Can you believe it? Where has the time gone? Scramble the resolution army!
The new year is just a few days away and with it comes either renewal or angst, hope or regret. Renewal and hope for those looking to start again on their dreams and hope. Plans for exercising more, spending more time with family, traveling more, pursuing a dream of writing a book, getting a better job opportunity or more. Angst and regret for those people who believe 2016 will be another year of failure and others getting ahead, so it’s better to not try and just complain instead.
Many people wait until January 1 to start planning, but I want to encourage you to take a little time these final few days to begin thinking about and planning for this new you. Wait, what do you mean, “new you”? Each moment we are improving or sliding backward. That’s the reality of life, in that it never stops. If we “stop” then life chugs along and we get left behind. No, of course the results of this “left behind” aren’t apparent, rather it’s subtle and little by little. The problem is that if we don’t make plans and then act consistently on them each day then the precious time we have is simply filled up with whatever entertainment or event that comes along.
What I want you to spend time thinking about and planning is what things will you seek to learn, improve, or change in yourself? Where will you serve others and give to those in need? How will you prepare for your future and that of your family? You see, the reality is that our time on this Earth is finite and we really don’t know when we’ll die. So, it’s important to leverage the time and resources we’ve been given to improve ourselves, those around us and the world as a whole.
Here are a few questions and some insights of each to get you started on your plan of action and impact in 2016!
1. Are you doing all you can do?
The majority of people’s first answer is to say a resounding “YES!” to this question. They say it because they want to believe it and to admit they aren’t doing all they can is too difficult. The answer to this question though, if we’re honest, establishes whether our dream remains just a pipe-dream or if it’s a work in progress. The former is a fantasy and will disappear as quickly as the steam from your breath on a cold morning. The latter is the bedrock of dreams turning into reality.
First things first and that’s you must be painful honest and admit whether you’re really doing all you can do. Once you realize you aren’t that is the beginning of your new life pursuit of this dream to reality.
2. Do you have “yes” friends or ones who challenge you, call you on your bull, excuses, rationalizing, etc.?
One of the best things you can have in your life is an honest, caring friend or family member who will hold you accountable. I don’t mean control you and harp at you. No, we’ve left childhood behind and it’s time to be grown-up. What I’m talking about is a person who will call you on your excuses and rationalizing why you can’t do something or be something. It’s the person who listens to you, but doesn’t fall into the trap of placating you and your excuses.
People like this might be seen as mean, uncaring or against us, but the fact is that they are the truest people who let us become who we were made to be. This can only happen if the self-made excuses are removed and you’re left with just you, your work ethic and a lot of hard work. If you don’t have a person in your life like this then you need to drop everything and find someone. It will hurt your feelings and you’ll not love or even want to be around them at times, but they will be the one person who will help you to get rid of the flab and garbage that is holding you back.
3. Are there things you should be doing that you aren’t?
It’s so easy to get caught up in the fever pitch of daily life and even more so these final months of the year. There have been celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas and final vacation days, school plays, and so on. Add in the increased workload as companies try to pad their final numbers and the extra hours spent working. Finally, add in all of the time spent posting and catching up on social media and you have a great chance on letting things slip that you should be doing. As much as January is the year of new beginnings, it seems that December is spent just trying to survive to the end of the year for most people.
Take a moment and think about the tasks, projects and commitments that you should be doing. Are you doing them all? Are you doing them well or just putting in the bare minimum? Are there things that are difficult, but need to be done, but you’re just putting them off? Ask yourself why you’re putting them off and then commit to drop anything that is frivolous and use that time to get these tasks done! It’s very easy to take the path of least resistance, but we all know that that path leads to nothing good.
4. Are there classes, certs, or training you’ve been putting off? Why?
So many people complain about the lack of opportunities available and when asked about further training the excuse train starts up full steam. “I can’t afford it”, “my company should have to pay for this”, “why should I do any extra?”, “I don’t have the time” and so on and so on. These excuses are simply using air and energy that could be used to further your education, get additional certifications or finish your continuing education units (CEU). Perhaps you’ll need to for it yourself, but you’re simply setting yourself up in the best position for a promotion, a better job, better opportunities and more. Consider it an investment in you and for your family!
Stop right now and think about three classes, certs or training that you should be doing or need to be doing. Now, make a plan starting today to get these things done! It’s costing you money, mental and emotional energy and there is no good reason that you can’t get them taken care of! You’ll be so glad when you do!
