Don’t just make a list of goals. Make resolutions that actually matter and will truly change your life.

Every year people set New Year’s resolutions.

Feeling that this year will be different, they choose a few goals, announce them on social media and get ready to feel accomplished.

Then, before Valentine’s Day hits, they’ve forgotten whatever it is they promised to do.

New Year’s resolutions are a good idea, only if you can make resolutions that matter and keep them. Here’s how to find and reach the goals that can truly change your life.

What do you get jealous of?

I’ve often found that the things I’m most envious of in other people are things I really want for myself.

For example, I’m not jealous of someone having a baby because I don’t really want kids. But I’m jealous of someone who’s making a living with their blog because that’s my biggest goal.

Think about when you’re jealous of other people. Is it when you see a friend who’s lost a lot of weight? Or is it someone who got back from a month-long trip around Asia?

What’s your biggest priority?

Some people treat new year’s resolutions with the same ferocity they approach an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then they wonder why they’re burnt out and exhausted after a few weeks.

Narrow your list of resolutions to what you really care about. Maybe you want to run a marathon and grow your side business. Trying to achieve both goals might drive you crazy to the point that you quit working on both.

Maybe you want to run a marathon and grow your side business. Trying to achieve both goals might drive you crazy to the point that you quit working on both.

Pick a goal that matters the most to you. It doesn’t mean you can’t work on the other, but choose one as your priority and give it your all.

If you’re not sure how to pick a goal here are some questions to ask:

  • What will have the biggest impact on my life
  • What will make me most fulfilled?
  • What have I always dreamed of doing?
  • What have I been too scared to try or afraid to fail?

Everyone’s resolutions are personal. What works for your best friends might not be good for you. Don’t feel pressured to choose a resolution because it’s what you think you should do.

How to keep those resolutions.

The hard part is keeping the resolutions you make. If you’re looking for a little help in that area, here are some of my favorite ways to stay on track:

Remember your why.

Every resolution comes from a starting point that many people seem to forget once January ends.

Keep a reminder of why you chose your resolution. For example, you can use a vision board, post-it note on your bathroom mirror, or a picture on your phone background to remind you of your reason.

For example, if you want to prepare for a hiking trip in September, an image of where you’re going might motivate you to hit the gym every week.

Set rewards.

Many resolutions have few rewards or incentives until you reach the end.

If you want to write a novel, you won’t feel truly satisfied until you finish it. That can slow you down and make you feel discouraged.

Allow yourself to celebrate the milestones you reach along the way. For example, for every 50 pages you write, treat yourself to a new book from your favorite writer or a night out at a beloved restaurant. Acknowledging how far you’ve come can keep you motivated when the end seems far away.

Find an accountability partner.

Studies show that people who exercised with a buddy had greater success than those who did their workouts alone.

No matter your resolution, an accountability partner can help you. You can ask a friend or find one online in a forum related to your goal. Schedule regular check-in sessions and set concrete goals with deadlines.

Choose SMART goals.

A resolution that’s more likely to succeed needs to be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. For example, wanting to lose weight is too vague. Here’s an example: I will lose 50 pounds by working out twice a week with a trainer at my local gym.

Keep your goal to yourself.

Research shows that people who share goals before reaching them feel the same sense of accomplishment we those who complete them. Why try to accomplish your goal if you’ve already gotten the emotional satisfaction? Also, if you reveal a personal goal and someone criticizes it, you might get disenchanted. work on your resolution privately. It’ll also teach you to not seek validation from others and instead find it in yourself.

Why try to accomplish your goal if you’ve already gotten the emotional satisfaction? Also, if you reveal a personal goal and someone criticizes it, you might get disenchanted.

Work on your resolution privately. It’ll also teach you to not seek validation from others and instead find it in yourself.

Keep a journal.

For goals that aren’t based on numbers or dollar figures, it can be harder to keep track of your progress. That’s why I recommend keeping a journal or blog where you write down how your resolution is going.

