Back in the days when men were men and alchemists were engaged in thought leadership, medieval knights made New Year’s resolutions in the form of a “Peacock Vow,” publicly pledging to a roasted bird still bedecked with its full plumage they’d subsequently eat to be chivalrous and valiant in the coming year. This tradition — according to Charles Dickens — was enacted during a revelrous party. The bird was “brought in with great pomp by a bevy of ladies.” People drank. Knights got loose. Fun was had.
Long story short: New Year’s resolutions used to be a bit more fun to make than they are now. Still, they remain important, presenting people with the opportunity to publicly or privately set goals for the coming year and attempt to hold themselves to account. And the process can still be fun for those who take it in the right spirit. Try to change everything and resolutions become an exercise in frustration. Try to be a little bit better and they become an exercise in empowerment.
Here are 19 New Year’s resolutions for men looking to do just a little bit better in the coming year.
- I Will Be Present for My Male Friends….
Why: It’s easy to ask how your buddy is doing without actually listening to the answer and having a follow-up. It is also a pretty bullshit way of demonstrating friendship. When a friend shows signs of wanting to open up, it’s not enough to just wait for it or to let that be their prerogative. Guide them there.
How To Do It: Ask more questions and more specific questions.
- I Will Engage in Self-Care…
Why: Whether or not you like the term “self-care,” which is a bit GOOP-y for our sensibilities, it remains important to not only present yourself well to the world but also to present yourself well to yourself. Taking a bit more time on grooming and dressing and peeing in the bowl can make a real difference. Take your needs seriously and other people — notably people you may be married to — will take your needs more seriously as well.
How To Do It: Think critically about your morning bathroom routine. Do you like your soap? Do you like your razor? Upgrades don’t have to be expensive to be helpful.
- I Will Not Relax While My Wife (or Partner) Works…
Why: Even if you work hard too, nobody likes seeing you veg out when there are dishes to be done. Being a good partner is about sharing responsibility, even when you’ve had your fill of responsibility for the day.
How To Do It: Ask your wife if she needs anything. Or, better yet, don’t ask. Just pay attention and start doing stuff.
- I Will Respectfully Call Out My Friends For “Locker Room Talk”…
Why: Because sometimes you have to decide not to be friends with the guy who says “Look, we’re all friends here, right?” Particularly if what follows is the joky, wink, and nudge filled politically incorrect joke that they wouldn’t dare utter in front of mixed company.
How To Do It: All you have to say is: “Please don’t talk like that.” And then explain why. If your friends call you a cuck or a soy-boy or whatever, explain that racism, sexism, and degradation are all very real and very bad. Then get better friends.
- I Will Ask For My Female Coworker’s Opinions…
Why: This is easy, actionable advice on how to be a better friend and a better ally. Actively involving the women you work with in your conversations will offer them a seat at the table and will help you both be better at your jobs through the power of teamwork.
How To Do It: Before you make a big decision in the workplace, be it for a project or a piece, turn to your female coworker and say, “How would you do this?” or “What do you think?” This isn’t just a moral thing. It’s a way to stop yourself from doing dumb crap.
- I Will Take Action on Behalf of the Environment…
Why: No matter what your financial and personal future hold in store, you can rest assured that your kids or your sister’s kids or the kids next door will inherit the Earth from you. You owe it to them, as someone who has used the Earth — and if you’ve done anything but sit perfectly still you have used it — to leave it better than you found it. Given political trends, that’s gonna be tough if not impossible. That doesn’t give you an excuse not to try.
How To Do It: Look, contributions to large environmental organizations like Sierra Club can make a massive difference. Do that. But also try to cut back on consumption (or just be a smarter, greener consumer) and, while you’re at it, go outside. Outside is an awesome place and a hundred bucks says that, if you live in America, there’s an under-visited national park not far from your house.
- I Will Make Some “Me Time”…
Why: There’s nothing about “me time” that has to do with being a better man. But it does have quite a bit to do with being a decent person. Commit to giving yourself a “you day” once a month. If you can’t leverage that, even an hour-long stint by yourself can help.
How To Do It: Go see a movie alone. Go for a long walk without your kids or your phone. Go to COSTCO and try all the samples and don’t buy anything. Whatever floats your boat. Giving yourself some time to unwind alone will help you be more relaxed and present in every other aspect of your life.
- I Will Make Sure My Partner Also Gets Some “Me Time”…
Why: It’s only fair.
How To Do It: Take your kids out for the day and let your partner just relax. Or buy them a spa certificate so they can relax professionally. Or drive around in circles around COSTCO while they try all the samples, but don’t buy anything.
- I Will Be Proactively Empathetic…
Why: If the end of 2017 has taught the world anything, it’s that it is no longer an excuse for men to find the behavior of bad men as “shocking.” Sexual predators and workplace harassers thrive when their coworkers don’t pay attention to what’s going on. Also, this is just how to be a good neighbor.
