2015 seems to be dawning bright and hopeful for many people. So perhaps it’s time to put your hopes and dreams into high gear, make some sound resolutions, set realistic goals, purge bad habits, and makes plans to create your best year ever.
After reading more than 500 books and reviewing thousands of articles and research papers to prepare the manuscript for my recently published book A Plan for Life: The 21st Century Guide to Success in Wealth, Health, Career, Education, Love, Place…and You!, I found a consensus among the experts about what YOU need to do to lead your best life. I learned that people who had the discipline to adhere to these truths radically changed the direction of their life. Some even said it saved their life.
Here are eleven ways to change your life forever and make 2015 a pivotal year.
1. EAT BETTER
Everyone wants to look and feel better, live a longer life, and avoid getting ill. But most Americans do everything possible to achieve just the opposite. They eat poorly, barely exercise at all, and indulge in harmful bad habits. Make 2015 the year you change all that.
Start with cleaning up your diet.
• Give up processed foods. Eat things that grow in the ground, fly in the sky, swim in the ocean, and grow on trees. As food expert Michael Pollan says, “If it wouldn’t be recognized as food by your grandmother, don’t eat it.”
• Eat organic foods. They’re a little more expensive, but if you give up the “fake” foods you will have more than enough money left to buy real food.
• Eat smaller portions. Americans eat too fast and too much. Take time to enjoy your food.
• Stay away from genetically modified foods. This takes some effort, but the jury is still out on the long-term safety of food from companies like Monsanto. With their horrible track record, you may not want to place your future health in their hands.
• Drink more water. Make sure it’s pure (buy a good filter). Give up—COMPLETELY—sugar and chemical-laden soft drinks, perhaps the single most harmful item in the American diet.
• Although vitamin supplements are over-rated, a food-sourced quality multi-vitamin, some Vitamin D (especially if you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun), and a fish oil capsule a few times a week wouldn’t hurt. New Chapter makes an excellent product.
2. GET FIT
Face it, if you’re like most Americans you want to lose some weight, get rid of your muffin-top or love handles, reduce the size of your gut, get rid of those embarrassing “man boobs,” and tone up those wimpy arms and legs.
People avoid exercise because there is some discomfort involved—not much, but enough to keep millions of people from doing it. As a result, a third of Americans are overweight and unable to do simple physical things.
This is simply unacceptable. You have 168 hours in each week. If you devote just 7 hours to exercise (an hour a day—4% of your week) you’ll still have 161 hours left for other things. Yet, this small investment in time and effort will change your life—extend your life, and perhaps even save your life. Your self-esteem will improve. You’ll have more energy to accomplish the stuff you want to do. Your sex life will likely improve dramatically. And you will sleep better. Seems like a pretty good return on a meager investment of time and effort.
1. Walk. Americans walk less than every other major industrialized nation in the world. Get a pedometer and track how many steps you take every day. Your goal should be 10,000 or more steps per day.
2. Work out. You want to know why Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey look so great when they take off most of their clothes? Because they work out 4 – 5 times a week. They lift weights, do the exercise machines, take aerobic classes—and they do it consistently. Their careers depend upon it. But when you think about it, so does yours.
3. Find a sport you like and make it part of your life. Tennis, skiing, hiking, basketball, cycling, kayaking, etc. You’ll have fun and get fit.
4. Find a bare minimum exercise routine you can do anywhere every day. Pushups are a great upper body builder. All you need is a floor. Situps are easy to do at home too. Mix in some jumping jacks, running in place, and leg squats and you have a 15-minute workout that is enough to stay reasonably fit.
5. Look for ways to get extra exercise. It’s amazing to see people going to the gym who drive for 15 minutes around the parking lot looking for a closer space to park. Park a quarter mile away if you can. You’ll burn up calories on your way to your workout. Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Do toe stands while waiting in line. Knock out ten pushups whenever there’s a commercial on TV. Look for opportunities to burn off a few calories and strengthen your muscles.
3. GET MORE SLEEP
Few things will make you feel better and enable you to be more productive than a good night of sleep. Yet, Americans are chronically sleep-deprived, wandering through their days in a semi-coma, barely functioning. If you get more sleep in 2015 you will change your life.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Go to bed an hour or two earlier and get up and hour or two sooner.
2. Turn off all electronic devices (including TV) an hour before bedtime.
3. Take a hot shower a half hour before turning in.
4. Invest in a decent mattress (Temperpedic is highly rated), good quality sheets, and comfortable pillows. You spend a third of your life in bed; be sure this environment supports the rest and rejuvenation you need.