If you’re trying to be less judgmental, writing down your thoughts about being judgmental can help you gain more understanding on how to achieve that.

Anytime I journal regularly, I feel more connected to my feelings and thoughts.

Pay attention to what matters to you, and work to make and keep resolutions that will enhance your life.

What are your favorite resolutions? How do you plan to achieve them?

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Regifting is a fine and noble art. Here’s how to do it the right way.

It’s bound to happen at some point: you receive a perfectly fine gift — that you hate.

As a society, we used to look down on regifting, but today it’s becoming increasingly common.

You don’t want to blatant or awful about your regifting, though. It’s important that you at least attempt to be classy about it.

If you want to get rid of something and you know just the person for it, regifting gives you the chance to make someone else happy and save a little bit of money in the bargain.

First of all: be gracious whenever you receive something.

Whenever you receive something, you should express gratitude. Even if you hate the item. “It’s the thought that counts” is a cliche, but it’s also true.

Someone gave you something. You can be nice and adult about it, even if secretly you plan to return it or regift it.

In some cases, you might just be stuck with the thing. I have some items that I’ve received that I know I have to keep. In those situations, I make sure I put it on display when I know the giver is coming. Or I wear it for them to see me using it.

No matter what, it’s vital to be a gracious gift recipient.

Don’t regift to the original giver.

If you’re going to be a regifting powerhouse, you need to get your shit organized. You can’t give an item to the original giver, so that means you have to know who gave it to you in the first place.

Keep track of who gives you what. List what you got, when you got it, and who gave it to you. This is important if you’re going to do this right.

It’s not just about avoiding a major faux pas by regifting to the person who gave it to you in the first place. You also have to avoid giving the gift to anyone in the same social circle.

If your sister gave you something you don’t like, you can’t turn around and give it to your mom two years later. Everyone will remember that it was a gift to you from your sister.

Family dinners just got even more awkward.

The same goes for friend circles and coworkers. Keep track of where your gifts come from so your regifting is to people who aren’t going to recognize the item.

Make sure the item is in tip-top shape.

Let’s keep it classy, people. It should go without saying that you only regift items that are in their original packaging, or that look brand new and unused.

If the item has been opened or used, that’s a no-no. Only used a tiny bit of that lotion? It’s off the menu for regifting.

While you’re at it, check the expiration date on packaged treats before you regift. I don’t like those big holiday-themed tins of popcorn, either, and I’m happy to pass them on. But before I do, I double-check the expiration date. You want your food gifts to be well within date.

Also, avoid regifting anything that has been on prominent display in your home. Because it’s obviously been used, and someone’s probably seen it.

Make sure the gift matches the new recipient.

The point of any gift is to make sure that it matches the person receiving it. Regifting is no good if you don’t put thought into it. I’ve opened things, expressed my gratitude, and then thought, “Actually, this would be perfect for…”

I make a note of it (an actual, written note, so I don’t forget) and then regift, after removing all the evidence. The idea is to make sure the gift is personal in some way. You have to at least put some thought into it.

If you think you will regift something (and even if you don’t know that you will), it makes sense to remove all indications that it was originally a gift to you. Search for notes and tags, and remove them.

Also, for good measure, use completely different wrapping paper. If the gift came in a bag, don’t use the same bag. The least you can do is spend a buck for a fresh bag and new tissue paper to spruce it up. There’s no reason to regift the wrapper on top of the gift.

Consider using it for a white elephant exchange.

Maybe you aren’t sure who to regift to, but you know that a white elephant is coming up. When you head to an office party or some other event, chances are a silly gift exchange will be involved. Regifting on one of these occasions can make a lot of sense — and save you the trouble of figuring out something to bring.

However, you still have to be careful and follow good regifting practice. This means you don’t bring the thing if someone at the exchange gave it to you. The same rules about social circles and regifting to the giver apply when you head to a white elephant exchange.

