Holidays and the start of a new year inevitably make us think about how we can improve ourselves, and have the life we want in the future. We make resolutions - I must lose weight, I will save more money - and then lose our way. That's because we aren't matching our resolutions with who we are inside. We're more likely to succeed if we work on discovering our inner, Real selves, appreciate who we already are, and then take a chance on custom-made changes, not one-size-fit all resolutions. Here are ten tips for making the new year better in a Real way.
1. Let your values be your guide -- There are plenty of people who will tell you what should be important to you, if you let them. Friends, co-workers, family, even the mass media, bombard us with opinions and ideas. Don't just accept what others say. Decide for yourself what matters most and let those values set your course.
2. Take a long-term view -- Bad habits, difficult relationships, and other disappointments don't develop overnight. Similarly, life doesn't get better in a moment. Change happens slowly, step-by-step. Have the patience to see it through.
3. Let Go of the "Shoulds" -- When you were a kid, you needed grown-ups to tell you what was right and wrong and what you should do in a given situation. As an adult you can make these choices for yourself. "Shoulds" produce resentment and anger. Instead, do what you know in your heart is right, and set your own standards.
4. Define Yourself as Beautiful -- Fewer than five percent of us believe we are beautiful, but whenever I meet someone, I can see something beautiful in her right away. You may not fit the mass media image of conventional, external beauty, but there are things that make you attractive. Remember, beauty is an inside job.
5. Let Go of Being Perfect -- As much as we hear that "nobody's perfect" it's awfully hard to believe. This is because what we constantly see in the media are air-brushed images of people who appear perfect and we come to believe it is a reasonable goal. When we fall short of perfect, then we feel like failures, just for being ourselves. This year, why not just forget that whole concept and replace it with "I don't have to be perfect." The truth is, the people who love you know that you have flaws and just don't care. You don't have to either...
6. Stop Competing -- Life is not a game to be won or lost. It is more like a dance that never ends. People who make life a competition live in fear of losing. But if you understand that there's no first prize and no finish line, only opportunities to grow and experience things, then that fear is replaced by appreciation and wonder. Try to think about growing rather than winning.
7. Try a Little Self-Empathy -- We all hope to be kind and considerate when it comes to others. But have you ever made an effort to think about yourself in the same way? Most of us spend too much time judging ourselves harshly. It's hard to be happy when you let that little voice inside you endlessly say mean and critical things.
8. Make Friends with Your Flaws -- When you stop believing in perfection, it's a lot easier to adopt a new view of those things people call flaws. In many cases, we can redefine these differences and understand them as gifts. What makes a mole a beauty mark? The answer is in your perspective. Why not adopt a perspective that honors all those things that make you different?
9. Listen to Your Body -- Many of us lead lives that are so fast-paced and stressful that we push ourselves to the point of getting sick. In most cases, our bodies send us signals -fatigue, aches, hungers - when it's time to slow down, rest and examine our emotions. We can avoid a lot of sick days if we pause to listen to our bodies and respond with gentle self-care.
10. Try New Things -- In the end, the important things in life are found in relationships and experiences. We feel good when we connect with others and take on challenges that allow us to grow. If you have always wanted to feel closer to someone you know, take the risk. And if you have longed to try something new - in the arts, your work, sports, or anything else -- give yourself permission to try. A little courage will bring you great rewards in the coming year.
Toni Raiten-D'Antonio is a psychotherapist and author of The Velveteen Principles, a Guide to Becoming Real. The Velveteen Principles offers advice on reclaiming joy, fulfillment and individuality drawing from the simple wisdom of the children's classic The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. To Learn more, please visit http://www.velveteenprinciples.com.