January 6, 2014
For the first time, WKCD has thrown its hat into the New Year’s resolutions ring. We’re guessing that you won’t find, anywhere else, a list like this: pitched at youth, more than the usual clichés, and filled with exercises and handouts to turn good intentions into action. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout. Controlled breathing. Read for the heck of it. Eat slow. Join. Get your college gear together. Make a difference. Keep at it. Change a habit. Take a (healthy) risk. Please help us share our "Time to Get Awesome" list with young people you know.
#1 GET MOVING
Exercise. We know it’s good for us, but what can you do when the dog eats your gym clothes? The “Scientific 7-Minute Workout” might be a game changer. In 12 exercises using your body weight, a chair, and a wall, this amazing workout fulfills the latest rules for high-intensity effort. It combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort—all of it based on science. The upside: when the seven minutes are over, you’re done.
#2 MANAGE STRESS
None of us can escape stress. The challenge is to manage it. Some stress is okay; it keeps us on our toes. Too much can be toxic; we lose our ability to think straight and our bodies cringe. Believe it or not, something you're doing right now, probably without even thinking about it, is a proven stress reliever: breathing. With three to five minutes a day of “controlled breathing” exercises, you can train your body to relax in stressful situations.
#3 READ FOR THE HECK OF IT
Reading is good for us, we know. It builds literacy, opens worlds unlike our own, strengthens the mind, and much more. Reading for school, though, can seem like sour-tasting medicine: you’re reading something you didn’t pick and you’re being graded.
Here's our challenge: Over the course of this coming year, pick three books that intrigue you, for whatever reason, and just read them for the heck of it. Ask teachers, friends, a librarian for suggestions. The world is filled with so many great reads: science fiction, fantasy, gothic novels, inspirational biographies, page-turning mysteries, love stories.
#4 EAT SLOW
There was a time when families sat down over dinner with a home-cooked meal. Today, the “sit-down meal” has become endangered species and fast food or takeout has replaced homemade. Meanwhile, we’re all getting fatter. (Researchers calculate that just one meal a week away from home can translate into two extra pounds a year for the average person; the average adult now eats out nearly five times a week.)
Here’s our challenge: Prepare a home-cooked meal for your family. (It doesn’t have to be fancy.) Choose a menu and some recipes, buy the ingredients, and roll up your sleeves. Partner with a friend and take turns preparing a real, down-to-earth sit-down meal for the folks with whom you live. A bonus: You may find that you like cooking.
#5 SIGN UP
If you’re one of those people who dislikes group activities and joining “things,” here’s the year to sign up and give some “thing” a try: a sport, music, spoken word, photography, chess, dance, a church group, a community service project . . . Don’t think of it as the choice of a lifetime but as practice getting out of yourself, doing something new, and joining others. If you’re already involved in extracurriculars, convince a friend who isn’t to join you in an activity.
#6 GET YOUR COLLEGE GEAR TOGETHER
Whether you come from a family with college graduates or you are the first in your family, the business of making it to college can be daunting. Taking the right courses, managing your GPA, studying for entrance exams, picking colleges, securing financial aid, writing college essays, meeting application deadlines—there’s so, so much to keep in mind. WKCD has created a planning calendar, with a checklist for every year of high school, that can help you stay on track and organized.
#7 KEEP AT IT
Persistence means that you keep going, even when it’s hard and you feel like quitting. Actor and comedian Will Smith tells it straight. Talent, he says, you have naturally. Skill is only developed by “hours and hours and hours of beating on your craft.” Smith doesn’t consider himself as particularly talented. “Where I excel is sickening, ridiculous work ethic." Few of us can match Will Smith’s fierce persistence, but we can take small steps.
#8 CHANGE A HABIT
Many New Year’s resolutions involve something you’re going to stop doing, often a bad habit. If you’ve ever tried to break a bad habit, though, you know how tough it can be. Research says the best way to change a habit is, first, to understand its structure: what triggers it and what’s the reward. The next step is to replace the bad habit with a good one. It helps to have a friend or relative follow your progress.
#9 FIND A CAUSE
As the big national youth website DoSomething.org says, “Apathy sucks.” Join over 2.2 million young people taking action. If you want to find a cause or campaign that can make the world a better place—if only, slightly—check out this website and get started.
#10 TAKE A HEALTHY RISK
We’re used to thinking of risks as bad. Driving without a seatbelt or under the influence are good examples. We know the potential dangers—injury or even death if there’s an accident—but we take the chance figuring it won’t happen to us, that we won’t succeed. Good risks are the opposite: We often avoid them because we fear we’ll fail, disappointing others and ourselves.
So here’s our last challenge: Take at least one resolution on this list and try it. Give the resolution a chance to create a bit of magic in your life.
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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”
– Deborah Meier, educator