The door has officially opened on a brand new year, and that means brand new opportunities. What will you do to make this your best year yet?
Last year is gone. For some it was good. For others it wasn’t. For most of us it was a mixed bag of ups and downs, good and bad times, and held moments of joy and of challenges. How we will recall the year depends on our view of its events and what events dominated our lives and how they impacted us. Our view is rooted in our perception.
That we know our perception of what happened ranks more significant than what actually happened gives us a unique opportunity. We gained wisdom from our year’s experiences and with it, we can look back and reflect on what happened. Reflection contains a treasure trove of useful information. We can use those insights to develop a plan to make this year better for us. A year when we actively seek the life we most want.
Here are some tips for doing that:
1. REVIEW AND REFINE. We look at what’s in our lives and choose what to keep and what to cull.
That creates change. Don’t get anxious. Yes, change means stepping into the unknown and sometimes we’re more at ease with the devil we know, but if we get more of what we want—more joy, more contentment, better circumstances, less conflict–then change is worth the temporary unease. After all, we didn’t know anything before we did, right? We learn as we go.
Change can be a pain. Others often don’t want us to change. (They prefer the devil they know, too.) And change is work. We’re already tired. But riding the same treadmill isn’t going to bring about a different result. If we’re not content or at peace, we’re not going to be content or peaceful unless we change. So we have choose. Either we park and pay (do nothing and pay the price which is to not be content) or we move and endure (do something and put up with the change conflicts until things get better) and become more content.
Gloss doesn’t change facts. If you want different, you must create different and deal with the pitfalls of refining your creation until you are content. Your changes are your choice. Your choice and your responsibility. Others will accept or reject your changes, and you must accept that is their choice.
Change is one part recognition, one part analysis, and one part action.
You can’t get off the treadmill if you don’t realize you’re on it. Why are you discontent? Take a hard, honest look at your life and peg the specifics. Now focus on solutions. What can you do to make wise, life-course corrections?
Once you know what has you discontent, you’ll know what needs to be done. Nail down the problems and the solutions. Be specific. This is the nature of your life you’re deciding. Choose well to live well.
Remember, you can recognize all the challenges in the world and deliberate on them for a lifetime, but if you don’t actually put a solution to work in your life, you’re not changing your situation for the better.
That means next New Year’s Day you’ll be sitting right where you are this one, complaining about the same things you complained about this year (and perhaps last year, and the one before that). Things could even be worse. So you must act. In short, if it’s broken, fix it.
It could take a couple attempts, a few solutions tried to hit on your “perfect” solution. Some will try one thing, not like the result, and consider that failure. It’s not. You know now that didn’t work. Try something else. It’s okay to not like solutions and keep seeking the right solution for you. This isn’t a one-size fits all bit of business. We’re talking about your contentment. That’s uniquely defined, so solutions are unique, too.
Many try one thing, don’t like it, and give up or give in—and remain discontent, considering it their lot in life. Who loses in that? Why do these people place so little value on their contentment and peace? Why do they quit and not try again? It’s heartbreaking that they cease trying to go for the gold that could be their lives!
But those who say, “Well, that didn’t work, I’ll try this next.” Those who keep searching will find the perfect-for-them solution. Bluntly put, they try and fail their way right to success.
We’ve been taught that failure is a bad thing. But if you try, you gain something–and knowing what you don’t want/what doesn’t work is every bit as important as knowing what you do want and what does work–then that’s growth, and the attempt, with growth, is success. Maybe you’re not where you want to be, but you’re closer. You know now these potential solutions you’ve tried don’t work for you. So try others. You dig enough, you’re going to find the perfect solution for you.
If you’ve been told repeatedly that failure is bad, then consider this your personal license to fail. Go ahead. You keep trying until you fail your way to success.
So review and refine. Look at the past year. Pinpoint the problem points. Seek solutions to neutralize them. Make them assets if you can. Then implement the changes needed. Nurture the good. Cull the bad.
2. FINISH. Tie up loose ends to clear a path for new beginnings.
It’s hard to focus on new ventures when we’re bogged down in remnants of old ventures. Some overlap is inevitable, but the less of the old we have to contend with in the time where our focus should be on the new, the better our odds are of improving our position and making headway on the new and of building momentum.
Momentum is a powerful force. We put down a foundation. Upon it, we build.
If one section is framed, we’re limited on that one section. If two or three sections are framed, then expansion on all sections is possible. Momentum builds momentum. So the less time we spend in the past (deal with the old and get it done) the more time we have to invest in the future (welcome the new).
Clear the decks–which includes accepting what you can’t change. Don’t repress it, accept it. And then press on.
