Life is built on routines. It’s easy to go years—or even decades—without consciously assessing what’s working and what’s not. As a result, many of us are surrounded by people, obligations, objects, and habits that aren’t exactly making our lives better (far from it!). Well, no more. With a new year upon us, it’s the perfect time to take a fresh look at your daily existence—and drop all the dead weight that’s holding you back.
We tend to think of “quitting” as a bad thing, but the fact is, the things that used to fit well into your life may not be honoring who you are now. It’s very important to live on purpose, not by accident. So instead of piling even more responsibilities onto your plate in the form of overly ambitious New Year’s resolutions, resolve to become a quitter in 2016. Here are seven habits and behaviors you might want to consider leaving behind:
Quit making excuses about your health. Have you been meaning to lose a few pounds (for the last 10 years)? It’s so easy to bump exercise and healthy eating to the bottom of your to-do list. There are usually so many other tasks that seem more pressing: Get that report to the boss. Set up a time to get the car inspected. Make sure the kids get to cello lessons on time. Meanwhile, you tell yourself, I’ll start going to spin class next week. Problem is, “next week” never arrives.
If you don’t like the number you see on the scale, it’s time for the excuses to stop, regardless of how legitimate they are. And there’s a good reason for this tough love: Your weight isn’t just about your silhouette—it’s about your health, your energy level, and your confidence, too.
Quit burning the candle at both ends. Do you pack your days too full and get too little sleep in order to accomplish everything you want to? You may think you’re getting ahead, but in reality, you’re hurting your quality of life. There are more studies coming out each year that affirm the health benefits of getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
If you make taking care of yourself more of a priority, you’ll feel better about taking care of other people and have more energy throughout the day. Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish; it’s healthy and necessary. Whether you spend a day at the spa or simply take ten minutes to purchase and enjoy a cup of hot tea in the midst of running errands, investing in yourself will make you more resilient and will also reduce your stress and tension.
Quit spending so much time with people who don’t enrich your life. How many people do you regularly spend time with—even though you don’t really want to? You know the ones: Perhaps your sister-in-law constantly asks to get together, but spends the entire time criticizing everything from your clothes to your career to your parenting. Or maybe a certain frenemy peppers the conversation with backhanded compliments and one-upmanship, making you feel like your whole life has been one long series of bad decisions.
People with whom you feel obligated to spend time can suck up your energy and positive outlook, dragging down an otherwise great day or week. Often it’s impossible to back out of the relationship entirely, but there are things you can do to minimize its negative impact on your life. First, make sure you have set up clear boundaries. In some cases, people might not realize how bad they’re making you feel! And second, remember that you can gracefully say no to one social activity while accepting another, more positive one.
Quit saying yes to everything. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life.
You don’t have to chair every event, take on every project, host every party, participate in every activity, and accept every invitation. Remember, you—not your boss, your friend, or your child’s teacher—are in charge of your calendar. Right now, as 2016 is just beginning, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest.
Quit at least one bad habit. Maybe you’re always running late, or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.
To start, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!
Quit looking “good enough.” Most of us will never be runway models, but that’s no reason to settle for a humdrum, forgettable appearance. Wearing clothes (or a haircut, or makeup) that are dated, not flattering, or “good enough” isn’t doing your self-image any favors. And like it or not, people really do judge a book by its cover. Don’t you want to make an impression that clearly communicates your drive, personality, and confidence?
Get clear on colors and styles that are most flattering for your age, coloring, and body type, and stick with those guidelines whenever you make a new purchase. You might also want to ask a trusted friend for honest advice. But if you want more personalized results, I recommend working with an image consultant whose trained eye can help you to look your absolute best.
Quit spending so much time inside. This year, make a resolution to get more fresh air. Take a walk, run, or bike ride a few times each week—or just sit in a local park or on your back porch while reading a book. Getting out of your office or living room will help you think about yourself and your life from a whole new perspective.
Spending time outside helps you clear your mind, makes you feel more energized, and improves your health. What’s more, doing even the most minimal exercise outdoors helps emphasize the need to drink more water and take care of your skin with sunscreen and moisturizer. And if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful pictures that only nature can paint will put you in a great mood for the whole day. It’s a totally different experience than sitting on the couch to watch a movie.
The beginning of a brand new year is the perfect time to reassess your life. Instead of adding more things to your 2016 to-do list, do yourself a favor and jettison what’s no longer working for you. When you get rid of habits, mindsets, and behaviors that are dragging you down, you’ll make room for new things that make you feel good and help you grow.