So you’ve realized you need to make some changes and really get something going in your life. That’s awesome. But where do you start?
The easy answer is “anywhere,” but many of us really have trouble committing to four or five things that can really help move us in the right direction. And a lot of self-help books would have you read a ton of background, then rationalize why you need to do something, then tell five stories before getting to the task at hand.
In the spirit of cutting the crap, here are 20 things you can do, right now this minute, to get your life moving in a positive direction. You may notice that most of these are brain-development tasks – they’ll help get you out of your “comfort zone” (or, calling a spade a spade, your rut).
You don’t have to do them all. Pick any five and get started. If you’d like to share your results, post them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.
- Pick a sport you don’t know and learn it. Last year I learned skiing and tennis. And believe it or not, I never really learned how to swim, so I’m doing that right now. Take at least a few lessons from a professional (your city parks department probably has a schedule of low-cost classes).
- Do the same with a musical instrument. (Note: if you live in my building, not drums.)
- For a week, do at least one of your daily tasks with your non-dominant hand. For example, if you’re right-handed, brush your teeth with your left.
- Go to a restaurant that serves a type of food you’ve never eaten before. Tips: Pho is awesome, as is sushi from a good Japanese restaurant and Ethiopian food in general.
- Sign up with a gym. Important: Read the contract thoroughly and understand what it takes to quit if you need to. Some gyms will offer a free trial. Do that.
- Buy some new workout clothes. Shoes are important.
- Smile at everyone for one day.
- Change your hairstyle. Get a good salon recommendation, and then book an appointment with their best men’s stylist. Ask what he or she would do with your hair if there were no restrictions.
- Schedule payments on your future. Determine how much you can afford to set aside and either start an IRA or money market savings account. If you have credit card debt, add it to your credit card payments instead until that debt is paid off.
- Send out invitations to a party, for 5 people or 500. If your home is unsuitable, get together at a bar or restaurant.
- Start a journal. On the very first page, write down the five things about you that you are the proudest of.
- Go one week without giving any unsolicited advice or opinions. Just listen and ask questions. This applies especially to politics.
- Go somewhere quiet for a day. A secluded beach, a mountain path, an uncrowded park or a roof garden. Turn off your cell phone. Bring just what you need for the elements (such as hiking boots, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, etc.) plus maybe a camera, your journal or a book. Do anything you like as long as it doesn’t involve contacting the outside world.
- Do something nice for someone you don’t know. Every so often I read about someone at, say, the Starbucks drive thru who decides to “pay it forward” by purchasing the drinks of the person behind them in line. Although I’m not superstitious about finding pennies, when I see one I make sure it is heads-up so the next person who finds it might maximize their luck. Be creative, and do not seek a thank-you.
- Plan a trip to another country. One where English is not the primary language. Resort cities in Mexico do not count.
- Begin your spring cleaning by throwing out something with no function other than sentimental value.
- Change the layout of one room in your house.
- Throw out your porn. All of it. Don’t worry, they’ll make more for you.
- Do the same with all of your junk food.
- Join Toastmasters.
- Meditate. Find a quiet spot (maybe from number 13), and sit quietly, without thinking about anything in particular. Just listen to the ambient noise and relax. If you’re not used to this it may be more difficult than you think.
- If time regularly gets away from you, start scheduling your day. This includes TV watching, web surfing, dinner, sleep – everything. Stick to the schedule.