5. Do you want a better life? Start prioritizing and working for it
The answer everyone gives when presented with this question is, “of course I want a better life!” The reality is that most people want the benefits and dream of a better life, but don’t want to put the work necessary to get it. Commit to yourself to start putting in the time and the work! Stop wasting time dreaming of hitting the lottery and use that energy to pursue your education, reading good books, listening to motivating audio (I recommend Les Brown) and create a plan of action starting today. You don’t have to have a complex plan, but just start with what you know and what you want to pursue and begin writing down possible steps toward it. So many look for the perfect plan and they waste time and energy that could be used to change their lives! Don’t be one of those people!
6. What do you want in your life?
Usually this is a question that’s asked to high school and college aged students, but I submit that it is a question that all of us should answer, regardless of our age or circumstances. We should do this now and continuously throughout our lives. I have found it better to start from the end and work backwards. In this case:
a. What do you want your epitaph on your gravestone to read? Write 1-2 sentences of what you want it to say.
b. What do you want people to say at your funeral about you and your life? Write 2-3 paragraphs of no more than 2-3 sentences each.
c. What’s important to you right now? Compare that to what you think your self just a few months from dying would say is important.
d. Work on writing down things you can do, short term and long-term to work toward those important things.
This needs to be a continual process of reviewing and refining these priorities, as they might change throughout your life. It’s critical to start where you are and not try to get them perfect before writing the answers down. In fact, perfection is similar to a smooth stone that got that way by having sand and sediment rub over it by a river’s rushing water over a long period of time. Write the answers down to the above as best you can, post them where you can see them and review them often!
7. Are you chasing happiness or living your life fully to the best of your ability?
One of the biggest struggles for people is the idea of happiness and the pursuit of it. Books and audio seminars focus on “The Happiness Project”, “The Happiness Quotient”, “1% Happier”, and other “how to be happy” ideas. The problem is that the pursuit of happiness as a goal is pointless. Once you arrive at your “happy place” then you begin to slowly (or quickly) become less and less happy. It’s not arriving at happy that should be your focus, rather it’s the struggle, successes, failures and things you face and go through that lead to happiness.
Change your mindset to pursuing things that interest you with all your effort. Stick with them through the successes and failures. Be consistent to work on your goals and interests. You will find more satisfaction and that can lead to more happiness. Be sure to pursue with your whole effort and being. For it’s there that happiness is truly found!
8. What people or things are time or energy vampires?
People and things that suck the energy out of us, like they’re vampires, create more struggles with depression, stress, anger, and frustration that perhaps any other things in our lives. The people who create drama in our lives, even when no drama is necessary. People who “pull our strings” to get reactions from us. People who use us for their selfish benefit and then move on without any thought or reciprocation. People who waste our time or resources and get angry when we withhold them. These are just a few of these vampires that suck the energy and life out of those they’re around, before moving on to more fertile people.
One of the tough tasks for me was how I could eradicate these “energy vampires”, while not being completely offensive. The reality is that I simply needed to remove myself from their influence and that might mean adjusting my schedule, minimizing time online and eventually in some cases I had to be frank that I couldn’t be around their negativity. In most cases you can make yourself less available and these people will move on without a thought.
These energy vampires might actually be “popular” people at your work, gym or online. While they might be “popular” they also take a lot of energy to be around. You need that energy to pursue your dreams and also to give to those who you lead and nurture. Never be afraid to be honest with people who are “energy vampires”, since you might be the first to tactfully explain why you’re removing yourself from their presence. Some will be offended, but the majority will use this as a chance to change.
It’s critical to know where you’ve been and where you’re going. This is as important as a rudderless ship that is just pushed around by the currents and wind. Without some discipline and self-control you too will be blown too and fro. Sit down and plan your time, priorities and use of your resources in 2016. If you’re married or in a serious relationship then plan with your spouse or significant other. One of the saddest sights is when you go to a funeral or read an obituary where people struggle to find things to say about the deceased.
Make it so that they will need to take a full page in the newspaper to print your obituary. Make it so that your funeral is hours long and filled with joy, awe and wonder at the impact your life and service had on those around you. Start now and you’ll be amazed at the energy you and others gain from the joy of planning and service.
Happy New Year and be sure to come back and follow my writing in 2016. There are plenty of exciting things coming!