As every year ends and the next begins, we find ourselves in the same mixed state of curiosity, excitement, anxiety, anticipation, and hope. No one knows what the year will bring, but we all hope that it will be better than the last—even if the last wasn’t all that bad. So we make our New Year’s resolutions, buy gym memberships, and promise ourselves to not make the same mistakes we’ve made in past years. However, these resolutions never last too long, and we soon find ourselves regressing to who we were pre-resolution. However, in order for us to succeed, we must strive to improve ourselves daily. Buddhism teaches that the only thing that is permanent is impermanence—we are never again the same person that we were yesterday. Every day, we change, we age, we grow. We do not one day simply wake up with wrinkles and a head of gray hair—these changes occur imperceptibly on a daily basis, and you can only see the difference with time. So why not resolve this year to make at least one positive step every day towards self-improvement, education, development, and growth? Although the changes may be imperceptible day to day, just think about what a difference these small steps will make by December 31st.

A self-improvement goal that I set for myself every morning is to make as many people smile as possible. This is not to say that I am a selfless people-pleaser; but, if I have the ability to make a person’s day a little brighter with just a simple phrase or gesture, then why not? People may be complicated, but we are all human. We all have good and bad days, we all laugh, and we all cry. Most notably, we all want to feel important; that we matter, and we want others to acknowledge it. A person does not need to hold a prominent title or an extensive education to feel important—when that person feels that who she is and what she does matters and is appreciated, she will feel important. It is as simple as noticing a new haircut, or holding a door open for someone beyond the perfunctory few seconds on your way out the door. These are tiny things that cost you nothing but may mean everything to someone who is having a bad day or who feels unappreciated. Additionally, every time you come in contact with and have a positive encounter with another person, you set a few things in motion. By emitting positive energy, you will attract positive energy from those around you. Believe it or not, positivity is contagious. Furthermore, positivity is your most expensive toll on your road to success. No matter how educated, smart, or determined you are to succeed, if you harbor and display negativity or treat others in a negative way, your success will be bittersweet and short-lived, if not unattainable. In contrast, if you do not possess all the skills that you may need to succeed in your goals but you do radiate positivity and are a joy to others around you, your energy will attract good things—people will be that much more willing to help, teach, and train you to learn the skills you require to achieve your goals. Additionally, these same people can introduce you to someone who can change your life—the CEO of a company you’ve been dreaming of working for, your next business partner, a mentor that you have always admired, or even your future spouse.

This year, I challenge you to radiate positivity. I challenge you to be the person who sincerely listens when people speak to you; to be the person that people come to when they’re feeling down or just need to be heard; to be the first to say good morning when you pass someone on your way to work; to know as many people’s names as possible; to make eye contact and share your smile with everyone who looks your way. It is a simple resolution—it does not require any drastic changes to your daily routine and does not cost you anything. What it does require is commitment to being the best version of yourself that you can be with the resources that you have readily available. And yet, for such a small investment of your time and a simple shift of your mindset, your return will be exponential; in fact, it will be life-changing. By now we have all heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” too many times for us to keep ignoring it—and in order for us to achieve any other goal or resolution that we set for ourselves this year or in years to come, it would be wise for us to first master the skill of emitting positive energy, and letting our light shine bright.