This is why I can’t emphasize enough the importance of keeping a list of who, when, and where as it relates to regifting. You can’t be a baller regifter — even for a white elephant exchange — if you aren’t organized about it.

Items made for regifting.

There are some things that are perfect for regifting. They are the sort of all-purpose gifts that people love to see, and that are easy to personalize in some way — even if it’s with nothing more than a fancy bow in the new recipient’s favorite color.

If you get the following items, consider them prime candidates for serving double-duty down the road:

  • Gift cards: Don’t shop at that store? No problem. Just find a new gift card holder and pass it along to someone who will use it. Double-check to ensure it isn’t personalized and make sure of the balance.
  • Lotions and soaps: As long as you haven’t opened these items, they are perfect. They are personal. They are pretty. Most of us love to get them. It’s easy to repackage these items attractively and send them on to new owners.
  • Alcohol: Not really a whiskey fan? No problem! Tie a bow around that bottle’s neck and regift to someone who is. Bottles of wine, six-packs of craft beer, and other items are perfect for regifting as long as they are still sealed.
  • Candles: Scented candles are great for regifting. As long as they are still wrapped and sealed, and haven’t been used even once, they are great as gifts. That goes for anything that involves scents, like warmers, fancy diffusers (with oil), and similar items.
  • Certain types of clothing: If you haven’t worn it and the tags are still on, and you are sure about the size of the next recipient, it’s ok to pass things on. Scarves, cute socks, slippers, gloves, and fashionable hats are all perfect items for regifting. Don’t regift clothing items that are extremely unique, or that you aren’t sure about sizes.
  • Gift baskets: Make sure nothing in the gift basket is expired and then pass it along. Another pro tip? If you have multiple gift baskets, and they have some things you like, you can mix and match. Open the baskets, take what you will eat, and then create a new basket with the rest of the items. Use one of the baskets you already have, and get new cellophane and ribbon to pretty up the package.
  • Perfumes and colognes: As long as you haven’t opened the bottle and it’s in the original packaging, these can be great gifts. Watch out, though: once you unwrap the plastic, it’s considered used. You may never use it, but with the plastic broken, it’s unregiftable. But aftershave, eau de toilette, perfume, and cologne all make great regifts.
  • Small appliances and gadgets: Toaster ovens, blenders, handheld mini-games, and other small appliances and gadgets are great for regifting. As always, make sure the items are in their original packaging and remain unused.
  • Toys, games, and puzzles: These types of gifts are perfect for passing along to someone who wants to use them, as long as you haven’t opened the packaging and tried them out.
  • Novelties: As long as it’s an appropriate circumstance, novelty items like cans of unicorn meat make great items for regifting. Just make sure you give them in the correct context so you don’t end up offending someone.

These are the items you should not regift.

Just as some gifts are made for regifting, others items should never be passed along to someone else. Here are things you need to either return to the store, or just suck it up and keep:

  • Anything personalized: If it’s personalized to your name, don’t regift it. You’d think it goes without saying, but, alas, somewhere some idiot is giving someone named Sharon something personalized for “Samantha.” The only time you want to do something like this is if you’re hoping that someone will break up with you.
  • Old technology: New gadgets are fun. Weird nostalgia items are fun. Old technology, like a car GPS unit or handheld PDA, are lame. Do not regift the old tech you have sitting around the house. Just don’t.
  • Jewelry: Sure it’s shiny and comes in a lovely presentation box. But whoever gave it to you probably wants you to wear it. Yeah, that costume jewelry my son bought me for my birthday is hideous. But I wear it anyway. The same goes for that clunky brooch from your mom. You just suck it up and wear. No getting rid of it until the relationship is over.
  • Artwork: The first thing my brother looks for when he walks in my house is a piece of traditional Mexican artwork he gifted me after returning from two years living abroad. Luckily, it’s a cool piece and I love it, so it’s prominently displayed in my front room. Sadly, not all artwork is so nice. But you have to keep it anyway. Whoever gave it to you probably picked it out special, and probably spent a pretty big chunk of change. You need to keep it and at least try to bring it out when they are around.
  • Opened anything: Whether you’ve used it or not, if the seal is broken, it’s off limits. No regifting anything, from Blu-rays to perfume to food, that has been opened and looked at. No matter how good or new it looks, if it’s been opened, and was originally in a package, it shouldn’t be regifted.
  • Distinctive, unique items: Try to avoid regifting items that are distinct and unique. That really, um, interesting sweater? Nope. Regifting is about the non-descript, especially when it comes to clothing.
  • Something universally hated: Unless you’re headed to a white elephant party and you’re expected to bring something hated and awful, don’t regift. If it’s just a horrible present all around, smile, thank the giver, and never speak of it again.

