What are you going to do now to make sure you have your best year ever? What one thing will mean the difference in actually achieving your goals rather than chalking them up to yet another year’s unfulfilled resolutions? What can you do to enhance an aspect of your life that you’ve neglected in your single-minded pursuit of that elusive brass ring? Think about it.
We asked a host of experts, readers who follow SUCCESS on Twitter and Facebook, and our SUCCESS staff what they will do to kick-start the new year. We got wide-ranging answers, anecdotes and tips. Our aim is to get you thinking and to inspire you to reach farther, go faster, achieve more than ever before. Are you energized by this prospect? Or maybe a little overwhelmed? Then start small, focusing on just one thing you want to accomplish. This life is yours to make of it whatever you desire, so start now!
1. Expand your thinking with new experiences.
Each month for 30 days in a row, commit to doing something new that you have thought about doing, but have not done, and notice how it affects your life. Some possibilities: do aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, listen to only positive music, don’t read the newspaper, stop watching television, eat only vegetarian or raw food, verbally appreciate at least 10 people a day, get eight hours of sleep, meditate for 20 minutes, visualize your goals as already complete, do 20 minutes of yoga, read a self-help book every morning for 30 minutes, plan your next day’s schedule and prioritized to-do list before you leave work, do five things every day that forward your No. 1 goal, spend an hour with your spouse, call one of your children on the phone, write a handwritten thank-you note to someone, drink 10 glasses of water, take a nap, listen to a motivational CD on the way to work. Start this month and do one activity for the next 30 days in a row and then assess how it has impacted your life. I started doing this in July of 2009 and it has created the most magical year of my life.
—Jack Canfield, co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and co-author of The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
2. Write letters to three people in your life to let them know what they mean to you.
If you’ve been sitting on a business idea for a while and haven’t acted on it, it’s time to do something about it. Write down your ideas and start working on a business plan. If you don’t know how, buy a book on starting a business and read it, or check the Internet for tips.
4. Write a 101 life-goal list.
5. Make a commitment to fitness.
Don’t just make a resolution and join a fitness center you won’t see after February—make a commitment and build fitness into your schedule. Join a class at your fitness club, an exercise group or a team sport. Or, if you can afford it, hire a trainer. Doing any of these things will not only make your workouts more productive, but they will also be more fun. Plus, you get the advantage of having others hold you accountable to your workout commitment.
—Deborah Heisz, former SUCCESS editor in chief
6. Find a volunteer opportunity at VolunteerMatch.org.
7. Invest in a bright financial future.
Start a savings account. I graduated from college, and I needed to start planning out my financial future. I want my financial future to be bright and to have no worries when I’m older and ready to retire.
—Brandy Jules, former SUCCESS staff writer
8. Build value every day.
Business is all about high-touch/ high-trust relationships. In this age of dramatic distraction, it’s especially easy to forget that. People do business with people they trust and people who make them feel special. Create a ritual that ensures you reach out to three possible or current customers every day. This isn’t about asking for the order; this is about adding value. The more people you help, the more profits you’ll see. Send them an article. Connect them with a business opportunity. Do something to help them close in on their greatest dreams. They’ll soon help you close in on yours.
—Robin Sharma, leadership expert and author of The Leader Who Had No Title
9. Practice the one-a-day principle.
You can’t delight everybody all the time but you can do something extraordinary for someone each day. Find a customer, colleague, relative or a friend each day and do something remarkable. Using the one-a-day principle will make your business and life remarkable.
—Mark Sanborn, leadership development speaker and author of the best-selling book The Encore Effect
10. Sign up for a birthday/anniversary reminder service.
11. Increase your awareness of your thoughts.
Become aware of what leaves your mouth by recording everything you say for at least an hour each day for the entire month. Words have power! When you listen carefully to your language, you will know whether or not you are moving with momentum and purpose toward your vision. As you develop a keen awareness of your communication, you become empowered to purposefully choose language that inspires and empowers you to realize your vision. If you catch yourself speaking about limitations or problems, give yourself the chance to look for solutions and possibilities. Holding yourself to a higher standard in your choice of language is key to achieving consistent outstanding results.