5. Sleep in total darkness. Even a little light can disrupt your sleep quality.
6. Sleep in total silence (or use “white sound” if that helps).
7. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even weekends.
8. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before bedtime.
9. Have sex before going to sleep. Tell your partner it’s for your health.
10. Wake up to soothing music, not a blaring alarm clock.
11. Sleep in a cool room.
A night of quality sleep will supercharge your day, making you more productive than you ever imagined, and boost your mood too.
4. IMPROVE YOURSELF
Despite the fact that we all think we’re perfect, we aren’t. Take a hard look at yourself (or find someone you trust to tell you where the rough spots are in your personality). You’re the only one who can change yourself, so be honest. Then do it.
1. Are you a pessimistic whiny drag to be around? Make an effort to change that. Optimists are happier and more successful in life. Negative behaviors are not part of the personality of people who are loved and admired. Or successful.
2. Get a sense of humor. Both men and women say they like the other sex to have one. Yet, fewer than 1 in 25 people really has a developed sense of humor. You can start by tuning into professionals—go to a comedy club, watch funny movies, check in with a humorous website like collegehumor.com. At the least, laugh a lot.
3. Do you engage in “weird” behavior? All of us know people who are odd, creepy or unpredictable. If that is you—and you aren’t so odd that you don’t even realize it—expunge the strange behavior from your personality. Strive to be easy to be with and “old shoe” with others. If you are a control freak (usually a sign of a poor self-image) just know that you are only harming yourself in the end. If you have anger problems, you’ll not only harm yourself but you could easily hurt others as well.
4. Be more thoughtful and kind. There seems to be a lot of hate in the world right now. But in the end it does no one any good. If you are kind, generous, and thoughtful you’ll be treated better in return, experience more happiness, and feel more fulfilled in life. People who donate or support charities say they get as much out of their altruism as the people they help.
5. If you suffer from depression or some other emotional disorder, get professional help.
5. EXPAND YOUR CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE
People need people—including you. Nothing happens in life without the support and approval of other people. You will rise or fall to the level of those you associate with the most. Your most cherished moments in life will almost certainly involve another human being. Meeting and getting to know people is the most important ingredient in a life well lived.
In the 21st Century there are more ways to meet people and develop deep, lasting relationships than at any time in history.
1. Don’t be afraid to approach and strike up a conversation with a stranger. A good friend of mine met his wife (of 23 years now) this way. Chances are you won’t be rebuffed (which is what most people fear). Just be open and friendly and natural.
2. Be friendly to everyone you meet. Treat everyone as an individual. You shouldn’t react to anyone differently because they are a millionaire, poor, black, white, Asian, a celebrity, gay, old, young, a CEO or a pizza delivery man. You’ll be surprised at what you discover when you accept people for who they are without any preconceived prejudices.
3. Get out and circulate. Join clubs. Volunteer for charitable activities. Go to Meetups. Attend conferences and networking events. The more often you are among people, the more people you will meet.
4. Grow your professional network with LinkedIn. It’s not just for finding a job. LinkedIn can easily be a key factor in your career success. And most active LinkedIn members report that they developed offline friendships through the site as well.
5. Cultivate your garden of contacts. Phone, text, email, and get together with your friends and relatives frequently. Remember their birthdays. Give gifts. Be there to hear them when they need a friend.
6. MAKE ONGOING EDUCATION A PART OF YOUR LIFE
It’s shocking how many people stop learning as soon as they walk down the aisle with their diploma. But in the fast-evolving 21st Century you really need to engage in ongoing education in order to keep from being left behind. Education is the ticket to success in America.
1. If you can, get a college education. These days even blue collar jobs require more sophisticated levels of education than in the past. If you can swing a Master’s degree or advance professional training, do it.
2. Go online. There are dozens of top quality learning sites, including Udemy, Coursera, and edx. You can even earn certificates to augment your credentials. You’ll find classes taught by professors from top schools like Wharton, Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. There are sites to show you how to do almost anything, like Skillshare, Grovo, iTunesU, and eHow.
The benefits of ongoing education don’t just include career advancement. You’ll increase the health of your brain so you’ll be more effective in all areas of your life. There’s even research that indicates you may live longer.
7. GET CONTROL OF YOUR WEALTH
If you are in your younger years, the best piece of life-changing advice I can give you is to invest regularly in a conservative investment with compound interest reinvested. It will be the easiest way for you to become a millionaire someday.
In any case, you need to stay on top of your personal finances and be serious about creating wealth. Money problems are a major cause of stress and anxiety. Money can help you create your dreams. The lack of money will always restrain you from living your best life.