 You can always return it to the store.

If there is no way to regift the thing, consider taking it back to the store. Even if you don’t have a gift receipt, you might at least be able to get some sort of store credit so you can buy something you actually want.

When you can’t get a refund or store credit, consider donating the item. You get karma points for doing good, plus you might get a tax deduction if you itemize. No shame in that game.

Regifting is an art. It needs to be done with care and attention. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be done at all.

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Don’t let your hatred of exercise get in the way of your health.

I hate exercise for the sake of exercise.

However, I know physical activity is an essential part of healthy living. So I suck it up and exercise anyway. But that doesn’t mean I always follow a prescribed method of exercise that involves going to the gym or moving to a workout video.

Do something fun.

The fact that I don’t like exercise doesn’t mean that I refuse physical activity. Quite the opposite. I love being active. I enjoy riding my bike and hiking. I prefer walking to driving. I love swimming and playing tennis. I recently started fencing with my son and learning how to use a punching bag.

Your exercise time doesn’t have to include a boring routine that you hate. It doesn’t feel like exercise when I’m in the pool or sparring with my son. It’s exhilarating and enjoyable. I get a workout, and it doesn’t feel like a chore.

Find something active that you enjoy and use that as your primary method of exercise. It’s easier to stay motivated when it’s something you like, and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Break it up.

Sometimes you need to work on different aspects of your physical fitness. Most of my preferred activities involve cardio, and not much in the way of strength training. This means I need to devote some of my exercise time to strength training, even though it’s not my favorite.

I find yoga soothing, so I usually start with that. Many of the poses promote strength training using your body weight. If I start the day with five to 10 minutes of yoga, I feel good mentally and it is good for my body.

Throughout the day, though, I look for other ways to boost my strength training. Maybe it’s a few reps with the hand weights or a set of squats. Because I belong to a gym for the pool access, there are days I just suck it up and work out with the weight machines for strength training. But I do it in broken up doses so I don’t end up stuck doing something I hate for what feels like FOREVER.

You can do the same. Break your exercise into 10-minute chunks. Even if you are doing something you hate, you are more likely to stick with a regimen if you don’t have to block it all out and devote a whole half hour at a time to it.

Do something else at the same time.

Distract your mind by engaging in another activity at the same time you exercise. After I broke my wrist, I couldn’t engage in many of my preferred activities. Instead, I had to walk on the treadmill for most of my cardio. I hate that.

To take my mind off that fact, I listened to podcasts or brought my Kindle so I could read. Having my mind engaged allowed me to exercise without really registering how much I hated it. Some days I even answered email while on the treadmill.

I have friends who use a stationary bike while watching TV. They are distracted by the TV, but still get the exercise in. Use this technique to trick yourself into moving forward with exercise — even if you don’t normally like exercise.

Find a buddy.

Working out with a friend can feel like fun, instead of a chore. I don’t usually workout with someone, but there was a time when I had a walking buddy. He and I had similar fitness goals and we met twice a week to walk the track at the university.

