By Alexa Carlin, Founder of Hello Perfect (As published on Medium.com) You can also see this article in our last digital magazine. Check it out! There are tons of posts telling us how to make 2014 the best year ever. But what do these lists really tell us? Do they say things we already know but regard as unrealistic to implement in our lives? Do they provide evidence of how these tips work? What would make my 2014 perfect is different from what will make your 2014 perfect, right? This list consists of ways to help you find the path to your perfect 2014. If you implement these little things in your life, it won’t make you have the best day every single day, but what it will do is lead you to finding your purpose. It will help you become happier, more fulfilled and feel grateful. You may question how I know that and that’s why I provided personal examples of how each item on this list has helped me move one step closer to turning my dreams into my reality. 1. Realize fear is only a feeling. Why is a feeling holding you back from doing what you love? It’s not someone saying you can’t do it, it’s not the universe directing you in a different way, it’s not even your parents or friends not supporting you. It’s a feeling that you created. In the new year, kick fear in the butt and step out of your comfort zone! My Experience: In 2013 I quit my job at InStyle. I was terrified. It was my first job right out of college and I was only there for 5 months, but I knew I was unhappy. Ever since I almost lost my life to sepsis, I try to make each day a happy one and sitting in a cubicle from 9 am to 5 pm every day was not what made me happy. So, I took the leap and it led me to my current job which allows me to work from anywhere, focus on growing Hello Perfect and gives me time to take nutrition classes to improve my health. I say, kicking fear in the butt was an amazing choice. 2. Stop comparing yourself to people on social media. Social media is a way for people to show their lives to others, yet we all know that filters and photo enhancers usually make things look much better than they do in real life. Stop thinking everyone else has a much better life than you. Think someone is having so much fun out at a party when you’re home alone? Most people smile and laugh when they’re taking a selfie and once that phone is down, they aren’t having as much fun as the Instagram pic seems. Think about it, if it was so much fun then they wouldn’t be on their phone creating 12 different hashtags for that picture or sending you SnapChats. My Experience: I once posted an Instagram picture when I was out with friends which looked like I was having the time of my life. Once I saw the published post, I realized how fake it was. I wasn’t having fun at all. I was sick, depressed and felt lonely. That’s when I realized social media is just a platform to show your ego to the world. Now, every time I see an amazing picture that I wish was mine, I don’t compare my life to it. I realize this is the place I am supposed to be right now. It’s helped me live in the moment and grab opportunities I might have missed.
3. When you feel down about yourself, focus on your passion. When you think about all the things you hate about yourself and spend time on the negative, more negative things will come into your life. Instead, focus on what’s important to you. Switching gears to spend time thinking about what you’re passionate about will lead to happiness, success and fulfillment. It will also begin to boost your self-esteem since you’ll be spending less time feeling down about yourself! My Experience: When I was younger, I was super shy. I didn’t have many friends. Actually, my mom was the only true friend I really had. I always compared myself to other girls in my class and spent time thinking of all the things I hated about myself. One day, I decided to take a leap of faith and run for Student Body President. I followed my gut. I felt a pull towards leadership and a passion I never knew I had and just went for it. Not only did focusing on the campaign help boost my self-esteem, but can you imagine what happened after I was elected? Everything changed! I began to love myself for who I was and focused all of my attention on the qualities I loved about myself. Focusing on my passion for leadership helped me gain confidence, which has allowed me to discover that I am worthy of accomplishing anything. 4. Listen to the noises around you – i.e. Tap into the present moment. I have always been one to believe that it’s important to be in the present moment but I never knew how to actually be in the present. I have constant thoughts going through my head. Sometimes when I’m talking to my friends, I can’t even hear them. So, I tried something new that has worked wonders for me. I listen to every single noise around me. When riding the subway I listen to the wheels on the track, the sniffles of patients, the music through people’s headphones and the conversations going on around me. As I practiced listening to everything, I realized how much I was beginning to be in the present moment. By working hard to listen to every single noise, you put your attention toward what is happening right now. It doesn’t allow you to think about all those thoughts in your head because you’re already focusing on something else. Try it the next time you catch yourself drifting off into your stressful thoughts or thinking about everything you have to get done. My Experience: One time while walking in the streets of New York, using my “present moment practice” I found $6 laying right in front of me! I was walking through Midtown on one of the busiest streets and all of a sudden there it was, on the path where I was about to take my next step. I knew that if I was in my own head and not in the present moment I would have just walked right over it. I took it as a sign from the Universe and gave it to the next less fortunate person I saw on the side of the street. 