12/31/2013 12:32 EST | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 EST

How to Make Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

I love resolutions! They allow us the chance to take stock of where we've come and look at where we're headed. It's important to pause now and then to reflect on our own development and progress, otherwise it can all go by in a blur.

Last year I wrote about how 'society' often puts pressure on us to make changes that leave us feeling guilty or blue, such as to lose weight, stop eating certain foods or pay off debt. Although I do see value in those actions, my New Year's resolutions for 2013 were focused on personal development; I wanted to make changes to the inner me, in order to become a better, happier person. I wanted to foster positivity and add value to my life, not focus on negativity or taking away. And the way I kept tabs on my progress this year was to be mindful of my actions and check in mid-summer to see how I was doing.

My 2013 resolutions were: stay true to my expression, understand that happiness is a choice, give and receive unconditional love, reframe situations, and smile every day. Some of these I achieved easily, others took a bit more focus and work.

While all my resolutions changed my life in positive ways, I have to say, giving and receiving unconditional love has moved me most deeply. I consciously gave unconditional love, and the experiences continue to affect me profoundly. During my recent trip to Haiti I felt it powerfully, and it's made me look at love so differently now. I've been mindful to apply this resolution to all my relationships, with friends, family and loved ones. I learned to let go of disagreements and fully enjoy loving moments. I made sure to love others for their good points and their flaws, and I found that sharing unconditional love was the best way to 'pay it forward' with any kindness.

I also learned that choosing to be happy is not the same as feeling joy. I think that sometimes we make decisions because we are afraid of feeling true joy, as that leaves us open...and that can be unsettling.

So for 2014, I resolve not to be afraid. I am going to be brave and embrace change; I will say yes to new experiences, and take advantage of opportunities entering my life that are different than usual. I want to eat at new restaurants, travel to unusual places and above all, be open to things that make me uncomfortable. Sometimes change can be difficult to embrace; we can all get stuck in a 'rut' in our lives. Situations or relationships may not fulfill us, and we know that we should let them go but their familiarity is comforting. Progress requires us to change, to evolve and to become more authentic versions of ourselves.

I think one of the major reasons why I've been hesitant to embrace change is because I am afraid of the new and unknown. It can be uncomfortable to be in new situations or even to get to know new people sometimes; the unfamiliarity can make you want to run back to recognizable faces. Even though it's often in our best interest to embrace the unknown, it can be scary.

Oprah says we should empower ourselves by facing our fear of change because, fortunately or unfortunately, it's inevitable. Things and people evolve and grow, and whether you actively seek change in your life or not, chances are change will come. The site also offers three ways to avoid the anxiety that often accompanies change, including the great line: "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."

For me, the ways I'm going to not be afraid and embrace change start with baby steps. For instance, on my trip to New York City last week I went somewhere new for dinner every night. I usually go to the same places, but this time it felt so different and exciting after each new experience. I know this is a small change, but I try to remember that every journey begins with a single step.

I want to be open to more new experiences like these. I'm going to be mindful not to judge a situation and take it day by day. I want to start living more in the moment as opposed to always planning. With this perspective, I am going to allow life to happen with an open heart and mind. There are so many inspiring quotes about being open to change; one of my favourites is from Einstein who said, "The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size." I love the idea of using new experiences as a way to expand and grow.

I am also going to try and let go of fear, of past habits and past hurt. I might even take a new route to remind me to do things differently!

When I made my resolution to "be brave" in 2012, I got a tattoo of the phrase, and it became my mantra. If I look back at 2013, I believe "stay true" was my 2013 mantra. So, for 2014 "embrace change" is going to be what guides me -- I may even get another tattoo!

I honestly believe that if we approach everything life throws at us with an open and brave heart, if we express ourselves authentically, and if we step out of our comfort zone, we can all discover a whole world of opportunities waiting for us.

What is your 2014 mantra? If you were going to get a tattoo or create a piece of art that represents the path you intend to follow next year, what would it be? Tweet me your resolutions or leave them in the comments below!

Wishing you a year filled with love and fulfillment!

xo Natasha


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