Your workout buddy can also help you turn exercise into a game. Look for ways to reward yourselves for improved performance. You can even compete with each other, as long as you keep it friendly.

Don’t let your hatred of exercise keep you from developing a healthy habit. Trick yourself into exercise and you might be surprised at how much you can accomplish — and how much better you feel.

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If you follow just some of these suggestions from long-time and newbie adults, you’ll be better than most. Which is your favorite?

I asked some of my friends and colleagues for the most important things they’ve learned about being an adult. I certainly don’t have all the answers.

Many of them were excited to share their favorite ideas. Some of these suggestions come from newly-minted grown-ups, or some who are just starting to have the opportunity to find out what life is all about. Others have years of experience.

Pick out a few tips that speak to you. You’ll find something great. This could be the most influential article you read this year.

Stop trying to impress others or shove your opinions down other people’s throats. Instead, work at creating value. Jackie L. from Cheapsters.

Don’t take anything or anyone for granted. Tell and show the people you love how you feel about them because they could be taken from you at any moment. Forgive and let it go. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, not drag you down. Treat everyone with respect. Elaine M.

Make your satisfaction and happiness your first priority. Learn to say no. Christian V.

Take the long view when making big decisions. These kinds of decisions can be painful at times, but that is, sadly, part of being an adult. Holly J. from Club Thrifty.

Know yourself: your strengths and weaknesses, your morals and values, what you hope to achieve and what you want out of life. Deanna H.

Avoid avoidance. Not looking at your bank account doesn’t make the balance bigger. Not paying off your credit card doesn’t make the interest stop accruing. Not discussing difficult things with your significant other doesn’t make the issues disappear. Learn to face things head on, no matter how unpleasant. Rebecca C.

Found your new mantra yet? There’s more!

Start Adulting With These Awesome Instructions: Don't Stop Dreaming

Don’t stop dreaming. Many people around you will tell you to “grow up.” Adulting doesn’t mean one should abandon those big audacious adolescent goals. As an adult you now have more control in making your dream happen. Jason V. from Phroogal.

Do good, don’t suck. Brittany H.

Read The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. These books take the stories of Winnie the Pooh and show Pooh to be a master zen philosopher. When you begin to study this philosophy you are taking steps to becoming a more centered, focused adult. Scott B.

See things as others see them. Realize that not everybody who you feel has wronged you did so maliciously, and see that people are generally doing the best they can, just like you. Liz B.

Focus on what you can contribute (to a job, to your relationship, to your community, etc.). Give more than you take. Lindsay J.

Accept personal responsibility. When you recognize how much of a role your own decisions and reactions play in your life, it’s hugely empowering, but not easy. Accept your flaws. But recognizing both the good and the bad within yourself and understanding how much of a part you play in influencing how those strengths and weaknesses manifest in your life is the first step in creating a world which revolves around the former. Stefanie O.

Never forget how to play and blow off steam. Aaron S.

Love the adultier adults who helped you get older. With adulthood comes loss, but also the need for guidance, encouragement, and love remains. Love the ones who got you here and never be afraid to ask them for help. Magdalen S.

Be comfortable with winging it. There isn’t necessarily a single correct way to do something. Figure out what works best for you, and give other people a break. Barb D.

Show up on time. Save just a little bit of money each month. Doing these two simple things can cover a lot of sins in other areas. Julie R. from Working to Live Differently.

From money to family to your job to your overall life philosophy, these tips really make a difference.

Start Adulting With These Awesome Instructions: Be Honest With Yourself

Be honest with yourself. Self-deception can be hard to notice and it takes work to root it out. Honesty’s twin need is gentleness. It is easier to be more real with yourself when you are gentle. Alan S. from Real Money.

Pay attention. Being an ostrich isn’t going to help you now or in the future. If you’ve made mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge them, learn from them, and don’t repeat them. Also, read as much as you can. Jana L. from Jana Says.

