Let me guess what your New Year's resolution will be this year. To lose weight? To quit smoking? To save more money? Yeah, I thought so.
Every year, we make the same promises to ourselves — and every year, a lot of us break them. Maybe it’s because we have a tendency to make resolutions that focus on a small part of ourselves, or try to manipulate behaviors that are easily measured, evaluated, and counted. I get it — I understand why it's tempting to try to set goals that, after a period of time, we can say we’ve accomplished (why yes, I did go to the gym every week in January). But, more often than not, we trip up (well, since I already pigged out on chicken wings at the Superbowl party, it looks like I won’t be a vegetarian this year after all.).
I'm here with an idea! This coming year, let's go big, and come up with a resolution that goes beyond BMI — something that will not only last the year, or through the month of January if we are being completely honest, but one that might actually change our lives, or do something for the greater good.
And where do we look for that inspiration? Books, of course. (Books always have the answers. I love it.) To start 2015 with a New Year's resolution that matters, and more importantly, that sticks, here are some titles to inspire a meaningful mission:
If you read I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai...
You'll resolve to stand up for women's education and women's rights
The story of Malala Yousafzai has inspired an entire generation of young women to stand up for themselves and their rights. The Nobel Prize-winner’s story of courage, bravery, and passion will give you the motivation you need to go spend a Saturday afternoon on Skype teaching long-distance students English with the Alliance for International Women's Rights, or put aside the $7 you would normally spend on an overpriced latte to help sponsor a student with She's the First.
If you read #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso...
You'll resolve to become your own boss
Sophia Amoruso, the genius who probably helped you find the perfect New Year’s Eve dress, shares her not-so-Cinderella story of going from an ID checker to a CEO and creative director of Nasty Gal, the company she started from scratch by selling clothes on eBay. Whether you love crafting, writing, Web design, or anything in between, you can find a way out of your cubicle and into your element. With online sites like Etsy, Ebay, Freelancer, and even Craigslist, you can find a place to sell your brand. Seeing as you spend about a third of your life working, you should find something you truly love. So what if no one is hiring? Be your own #girlboss.
If you read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien...
You'll resolve to face one of your fears
Channel your inner Bilbo Baggins and get out of your Hobbit hole. It might have taken a wizard, 13 dwarves, and the promise of treasure to get Bilbo out of the comfort of his safe home, but being forced to face his fears brought him a lifetime of adventure and happiness. Find one thing you are afraid of — living alone, leaving the country, committing to a serious relationship — and do whatever scares you. It might seem like a one-time thing, but acting against your anxieties can change your behavior for the entire year. Hell, your entire life!
If you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed...
You'll resolve to forgive yourself
Cheryl Strayed lost everything, including her mother and her marriage, when she set out on an 1,100 mile trek alone with her regrets and doubts. Her journey of self-discovery will encourage you to stop beating yourself up over chances you didn’t take or choices you wish you didn’t make. Take the lessons with you, but leave the regret and blame behind with 2014.
If you read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami...
You'll resolve to reconnect with old friends
Tsukuru Tazaki finally meets someone to spend his previously solitary life with, but his relationship failures from early adulthood holds him back from being with the woman he might very well love. His painful, and sometimes awkward, but ultimately enlightening reunions with old friends will inspire you reach out to that friend whose Instagram photos you always like, but whom you never seem to talk to anymore. Whether you send a text, make a phone call, or write up a quick email, make plans with someone you miss. It’s easy to blame it on your busy lifestyle or event the other person, but remember, the phone works both ways.
If you read Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck...
You'll resolve to cross more things off of your bucket list
John Steinbeck has taught us about loneliness, prejudice, and identity, among other things, but his travelogue shows us the entire country from Long Island to California and back again. Reading about the places he sees and the people he meets will give you enough FOMO to prompt you to cross something off of your bucket list. Take that weekend trip with your friends you keep bookmarked on your computer, or if travel isn’t your thing, sign up for that open mic night you walk by every week. And when you get to the bottom of your list, make another.
If you read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut...
