As humans, we’re always looking for ways to improve. Whether it’s our work, our fitness, or our relationships, we always want to know what we should be doing to get the best results. While change may seem intimidating, the truth is, simple steps can have a significant impact. To help you in your quest to be the best person you can be, here are seven easy ways to level up in 2017.

Set SMART Goals

While most of us make resolutions for a new year, how many of us actually stick to what we set out to do?

Most of us abandon our resolutions soon after the new year.  In fact, while 40 percent of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, just 8 percent of people actually achieve them.

Ditch your resolutions and set SMART goals instead. SMART is an acronym that stands for setting goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant, and
  • Time-bound.

Set goals in different areas of your life: personal, professional, health/spiritual, financial, etc. Write down your goals and give each one a time limit or deadline. Then, create an action plan for what you need to do to achieve each goal.

When you keep track of your goals and the steps you take to achieve them, you can monitor your progress. This lets you change your game-plan if you’re stuck, or ask for help from mentors, bosses, friends, family members, etc. You’re much more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down, share them with others, and create a real action-oriented game plan.

Practice Gratitude

Do you take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for at Thanksgiving, but forget all about it the rest of the year?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Developing an attitude of gratitude, however, is an easy, inexpensive way to improve several areas of your life including your health, social life, emotional disposition, and even your career. “Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative,” according to Amit Amin from Happier Human. “As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.”

You can develop an attitude of gratitude right now. Each day when you wake up, or each evening before you go to bed, make a list of all the things you’re grateful for. You’ll feel more positive and learn to appreciate all of the blessings in your life.

Be Kind to Others

If you really want to improve yourself, as a human being, student, family member, working professional, etc., make an honest effort to be kind to others. Kindness not only benefits the other person or organization, it also makes you feel good, too. Studies show that doing good deeds for others can boost overall happiness and life satisfaction.

There are lots of easy ways to spread kindness: smile at people, buy someone coffee, bake cookies or treats for friends, give money or food to someone in need, or check out these ideas for random acts of kindness

Move Your Body

When it comes to a new year, it seems like everyone has some sort of lofty fitness goal. We’re not talking about joining a hardcore boot camp or committing to a strict elimination diet.  Instead, we simply want you to commit to moving your body a little more than you did before. Take 10 minutes in the morning to stretch, go for a walk around your neighborhood, do some jumping jacks, find a short workout video online, or try a 30-day challenge.

Besides the physical benefits, regular exercise can improve brain function. “Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means,” according to Harvard Medical School. “The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors–chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”

If you can, exercise in the morning. It can increase productivity, give you energy, and help you feel better throughout the day. Plus, if you knock it out right away, you’re less likely to skip your workout. If you don’t have time to workout in the morning, however, try to get a short exercise session in after work or in the afternoon or evening.

Do Something That Scares You (Within Reason)

No, we’re not telling you to jump out of a plane or drive like a maniac on the freeway. We’re simply encouraging you to try something that scares you in the name of self-improvement.

You’ve probably heard the saying that real growth starts outside of your comfort zone; well, it’s true.  Sometimes we need to make ourselves a little uncomfortable to improve or see results.  “While staying in your comfort zone can result in consistent, steady performance, stepping out of your comfort zone into a new and challenging task can create the conditions for optimal performance,”  writes to Carolyn Gregoire from The Huffington Post. “Think about it: Did you ever do something you were really proud of when you were in autopilot mode?”

Look for opportunities to do things that scare you. Give a presentation at work, step up to take on a project, try a new activity, etc. Find ways to get uncomfortable and challenge yourself. When you face your fears, you realize things aren’t as scary as they seem, and you give yourself an opportunity to rise to the occasion, learn and improve.

Give Back

A big part of improving yourself is giving back to others. There are several different ways to give back, including volunteering your time or service, making donations, getting involved in charity organizations, and more.

You may think you don’t have time to volunteer or get involved, but with so many different options you can find activities that fit into your schedule. Volunteering doesn’t just help others, it also helps you connect with new people, and can boost your self-esteem and well-being. Plus, volunteer experience also looks great on a resume.

Never Stop Learning

When you constantly look to acquire knowledge, you will never be complacent and you continue to grow. Maybe you want to learn a new language or learn an instrument.

What’s stopping you?

Figure out what you want to learn and start now.

Have you always wanted to learn Photoshop or how to code?

Look for an online class. Whatever it is you want to learn,  research the process and take action.

Even if you’re not interested in taking lessons or classes, you can still challenge yourself to keep learning. Read self-improvement books or listen to podcasts. Read articles about your industry to stay up on the latest news and trends. According to Professional Academy, lifelong learning helps us adapt to change, find meaning in our lives, make new friends, increase wisdom, and leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment

These seven simple steps can make a big difference. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be in 2017. Don’t wait, start now! What are you doing to improve yourself this year? Let us know in the comments below!