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MCLEOD: Free tips to make your life better next year

I confess; I'm a resolution maker.

I've found that I'm significantly more successful if I stick to just one realistic resolution. Case in point: "I'm going all organic" in 2003 was a bust. I was back to QuikTrip hot dogs by mid-January.

I've also found the best resolutions, those where I reap immediate and lasting benefits, are when I set goals for improving my side of an important relationship. Here are my six favorite high-impact resolutions. They don't require any fancy equipment or organizing products. They're free. Pick one, stick with it for thirty days, and you'll find the life improvements astounding.

• Find something to appreciate about your spouse.

Once you get a negative lens on someone, it's hard to see their finer qualities. I'm sure your spouse has flaws; they may even be big ones. But instead of trying to fix the things you don't like, which rarely works, find something to appreciate about him or her. Your spouse may not change, but when you can change your own inner dialogue, you'll experience a more satisfying relationship.

• See the world through your boss's eyes.

This one comes from my Dad. Early in my career, he told me, "Find out what's important to your boss and help them do it." Most people come to their boss with complaints. Their boss gives them orders and their employees give them obstacles. Instead, ask your boss what his or her most important goals are and make it your business to help them get it done. You'll likely be the only person who does.

• Say hello to your neighbors.

It seems small. But it elevates the way you experience your community. When you go to the mailbox or take out the trash, instead of just smiling and nodding, make a point of actually greeting your neighbors. Studies show that people who have meaningful connections with their neighbors enjoy their homes more, and have a better support system in emergencies. None of us are immune to disaster. If you need help in the middle of the night, it's easier to call your neighbors if you know them.

• Make eye contact with your kids when they talk.

Endless monologues about middle school social lives or what happened at preschool can be -- dare I say it -- boring. But you can turn it into meaningful experience by giving your child your full attention. When a child, or anyone, experiences your undivided attention, the conversation steps up a notch. The speaker, even a young child, subconsciously registers the attention and they become more clear, and thoughtful in output.

• Don't check email when you're on the phone.

It's tempting, and I'm certainly guilty. But if you can give people on the other end of the phone more attention, your calls will be shorter, and you'll get more done. Even if only improve by 25 percent, it will make a big difference, especially at work.

• If your parents are still living, call them every week.

Very few people regret being kind to their parents. There will be a time when they're not around. They probably weren't perfect, but they're the only parents you've got. Give them a call. Ask about their childhood or ask what they had for dinner, and thank them for bringing you into the world. It will make your day and theirs.

Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of three books, including the best-seller, "The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small," A Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.