—Niurka, speaker, author, entrepreneur, trainer
13. Schedule family time.
I want to set up a schedule that is devoted only to my family. Maybe it’s playing a game with the kids twice a week or going to get ice cream. It’s hard to make time to do those family things, but I want to make sure I’m working to live instead of living to work.
—David Lee, former SUCCESS assistant editor
14. Lose other people’s opinions.
Quit worrying about trying to please everyone. As Bill Cosby says, “I don’t know the key to success, but I know the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
—Gina Muré from Facebook
15. Stop using the “bad thing” label.
Whenever something happens that is not in line with our desires, we get disappointed. We stick the label “bad thing” on it. And when we do, we experience it as such. In truth, we do not know whether something unexpected is “good” or “bad,” and we may never know.
When Greyston Bakery filled its first order for brownies for Ben & Jerry’s, the thin brownie sheets stuck together in 50-pound lumps and could not be separated. You could certainly label this a “bad thing.” But Ben pondered what to do and ultimately Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream was born— one of Ben & Jerry’s most popular products. So don’t stick a label “bad thing” on whatever happens to you that you don’t like initially. Who knows, that may be the very thing that you need to break out into a brilliant new future.
—Srikumar Rao, professor teaching personal mastery and the best-selling author of Are You Ready to Succeed?
16. Find a mentor.
17. Take stock and charge forward.
I’ll ask myself: What battles did I fight and not win last year? Are any of those battles worth continuing? Why didn’t I win them last year? What can I do to win them this year? How can I make those things I liked most about last year happen more frequently? 2010 is going to be another great year!
—Alan Dwelle, SUCCESS production manager
I want to evaluate my cost-of-living expenses and see where I can cut back. I just started my own business, and I want to evaluate my income versus my expenses to see where I am currently, with the ultimate goal of hitting the salary I want to make.
—Erica Jennings, former SUCCESS digital consultant
19. Get a whole new hairstyle or haircut.
My oldest friend is my former college suitemate. We used to laugh that no matter how many months passed between conversations, we could still pick up as though we’d spoken yesterday. But a lot of time has passed—fast. Work schedules, family obligations: life gets in the way. She’s not the only out-of-state friend I’ve lost touch with, either. This year, my 50th, I’ll make changes. I’m working on taking time off for visits, but meantime I’ll reconnect the old-fashioned way by writing, sending cards throughout the year, little gifts the family might enjoy, too. Last time we spoke, we agreed life’s just too short. Too short, indeed.
—Lisa Ocker, former SUCCESS editor
21. Get a leg up.
You know what I’ll be doing! I’ll take the stairs because success means doing what others won’t.
—Rory Vaden from Facebook
22. Create an environment fostering your success.
You might not even realize to what extent you are influenced—negatively and positively—by things and people around you. Start a journal to keep track of these influences so you can eliminate the negative and increase the positive. For instance, if being around a certain friend always makes you feel discouraged or drained, you should limit time with that person. Nurture your emotional well-being by choosing friends who genuinely want you to succeed and who encourage you. Also, consider your environment—is your home or office dreary or energizing? And make sure to read and listen to inspirational and motivational material. Make it a point to go to funny movies or watch a TV sitcom that makes you laugh. Overall, whether it’s gossip from co-workers, violence in the media, pessimism in your own thoughts or other influences, make conscious efforts to reduce your exposure to the negative. You’ll see positive benefits immediately!
—Tony Alessandra, a communication and sales expert and co-author of the best-selling book The New Art of Managing People
23. Write your top 10 goals for this year and post them where you can see them.
I’m going to put the 80/20 rule to serious work, focusing on the 20 percent of my work that generates 80 percent of the revenue.
—Haziq, via Twitter
25. Take daily steps toward achieving my long-term vision.
I’ve learned that my daily choices make a big difference in my long-term happiness. Les Brown says, “Greatness is a choice; it’s not our destiny.” I’ve always been a big-picture person, but this year, I’m breaking down my vision into daily, actionable goals that I can measure. The choices I make to spend a few minutes each day on my long-term vision will make great things happen!
