5 Easy Ways to Be More Thoughtful

Simple tricks to be a better friend in a world that moves too fast.

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Image by Prazis Images on Shutterstock

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I admit, I always end up promising myself to make changes. Tiny tweaks to be healthier, happier— just better, I suppose.

Inevitably I fail and fall back into my predictable patterns.

In 2019, I wanted my New Year’s resolutions to be different from previous years. I was about to turn 40. The time had come to focus on my inner self. Clearly the outer self, the ego-driven, promises weren’t important enough to me since I never followed through for more than a few days.

And guess what? Something finally stuck.

No More Empty Promises

No more promises to eat healthier.
Because pizza is good.

No more promises to lose weight.
Because. . . well. . .see above.

No more promises to drink less wine.
Because, you know, antioxidants.

No more promises to drink more water.
Because I just won’t. I know me.

No more promises to wash my face every night.
Because I’m tired. I’m so damn tired sometimes.

Why set myself up for failure?

I decided that I would focus my energy — take daily mindful action — on being a better friend, or simply a more thoughtful person.

Huh. More consciously thoughtful. I can do this. How hard could this be?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a bad friend. By no means. I just knew I could do better.

So many birthdays had passed when I had intended on sending a card but forgot. A text will have to do. How lame.

So many times I’d wonder how a friend was doing, but let it remain just that — a curiosity, instead of picking up the phone.

So many occasions I could have done more, but I did the bare minimum. Not because I suck. Because I got distracted. Life.

Another occasion will come and go, and my good intentions will now look lazy and late.

I knew to make this resolution a habit, I would have to begin with actionable, attainable steps. I wasn’t just going to suddenly become as generous as Santa Claus, or as compassionate as the Dalai Lama.

Huh. More consciously thoughtful. I can do this. How hard could this be?

I had to remain true to myself and take action within my comfort zone. To be successful, I knew I had to approach this as a project — a physical, tangible project — before it became a steadfast habit.

1. Create People Files

I know it sounds strange, but I have no memory. I need to write everything down. My phone pings all day reminding me to wake up, to exercise, to pick up my kids, even to go to bed. Yes, I need to be reminded to sleep.

To be more thoughtful to certain people in my life, I created individual files for each person on my phone.

Just a simple tab that I can swipe open to jot down something I’d like to do in the future to let them know that I’m thinking of them. Thoughtful.

Which leads me to:

2. Take Mental Notes on Trivial Mentions

This has been my favorite part of becoming a more thoughtful person. All it takes is one easy step. Listen. That’s all. Just listen.

Listen carefully to every word. Goals they’d like to attain. Material objects they wish they owned. Places they’d like to go one day.

I know what you’re thinking. “I’m not a life coach and I’m not rich enough to buy a friend a vacation.” Me either.

My friend, Pam, mentioned in casual conversation that she felt stuck. Unmotivated in her life, her career, even her apartment. She joked that she needed a vision board to clearly see what she wanted in life.

I pretended I was sending a text, but I was in the NOTES section of my phone. I typed in “vision board” under Pam’s tab to remind me of her desires.

Her casual comment was mentioned in July. Guess what I got her for Christmas? I had her vision board and all its quirky provisions purchased months before December.

It was a simple mention during a casual conversation, but if I hadn’t recorded it, I would have undoubtedly forgotten. And she would have ended up with a last-minute gift card for the holidays.

Okay great, but how am I supposed to buy them a vacation?

You won’t. But you heard them. You heard them (because you listen) say they wanted to visit Paris one day.

So from now on, associate Paris with your friend. Tag them in a picture you see on Instagram. Forward an article you come across about the famous city of lights.

Be their biggest cheerleader for their deepest dreams.

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Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

3. Be the Plan Maker

“We should get together!” your friend says.

“I know! Let’s do it,” you reply.

End scene.

Sound familiar? Change the narrative.

“We should get together!” your friend says.

