The New Year is coming. We all know what that means. Other than stuffing ourselves on turducken, tofurkey or whatever your holiday choice, there’s the perfunctory New Year’s resolution. It’s the time of year to turn over a new leaf, to become a better person, to make amends. Between 40% and 50% of American adults will make one or more New Year’s resolutions, but depending on the statistics you believe, only 5% to 35% will stick with their resolutions. However, with the internet making all things possible, there are websites for every kind of resolution. Here’s how the web can help you keep those resolutions that may have eluded you all these years.
Livestrong.com, a practical resource developed by the Livestrong Foundation, depends on the power of the community to help its members achieve their respective goals to be healthier. Membership is free and connects you to a world of people interested in making it past the first 30 days of their New Year’s resolution. Besides sound advice and information, there is an assortment of resources in the Tools section: everything from a calorie tracker and recipes to diet and fitness trackers. Livestrong also has large, supportive communities of folks committed to dares for weight loss, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol, as examples.
In today’s busy, multitasking world, it’s not so easy to enroll in those professional courses you’ve always wanted to take. Fortunately there are websites of organizations like RSA and TED. Both organizations stream engaging talks, many in 20 minutes or less, by experts, entrepreneurs and idealists. That’s less than the time it takes to get to work! Give yourself the opportunity to hear and question new ideas once a day, and you’ll be the hit of the next dinner party.
Manage debt/save money
Managing money is never easy. Admit it: sometimes the thought of peeking into your bank account makes your stomach turn a bit. They always say, “Knowledge is power” and that goes for the bank account. If you know how you’re spending it, you’ll be better able to save and manage it. Webby award winner moneyStrands is one option and Mint is another. Both offer up free, easy and secure ways to learn more about money management, analyze what you have and make sure you’re making wiser decisions than you did last year. Both websites also have introductory videos to help you decide what would be best for you.
Take a trip or learn a language
After you get a grip on your savings and checking accounts, you may find yourself lucky enough to be able to afford a real vacation. Webby award winner I Wanna Go There can help you plan that trip you’ve always wanted to take by getting the opinions of many others who have visited a certain city or country. If you’re worried about not knowing the basics of the language in said country, Livemocha is a fun and easy way to learn a new language, for free, in the comfort of your own home and by interacting (hearing and talking!) with native speakers. How’s that for the beauty of the internet?
Volunteer and help others
In my day job as a school director, one thing that we ask our students to do when they visit new places is to do some kind of community service there. That gives them a better sense of the place they’re visiting and is also a way to give back to the community that has given to them. Idealist.org helps you find new ways to give back, whether in your own hometown or in a foreign country that you’re visiting for a couple weeks. If you find yourself unable to leave home, Change.org gives you the chance to make a change by learning more about social causes. There are even petitions that you can sign so that you’re pitching in while sitting on your couch.
Read more books
Some staggering statistics showed that, in 2007, 1 in 4 adults read no books during the previous year. However, with the advent of the Kindle and e-book readers, reading seems to be picking back up as America’s favorite pastime again – or at least it’s in the top 10 list. Someone smart figured out that reading could also be married to social media and thus gave birth to Goodreads. Goodreads allows you to share your past and current reads, opinions and commentary with friends and strangers. Yes, it’s another social media tool but at least it gives rise to a brain-strengthening activity. If you don’t know what to read, check out NPR’s Three Books series or The Browser’s Five Books section. Both give recommendations by experts or famous people on a variety of topics.
Spend more time with family
We all should spend more time with our friends and families. After all, more and more studies are surfacing that testify to the power of human contact. So why not take a break from social media and just do it!
Recently entrepreneur Derek Sivers gave a 3 minute TED talk on the idea of a “social reality” theory – that when we tell others about our goals, we’re less likely to accomplish them. Why? Sivers claims that by announcing that objective, your mind tricks itself into feeling it’s already done and thus you’re less motivated to actually do said thing. However, to combat this, plenty of folks these days are tweeting their goals and milestones. For example, Peter Wilkinson tweeted as he ran the London Marathon as a way to gain attention for Amnesty International, the charity for which he was running. His goal was 4 hours, and he finished in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Perhaps in publicly announcing our goals and where we are, the simultaneous public accountability and support provide the extra boost of confidence we need.
About the author: Tran Nguyen Templeton is the program advisor of Colegio Monarch Guatemala, a therapeutic school for children with neurobehavioral disabilities. Tran holds a Masters Degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.