8 Crucial Actions to Jump-Start 2009

Steven Gaffney

It likely goes without saying that 2008 may have been stressful for you or someone you know. During times like these, people tend to simply try to cope, tread water, or just wait things out. That is certainly understandable, but it is probably not desirable.

Most people will say that in retrospect their most difficult and challenging experiences were some of their most valuable ones. In fact, most people say that hard times generally produce much growth because responding to such times demands ingenuity. We all know that even when we are not responsible for our challenging circumstances, we are 100 percent responsible for our response to the challenge.

Take this opportunity to do a quick assessment because awareness is the first step to resolving any issues and growing from the experience. Reflect for a moment on the following questions:

  • Are you where you thought you would be as the new year begins?
  • Did you expect things to happen last year that didn't?
  • Have you put off changes that you need to make?
  • Are there people zapping your energy and robbing you of what you could achieve?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you are not alone. Here are 8 crucial actions that can help ensure that 2009 will be a great year for you. These actions are like flipping the switch on a train track - the initial change is minimal, but down the line the difference can be enormous.

  1. Distance yourself from the dream crushers, naysayers, and negative influences. Just like we are what we eat, we are a product of the people we spend time with and the information we take in. Who are you surrounding yourself with? What are you reading? How much are you dwelling on negative news stories? There is a difference between awareness of and obsession with negative things. I am not suggesting that we put our heads in the sand. I am suggesting that we fill our minds with the influences that empower us. Take the time to clean house.
  2. Let go of the garbage that you are carrying. Reach out to someone you have written off (but still think about), or to someoen you've given up on or had some problem with. Talk to that person and do what it takes (legally of course) to reach some sort of resolution and put the situation behind you. Ask the other person, "What would it take for us to put this behind us?" OR ask, "What specific suggestions do you have so we can resolve this?" Their input can help you create a solution that works for everyone. By reaching out and having a conversation, you are extending the olive branch. This can create a new beginning and trigger conversations and events that can ultimately change your life. Remember: Forgiveness is a gift you can give yourself. Make 2009 the year you give that gift. (For more information, check out the Honesty Works chapter on the 7-step procedure to forgive and let go of anything.)
  3. Live 2009 with a long-term perspective. Ask yourself these questions: "When I am ninety years old and I look back at 2009, what do I want to say happened? What do I want to say that I accomplished?" Be clear on what is important to you, and don't negotiate. This might sound simple, but many people negotiate things that shouldn't be negotiable. Be honest with yourself about what is important to you in your relationships.
  4. Find out what the important people in your life want and then do your best to deliver what they want. You can use this question as a starter: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our relationship?" (Or "this project," or "my effectiveness in this job.") Listen to their answer, and then ask, "What would it take to make it a 10?" For extra credit, ask, "What would it take to make it a 15 - above and beyond expectations?" Be ready for an interesting and - hopefully - helpful response. The next step (and this is important) is to manage their expectations. I have found that people, groups, and organizations don't often get the credit they deserve because they don't adequately manage other people's expectations of what can and cannot be accomplished. When we do keep our word and give people what they want, it can bring great joy and exhiliration... and ultimately everyone wins.
  5. Appreciate five really important people in your life. Consider the people you have a hard time appreciating. Not only is it important to say the hard stuff, but you need to say the good stuff too. After all, who wants to be around someone who only shares bad news, complaints, or negativity? I have never met anyone who has left a company or wanted a divorce because they were appreciated too much. So don't be stingy - express your appreciation. It is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another.
  6. Commit to changing at least one behavior and being accountable in a public way. What behavior of yours do you really want to change? What if I were going to give you a billion dollars to change it? What if your life depended on making this change? What if someone else's life depended on it? The truth is that if you really want to achieve this change, you will. Make it happen. For example, if you find yourself repeatedly complaining about a particular issue and you want to stop being so negative, tell five people you are going to stop complaining about the issue. Every time you complain about it, give them each a dollar. Or if you really want to commit to being home by a certain time, tell your significant other that if you don't make it on time, you will grant any wish or pay for a nice dinner. The point here is to send a message that your promises are not empty and you are committed to changing the behavior. Being accountable is one of the most important ingredients in lasting change.
  7. Decide on your number-one goal and create a plan to achieve it. Make sure your goal is measurable and that there is a deadline for completion. You might think this is simple - and it is - but people often neglect to set clear goals or neglect to prioritize their many goals. I see this frequently with organizational goals. People don't know which ones to focus on, and they subsequently don't achieve what they could achieve if they understood which goals were the most important.
  8. Look out for one another. When I was growing up, I often sat alone at lunch - not because I wanted to, but because I did not know how to reach out and ask for help. Many folks now find themselves in some of the most challenging times of their lives. Reach out and make sure they are okay. Those of us who have support can take the opportunity to look out for those who do not. Just because someone is alone and doesn't ask for help doesn't mean they really want to be alone. Maybe they have a hard time asking for help, or maybe they are embarrassed that they need help, or maybe they think no one would help them even if they asked. So reach out to one another. We need to stick together.

Regrets can plague us for the rest of our lives, but they don't have to. Choose to live without regret or doubt. Don't wait! Seize the moment and make sure that 2009 is your best year ever. After all, you deserve it. 

Steven Gaffney, President of Steven Gaffney Company
Copyright 2008. All Rights Reserved.

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