12 Steps To Better Yourself Every Month This Year
Do you ever say to yourself, “I want this to be my best year ever”?
You think about all you've achieved — and failed to achieve — in months past, and you feel compelled to take things up a notch. To be a better version of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
You want to meet the next twelve months with a strategy in place. And you want to know in advance how to ensure you’ll stick with that strategy and meet each and every milestone you set for experiences, personal growth, and impact.
How can you live this year as though it will be your last and become more of what you were always meant to be?
We think it makes sense to focus on twelve different ways to make the most of the twelve months ahead. You can choose one of the strategies as the primary focus for each month, or you can borrow from more than one for each month — as long as you cover all the bases in the coming year.
Yes, this can be your best year yet! By the time you get through this article, not only will you know how to better yourself but also how to enjoy self-improvement more than you might expect to.
Why shouldn’t it be enjoyable, though? This is something you’ll be working at for the rest of your life. Might as well make the process as rewarding as possible.
12 Ways to Better Yourself
1. Make a reading/listening list for the year.
Make a list of books and/or audiobooks for the year. Then break that list down into monthly or quarterly lists. Choose at least one book to focus on each month and make it your goal to finish it by the last day.
Choose books (or audiobooks) with the following criteria in mind:
- Skill building
- Entertainment / recreation
From January 1st onward, commit yourself to at least fifteen minutes of reading or listening to a good book every day. Keep track of your progress in your morning pages and evening assessment or in a separate reading log.
Related: How To Simplify Your Life
It helps to schedule your reading time for a specific hour and show up for it — just as you would for work or for an appointment.
2. Make your living and work space more inspirational.
You already know that if you feel like a mess on the inside, your surroundings — especially the spaces in which you live and work — tend to reflect that.
Well, it works both ways (as you’ve probably also noticed). A cluttered room makes you feel more cluttered on the inside. Something as simple as a grimy, sticky countertop can sour your mood and make you feel unkempt and neglected on the inside.
The solution? Declutter. Cluttered spaces are harder to keep clean and orderly.
And after you’ve purged your space of things you don’t need, use, or love, add some meaningful and inspirational art and decorative accents to it.
You might even decide to repaint a room with a color that makes you feel more alive and refreshed on the inside.
But if that’s not an option (yet), kicking out the clutter can make a life-changing difference.
3. Learn to meditate.
Think of your brain as a freshly agitated snow globe with its particles swirling and fluttering about. Once you put that snow globe on a flat surface, though, and give it time and stillness, the particles settle, and peace is restored.
And then you shake it up again. But you get the point: meditation is the stillness that allows your mind’s errant and innumerable thoughts to settle. Daily meditation not only gives your brain a much-needed break; it can actually rewire your brain and decrease the activity associated with anxiety and other negative emotions.
It doesn’t mean you’ll never be angry or stressed or sad or anxious; negative emotions have their place. But no one benefits by being overrun by them.
Try using an app like Calm, Headspace, or Simple Habit to create a habit of daily meditation. You can make it part of both your morning and nighttime routines or start with one of them and see what a difference this habit can make.
It can start with a micro habit. Commit to at least 5 minutes of meditation each morning or before going to bed (or both times). Schedule it and honor that appointment with yourself.
Set reminders for yourself that you’ll see throughout the day — even it’s just to remind you to take three deep breaths and to enjoy something about your surroundings.
4. Practice mindful journaling.
Daily journaling is one of the most powerful habits you can create for yourself.
Julia Cameron recommends the practice of morning pages — “three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing” — and calls them the “bedrock tool of creative recovery.” If three journal pages sound like too much to start with, make it a morning page, and fill it with whatever helps you prepare for your day:
- Your top three intentions for the day
- Three (or more) things you’re grateful for
- Whatever is on your mind that morning
- A reminder of this month’s (or this quarter’s) chief goal
- Random thoughts
5. Create a weekly exercise routine you can live with.
This is another area in which micro-habits can be the perfect foundation for a sustainable, lifelong habit. You can start with a small, daily exercise habit, and once it becomes part of your routine, you can add to it.
But keep that micro habit as the anchor for those add-ons and as the minimum daily commitment — one which, ideally, motivates you and makes it easy to do more.
If you’re looking for ideas, try starting with any one of the following:
- Ten squats
- Ten pushups (and knees-down or countertop push-ups totally count!)
- Ten standing dumbbell lateral raises, anterior raises, or shoulder presses
- Ten dumbbell deadlifts or bodyweight “Good mornings.”
- Ten glute bridges (with or without a chair)
- Ten lunges (alternating legs or doing five static lunges per leg)
Think of it as your opening act — which you can’t help but nail. Anything else will just get you closer to your fitness goals more quickly.
Use reminders (apps, post-it notes, etc.) to help you honor your commitment. It’s also a good idea to find an accountability partner to help you stick with your opening act until it becomes a habit.
6. Get your daily dose of personal development content.
Make time to read an article or blog post on personal development every day. Share the ones that you enjoy and that give you something to think about.
As an alternative, you can listen to an episode of a podcast with a personal development focus. Or you could read a chapter of a book on how to work on yourself. Audiobook chapters also count. So do self-improvement videos like the ones you’ll find on Mindvalley.com, Marie TV, Gaia, etc.
With all these, if you have the option to share the content with others or even to leave encouraging feedback for the content creator, take the time to do that. You may never know the impact of your words, but put yourself in their shoes before you type your comment or leave your review.
7. Face your fears.
In some situations, fear can save your life. When we look back on it, we usually give the credit to our intuition or to “good instincts.”
