The start of a new year often brings many mixed feelings. It’s a little bittersweet to say goodbye to the past year, but there’s also a sense of anticipation.
What can the new year bring?
Maybe 2023 was a year where you felt stuck in life. Well, that’s even more reason to be hopeful. Because it means you have the chance to reinvent your life. To shake things up a bit.
How can you make 2024 different from the past year? It all starts with letting go of old habits that no longer serve you.
Here are 9 things you need to stop doing if you want to get out of trouble and make 2024 the year you reach new heights:
1) Neglecting self-reflection
First, here’s what you need to know: Every attempt at self-improvement begins with self-examination.
How else do you know what values you stand for and that would serve you well in the new year? How do you know which areas of your life need to be changed?
The problem with not getting to know ourselves is that when we feel stuck, we can’t identify what exactly is bothering us or holding us back.
Moreover, we don’t even know which direction to go or what we want to achieve.
Noise is something that can bog us down in life for one simple reason: it keeps us from hearing ourselves. So set aside some quiet time to reconnect with yourself and start from there.
Ask yourself the hard questions: Am I happy with where I am? What changes do I want to see in my life?
It doesn’t have to be a huge job. You can learn this habit simply by setting aside a few minutes each day to journal or meditate.
2) Not setting goals
Or set vague goals. Saying things like, “I’m going to make a six-figure income this year!” it’s just not going to work.
There has been so much research showing that goal setting has strong links to success.
In fact one Harvard Business Study found that people who wrote down their goals were three times more likely to succeed than those who only had vague plans in mind.
If goal setting is a foreign concept to you, here’s the proven way to go about it. Make your goals SMART:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Feasible
R – Realistic
T – Time-bound
In other words, break down the big picture so you can actually see and execute the steps you need to take to get there. Otherwise, that’s all it will ever be, a distant dream that remains beyond your reach.
3) Neglecting self-care
Another reason why you feel stuck in life is that you have allowed yourself to keep going until you are empty. Sometimes it can be a matter of some TLC.
I remember feeling stuck myself at the end of 2022. I worked three jobs and earned well enough, yet I had never felt so hollow. I knew something had to change.
So I decided that 2023 would be a year where I would be more choosy about how I spent my time. I had to commit to giving myself more time to relax, giving my loved ones more attention, doing things that nourish my body and mind.
…And don’t feel guilty about it!
The modern world has made us believe that slowing down to smell the roses is a bad thing. That if you’re not making money every minute, you’re not living your best life.
But in my experience, self-care is necessary. A balanced life feels more successful than one where I’m constantly producing and earning an income and much else.
Sometimes just remembering to be kind to ourselves is enough to get us out of the rut we’ve gotten ourselves into.
4) Overcommitting yourself
As I mentioned before, self-care involves being picky about the way you spend your time. That’s an act of kindness you can do for yourself.
Look at the year you just had. Can you name some favors you have done for others that you didn’t really want to do? Are there any events that you could have crossed off, now that you can see them in retrospect?
If there have been too many, maybe you could do something different this year: say “no” to things that distract too much from what matters most to you.
As I learned to set my boundaries and be more selective about what I wanted to do, I found that I had so much more free time that I could spend however I wanted.
Perhaps this gem from Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life” is a good way to think about it:
“How you spend your days is how you spend your life.”
In that context, it should be easier for you to see how valuable your time is!
5) Let your fears rule you
Your fears can be another obstacle on your path to a fulfilling year.
We humans fear a lot – failure, rejection, screwing up…some of us even fear success!
Where do all these fears take us? In a safe but stagnant zone. Just running around in circles and then wondering why each year seems the same as the last.
The key to overcoming fear is not eliminating it (which is almost impossible), but learning to act despite the fear.
As the old Franklin D. Roosevelt quote goes, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”
What is that ‘something else’ in this case? Your personal growth. As long as you grow and learn new things, every year has something different to offer!
This brings me to my next point…
6) Not being intentional about learning
Every January I visit one of my favorite people in the world: my 80-year-old neighbor.
We exchanged notes about our hopes and plans for the new year, and her list always included an intention to learn.
Off the top of my head, I saw “Learn Spanish,” “Learn to make clay pots,” and “Learn to paint” on her list.
And you know what? That is why she is always happy and prosperous even after her retirement years. That’s why she ends every year with something fun to show!
You see, continuous learning is something that as adults we often leave to chance. When there are bills to pay and children to raise, we don’t really have the time or emotional/mental bandwidth to add one more task to our already long list.
So what often happens is an ‘okay if it (learning something new) happens, okay if it doesn’t happen’ attitude.
This year you’re flipping the script. Set an intention to learn. Be specific about what you want to learn. Put it on paper so it becomes visible instead of disappearing into the ether.
It can take different forms, such as:
The possibilities for learning are actually endless. It’s about refreshing your mind so you don’t have to get stuck in 2023.
7) Dwelling on the past
Just as fear holds you back, dwelling on the past will not bring you anything new. How is that possible, if you focus on something you can no longer change?
Every New Year we say something like this: “Hear out the old/Herald in the new.”
But do we really do that? Are we really giving ourselves the gift of a clean slate if we continue to read the old chapters?
Of course it is good to learn the lessons of the past, but only if we use them to move forward.
Let go of your regrets. Forgive yourself and anyone who has hurt you. Choose to start 2024 with a lighter mind filled with hope rather than regret.
8) Staying in toxic relationships
This one is for those who have spent the last few years trying to love people who are not good for them.
I get it – I’ve been in too many relationships like that. The point is, a toxic relationship can be enough to make you feel lethargic and unable to believe that the new year has anything exciting to offer.
Staying in a toxic relationship can damage us in so many ways, the most important of which is eroding our self-esteem. You start to lose sight of who you are and the value you add.
Unfortunately, this spills over into other areas of your life: your work, your friendships, your ability to dream big, even your ability to appreciate the small joys.
So also examine your relationships. If they are doing you more harm than good, it’s time to replace them with positive and supportive people.
This step can open you up to the possibility that the future may look different. May it be exciting and filled with the love and passion you deserve.
9) Don’t give back
Finally, I would like to give you a tip that always gets me out of the rut and gives me a sense of purpose: give back to others.
We are often too busy with ourselves. Our goals. Our net worth. Everything that has to do with us.
And so giving back is not something that we consider a priority. But you know what? We should!
Because according to researchHelping others reduces the impact of negative emotions. Ultimately, we have greater life satisfaction.
The bottom line is that we are part of a larger community and our actions can make a positive difference. Remember, this could be the push you need to start the new year with more hope.
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