5. Start a hobby or pick back up a hobby you loved when you were little. It’s important to take time off from working. Even if work is your passion, giving your mind a break can do tremendous things for your career and personal life. I’ve found it invigorating to pick back up a hobby I once loved. Even if you don’t have an old hobby you can do, try something new. Join a soccer team, start writing in a journal, join a yoga studio, start a magazine collage. This is really a great New Year’s resolution to start for yourself because you deserve to give yourself a break every once in a while! My Experience: When I was little I used to love collecting things. I collected everything from miniature figures to journals to beanie babies. It wasn’t about owning the actual things that I liked, what I loved about this hobby was the thrill of finding something in a place you wouldn’t expect that you can add to your collection. It’s like going on a life-long scavenger hunt! This past year I decided to start a new collection to help me find a passion in something other than my work and relieve the stress the future brings. I started collecting crystals and precious stones which led me to a deeper connection with my spirituality. It helped me believe in something bigger than myself. Also, all of the crystals I’ve collected have a memory connected to them. They’re now scattered all over my room and every time one catches my eye, I smile. 6. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability is something we are all afraid of. In our society, women tend to be more vulnerable than men but it is something we all need to do more of. Being vulnerable isn’t showing a sign of weakness, it’s actually showing how strong and confident you are. As author Brene Brown puts it, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Showing vulnerability also helps people relate to you. Take this new year as an opportunity to open yourself up to the world and not fear being vulnerable to the people and life lessons that come your way. My Experience: This past year was the first time I opened myself up to being vulnerable. I’ve always put up a wall around my emotions in front of others, feeling I couldn’t share them with the world. This past year I realized I needed to be hurt to know what it felt to be strong, I needed to be sad to know what joy really felt like. So, I took a risk, I let myself be vulnerable to the world and because of that I fell madly in love for the first time, I created a closer connection to my friends and I became so much happier knowing I was able to be myself in front of others.
7. Join a community. Being part of a community of people who share similar passions with you helps you feel accepted. It allows you to be yourself and express what you’re passionate about to others. If you want to learn more about cooking, find a local cooking class; if you’re interested in photography, join a photography meetup in your city; if you’re chasing a dream that your parents or friends don’t agree with, join the Hello Perfect community, the list is endless! Doing this not only allows you to express who you are freely but it instantly gives you a support group. My Experience: The reason I created the Hello Perfect community was because I needed a support group in order to continue to have the motivation to go after my dreams. My parents support me and so do my friends, but it’s different having a community of people who you can feel comfortable expressing yourself to. Since being part of this community, I’ve been able to overcome the lowest points in my life knowing that there is a group of people rooting for me. It’s an amazing feeling and I definitely recommend everyone join a community this upcoming year. 8. Don’t step out of the box, realize there is no box. If you think someone is cute, say “Hi.” If you have a question in class, ask it. If you have an interesting thought and would like to share it, tweet it. The only way to grow is to get out of your comfort zone. By taking these small steps towards unfamiliarity, you will learn more things about yourself, get steps closer to making your dreams a reality and gain new experiences that will help you learn and lead you to the path of your purpose. There is no box you’re stuck in, that “box” is just the limits you set for yourself. My Experience: I moved to NYC a week after graduation, alone. I didn’t know many people as most of my friends were still finishing up school back in Florida. There were many times when I signed up to go to an event, and then almost canceled my RSVP minutes before it started because I was scared to go alone and not have anyone to talk to. Instead, I stepped out of my invisible box and went. Each time, something amazing happened. I met people in the startup industry, I met awesome go-getters I later interviewed as DreamCatchers for Hello Perfect, and I learned how to introduce myself to a crowd of people in order to not stand in the corner alone. Was it scary? Heck yes! Was it worth it? Definitely.