Fear can also hold you back, though. In this case, we’re often talking about anxiety — some of which can be motivating, but too much of which can be paralyzing.
But what can you do to confront and overcome one of your fears, namely the first one that comes to mind? It could be any of the following (or something else):
- Public speaking
- Leaving home or being in crowded places
- Swimming or putting your head underwater
- Talking to people about what you do
- Reconciling with someone — asking and/or granting forgiveness
In the case of public speaking, you could join a Toastmasters group. With phobias, you might consider counseling or therapeutic hypnosis, but for most of us, it’s critical to find someone who will help us through the process of confronting and overcoming that phobia.
And yes, sometimes it helps to just “rip off the band-aid” and do something that scares you, knowing you’ll get through it and learn something from the experience.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” Challenge yourself, and if possible, find an accountability partner, so you can challenge and encourage each other.
8. Face your finances.
It’s harder to get far with your personal development when you’re stressing over money or deeply mired in debt. So, unless your personal (and business) finances are already in tip-top shape, this should be a priority for the year.
Aside from spending less than you earn, make it your goal this year to do one or more of the following:
- Tithe from each paycheck: Give 10% of your income to a trustworthy charity or initiative to share your blessings with others, out of gratitude for what you have.
- Create and maintain a spreadsheet of your current debt balances and monthly payments.
- Decide on one debt to focus on in order to pay it off by the end of the year — either to reduce overall interest or to eliminate a monthly payment.
- Make yourself keep track of every charge to a credit card, and ask yourself which expenses can be eliminated from here on out to make it easier for you to reduce your debt burden.
- Create and maintain a record of all your income each month, and — as far as possible — track where it goes.
Make this the year your credit score begins its recovery. It won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all unless you start working to make it happen.
9. Learn a new language — or a new skill — to improve your mind.
What skill could you learn that would make your life easier, enable you to help more people, or open the door to a new source of income?
Whether you want to learn Spanish to help your Spanish-speaking customers or take up carpentry to finally add those floor-to-ceiling bookcases to your family room, new skills not only help develop and rejuvenate your mind, they open up a new world to you, which can lead to opportunities you never would have imagined.
How to begin?
- Take an online course.
- Take a community ed class with your local school district.
- Take a college class — on campus or over the internet.
Commit to working on this skill every week, and record your progress in your morning pages, in your gratitude list, or in your mindfulness journal.
10. Spend time on a new (relaxing) hobby to practice self-care.
Part of self-care is taking the time to relax and give your mind and body a break from everything that feels like work. The hobby you choose should be restorative and enjoyable — though there might be some tension at first when you’re learning how to do it correctly.
If you already know how but are a bit rusty, it might take a few days to get back into it.
- Knitting — like Meryl Streep and Ryan Gosling — or crocheting
- Baking — like Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO)
- Painting — like George W. Bush — or coloring — like Duchess Kate Middleton
- Playing a musical instrument — like Warren Buffet (the ukelele)
- Playing Chess — like Richard Branson
- Bridge (or other card games) — like Bill Gates
- Running — like Michelle Obama — or sports, hiking, swimming, climbing, etc.
- Gardening (indoor, outdoor, or both) — like Nicole Kidman
There are so many to choose from. You can try something new or fall back on one you used to enjoy but stopped making time for.
You can learn a new hobby or refresh your memory of an old favorite by watching YouTube videos, reading books, or connecting with other hobbyists online.
11. Make music a part of your self-improvement plan.
Whether you work to music or prefer silence, music has a power that no one can afford to ignore. Several studies have proven the cognitive benefits of playing a musical instrument, but dancing is also a great way to make music a bigger part of your self-improvement plan.
Just listening to music that helps you get into a creative flow state can help you accomplish more work of better quality than before. Other music styles motivate you to get moving and can make exercise or other physically challenging tasks more enjoyable than they otherwise might be.
Relaxing, meditative music can help you prepare for a good night’s rest or for an event that would normally make you feel anxious.
Find a way to incorporate music into more of what you do – and allow yourself to notice how each music style affects you.
12. Reach out and repair damaged or neglected relationships.
If you haven’t had a chance to repair damaged relationships last year, it’s not too late to make it a priority — if not by January 1st then sometime during the year. See what you can do to rebuild or strengthen relationships that have taken a back seat to other things over the past twelve months (or more).
- Write a letter to someone you haven’t talked to in ages.
- Forgive those who have hurt you.
- Apologize for your part in the destruction of relationships that matter either to you or to someone close to you.
- Work on your marriage / intimate relationship.
- Get to know your family members better — and show them that their interests matter to you).
You may not receive a response to every overture you make, but that’s not the point of this exercise. You’re not doing this to make people like you; you’re doing it because relationships take work, and the most important relationships are worth it.
You’re also doing this because choosing to forgive others and to wipe the slate clean frees you from the prison of resentment and helps you become the person you want (and were always meant) to be.
So, don’t let other people’s reactions (or possible reactions) stop you from doing what you can to make amends, to forgive, and to let your gratitude for the good things in your life spill over into your relationships.
Would you like to help others?
Has this article helped you prepare for the next twelve months? Do you have a better idea, now, of what you want to work on and how you’re going to make this year the best one yet?
And would you like to help others with what you’ve learned?
If this article has helped answer some of your questions about how to improve yourself month by month over the year, chances are it will help others, too. I hope you enjoyed it enough to pass it on.
Share the love, and help us make this year more promising than ever for more and more people. And may your gratitude and creative energy influence everything else you do today.