Realize things are not black and white. True understanding often involves much more complexity than a 21 year old is ready to contemplate. Dig deep and have empathy and realize that sometimes we contradict even ourselves in the same breath. Gina B.

Wean yourself off of the comforts of childhood before jumping right into adult mode. Paul Z.

Remember that the grass is greener where you water it, and comparing yourself to others isn’t an effective measurement as an adult. Melissa Van F.

Learn something from everyone, no matter how much education they have, how old they are, or where they come from. Clayton F.

The world owes you nothing. Just because people fawned over you in high school or college doesn’t mean it’s going to continue in the real world. It takes a lot of hard work to make your mark on the world. Jessica G. from Every Single Dollar.

Change from self-centeredness and growth to selflessness and helping others grow. Make the world around you better through the positive energy you contribute through empathy and caring. Virginia M.

Communicate honestly with your loved ones. Tell the truth about who you are, and what you’re feeling, and listen to them do the same without judgement or fear. Make the world a better place by making your home a better place with clear, honest, loving communication. Casey F.

Just sign up for the 401(k), all right? Worry about getting your money out later. Do your job the best you can, learn about what’s happening around you, and make someone else’s job a little easier. Doug N. from The Military Guide.

Find an idea that makes a difference to you, and write it down. Put the message on your fridge or door or mirror so you see it each day.

Start Adulting With These Awesome Instructions: Save At Least 10% of Your Income

Save at least 10% of your income for retirement, starting now, and don’t spend it before then. Also, don’t make excuses. Make changes instead. Empower yourself by accepting responsibility for your current and future situation. Jackie B. from The Debt Myth.

Do what you love, not what is expected of you. Melissa T.

Be patient. It could take 20 years or more to get the life you want. Also, Rediscover the art of discovery. Don’t lose sight of that childlike sense of exploration. Take spontaneous trips, get excited about your birthday, and commit continuously learn. Whitney H.

Get on a budget and stick to it. Also, do the hard thing. Don’t follow the path of least resistance. Jacob W. from iHeartBudgets.

Prepare for the future financially as much as you are living today. Figure out your long-term dreams and create a plan. You will have to do things that are less than desirable to reach the huge milestones. Don’t let those undesirable and painful periods last any longer than they need to be. Elizabeth C. from The Reluctant Landlord.

Learn to be still. You’ll be surprised how good the quiet feels after constant clamor in the outside world. Also, track your expenses and then interrogate them. Was that pizza and beer (plus taxes and tip) with friends really worth two hours’ work at your entry-level position? Donna F. from Surviving and Thriving.

Say no to things that aren’t good for you. Budget, eat healthy, go to bed at a decent time. Take criticism. Work at a job you don’t like because it pays your bills. Take care of yourself, all by yourself. Mindy J. from Bigger Pockets.

Save money, because nobody else will do it for you. Be responsible for yourself. Show up on time, listen, follow directions. Sounds simple, but not doing them will get you fired, will cause you to waste money, will get you in trouble with the government/organization, etc. Robert F. from The College Investor.

Travel far and wide. Nothing makes you appreciate what you have more than interacting with people who don’t. Travel also allows you to find things that you’re passionate about, and really think about ways to make your hustles works. Fahima A.

Take personal responsibility and realize the world isn’t out to get you. You have a part in everything that happens. Also, get life insurance. Glen C. from Free From Broke.

Go forth and adult. You might just conquer the world. Or you might find inner happiness.

Which was your favorite tip? Want to add your own? Comment below.

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Put your passions and interests down on paper. It will help you determine your life’s direction and how to spend your time.

Over the last year, I’ve been overwhelmed with possibilities for my life. New opportunities have been arising, and I’m interested in pursuing any number of these, and doing so might change the direction of my life.

The trouble started when I was much younger. Continue reading “Your Life Map Will Clear Your Path”

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