01/23/2015 05:27 EST | Updated 03/25/2015 05:59 EDT

How To 'Get Engaged' in 2015

Make 2015 the year where you make the effort to engage with each other -- even strangers. It doesn't mean you have to talk to every stranger you meet, but at least keep your eyes and ears open to what you might learn and experience. It could be something small such as making eye contact with others when you walk down the street.

I had the pleasure of attending two incredible wedding shows this month. Much to the annoyance of the myriad event planners, photographers, chefs, and cake-makers -- I wasn't wearing a sparkling ring. It's the unspoken token of entry to anything that the wedding industry creates, which, perhaps inadvertently, creates a form of pseudo-validation for individuals that possess said token. The experience made me realize that our time is running out, and this is the year we all need to get engaged, for real this time. Rings are optional.

It would be pretty incredible if we gave as much credence and celebration to people who, instead of being "slacktivists" are actively engaged in our communities, in giving back to our world, and in making a difference in a way that resonates with their core. It almost seems as if, as one writer recently wrote, we have become so consumed with the idea of being engaged to someone else, that we have lost sight of how important it is to be connected to ourselves. In a world where impermanence is the rule (and even marriages are legally, physically, or emotionally temporary) why can't we spend more time emphasizing that it's more important to be engaged in our own lives and communities?

I would like to believe that I've been engaged for years -- well before I met my extremely loving, patient, sincere, patient (its worth mentioning patient a few times) partner, and writing is a way to remind me to stay engaged. This year, I hope every single person reading this finds a "passion project." It might be related to your job, but it's likely to be a bit different. For instance, I'm working with a team that is creating a secure mobile application to help parents keep track of essential health information for their child, while also providing evidence-based updates on key health issues. It's a completely different realm of thinking than I'm used to, and I am lucky to be collaborating with a small but passionate multidisciplinary group. If the idea never manifests, that's OK too, because at least it brought all of us together to think of innovative ways to address an age-old problem in healthcare. If you are a parent who might want to have your say about our idea, or someone who would like to become involved, our short survey is here. In the meantime, here are some ideas -- many of which I am trying to incorporate myself -- about how to finally get engaged this year.

Here are 5 Tips to Getting Engaged in 2015

1. Revisit your CV: Like you, I'm sure its great, and filled with lots of wonderful achievements. Now scroll to the very bottom, where most of us list our past-times, hobbies and activities. Find one of these things that you enjoy. If its something you haven't pursued in awhile, get back into it! If its something you are still committed to, make 2015 the year you engage in the activity with someone you care about. Commit to doing it for at least 6 weeks, and see how you feel, and if it has a positive effect on your relationship(s).

2. Feel the News: We live in a time where we can be inundated with information, particularly current events, and the danger is desensitization or apathy. Next time you skim news stories online, in paper, or on social media, try to tune into the feelings that arise. Maybe its anger? Disappointment? Sadness? Get a sense about the type of stories that have the strongest emotional impact on you -- it's likely that they are triggering something that you are passionate about. Try to brainstorm ways in which you, with your unique skills, might be able to make a small but significant difference in that area this year. For instance, the creation of the amazing organization I recently came to know, New Leaf Yoga Foundation, all started with one person's realization that yoga and mindfulness -- both incredible resources for emotional regulation and coping with stress -- are not accessible for youth in the communities that might benefit most -- communities that might be described negatively in the news. Now the organization commits to engaging in a unique way with these same communities.

3. Scratch the itch: All of us have something we've been meaning to try for years -- something we keep putting off. Maybe it's a new activity or a place we have been meaning to visit. Whatever it is, make this the year you finally do it, allowing you to grow and expand. It might be scary, but fear is a close cousin of excitement.

4. Audit your screentime: Screens are everywhere. Some of us even sleep beside them (myself included!). Make this year the year that we bring more intention into our screen exposure. For instance, buy an alarm clock (so you don't need to use your phone) and keep your phone at a safe distance from your bed. If you are running errands, try writing a to-do list on a piece of paper and leave your phone at home. The break will be welcome, and will give you a chance to exercise your resourcefulness. More importantly it might give your mind a moment to feel what "boredom" feels like. That's usually when our best insights and ideas enter our mind.

5. Engage with someone new: Make 2015 the year where you make the effort to engage with each other -- even strangers. It doesn't mean you have to talk to every stranger you meet, but at least keep your eyes and ears open to what you might learn and experience. It could be something small such as making eye contact with others when you walk down the street or something more significant such as exchanging diverse views on topical issues. Yes, we are inundated with what seems like extremes of humanity these days -- with lots of fear and anxiety around the stability of our world, but humanity is filled with so many other facets that the news rarely shows us. By engaging with others -- even with those who seem to, at first blush, have little in common, we are afforded glimpses of this humanity, which enriches our own lives and helps us reconnect and re-engage with ourselves.

So, reader, it's been awhile that we've known each other. It's about time we get engaged. My last request is that, should you commit to any of the ideas above, be sure to tell everyone you know. Maybe even switch your Facebook status to "engaged" and let the love (and "likes") pour in. It feels great to be engaged, and rare enough that it deserves to be celebrated. Let's check back in a year's time (January 23, 2016) and see how we did!


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