“Yes, I would love that. Let’s pick a date right now. I want to put it in the calendar now so it definitely happens,” you reply.

Life is too short to just think about people you enjoy. Take actionable steps to spend time with them.

Be the plan maker. Plan makers make things happen, not just talk about them.

Send a random group text to organize a dinner or a happy hour. People will feel happy you included them and grateful you spearheaded the gathering.

My sons are eight and nine years old. When they were in preschool, I had made a wonderful group of mom friends. Time, life, and location have separated us, but they are still on my mind often.

But that’s where I let them remain for many years. Just on my mind.

What’s the point in that?

Now, when they cross my mind, I take out my phone, choose a date (usually 4–6 weeks away) and send a group text:

Hey ladies. Long time no see. We need to catch up. I made a reservation at 7pm for six people at The Good Restaurant on July 1st. Text me if you can’t make it.

Life is too short to just think about people you enjoy. Take actionable steps to spend time with them.

4. Send Greeting Cards...For Anything

This might not be up everyone’s alley, but. . .

I love shopping for greeting cards. But I rarely receive an unexpected one in my mailbox. Snail mail is dying, so it’s extra meaningful to receive something that is not a catalog, junk, or a bill.

So many times a friend’s birthday will be approaching, but I don’t have a card.

And I know me, and I’ll never make it to the store.

Another occasion will come and go, and my good intentions will now look lazy and late.

Stock Up

Invest a little money and create a greeting card arsenal. Build your own personal library with cards that can be mailed at the drop of a hat. And, this isn’t just about birthdays. Even sarcastic pranksters can have fun with some of these: (I’m talking to you, Charles Roast)

  • CONGRATULATIONS CARD: I love this versatile card. Job promotion? Recent success on a diet? New kitten? Even a new shower curtain, if you have that sense of humor.
  • CONDOLENCE CARD: Of course, send for the death of a family member or pet. But condolence cards can also be used as a form of (thoughtful) humor. For example, an old car that finally died. Or to a newly engaged friend, to pay condolence to the loss of bachelordom. A houseplant. A cell phone.
  • THINKING OF YOU: Yup, for no other reason.
  • NEW HOUSE/BABY/JOB: Celebrate big changes in life. Share in the emotion.
  • GET WELL SOON: Send it during the flu, a broken heart, the coronavirus, or even during a period when they’re just feeling down. Feeling funny? Send it after a killer hangover, a case of hemorrhoids, or the dreaded man cold.
  • THANK YOU: For the big things and especially the small.

p.s. Don’t forget stamps ;)

5. Don’t Set People Up for Failure

My husband has a friend, Pete, who notoriously doesn’t follow through with commitments. Pete is a great guy. He is hilarious, generous, and always fun to be around.

But, he always cancels plans and makes excuses. That’s just Pete.

My husband asked Pete to help us move into our new home. Guess who didn’t show up? Pete. He had an excuse. I forget what it was. It doesn’t matter.

This infuriated my husband so much that he held a grudge for almost an entire year. They didn’t even speak.

Bless and release, if you can’t love and accept.

Why ask the one person who always bails to help you with something important? Yes, it was selfish of Pete, but it was also foolish on my husband’s account. He set him up for failure and it damaged their friendship.

Know your friends’ flaws. We all have them. Never get angry at them for behavior that is consistent. It’s their personality, their composition.

Most likely, they will never change.

Accept them for who they are because trying to change them will backfire.

If their behavior is constantly a source of frustration for you, perhaps they are not the friend for you. And that’s okay. Bless and release, if you can’t love and accept.

Final Thoughts

Turning the tables and directing my attention to others has changed my life. I’m no longer hung up on five extra pounds. Or if I should order the tacos or a salad.

I wasted so much energy on tormenting myself for years on what I was eating or if I was exercising enough.

Yes, health is important. But kindness kinda feels better than a flat stomach.

I’m Emme, like the letter. Find me at www.emmebeckett.com or email at emmebeckett@gmail.com

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