You'll resolve to volunteer in your community
Eliot Rosewater may be an eccentric — and quite possibly insane — millionaire, but at least his heart is in a good place. You might not be able to give money to everyone in your town like Mr. Rosewater, but you can volunteer through city programs like NYC Cares, or check your local park for community clean up days.
If you read How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran...
You'll resolve to reinvent yourself
In this not-so-typical coming-of-age story, 14-year-old Johanna decides to completely change her image and her identit, by adopting the alternate personality of Dolly Wilde. This hilarious, smart book will be your go-to guide for reinvention. Save what matters to you — your passions, your family, your friends — and shed those parts about you that you’d rather live without. Find your perfect Johanna-Dolly combination, and own it.
If you read Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem...
You'll resolve to discover your inner feminist
The “F” word can be intimidating, but Gloria Steinem’s collection of essays is not only easy to read and accessible, but also hilarious and thought-provoking. Stories like “If Men Could Menstruate” and “I Was a Playboy Bunny” will get you thinking about feminism in a whole new way. Take small steps by quitting calling other women derogatory names or subscribing to Ms., or take bigger steps and find a local organization to get involved with. Be part of the conversation, and take Gloria Steinem’s advice by finding a little bit of rebellion every day.
If you read Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay...
You'll resolve to accept and appreciate your flaws
Another collection of essays from a seriously badass woman, Bad Feminist explores Roxane Gay’s evolution into womanhood. Her anxieties about who she is and who she is supposed to be will give you the confidence you need to accept — and even like — your flaws. Embrace your blemishes and revel in your personality quirks. It might change everything.
If you read Letters to a Young Poet by R. M. Rilke...
You'll resolve to stop putting off that writing project
Franz Xaver Kappus spent six year corresponding with Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, worrying over his decision to become a poet or an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. The letters advise the young poet that the only person to know the answer to that question is himself, but they offer a guide to understanding what Rilke believes a poet is and can be. Reading them will make you feel like you are the one being addressed, and will inspire you to put the pen to the page — or the fingers to the keys — and finally start that novel you’ve been wanting to write. Buy a little notebook and write for at least 20 minutes every day, because there are no more excuses. And hey, what do you have to lose?
If you read Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving by William H. Masters, Virginia E. Johnson, and Robert C. Kolodny...
You'll resolve to have a more fulfilling sex life
Insightful, authoritative, and easy to read, this survey of sexual research from the real-life Masters and Johnson not only provides facts and figures, but practical advice on making your sex life better. Tackle your sexual anxieties by educating yourself about your intimate relationships. Get to know your own body, and your own needs, and make sure to tell your partner. You deserve to get back as much as you give.
If you read The Art of War by Sun Tzu...
You'll resolve to get that promotion you've had your eye on
Although it was intended to be a guide for military strategy and tactics, The Art of War can be your guide to moving up a few rungs at your current place of employment. Tips about outsmarting your opponents can be applied to office politics, and the straightforward advice is hard to misinterpret. Take a chapter out of Sun Tzu’s book and look for the opportunities left open by your opponent...er, boss’ weakness and make yourself an invaluable member of the team.
If you read The Circle by Dave Eggers...
You'll resolve to spend more time unplugged
This is a great example of learning from other’s mistakes. Dave Eggers' The Circle will make you think twice about the amount of time you spend on your phone, tablet, computer, Google Glass… the list goes on. Mae Holland loses everything — her family, her friends, her privacy, even herself — when she can’t learn to press the Off button. Don’t get caught up in the bright lights of your gadgets, and shut off your phone at dinner time or on a date night. Leave your cell at home when you go out for an afternoon at the park. You’ll be surprised by how liberating it can seem.
If you read Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen...
You'll resolve to start being green, for real
Losing someone to an environmental disaster that was caused by mankind would be motivation enough to get anyone interested in becoming environmentally conscious. Hopefully reading about it will encourage you too. There are plenty of ways to change your behavior, and more importantly, your impact on the environment. Buy a reusable water bottle, find a local composting center, or join your community farm share. Most importantly, stop making excuses and start recycling.
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