There’s something hopeful about ushering in the new year even though we have no idea what the future holds. The feeling’s akin to a longing for change, but what does change look like?

If transforming your life means becoming happier, then there are three areas that can help you with that: your career, your relationships, and yourself. When we’re happier at work, at home, or with our friends, we tend to become happier with ourselves, which is always good for our mental health. But before we start making lofty new year’s resolutions, let’s look back at how we did in 2021 and the areas we should work on.

Evaluating your career

The end of the year is a good opportunity for us to step aside from the rat race and evaluate our careers. How would you describe your work life in the past 12 months? If you’re unsure, the following questions might help:

  1. Are you in the right industry?
  2. Are you paid well?
  3. Do you enjoy your work?
  4. Does the company benefit you?
  5. Do you have great colleagues?

If you’re nodding to all of the above questions, you should consider staying in your job. But if you answered “no” to most of them, then it sounds like you’re unhappy.

Feeling bogged down by too many tasks, dragging your feet to the office, or not being paid enough are common signs that you don’t feel fulfilled by your career. I know many Singaporeans who remain faithful to a company despite being unhappy, likely for the sake of salary and stability. If that sounds like you, ask yourself whether you deserve more.

Housewives and househusbands can feel miserable too. While looking after the house and children can bring a lot of joy, some can’t help but feel like they are wasting their life away and yearn to do more.

When picking a suitable job or a new skill, try to select something that matches your element. I usually turn to the Chinese Zodiac for guidance on the different elements, namely wood, fire, metal, earth, and water. They give us hints about our personalities and the kind of workplace that suits us.

Water individuals tend to thrive in communication roles such as those in advertising, social media, or teaching; earth-type individuals tend to do well in beauty or retail; fire-type personalities may find success in food and beverage or tech; metal individuals tend to thrive in banking and finance, engineering, or aerospace; and wood-type individuals can do well in engineering, landscaping and printing.

If you’re not sure of your element, do consult a feng shui master for advice.

Confronting relationship troubles

People need each other in this world, which is probably why it saddens us when relationships turn sour.

From what I’ve seen, there is usually a “pattern of two” at play. People tend to grow depressed when they have issues with up to two different groups of people in their lives. It could be problems with their siblings and parents, or with their colleagues and superiors, or their children and friends. When they leave those conflicts unresolved, they find themselves at risk of ruining even more relationships.

Confronting issues head-on instead of sweeping things under the rug is always the way to go. If the other party doesn’t have the courage to come forward and talk it out, then it’s on us to make the first step. That is the wiser thing to do, and our mental health will thank us for it. If both parties can’t see eye to eye and come to a resolution, look to other methods to solve it like engaging a third party.

Unfortunately, you can’t heal relationships properly without being honest with yourself first. It takes a great deal of brutal honesty when confronting our relationship issues. Many of us let our relationships go astray by letting our egos get in the way, and then we end up blaming others for causing the problem instead of reflecting on our own actions. For example, I’ve seen people claiming that they have no problems separating issues at home and those at work, and yet behave agitated at their colleagues after having an argument with their spouse, or acting withdrawn at home after having a disagreement with their boss.

Be honest with yourself when analyzing relationships so that you can make peace with those around you. To get started, you might want to group your relationships into the following categories:

  1. Spouse/Partner
  2. Parents
  3. Siblings
  4. Children
  5. Friends
  6. Colleagues
  7. Superiors

Being a better you

It can be difficult to care for others when we don’t look after ourselves. Looking back on the year, were you overworked? Had too little breaks? Avoided that nagging pain in your body? Consistently hated others instead of improving yourself?

If you’re sensing guilt from all of the above, then it’s probably time to change, starting with something simple, like cutting back on tasks that were least impactful to your life, blocking out periods for rest, and getting a medical check-up. Dealing with poor self-esteem or an inferiority complex, however, requires deep reflection. Here are some exercises that could help you with that:

Exercise 1

Think of someone you dislike or have been complaining about. Jot down the things that you hate about this person. Then ask yourself whether those details could be used to describe you or your aspirations. Your answers can tell whether you are indeed the better person or that both of you are actually alike. If it’s the latter, think of how you can improve based on the points you have inadvertently written about yourself.

Exercise 2

Think of someone you admire and jot down everything about them that you wish you had. This could be their successes, relationships, or their fashion style. For every point you make, write down another list focusing on how you can attain those qualities.

By the end of this article, I’m sure you have gathered a laundry list of ideas for your new year’s resolutions. My advice is to pick only three things because it is impossible to achieve everything within a year. Whichever you pick, remember to be honest with yourself.

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