Here are some things to do in 2015.
1. Begin tracking EVERY PENNY of your expenses and income. This alone will give you a sense of control over your finances. It’s easy to do. Each month take a manila folder and with a pen divide it into categories with columns for groceries, car payment, rent/mortgage—anything you spend money on.
Get a receipt for every purchase. Write down in the appropriate column what the expense was for, where it was made, and the date. Total these up at the end of the month and transfer it to an Excel spreadsheet, if you are reasonably computer savvy. Track your expenditures from month to month, making adjustments to stay within your budget.
Your budget should also include 10% of your income reserved for saving/investments. For most people the easiest way to do this is through automatic deductions from your paycheck.
2. Don’t get crazy with your investments. Keep six months’ worth of cash in a liquid investment as an emergency fund. Trust me, life happens and you will need it. Having an emergency fund gives your peace of mind and a certain degree of autonomy when you want it—F#%K YOU money, as my friend Len calls it. As for investments, Warren Buffett and most other billionaires advise that the average person should probably just stick to index funds with low fees. You really can’t beat the Wall Street pros.
3. Before every purchase ask yourself is this a “want” or a “need.” If in doubt, walk away and come back the next day if you still want it (9 times out of 10 you won’t).
4. Coupons may seem “old school” but saving money is very 21st Century. Before you buy anything see if there are coupons online for that product. You may also want to check out the many online coupon sites, like RetailMeNot and Groupon.
8. WORK ON YOUR LOVE LIFE
Everyone wants to be loved and have someone to love (unless you happen to be one of the 1 in 23 people who are born sociopaths and are incapable of love—learn to recognize and stay away from these types). The best way to be loved is to be loving to others. Also, it’s a cliché (but true) that love will come to those who are not looking for it. Your best path to being loved is to love yourself first—become the best person you can be.
1. Be kind to your spouse, kids, relatives, friends, co-workers, and strangers. Kindness is like a magnet for love.
2. Be outwardly directed—when you think too much about yourself you become self-centered. People respond to you better if you are interested in them. Learn to be a giving person, with no expectations for return.
3. Take time to socialize with your friends.
4. Join organizations and charities. You’ll meet great people.
5. Have sex with your spouse frequently.
6. Remember the special events in people’s lives—especially birthdays.
9. EVALUATE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Your various environments—the state and city you live in, your home, your office, your car, and the clothing you wear—all impact how you perceive yourself and how others view you. They should all be in alignment with your authentic self.
1. Where you live will likely affect who become your friends, you future spouse, career, and sense of well-being. Choose carefully.
2. The clothes you wear, your home furnishings, and the style of your office all reflect your personality. Don’t be careless about how you choose what goes into these.
3. Purge your environment of clutter. Clutter is an anchor on your life. For tips on how to free yourself from too much stuff, go to my friend Lori Marrero’s website for tips. www.clutterdiet.com
Remember, “temporary” environments have a nasty way of becoming permanent. It’s better to consciously choose where you live and how you live based upon your true self.
10. PURGE NEGATIVE HABITS
Bad habits can ruin even the best plans. Make this the year you finally purge them from your life. Bad habits not only affect your health, they also cost money and time.
1. Curtail TV and Internet entertainment. The average American watches more than four hours of TV a day (equal to 182 eight-hour days a year). Billions of hours are wasted on mindless video games and other forms of entertainment. Your amount of improvement from any of these is near zero. Use your time productively. Doing this one thing will change your life for the better.
2. Stop gambling, taking drugs, and drinking too much alcohol. Get help if you need it. All these habits have the potential to destroy your life.
3. Procrastination. Lying. Cheating. Laziness. Negativity. Get rid of them all. Get a new you in 2015.
11. SEIZE THE DAY
Post the words “Carpe Diem”—Seize the Day—where you will see them every day to remind you to overcome fear and take decisive action to get what you want.
The popular self-help expert Jack Canfield advises everyone to ask for whatever they want in life. Ask confidently with the expectation your request will be granted. Unless you go after what you want you’ll never get it. And getting what you want usually involves asking someone to give it to you—or help you get it. The worst that will happen is the other person will say no—and you are no worse off than before. For more about how to ask—and get—whatever you want, check out the book The Alladin Factor by Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.
If you liked the information in this article, you’ll probably like my new book A Plan for Life: The 21st Century Guide to Success in Wealth, Health, Career, Education, Love, Place…and You! It’s available at select bookstores and in ebook format ($19.95 print, $3.99 ebook). You’ll find 500+ pages of valuable, potentially life-changing content.
Eric C Wentworth
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