We’re coming up on the new year! Do you remember 11 months ago when you dreamed of all these things you wanted to do this year? What you wanted to accomplish? Who you had hoped to become by now?
Over the last year I’ve become convinced that there are 12 personal skills you absolutely have to develop if you want to be able to look back at this point every year and be psyched about how far you’ve come. Make yourself these 12 things, and every November you’re going to be itching for December so you can write next year’s agenda.
Step one for everybody is being truly self-aware. Before you can be intentional about your life, you have to really know yourself–why you are, what makes you tick, how you think, what you need.
Who are you really? Where are you at now? And where do you wish you would get? Not your job title, not how many followers you have. You. Get away from everything for a day, go be by yourself, and get back in touch with your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires.
Too many people know it sucks to look back on a year or a lifetime of years, and think “Wait–that’s not what I wanted…”
Once you know who you are and what you want, spell it out. In words. Write a vision.
Create a vision so that you can always know where you’re going and why you’re doing what you’re doing to get there. Every day is about achieving that vision, because any day that’s not is a day you have lost. The less visionary you are, the less focused and powerful you will be.
Make sure your vision is sincere, inspiring, clear, actionable–and above all, it must be a true commitment.
After you have defined your vision, it is essential to plan exactly how you’re going to get there and then start executing your plan: Setting goals.
Goals increase clarity and focus, motivation and urgency, enable accountability and self-management, and keep you on track when things get hard. Ultimately, goals make big things happen.
Without clearly written plans, steps, action items, to-do lists–“goals”–it is very hard to stay on a straight course. Having vision is one thing, but knowing what that means you absolutely have to accomplish today is what gives fuel to the vision. And there is nothing quite like crossing a goal off your list to boost your motivation and confidence.
Now that you’ve gotten back in touch with yourself, defined your vision, and set goals, it’s time to work on self-control. Because no matter what you said when you were on a mountain top, when the valleys of stress, distraction, and challenges hit, without some intense self-control you’ll fall flat on your face.
Self-control has everything to do with the little things. Those little daily choices that don’t seem like that big a deal. But over time, they lead you somewhere. And if you’re not self-controlled while you’re making little decisions, how do you expect to face the big ones?
Self-control in attitude, focus, decision-making, relationships, communication, everything–self-control is an absolute necessity if you want to be an effective, successful, and happy person.
No matter how much you prepare and try to control yourself, you’re going to fail. You’re going to fall hard on your ass some days, and getting up is going to feel impossible. People are going to make comments that knock the wind out of you. The world will seem to fight against you some days.
When things aren’t going your way, there is an extremely powerful weapon you’ll have to use if you want to keep walking till you see the light at the end of the tunnel: Positivity.
Sure, “thinking positive” doesn’t give you superpowers. But thinking negative drains you of every ounce of energy and determination you ever had. “I can do this!” can lead somewhere. “I can’t!” leads to your couch.
One of the best kept secrets in history is that all the movers and shakers didn’t always feel “confident.” They just decided they had to act like it anyway. And that is where you can find your confidence.
There isn’t a certain type of person who gets to be confident in their “golden touch,” while others (like you) have to tread carefully because they’re always at the brink of failure.
There are people who do, because they tell themselves against all feelings and reason that they can do! And there are people who don’t, because they allow themselves to assume they will screw it up. Be the doer. Decide that you know you can. Sure, you know you’ll get knocked down a few times, but in the end, you can, and that’s all that matters!
Life will absolutely not always throw doors open for you, so you have to get creative sometimes. You have to build your own doors. You have to figure out your own ways to do what you want to do.
Creativity will get you hired and paid. You’ll be the one with the plans and solutions. You’ll tweak things till you get results. You’ll figure out what needs to be done. You’ll be an innovator.
If you want to be a part of the crowd, ride their wave. If you want to do even better and get even further–if you want to be above average–if you want to see your vision become a reality–you have to design your own wave. And that takes some good old brainstorming, day-dreamy creativity.
No matter how well I know all of the above, sometimes I just can’t do it. Or at least my tired mind and body convince me that I can’t.
I like to trick myself into thinking I’m superhuman. I can still run full speed ahead on little to no sleep. I can buy time by skipping the gym. I can guzzle a 5-Hour Energy on the way back to work. But give it about a week, and exhaustion will catch up with me. My feet will start dragging, my attention will start lagging, my eyes will start sagging, and I’ll become just one of the zombies again. Life will start happening to me. Don’t let that happen to you!
Your mind and body both depend on enough sleep, good nutrition, and regular exercise. Neglect any of those and you’re setting yourself up to crash long before your work is over.
If you want to accomplish big things, you’ll have to take some risks, ask for help, and do scary things. And those first two are just kinds of scary things. Bottom line is, you’ll have to do lots and lots of scary things. Your goals are sitting just outside your comfort zone, or else you would have already accomplished them.
Asking for help, for references, for introductions, for time and coaching–it all takes courage. Pitching your ideas, giving feedback, leading a team–takes courage. Publishing a book, selling a product, networking–takes courage.
Courage doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Courage means when you need to do something, you do it whether it’s scary or not. Period.
Minutes become hours, hours become days, days become weeks, weeks become months, and months become years. And through it all, no matter what, you have to be persistent.
Remembering that your vision is a commitment, you have to understand that you’re in what you’re in for the long haul. When things get tough, you don’t just think positive and exercise self-control today. You do it tomorrow, and the next day. Every single day, you do what you need to do, no matter what.
When life fights against you, you fight back and you don’t stop. When someone says you can’t, you keep going. When you get fired, you keep going. When you don’t get called back, you keep going. When you don’t get the raise, you keep going. Keep going, keep going, keep going. Persistence doesn’t mean you’ll get everything you want. But a lack of persistence ensures you won’t get anything at all.
I could throw in some references to studies that say happy people become successful, not the other way around. And I believe that principle. But at the end of the day, that’s not why you need to be happy.
You need to be happy, because this is your life. You only get to live it once, and life is about more than goals, promotions, and bank accounts. Life is about the happiness that you experience along the way. Sure, a year-end bonus can buy some legitimate happy things, but happiness is deeper than success in business. Happiness is success in life.
I firmly believe happiness is a choice. I believe it because I’ve lived with some of the poorest, most broken and abused people in the whole world. And they chose to find happiness. Perspective. You can choose to be happy during your journey. Or you can choose to need more first. To wait–to wait until you “get there.” And if you choose to wait, you’ll probably never make it to the happiness. So choose happiness now instead.
None of this is worth anything if you are not at peace.
You can be so caught up in the race that you lose touch with reality. In reality, everything is pretty much okay. We create these social pressures that tell us they’re not, but they really are. Don’t get so busy and so stressed that you can’t let go and relax. Don’t get so focused and driven that you can’t breathe.
Whatever it takes–meditation, prayer, relaxing, dreaming, taking a walk, closing your eyes–whatever it takes, find peace. If you don’t, buckle up for a really terrible ride.
What simple thing can you do today—every day–to increase each of these characteristics in yourself?
As you finish up this year and prepare for the next, think about these 12 things regularly. Give yourself a head start on next year by becoming a master of yourself over the holiday season.
On January 1, hit the ground running with me by being truly self-aware, having a clear vision, knowing how to use goals, being self-controlled, staying positive, living confidently, creating solutions, taking care of your body, having limitless courage, being persistent, persistent, persistent, choosing to be the happiest person you know, and living at peace with yourself, the world, and all there is!
Let’s do this!