1. Start looking people in the eye three times as much as you already do. Hold their eye contact for so long that it goes from wonderful, to uncomfortable, and then back to wonderful again. Give yourself the chance to feel connected to another human being in one of the simplest and most immediate ways possible.
2. Pay attention to the patterns in your life that are causing you to do things or feel things you don’t want to do or don’t want to feel. Think about the quote by Albert Einstein (maybe?) that said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you’re not happy with your performance at work, if you’re not happy with your relationship with your sister, if you’re not happy with how you spend your Sunday afternoons, stop doing things the exact way you are doing them right now. Do something, anything, differently. Make some little changes.
3. Even if you think it’s a long shot, ask people for help, for guidance, and for reasonable favors. You’d be surprised who’s willing to give you a hand.
4. When people do help you, remember that. When people don’t help you, remember that. Think about how grateful or how disappointed you felt, and then do everything in your power to be the person who helps or guides whenever they can.
5. Be comforted by change, not terrified of it. Change is scary and it will make you uncomfortable and it’s okay and normal for you to feel that way. But be comforted by the fact that it means your life is moving and expanding and growing, instead of plateauing. Plateauing is not terrifying in the typical sense, but the experience of never feeling challenged and never going anywhere is scary in its own way.
6. Look up. Look up from your phone. Look at trees. Look at people on the train. Look at dogs on the sidewalk. Look at babies. Look at someone laughing. Look at the rain. Look straight into the solar eclipse. Don’t do that last one. I was just making sure you were still paying attention. But look at everything else.
7. Be someone, or become someone, who listens to others and asks questions way more than you talk about yourself. Everybody has something to teach you.
8. Remember that no one’s life is perfect. Absolutely no one. Remember that even when social media is truthful, it still only tells one side or one fraction of the story. Everyone is hurting in some way, even the seemingly happiest or most successful people. So be as kind and warm and compassionate as you can. This will feel much better than envy in the long run.
9. Read things that make you think. That doesn’t mean you have to tackle Time’s list of the greatest 100 novels of all time (but you can if you want). Sure, you’re welcome to read up on astrophysics if that’s your thing, but you shouldn’t rule out the latest “trashy” beach read if it helps you relax and actually makes reading enjoyable for you. All you need is something that challenges your brain to do something other than passively watching a show.
10. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself to read, remember that you are doing something very important and very healthy for your body. It’s just as important to exercise your brain as it is to exercise any muscle in your body. Studies even show that reading, writing, and other mental exercises can slow down cognitive decline in old age.
11. On the days in which you feel the most like wearing sweatpants, don’t wear sweatpants. Wash your face and brush your hair and wear something that makes you feel good. You’ll hate it in the moment and then you’ll spend the rest of the day thanking yourself.
12. Reflect on the past in terms of how it has shaped you as a person, and how it has made you stronger, but don’t let yourself drown in what if’s and what could have been’s. Think about the experiences you are grateful to have gone through (both good and bad) because of how they have accelerated your growth. But don’t let your past mistakes or choices hold too much power over you – the greatest thing you can do for yourself is to think about what you would have done differently, and then use those reflections to influence your choices right now and your choices in the future. Live here, improve here, grow here. Don’t live in back then.
13. Write your goals down. There is no shortage of studies or articles that will profess the importance and effectiveness of writing goals down. One study even found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams just by writing them down regularly.
14. If you don’t have any goals other than the standard work hard, be a good family member, etc, then make some. Don’t avoid it because you feel bad that you don’t have any specific ones yet. Just do it in small steps. Start thinking about measurable things you want to achieve. Don’t put pressure on yourself to come up with something huge. Just think about little things. I want to be going half a mile further on my runs by the end of the month. I want to start arriving to work 20 minutes earlier than I do now. I want to learn how to cook three new meals in February. Little things are doable, and little things are what ultimately end up making a difference long-term.
15. If you have a small, daily goal that you’re trying to form into a habit, think about tangibly tracking it. My greatest non-human love is comedy. At the beginning of January, I made a promise to myself that I was going to write one monologue joke every day this month. I’ve tried this in the past and I’ve failed every time. But this month, I got a $2 wall calendar, stuck it next to my dresser, and kept a blue Sharpie on the dresser that I only used for this purpose: for each day that I wrote a joke, I got to write a checkmark on the calendar for that day. It got to the point where I enjoyed checking off each day (and seeing the progress) so much, that even when I didn’t remember until 11 o’clock at night that I hadn’t written a joke, I got up and wrote one because I couldn’t bear to miss a checkmark on the calendar. And now, every day in January has a blue checkmark (except for one Saturday, I’m only HUMAN) and I can’t describe to you how great of a feeling this is. You’ll have to just see for yourself.
16. Any time that you can walk somewhere, walk.
17. Help friends and colleagues and strangers for no reason other than to help them. Pass your friend’s cousin’s resume along to the right people. Give your coworker a hand when they are seriously stressing out about a project. Let that one jabroni into your lane after they tried to skip the traffic buildup, because they might just be a selfish knucklehead but they also might be trying to get to the hospital because their sister is having a baby. Helping other people, at no benefit to yourself, is one of the easiest ways to like the person that you are.
18. Don’t depend on other people’s approval when it comes to following your dreams. The more you seek out approval and validation, the more you will absolutely depend on it. The less you seek it out, the happier and more free you will be and feel.
19. Never forget to search for joy in the process; it is absolutely crucial. Once you get something you want, the high will wear off surprisingly quickly. The process will always be so much longer than the end goal. The process makes up the majority of your living days. So fall in love with the process.
20. Pay attention to the moments in which you talk about someone else in a mean-spirited manner. And then ask yourself, honestly, why you’re doing it. We’re all human and we are all full of so many flaws; so for most of us, it’s difficult to fully abstain from gossip. What’s important is 1) to try to actively stop doing it to the best of your abilities and 2) to ask yourself you’re doing it whenever you fall back into it. You will probably realize you’re jealous, or insecure, or frustrated about an unrelated problem, or something else that will tell you something important about yourself. And realizing that will probably make you feel much better in the long run than putting someone else down.
21. Always assume that you haven’t drank enough water today.
22. Read the news. You will never fully and completely understand what’s going on at all times, but it’s still important to kind of know what’s going on.
23. Be alone sometimes. Figure out how to love it, or at least like it, or at least find some peace during it. If you hate it, that’s even more of a sign that you have to figure out how to do it once in a while.
24. Wherever you are, only be there.