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Five Tools to Build a Joyful and Fulfilling New Year

Tools for Holiday 1How do you feel as we officially enter the holiday season this week?  This time can be full of all sorts of emotions depending on what’s happening in our lives – excitement, sadness, loneliness, joy – to name a few.  Some of us enter the holiday season buoyed by the hopefulness of a new year and a fresh start.  But for many of us, that hope is quickly dimmed by the memory of promises we’ve made to ourselves and promptly broken in years past.

A common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Make this the year to end the madness and get the results you’ve always wanted.

Don’t Leave Your Dreams to Chance

We all want to be joyful, don’t we? We want to cherish our loved ones.  We want to do our work well and we want to realize our potential.  These very basic goals are so fundamental and yet can be so hard to achieve.

You don’t have to leave your dreams to chance.  You DO need to know what your dreams are.  You need a mission and you need a plan.  Successful companies don’t leave their business results to chance. And there is no more essential business than the business of your life.

So why isn’t everyone living out their dreams?

After decades of managing, coaching, teaching and mentoring hundreds of people, I’ve seen several issues and patterns emerge.  Here are five things you can do to boost your chances of making 2014 the year that your dreams come true.

1. Define Your Mission

I love author Matthew Kelly’s definition of what our purpose is.  He says, “Mission is where your talents and passions collide with the needs of others and the world.” What do you love doing? What are you really good at doing?  How can you put your talents and passions to work to address a need in the world?

Imagine what the world would be like if everyone used their gifts to meet the needs of others.

2. Conquer The Fears That Stand In Your Way

Sometimes, even if we know what our mission is, we don’t pursue the very things that would fulfill us.  Over the years, I’ve noticed common behavioral patterns that put a cork on our enthusiasm.  At the root of those patterns: fear. Fear that we’re not good enough. That we are not worthy, that someone else might not approve… and on and on.

Those fears wear all sorts of masks and they stand in the way of us naming our deepest desires and going for them whole-heartedly.  My wise mother used to say, “If you go for something, you might be disappointed.  But if you don’t even try, you are guaranteed to be disappointed.”

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? I invite you to face your fear head on and go for it with all you’ve got.

3. Create A Vision Of What Success Looks Like For You

As the wise sage, Yogi Berra, said “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

Your vision is your own definition of success – what life looks like when you’re joyfully working toward fulfilling your mission.  But setting a goal and working toward it isn’t enough. Your vision needs to include daily pleasures while you’re headed toward your destination.  It’s so important to build those joy notes into every day – they keep us fueled for the journey and they help make it feel worthwhile.

If you can clearly envision what a successful day, year, life looks like, you will be better able to set goals and take actions that move you toward that vision.

4. Develop A Plan To Guide You Toward Your Vision

There is a wonderful Japanese proverb that says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”  It’s great to have a vision, but just wishing isn’t going to make it so.  You need to set goals, that when achieved, will advance you toward fulfilling your mission and vision. And then get to work to accomplish them.  Business types suggest that your goals be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

5. Make Yourself Accountable To Someone Else

A few years ago, I started assigning “buddies” to participants in my Business of Life workshops at the end of the course. At the last class, each person committed to taking at least one action toward achieving a goal within the week and shared it with their buddy.  They exchanged email addresses and made an appointment to check on their partners’ progress in a week’s time.  These students reported a very high level of success implementing their ideas.  Some even told me they stayed in touch with their buddies for years after the course ended and continued to support and encourage one another.  When someone is looking, you are much more likely to follow through on your commitments and less apt to push them to the back burner when other demands pour in and compete for your attention.

This Year, Don’t Just Make a Resolution…Make a Plan

Did you make a New Year’s resolution last year?  Did you follow through on your promise to yourself? Lots of us make a resolution to lose weight every year, for one example.  We sometimes even believe that this will be the year we actually do it. And then, you know what usually happens.

You are much more likely to succeed if you make a specific plan for how you’re going to achieve your goal. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose weight”, you’ll have a much greater chance of actually doing it if you say, “I am going to lose ten pounds by March 31 by cutting out desserts and going to the gym three days a week before work.”  That way, you know exactly how you are going to achieve your goal and you have clear ways to monitor your progress between January 1 and the end of March, and do some course correction if you go off track.  That plan is SMART.

This year, set yourself up for success.  Choose a goal that excites you.  Imagine what your life will be like when you achieve it.  Face any fears that stand in your way, make a plan, tell a friend, and then go for it.  And remember to celebrate your triumphs!