I'm big on self-improvement, but I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. I'm firmly in the "any day can be the start of a new year" camp. But I do like that the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another forces everyone to slow down a little bit and think about what they want from life, in terms of the big picture. It's a time to consider what's working, what's not, who's providing energy, who's sucking it away, the hobbies we get lost in, the tasks we loathe—and what it all means.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Matt was sharing his resolutions with me, and when he finished, I decided to ask him to make me one. After all, this is a close friend who's heard me prattle on about everything over the last year: work, dating, friendships, family, victories, rejections, travel plans—even the nail colors I'd regretted.
He thought for a while, and then came up with some advice that was so on point—and so obvious—relating to issues in my life that I'd simply not been able to recognize. I'd been too close to the situation in question to identify its problematic aspects, though they'd certainly been clear to Matt.
Ever since our conversation, I've found myself repeating his advice in my head every time I come face-to-face with the scenario, and I'm working through the issue with a much sounder mind because of it. It's like I have a supportive little angel, in the likeness of Matt, perched on my shoulder.
I've since been inspired to repeat the practice of asking friends for resolutions, and I've continually found their perspectives to be eye-opening (in a good way!). They've served as the spark for some great conversations. If you want to try this with your friends—and I suggest that you do—just follow these three guidelines.
Tip No. 1: Consider Your Sources
Not everyone we love is great at giving advice. Think beyond the people you spend the most time with, and consider who in your circle is especially perceptive. Also think about asking the people you know who have had big growth spurts themselves recently, maybe a career breakthrough or health triumph: they'll likely be excited to share what worked for them, and how they can see you using similar techniques.
Tip No. 2: Ask for Actionable Items
Be clear when you ask for your resolutions that you're looking for goals or behaviors you can actively work on, not someone's best wishes for you. A friend told me she wanted me to meet someone great in 2017, and although I do, too, that's not something that rests on me and my behaviors—for the most part. If the answers you get back are abstract ("get a hobby"), ask follow-up questions: why did you think of this for me, how do you think this will serve me?
Tip No. 3: Trade!
When you approach your friend, family member, or significant other with the idea, offer to exchange resolutions with them. They come up with something for you to strive towards in 2017, and you do the same for them. You might be surprised by the channels of dialogue this opens up, and, at the very least, you'll be starting 2017 with an even deeper connection to a loved one.