There is a natural synergy with the holiday season and the spirit of serving others, but January tends to be a month when we take on self improvement, self development and other individualistic pursuits. This year, I’d like to challenge you to consider adopting a service way of life instead of restricting service and philanthropy to November and December. Below are five ideas meant to get you thinking about ways to weave the spirit of service into a glorious start to your new year.
Consider trying one or two, but please don’t try them all. This will be a great year and I want you still with me come February.
- Take the time to notice the people around you. Many people are especially lonely following the holidays. Start in January to take more time noticing and engaging with the people around you and not treating those moments as mere transactions. This is something I often fall victim of as I can get caught up in my own thoughts and schedule. The smile, word of encouragement, or simply valuing their presence may be the only positive interaction they receive that day. Often people with numerous loving personal relationships tend to assume that everyone else has them with equal abundance – they don’t.
- Share your story. The New Year tends to bring on goals, aspirations and pressure to achieve perfect lives or perfect versions of ourselves. We have all been through some measure of difficult times and have failed to meet this ideal. I was an overweight adolescent, struggled with the early years of surrendering my life (and sleep) to motherhood, and still battle shame from a failed first marriage. It is important to share our failures with others just as it is important to show success to the world. People need to know they are not alone and more importantly that perfect lives do not exist. Don’t hold your story back if an appropriate moment to share it as a service to someone arrives.
- Try to burst out of your bubble. I consider myself a “glass half full” kind of person which in the past prompted me to turn away from topics that brought with it inherit negative emotions. I filtered my news consumption to just enough to be aware of what was going on in the world, but not enough to draw me in emotionally. I was concerned that if I knew too much I’d be emotionally engaged, but unable to help in ways that mattered or on the many things that might need my attention. In some part, this is exactly what happened when I started opening myself up to more information. I do give more financially now than ever before. Still, I know there are limits to how much I can do and for how many different things. But caring is also an act of service. This January, make a commitment to learn more about the world and how your actions (or lack of action) impacts that. I can’t and don’t serve all the things that move me, but I can align things like my consumer spending and political affiliations with my beliefs. If you are like me and hiding in a safe and uninformed bubble, spend this month making small or large steps to let the world in.
- Get active. Do you really want to go to the gym in January? We all know it’s going to be like a crowded zoo that will be cleared out significantly by February. I know there are many gym promotions in January so feel free to join now, but don’t start going until February. Spend January getting active in your community. We all have different passions so I won’t tell you how or where to serve, but use the spirit of the new year to push you forward and get you active. Let one of your new goals be to serve your community in a tangible way. Set a specific amount of time to volunteer and commit to it. I can promise it will be a lot easier to achieve this goal than your average New Year’s resolution.
- Out with the old and in with the new. This January you probably have many new gifts and toys around the house which has left some great quality items that have been replaced for newer models. Consider drawing a line in the sand and declaring your home a place where you have ENOUGH things and don’t need any MORE. That doesn’t mean that you never get new things, it just means you commit to donating things with every new purchase or gift. Do you have enough in your home? If so, spend January gathering things for donations and choosing the organizations you want to give them to.
What are some other ways you plan to focus on service in January? Tell us below. You know you want to. Happy January and serve on!