How To Do It: Move the conversation in that direction. Don’t respond with shock or disappointment. Stop hiding behind your personal innocence.
- I Will Let The People Around Me Finish Their Sentences…
Why: There are a lot of reasons you interrupt people and many of them are good reasons. But just wait. Whether you’re losing your cool in an argument, having an important meeting with your boss, or just talking about the year and a half wait for the final season of Game of Thrones, shutting up makes you look like a good listener, it will inoculate you against most egregious forms of mansplaining, and it will help the other people you talk to feel valued, even if their opinions about Game of Thrones are lacking.
How To Do It: Keep your damn trap shut.
- I Will Always Be A Good Guest…
Why: If you spend a lot of time at someone else’s house — just say, your wife’s parents or your new girlfriend’s — it’s always a good look to be a thoughtful guest. This advice doubles for any party, dinner, or gathering you’re at. Everyone remembers the guy who helped pick up at the end.
How To Do It: Doing the dishes and taking out the trash before your host asks or tries to do so themselves is not only kind, but it will impress the people around you.
- I Will Consider My Media Diet…
Why: Look, 2018 was a rough year. There was plenty of stuff for folks on both sides of the aisle to get riled up about and the news cycle went into overdrive. Realistically, 2019 will be more of the same (if not a more extreme version of the same). Taking a beat to consider whether your media consumption is leading to behavior change or creating personal or environment stress is worthwhile. Want to get engaged in politics? Great. Do it. Just don’t walk around griping all the time.
How To Do It: Monitor yourself a bit. Pay attention to your tone and behavior. React to what you observe.
- I Will Achieve One Realistic Fitness Goal…
Why: Aiming too high sets you up for failure, and thus, giving up. No one expects you to run that marathon by the end of the year or lose 20 pounds.
How To Do It: Committing to one or two hours of exercise a week — be it in the form of a long walk, a yoga class, or weight lifting — will inevitably make you healthier. It’s also proven to help your ability to deal with environmental stressors and anxiety. And if you keep it about the commitment, and not about what your body looks like, your sense of self will boost.
- I Will Master One New Dish…
Why: Because everyone likes the dad special of Belgian waffles, but wouldn’t it be nice if you made a kick-ass bolognese or a beautiful apple pie, too? Learning how to cook new things will also break down that awfully annoying stereotype — you know, the “Dad can grill but that’s about it,” stereotype.
How To Do It: Sign up for a one-hour cooking class, or buy a good cookbook. The New York Times Cooking website has a veritable trove of recipes that are both adventurous and marked by difficulty.
- I Will Spend Less Time on My Phone…
Why: Your relationships will benefit. Your children will benefit.
How To Do It: Institute no phone-zones, like the dinner table, or no-phone “times.” A no-phone time could be the nightly walk you take after dinner with your family or morning breakfast before everyone runs their separate ways.
- I Will Laugh At Myself…
Why: Your kids learn by example. The minute you start taking yourself less seriously in front of your kids, the less seriously they’ll take themselves. Everyone should laugh at themselves sometimes. It’s a valuable lesson your kids need to learn.
How To Do It: Tell them stories about the time you messed up — and laugh about it. Wear your daughter’s tutu. Dance poorly. Bomb a few jokes. Teaching them how to laugh at their failures will help them be less scared to fail.
- I Will Try Something That Scares the Shit Out of Me…
Why: Because proving to yourself that you can still do things that terrify you is a good way to remind yourself that you’re still alive.
How To Do It: Do you hate clowns? How about a trip to the circus? Do heights make your gut feel wobbly? Let’s go cliff-diving!
- I Will Believe Women…
Why: It’s a difficult concept, and it’s mostly difficult because it is true: as a man, there are some things you just don’t see in the world. You don’t notice when men are being creepy because men are rarely creepy to you. You don’t notice that your boss is short with your female coworker because your boss is not short with you. By extending your imagination — and believing women when they tell you they’re being treated unfairly, or inappropriately — you’re being a better person.
How To Do It: When a coworker, or your partner, or a friend who happens to be a woman comes up to you and tells you about a negative or uncomfortable experience, don’t respond with, “Really? They never acted like that to me.” Just say: “That sucks. I’m sorry.”
- I Will Go To The Doctor…
Why: Men die younger than women. Why? Workplace accidents and prostate cancer, but also this: Many if not most men don’t adequately look after their health. Making regular appointments with a primary care physicians and appointments with specialists as necessary is critical. After all, it’s hard to be a reliable provider or caregiver from a hospital bed and impossible to be a good partner from the grave. The key to being there is being there and that requires investing time and effort in your long-term health.
How To Do It: Sit down and send some emails right now. If you don’t have a primary care physician, get one (ZocDoc is helpful if you need to shop based on insurance plans). This is the rare resolution that you can fulfill on January 1 if you’re proactive about it. So… be proactive about it.