3. WHAT DO YOU WANT MOST? Do you know? Focus on it until you do.
Answer specifically. When you have, then ask, Why do you want it and what are you doing to get it?
In answering those three questions, you clarify inside yourself and that clarity creates and intensifies your determination. You also plant seeds in your mind for your plan of action.
Remember an immutable law that deals with free will. You are free to seek what you will. But you are not free to impose your will on any other. These questions should be about you. Not about anyone else. How you can improve yourself, your life, your future.
If you’re constantly replaying old unworthiness tapes, or you focus on what’s wrong with everyone else, you’re on the wrong track. Respect others and yourself and recognize that replaying those tapes isn’t accomplishing one beneficial thing.
If you need more on this, go into the On Writing blog on my vickihinze.com site and read or re-read Windshields and Rearview Mirrors and Are You a Candle or a Mirror?
Bottom line: Look within. Your answers (and benefits) reside there.
4. SET A GOAL. MAKE A PLAN. I can’t go into specifics here, but if you haven’t read Why We Need a Plan, I strongly suggest that you do. It’s in the On Writing blog on my website. (If you’re not a writer, read it anyway. The principles contained in it remain the same regardless of your career specifics.)
Far too many go through the motions of living without investing in anything that excites them. There’s no passion in their work. That’s a problem and makes for a poor substitute of a life. Don’t get so caught up in busy-ness that you don’t even remember your wishes, hopes or dreams. If you have forgotten them, pull them out of cold storage, dust them off and see if they’re still your wishes, hopes and dreams or if it’s time for an update–or even an overhaul. If it is, do it. You should be excited about your life!
Upshot: Don’t drift, design.
5. TRY ONE NEW THING. You could find a new passion. If you don’t try, you won’t find anything and you might be missing something that could come to mean a great deal to you. The saddest thing about that: unless you look, you might never know what it could have meant to you.
I’m reminded here of a story I heard about a guy caught in a flood. On three different occasions help came: a neighbor, a camel and a guy in a boat. On each of these occasions the man stranded in the rising floodwaters refused help, saying he was waiting on God to come help him. Well, the stranded guy drowned, hooked up with his Maker, and boy he was ticked. He demanded to know why God hadn’t come. God replied that he’d sent help three different times. What exactly did the guy want?
The moral of the story: Sometimes we’re so fixed on what we think opportunity looks like that we fail to recognize it when it comes. Of course, that won’t happen to you if you’re open to new things . . .
6. NIX CRANKY. ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. Of all suggestions, this is by far the most important. It’s easy to fall into a hotbed of negativity or into a bad situation that sucks you dry, sows more seeds of discontent, or steals so much of your energy and focus that you grow inextricably mired in it and lose sight of what’s good and going right in your life.
When that happens, we react emotionally and that’s just not a good idea because our emotions aren’t reliable. We need balance to function with stability.
We all have challenges. No one escapes them. But if we focus only on the challenges (versus on solutions to them and other things) then we’re doomed to a very rocky, very unstable road and that is definitely not in our best interests–or in anyone else’s.
To gain more balance–which leads to more stable, less dramatic (and melodramatic) events that inflict trauma on us (and often on unsuspecting others)–counter what’s wrong with what’s right. Counter the challenges with the blessings. See the good and be grateful for it.
Sometimes that’s easier to do than at other times. I’m reminded of something Joel Osteen once said about gratitude. There are times when the best you can do is to be grateful you’re not like x. (He pointed mid-air and said like him/her–I don’t recall which. But the intent in what he said fits situations and events as well as people.) Be grateful for little things as well as the big ones.
We often learn most from the things we tag as “bad.” We all have something to celebrate.
7. WHERE YOU FOCUS, YOU FOLLOW. Before you act, you think. And if you allow your thoughts to run wild and unchecked, you diminish the chances of them being in your best interest. Anyone, given enough time, can rationalize and reason himself right out of good sense–and rob himself of accomplishments and even his destiny.
If you spend your time focused on the right things, good and constructive things, you’ll be purpose-driven and accomplish. If you spend your time focused on the wrong things, on negative or destructive things, you’ll follow that path and purpose and accomplishment (not to mention happiness and contentment) will elude you.
Which will you do? You choose what you focus on and give your energy to–how you spend your life. That’s as it should be. Again, you’re responsible and accountable for it, and you will live with the joy or regret of your choices.
There will always be commitments and gatherings to celebrate. Celebrate them, of course. But also think about your life. So that the quality of future celebrations and the days in between are more aligned with the life you most want.
Contentment rarely just happens. We better our odds for it by knowing ourselves. Recognizing what we want, taking stock of where we are now and determining what it’ll take to get where we want to go. Acting on our findings position us for meaningful personal gains. And for that, and so much more, we should be grateful.♦