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Making Your Life Simpler:
Ten Tips for Making and Keeping Minimalist Resolutions
by Wendy Priesnitz

New Years Resolutions

The Christmas decorations are coming down, the leftovers eaten or in the freezer to make soup in a few weeks, and the routine and the rewards of a new year lie ahead. For many people, the hanging of a new calendar is a time for reflection and planning...yes, a time for making resolutions. This year, in addition to the eating less, exercising more, being nicer to your friends sort of resolution, why not resolve to simpler, greener life? You know that you've been meaning to simplify and embrace your inner minimalist...and this is a great time of the year to begin moving in that direction!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is considered a time for resting rather than expending energy. So, for those of us in the northern hemisphere, that makes January and February a good time to lay plans and to start building momentum for change. But we all know that while making resolutions is uplifting and inspiring, keeping them can be hard work. American health care provider Kaiser Permanente’s New Year’s and Health Issues Survey has found that nearly sixty percent of people make New Year’s resolutions but just ten percent of us admit to keeping them. So here are some tips for keeping those resolutions and living the changes you want to make.

1. Focus on changes that are most important to you. Motivational speaker, author and time management specialist Stephen Covey, in his book First Things First, talks about the need to stay focused on the things that are truly important and not to give in to the time-consuming demands of things that might appear to be important but are really not crucial to your goals and mission. That’s good advice for making change in any aspect of your life, but especially if you are embracing a simpler lifestyle.

2. Be specific about the changes you wish to make. And in doing that, be specific and make your goals concrete. Merely resolving to live a simpler, more environmentally careful or healthy lifestyle is not enough. Instead, specify a few detailed steps that you can take along that path, such as deciding to set up and use a compost or vermiculture bin, or to switch to fairly traded coffee and not buy imported strawberries out of season, or to leave your car at home three days a week in favor of public transit or your bicycle, or to give away one old thing for each new thing you bring into your home.

3. Keep it simple. Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” But for many of us, the changes we wish to see are overwhelmingly large and complex. So be realistic when making an eco resolution and remember that change happens through a million small steps.

4. Go easy on your expectations of yourself and others. Don’t expect more of yourself and your family than what you will be able to achieve. For instance, if you are on a tight budget, you might find it a stretch to buy only organic food or to sign up with a renewable energy supplier. But conserving water and electricity can cost nothing and, in fact, can lower your household expenses.

5. Get buy-in from your family. Speaking of expectations and your family, be sure the people you live with are onboard with any resolution that affects their lifestyle. In fact, involving them in discussing and deciding upon your eco resolution will be a great educational experience and ensure their buy-in.

6. Don't go it alone. Some people are shy about sharing their New Years resolutions in case they will look bad when they don't keep them! But telling others can also bolster your determination to keep those resolutions. Actually involving your family, friends, coworkers or neighbors is also a good way to ensure success in keeping your resolution. Banding with others who share similar resolutions will help you keep yours on track. And the more people who decide to lessen their ecological footprint, the faster we can lessen our collective negative impact on the ecosystem.

7. Write it down. Once you’ve chosen what change or changes to make this year, write down the resolution and the plan for keeping it. Keeping an activity log or scrapbook will also help you to stay focused on your goal, and to retain the enthusiasm with which the resolution was made. Pin it to a bulletin board or place it on the refrigerator door so everyone else in the family remembers too.

8. Reward success. If, during the past year, you have already taken some definite steps to make you life more eco-friendly, now is the time to give yourself a pat on the back while you are thinking what could be improved. Planning to reward yourself for your successes is an important motivation for keeping on track with your resolution. But don’t lose momentum by berating yourself or your family if results take longer than you expect.

9. Take it slow. In fact, you should aim for gradual results. Copy Nature’s model of incremental and lasting change that accompanies evolution, rather than the disruption and catastrophe that results from sudden changes like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

10. Think positively and trust the process. Making permanent lifestyle changes of this sort requires you to have faith that the future will be better as a result of the change. Since developing faith is a spiritual act, don’t neglect the intangible, heart- and soul-centered aspects of life at the same time as you research tool libraries or turn the compost.

Happy New Year and all the best for a simpler life!

Wendy Priesnitz is Natural Life Magazine's co-founder and editor. She is the author of thirteen books and has been a journalist, broadcaster, public commentator, and change-maker for over 40 years.

 

 

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