Wednesday, 16 January 2008

12 Little Changes

By Michele Hickford
Special to eDiets

I always look forward to the New Year. For me, it's a time of hope, new adventures and possibilities. On the other hand, I know a lot of people who say they hate this time of year.

They hate the parties and celebrations and the feeling they should be doing something special and memorable. They hate the fact that everyone else appears to be having fun. But I think what they really hate, is themselves because the New Year reminds them of things they should have done. The promises they should have kept. The changes they should have made. It's a reminder that for another year they're still in a bad relationship, or a bad marriage.

Well, the only way the New Year is going to be better than the Old Year is if you change what you're doing. Now I know doing something different is very difficult if you try to do it all at once. But it's actually very easy if you do it little by little.

So I would like to offer you my own list of 12 little things to do this year to help you in love and in life. Just pick one for each month. If you only manage to do one each month, and only once a month at that, you'll still be ahead of where you are today. I promise.

1. Tell the truth. If you're unhappy with your partner, or things he or she says bother you, would you please tell the truth? And by the truth, I don't mean saying something like "you're such a jerk" (which he may in fact be), but something more like, "that really hurt me." Stick to the honest facts, please. You will have more efficient discussions and be less likely to escalate arguments if you just for once say it plainly.

2. Say no. You don't have to do everything people ask of you, especially if it doesn't feel right. Don't do things out of guilt, do them out of desire. And if you don't desire it, don't do it.

3. Say yes. Sometimes you need to say, "Yes, what the heck." Holding back and holding back doesn't really do anything except ensure you're older when you do finally say yes. Of course, if it doesn't feel right, see No. 2 above.

4. Admit a mistake. OK, so you blew it. You slept with him, or you fell for it, or you got pregnant. What's done is done. Making a mistake isn't such a big deal -- failing to recognize it is. And make sure you understand completely how you got into this mess so you won't do it again. Ever.

5. Make a decision. Someone once told me the only bad decision is NO decision. At some point it can't be "maybe" any more. It has to be yes or no. And you can apply that rule to other people as well. Avoiding decisions means avoiding life, which can't be done. Life races by no matter what you do. So don't do nothing.

6. Achieve a goal. It's not enough to be goal-oriented. You need to be RESULTS-oriented. You will give yourself enormous confidence if you get in the habit of demonstrating to yourself that you can achieve goals. They don't have to be huge. They can be tiny, like "make sure I smile at a new person every day." But every time you achieve a goal, you give yourself strength and ability to achieve the next one.

7. Try something new. Take yourself out of your comfort level for once, just a little. Break a habit. You don't have to go wild -- just pick one little thing. Change your hairstyle. Drive a different route to work. Watch a TV channel you never watch. But be consciously aware that you're trying something new. See how it feels. I'll bet you'll like it.

8. Find one thing. Once when I was really down in the dumps about myself, a friend told me to stand in the mirror and say, "I'm wonderful, because..." and then fill in the blank. It sounds kind of cheesy, but I have to say it works. No matter how crappy you feel, you will find that one thing to love about yourself. You'll probably find more than one thing. And as soon as you find yourself lovable, others will, too.

9. Ask for help. You're not expected to be able to solve every one of life's problems all by yourself -- particularly in a relationship. If you and your partner can't talk about it together, get a counselor to listen. And if he won't go with you, go alone.

10. Dream. What do you REALLY want to do? What would make you ridiculously happy? OK, I know I'm not going to wake up tomorrow and be a foot taller or something (and frankly that wouldn't make me happy because none of my pants would fit). But let yourself dream and see where that takes you. You'll find some truths about your current situation, and maybe get a clear idea of what you have to do to change it.

11. Be alone. Another thing I feel VERY strongly about is that we must be responsible for our own happiness. That means learning to be content on your own. Being with someone will not make you happy, it will only make you happy-ER. After all, if you don't know what makes you happy, how can you possible expect some stranger to figure it out? And you need to do that by yourself.

12. Listen to yourself. When you say things like "I broke up with my boyfriend because he was cheating on me but I still love him even though he's still seeing another women. He wants to get back with me. What should I do?" stop and LISTEN to yourself? He was cheating, he's STILL cheating, and you LOVE him? What am I missing here? What are YOU missing that you'd consider taking him back? Listen to what you're saying and you'll hear the truth.

So that's my list. Just 12 little things you should try during the new year. And in this case, I can assure you size doesn't matter.

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