year. There's nothing scientific about them, but they're solid. And I'm following them right along with you.
In the film "Boyhood," one of the best films of 2014, there's a scene when the boy is introduced to his class at his new school. The students turn around and look at him with blank stares. I realized I've been guilty of doing the same thing. It's incredibly intimidating, no matter what age you are, to be stared at like that and since it doesn't cost anything to smile at someone, we should do it more. We should smile on the train, on the street, in our car - wherever. Because why not? On the flip side, you know what it feels like when a stranger smiles at you. It's like a beam of light pierces into our cold exteriors. Be a light. It's free.
Do something that scares you.
I don't mean to do something foolish, but we all have fears (both rational and otherwise) and there's not much higher accomplishment than conquering one. It could be speaking in public, or perhaps it's it's changing in front of people in the gym locker room - whatever it may be, conquer it. Slay it and move onto the next challenge. Imagine looking back on 2015 with a checklist of obstacles that now lay crushed behind you? Which leads me to...
Keep a list.
Write things down. Write down your goals (not resolutions - goals), and write it down when you meet those goals. Then, make a bullet point on how to improve on that goal, and so on. Write down the big events that happen. Write down your progress. Keep is somewhere where you'll see it and remember it. Don't lose sight of those goals, mostly because they are yours and only yours. Goals are the stepping stones to growing as a person. Following those 10 Commandments isn't enough. We've got to be ever-growing. Keep a list of that growth.
Let the walk from the locker room to the elliptical machine inspire, not discourage you.
Everyone wants to look better tomorrow than they do today and plenty of people hinge their body image goals on January 1st for some reason. For a lot of people, the Photoshopped bodies on the covers of magazines are what make them feel like they are perpetually standing in front of a funhouse mirror. For me, I live in New York where the hottest person you've ever seen is replaced tomorrow by someone even hotter sitting across from you on the subway. It's easy to become discouraged, but it makes more sense to allow it to encourage you. Use that as a jumping off point toward your own growth. Add a picture to your list of goals and work toward it. Which leads to...
Understand that perfection is a fallacy.
Jane Fonda said, "We're not meant to be perfect. We're meant to be whole." Those ten words changed my life. The magazine covers, the "in-depth" interviews, the outward appearances - none of it is perfect and most of it isn't even accurate. The quest for perfection is an empty one. There are lots of people who look "perfect" but are completely hollow inside. The closest we will ever get to perfection is putting to action the knowledge that we must keep growing. That's it. As long as we are continually striving to grow, that's what actually matters.
Foster a relationship with someone in another country.
There are a myriad of ways you can accomplish this in 2015 without having to actually go to another country. Whether it's through Instagram, a dating app, on Twitter, whatever - foster a relationship with someone who lives life differently than you do. There's nothing more informative about who we are than to be confronted with someone who is different. I've made a few friends around the world and though I may have never met them in person, we talk often online and I've learned a lot about their countries. Everyone can always use a wider worldview.
Examine where you place value.
We each place importance on different things; some of us have it figured out and some of us don't. Some place value on people, some on things. Some place it on success and some find value in the process. I think it's crucial to examine what you hold to higher importance than other things. Is what you value something that's temporary or something that will last? Personally, I'd rather value people and those relationships than something tangible. Relationships will always mean more than status. But that's just me. Oh, and puppies. Puppies and people. That's what really matters to me.
Fall in love with a classic musician and absorb as much of their work as you can.
There will always be new singers and musicians vying for our attention, but it's important that we not lose sight of those who laid the groundwork for them. And I'm not talking about making sure you know the lyrics to "Respect." I mean, find a musician you like and really delve into their back catalog, absorbing their musicality, their emotions and the period of time from which they expressed themselves. It will not only deepen your knowledge of music, but it will deepen your knowledge of the culture. You'll find yourself more firmly rooted in a world other than your own. My love affair with the music of Nat King Cole has enriched my life. Find someone to enrich yours.
We live in a very toxic, me-centric, culture and the concept of doing something purely for yourself can come across as fitting right in with that toxic culture. But the reality is that so many of us rarely take any time for ourselves. We need to recharge, we need to reboot, and we need to be cognizant enough to know when to do so for our own well being. Perhaps that's a Saturday afternoon movie by yourself or maybe it's a trip to the beach with a book. Ask yourself, in the words of Janet, "What have you done for me lately?" It's okay to be (a little) selfish. Take time to make sure you're healthy, both physically and mentally.
Cut the bull shit.
Yes, I said it. Just be yourself. Surround yourself with people who edify you. Stop being timid or arrogant and ask for help. Speak your mind. Own your feelings. All of these things can be filed under this heading. We only get one go-round on this Earth. Why spend it feeling crappy, or diminished, or less-than, or unhappy, or scared, or stifled? Just do it. Cut the bull shit that weighs you down and move on. And don't just say you're doing it. Actually do it.