January can be a complicated time for a lot of people. For me, January tends to bring a lot of reflection. I think about the past year and, usually, I regret all of the things I didn’t accomplish. What a way to start off the new year;

With regret.

Not all people are like me thankfully and, in the case of my wife, January is a rich time to set goals and to visualize the person you desire to become over the next 365 days. That’s how I want to start my year;

With direction.

But how do you set a direction for the new year? I used to hear the phrase, “A New Year, a New You” and immediately succumb to an anxiety attack because the reality was, I am the same person In January as I am in December.

How can I manifest change when I feel stuck?

Over the past few years, I have adapted small changes in my perspective on success and in how I consume and make purchases. I would like to offer two easy ways for you to become “un-stuck” and able to set your own goals in 2018.

For most Americans, when it comes to setting goals for the year, the goals seem to focus on a few different themes theme; self-improvement, financial security, better relationships, etc. These goals are an essential part of becoming a happy person but they tend to leave out one essential component of finding happiness; doing good for others. I don’t believe it is our fault that we have become so disconnected from our need to help our fellow human being. American culture has always championed the individual over the collective. A quote from His Holiness, The Dalia Lama summarizes how our perspective should change to better understand our individual social responsibility. His Holiness states;

“Human rights, environmental protection, and social and economic equality are all inter-related. In all these issues, I believe a sense of universal responsibility is the key to human survival and progress. It is also the best foundation for world peace and promotion of human rights and political culture of non-violence and dialogue in resolving human conflicts.”

This means, in 2018, set a goal or resolution to do something good for someone who needs it. If that makes you uncomfortable, then do something good for the environment or your local community. Don’t limit this to a one time gesture, make this a part of your daily, weekly or monthly routine. If you live in a major city, there are plenty of ways to get involved in helping those in need. If you live in a small town, odds are you know of an elderly person or single mother who could use some extra help. Whatever it is you decide to do, make 2018 the year you put others needs before your own. Begin to value the connection between helping others and generating peace. If you believe in God, then trust that you are bringing the presence of God to this earth each and every time you serve those who need it.

Giving your time to others in need is one way to make positive change if you are feeling “stuck” but that is not for everyone. What if you can’t give up your time? If you can’t give up your time, I suggest changing how you spend your money.

Altering my spending habits has allowed me to be relieved from consistent buyers remorse for purchasing items I did not need. I no longer had the need to acquire more things simply because I am unsatisfied with the things I already have. Step one of this process is understanding that you have enough and buying more things will not bring you more happiness. Step two comes when you begin to think about more than just purchasing the item in front of you; you also take a moment to think about the person who made this item, and it’s effect on the environment. This is an idea I picked up from an influential documentary.

The Minimalist documentary really changed how I approached buying “stuff.” (If you have not seen it I highly recommend it.) One of the many important things this documentary showed me was how I can still have and buy things that I want and need, I simply need to be more selective with what I buy. This takes some extra discipline on my part, but it helps when I also think about the person on the other side of the item I am buying. I ask questions like;

“Did they receive a fair wage for making this item?” 

“Will this item negatively affect the environment when I discard it?”

“How many navy blazers does one man really need?”

Ok, so that last one might not apply to you but we all have our own version of the “navy blazer.” When we can let go of the need to acquire more things we can learn to live a life free from scarcity and competition. There is no more “keeping up with the Jones’”; there is always a Jones that will have more than you.

To be clear, I am not saying give up everything and live a life churning your own butter. It is fine to have nice things. What I am suggesting is,  this year, when you shop, take a second to think about the person on the other side. Place yourself in their shoes. Will the item in front of you really bring you more happiness? If so, then go ahead, treat yo’ self! However, if the answer is no then walk away without making a purchase. Maybe with the money you save, you take a friend who is struggling to see a movie. Whatever your choice is, you can better your self in 2018 by making a goal to better your surroundings. Take chances on people and not purchases. Make 2018 the year you become “un-stuck” and also the beginning of the “new You.”

You’ve reached the end, now what?

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