How to have a Happier New Year!

Happy New Year! I find there are 3 typical responses to the calendar turning. Some are excited about the new year with new possibilities and new mountains to climb. Some are just glad that 2011 is over. Or maybe you’re just apathetic, considering it just another day.

Personally, I am big about all beginnings, especially the beginning of each new year. But I think the beginning of each day and each month to be just as important. I treat each day is a gift and treasure the 86,400 seconds that God has given me to either use or waste, at my choice.

Time is a funny thing – we are obsessive about it yet we never seem to have enough. But it’s the only thing truly equal for all humans, both now and throughout all history. All of us have different backgrounds, parents, economic resources, education, and connections. But we all have been gifted 24 hours each day – you, me, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey. The differences between us are manifested in the choices that we make while investing the 24 hours we are given. Today has zero shelf-life, you can’t save it and use it later. Use it or lose it.

Many people spend their time frivolously, or allow their time to be imposed by the world around them. Successful people, the 5%, invest their time wisely, making daily progress towards their life purpose. Like a stock investment with daily movements, some days they are up and some days they are down. But their general trend and trajectory is up, up the mountain and toward their goals. As they  pause at the summit that was 2011, they can look back and celebrate all that they have accomplished. And they can acknowledge and learn from their mistakes, but not carry them forward like baggage. They turn their head to the future and set new goals, identify new mountains to climb for 2012.

Successful people don’t just hope for success and happiness. They expect success and happiness and  they are actively engaged in visioning and driving toward this success. In reading today’s paper, it seems that many are just hoping that 2012 is magically better as if they are a mere spectator in this cosmic drama. Today’s Sacramento Bee headline is “2012 Spurs Fresh Hopes”. Here are some of the quotes from a citizens from around the world:

  • “2012 is going to be better. It has to be.”
  • “We are hoping next year will be better.”
  • “We’re starting out optimistic and hoping it lasts.”

Now hope is a wonderful thing and I definitely believe in the power of faith and prayer. But hope by itself is not enough. I also believe that God gave me gifts, including a wonderful mind, and the free will to choose. I am an active participant, the author of my story, not waiting for all the acts to unfold while I sit in the stands. I can’t do anything about my past, my mistakes, or my wasted time. But I can choose much about my future, starting with how I spend my time and on what I focus my mind and energy. I am accountable for my success and my failure.

Does this philosophy guarantee success in the future? Simply, no. There are no guarantees in life, including waking up tomorrow morning. But what if you could increase your odds of success tremendously by following some of the same secrets that other successful men and women have used? I think you can, and I have proven it to myself and other students that I have coached.

Here’s what I’ve learned and applied from the successful people that I have studied.  the last week of every year is the most important time for me in shaping and envisioning my own life’s trajectory. I take time away, alone to quiet my mind and meditate on the kind of person I want to become. Here are the 5 actions that I take at the close of each year to best prepare myself for future success.

  1. Celebrate my victories – too often we focus on what didn’t go right instead of what we did accomplish. This trap is negative reinforcement that robs me of my victories, my self-esteem, and my confidence to move forward with new attempts. I believe even some of my failures have valuable learnings that are merely stepping stones to my ultimate success. I had to experience them to get better and get to my ultimate goal. I bet you could list of least 20 wins from last year. Give yourself some credit.
  2. Vision my future -  this is my most important step, the one that drives all of the others. The Bible says that “the people without vision shall perish”. I find many people I meet lack a clear vision of their desired future. And like my grandfather used to say, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you probably won’t get there”. The problem is that people are so busy in the day-to-day urgencies (left brain/task oriented), they rarely take time to really design their future. In fact, they spend more time planning a vacation then they do their life. I associate vision with the right brain, our creative and spiritual side. It is a muscle that must be exercised and developed. Unfortunately, in today’s culture the left brain dominates and the right brain atrophies. We are afraid to dream big, as the left brain comes up with obstacles for why it won’t work. But the right brain is where the true power of your personal lies. It’s where the spiritual gifts that we crave (peace, love, joy) also lie. Think of many athletes that now go through extensive visioning before they compete. Lindsay Vonn, the champion US downhill skier is famous for standing at the top of the ramp and moving her body as if she were going through each gate  and then sees herself crossing the finish line with the winning time. Take time to vision – and make yours bigger, brighter, bolder. Exercise your vision muscle a little every day.
  3. Take a personal inventory-I will provide more detail on this step later. But in short, I measure and hold myself accountable and 8 goal areas that I have deemed mission-critical.  My areas are: health/fitness, relationships, vocation, ministry/service, finances, personal/hobbies, personal growth, emotions/meaning. For each area I grade myself 1-10 for the previous year relative to the goals that I set at the beginning.
  4. Gap analysis- I rarely get a 10 in any area and certainly not in all. That’s because I set the bar higher each year. But anything less than an 8 is unacceptable and it’s getting in the way of hitting my bigger life goals. I celebrate the 8+ scores as major wins for the year.  And for anything less than 8, I develop a detailed action plan for quickly bringing it back in line.
  5. Resolve to  take immediate massive action to bring deficient areas to 8+ –        many people cringe at the idea of news year’s resolutions. But “resolve” is the right word, much stronger than decide or commit. Decisions and commitments are well intended, but come into and out of our mind quickly. “Resolve” is in the gut, and it means you won’t compromise and you won’t quit until it’s done. Whether it’s quitting smoking, losing 20 pounds,  or opening your own business -you are so attracted to the desired state and so repulsed by the current state. You are choosing a different you, and you won’t be denied. Another tip- tackle these major gaps hard in the 1st month and quarter of the year.  knock them out quickly  and they will build confidence and momentum for your other goals.

Do these 5 things, now and every year in the future, and I guarantee that you will climb farther than you ever have before.  And maybe even more important, you will  also enjoy the journey more.  and that is where true happiness lies. Many happy New Year’s to you!

Questions: what is your ideal vision for your future-one year, 5 year, 10 year from now? What 3-4 steps can you take immediately that will make the biggest impact in getting there sooner?

quotes of the week: Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely –  Thomas T Murphy

Visualize yourself standing before a gateway on a hilltop. Your entire life lies out before you and below. Before you step through, pause and review the past; the learning and the joys, the victories and the sorrows – everything it took to bring you here. – The Book of Runes

When I look to the future, it’s so bright, it burns my eyes. -  Oprah Winfrey


2 Responses to “How to have a Happier New Year!”

  1. Michael Green January 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Mike, Happy New Year!! Thank you for the continued inspiration and support! Visioning is one of my favorite parts of goal planning. I look forward to more “works” from you. Your honesty from the core is respected and appreciated. Cheers!

  2. Michael Morotti January 24, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    I was talking to Miguel Verde this evening and he showed me your website. Looks great!! I met you 8+ years ago at your home in Los Lagos. You and I also know John Reardon. Love to have coffee sometime and share successes. I work in Boston and live here in Granite Bay. Cheers!!

    (415) 937-1234 or (617) 945-3464