It’s close to the end of the year so people are beginning to make their new year’s resolutions.

I’d be willing to bet that more than half of the resolutions have something to do with improving physical heath (myself included). But whether or not your new year’s resolution has anything to do with counting calories or buying nicotine patches to kick a nasty habit, you might need a good distraction from the triggers that activate the bad habit loops that you’re trying to break free from.

There’s an amazing opportunity to distract yourself from bad habits this year and create new habits that help others; it’s a little thing called open source.

Become awesome at copy + paste

We PHP kids love to copy and paste. It’s what we’re good at. If you’re like me, you learned PHP by copying snippets of code from random blog posts and forums around the web and hacking together an app that mostly worked but if you were to ask us specifically how it worked, we’d be at a loss to explain the bits we copy & pasted.

Fast forward a few years and we might see a developer who has learned enough to explain the copy and pasty bits. In fact we may have supercharged our copy and pasting abilities with a little tool called composer.

If you’re not using composer yet, you should totally get on board. It will change the way you copy and paste code into your apps. It’s amazing. It will allow you to easily integrate fantastic open source projects into your app with a single command.

Paying it back

For the veteran composer user, sometimes we take for granted that we have a whole copy & paste repository at our fingertips; none of which would be possible without the dedicated volunteers behind all of the open source projects that power our apps.

If you’ve ever used a snippet of code in your app that’s not your own, then you’ve relied on the PHP community to write your app. Have you ever provided your own snippets of code to the community?

If you’ve never contributed to an open source project before or maybe you’ve only ever dabbled in it here and there, make 2016 your year of open source.

Turn a bad habit into a good one

When it’s 11:50PM and you’re craving that chocolate bar in your pantry, instead of giving in, distract yourself by browsing the source code of projects you like to use in your own projects.

Instead of walking down to the 7/11 to buy another pack of cigarettes, spend that time learning how to contribute to open source projects on GitHub.

Heck, why not contribute to lots of open source projects? See which project has the best chemistry with you. See how much you learn when your code is reviewed by others in the community. Once you start sending regularly scheduled pull requests, you’ll wonder how you ever learned anything before open source.

Open source isn’t only good you and your own learning and development, but your contributions no matter how small or how big affect the PHP ecosystem. Not to mention the huge pat on the back you can give yourself after every pull request you send.

But fair warning – contributing to open source is addictive. You might fall deep into the open source rabbit hole, never to return. But it’s totally worth it.

Make 2016 all about open source

So after you’ve had your fill of gifts, sweets, and myriad family members asking you to fix their computer for you (so far I’ve had to fix 3 computers), take some time to sit down and reflect on 2015. Try to focus on what was good. What did you accomplish? How many people’s lives did you touch?

Then shift your thoughts to the future, to this upcoming year. Where do you want to go? Would committing yourself to contributing to open source this year align with your goals? What are you waiting for? Jump right in! The water’s fine.