9. Stop being glued to your phone. As we walk through campus, drive our cars, talk to our friends and watch TV, we somehow always have our face pointed down buried in our phones. I know how entertaining social media can be, believe me, it’s my job. But I also realize how important it is to lift your head up high and see the world around you. Spend less time in 2014 on your phone and more in the present moment. What’s happening around you is a beautiful thing, you don’t want to miss it. My Experience: I’ve been practicing putting away my phone when I finally get the chance to sit down on the couch and enjoy an episode of my favorite TV show. This allows me to laugh at something funny, fully understand the characters and create a relaxing environment.
If you’re looking to go on a diet in the New Year or want to eat healthier than you do now, follow the 80/20 rule. 80 percent of the time eat healthy and 20 percent of the time treat yourself to your cravings. The 80/20 rule works because you’re not telling yourself you can’t have something because when you do that, all you want is that something. If you allow yourself to satisfy your cravings 20 percent of the time, you’ll be more likely to stick to a healthy diet and not splurge one night or overeat. My Experience: This past August my doctor told me I had to go gluten and dairy-free. I gave up all my favorite snacks including my popcorn marshmallow signature mix. Instead of telling myself I can’t have these foods, I just crowded them out with foods I can have. I follow the 80/20 rule and it has definitely helped me stay on the right track. Raw Cacao tastes better than milk chocolate to me now! 11. Stop beating yourself up for not working out one day. If you don’t have enough time that day, it’s okay. But also, stop skipping workouts when you have plenty of time. Whether it is taking the stairs, going on a long walk or playing a sport, when you have the time to be active, be active! Once you’re done you will feel great! Also, being active helps your body release endorphins, making you feel happy. My Experience: I used to think I had to work out 6 to 7 days a week and if I missed a day, my mind would torture me by thinking about it. This year, I decided that it’s okay to skip a day at the gym if I didn’t have time to go. It has helped me release the thoughts of beating myself up and spend my time being productive on the things I actually have to get done. It’s liberating! 12. Embrace your emotions. Keeping everything inside will not solve anything. Know that it is healthy to embrace your emotions and cry every once in a while. It’s okay to be happy even though your friend may not be happy that day. It’s okay to be sad and show the world you’re sad. Embracing your emotions in the new year will help you feel like a whole new you! My Experience: Since getting out of the ICU, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I never was a person to cry in front of others but the emotions from the traumatic experience were way too strong to hold in. I cried in front of all of you in a video blog, I cried in front of my friends and family and I cried alone. After allowing myself to release these emotions, I felt like a huge weight was taken off my chest. It’s much better to let it out than hold it in. This way, you can grow and allow yourself to feel the next emotions that come your way. 13. Tap into your individual strengths. Every one of us has a strength, whether it is being good at organizing, public speaking, managing people, giving advice, teaching, styling clothes, cooking, being sympathetic, etc. Find your strengths and then create your passion around those. If you’re better at getting your message across by talking rather than writing, then start a YouTube channel. If you’re better at creating images to tell your story, get on Tumblr and Pinterest. There are so many different ways to make your dreams come true and just because you’re not strong in one area, does not mean you aren’t able to achieve whatever it is you want to do. My Experience: I asked my friends and family a simple question: “What word comes to mind when you think of me?” The common answer: inspiration. This helped me realize where my strength lies and showed me that I don’t have to be the best at everything. That’s what a team is for, to complement each other. Tapping into my individual strengths has helped me grow Hello Perfect in the past few months, made me more relaxed and has helped me create a new path to what I want my future to look like. 14. Know you are worthy. If you want someone to commit to you, tell them. Don’t be afraid you aren’t worthy enough. You are a beautiful, unique individual that has so much to offer this world. Don’t let negative thoughts or doubts get in your way. Decide what you want and go after it – full speed. I’m telling you right now that you are worthy of accomplishing anything you dream. 2014 is waiting for you, go show the world who you are. My Experience: This past year the word “worthy” has popped up a lot. Whether it was during my research, reading interviews or just questioning my own worth. Then it dawned on me how worthy we each are. We all deserve effort, attention and respect and if we know that, then that is what we will receive. Anytime I didn’t feel worthy, I didn’t get the respect I deserved. Anytime I did, well, my confidence shined across the room and I was receiving more attention than I even knew how to handle. That’s the beauty of it; what you want you’ll receive. Founder of Hello Perfect, Alexa Carlin resides in New York City, where she continues to help others redefine what the word “perfect” means to them. Check out Hello Perfect’s website, Facebook page and Twitter, and watch Hello Perfect TV on their Youtube channel!