—Amy Anderson, former SUCCESS senior editor
26. Refresh your network.
Have a host of contacts you’ve lost touch with over the last few months? Pull up those numbers and refresh your network! Now is the perfect time to check in and keep your network working for you.
27. Automate bill payments.
I’m making the change to reconnect with family by having a conference call scheduled for the same time once a week with my mom and brother, so that we can catch up and stay close even though we live in different cities.
—Kathlena Smith, former SUCCESS production artist
30. Be a student of all you do.
You must become an expert in your field. How? Read! Ask questions of mentors and peers. Attend training. Start today by identifying areas for improvement, looking for training opportunities in your field and signing up for seminars and web-casts, reading or listening to personal-development material, seeking out people you would like to emulate and approaching those you’d like as your mentors.
—Stedman Graham, speaker, entrepreneur and author of You Can Make It Happen: A Nine-Step Plan for Success
31. Have gratitude.
I often think I need new clothes, but when I clean out or organize my closet, I realize I have lots of options and everything I need at my fingertips. In many areas of my life, I am often surprised by how I already have what I need if I just choose to look at things differently. Take a life inventory. How are your relationships with friends and family? How often do you laugh? Are you doing the things you love the most? Be sure to delight in all the amazing aspects of your life.
—Sandra Bienkowski, former SUCCESS columns editor
32. Stop smoking.
33. Review your expenses as a couple.
The first of the year is a great time for couples to sit down and take a good look at their financial goals and habits. Are you both on the same page about your long-term plan? Are your investments meeting your needs for that plan? Do you need to adjust your spending or look for new ways to increase your income? This year, why not focus on diversification? Make a specific plan to put those new wealth-building ideas into action.
34. Take a dance or fitness class.
35. Slow down to speed up.
It’s easy to stay busy, moving as fast as you possibly can. But what’s the point of spending your days climbing a mountain, only to realize at the end of this new year, you’ve climbed the wrong one? The best businesspeople are staggeringly focused on their vital few—those few priorities that will yield explosive results. And the way to build this type of business focus just might surprise you: Slow down.
If only for 30 minutes each day, slow down to think, plan, visualize and recite your best moves in a journal. You’ll become aware of your biggest opportunities, your smartest activities and your greatest tactics for growth. With this insight and clarity, you can then take actions that will drive excellent results. Commit to making it your breakthrough year and slow down for a bit each day. Then you’ll be perfectly prepared to speed up. And win in your business.
—Robin Sharma, leadership expert and author of The Leader Who Had No Title
36. Cut up credit cards.
38. Write a not-to-do-list.
There is a difference between being busy and being productive. What are you wasting time on? What are you doing that doesn’t produce revenue? Here’s a powerful exercise. In 15- to 30-minute increments, keep track of each of your activities during the workday. Do this for a week. Then annualize the total amount of time for each activity that doesn’t lead to a sale or increased cash fl ow. How much more would you make per year if you did not do those activities any longer? How much more free time would you have for family? For health? Put those things on your not-to-do-list and pay people to help you with the stuff that doesn’t produce the sales and lifestyle success you desire.
—Todd Duncan, sales expert and author of the best-selling High Trust Selling: Make More Money in Less Time with Less Stress
39. Clean out your closet and donate unwanted clothes to charity.
40. Schedule a regular date night on your calendar with your spouse.
41. Schedule all doctor and dentist appointments for the year.
42. Say “yes” when you want to say “no.”
In this new year, we want to increase our possibilities, options and opportunities. When we say “no” to a business, social or community project, invitation or event, we are also saying “no” to the serendipitous benefits that arise. Rather than waiting for these events to present themselves, start today by actively seeking opportunities to meet people, gather new ideas, learn more about your industry and just connect and share.
—Susan RoAne, networking expert, speaker and author of the best-selling How to Work a Room
44. Lower your blood pressure.
Cut your sodium intake. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 2,300 milligrams daily, which is about a teaspoon of salt. Some people—middle-aged and older adults, people with high blood pressure and African-Americans— need less than 1,500 milligrams per day, the AHA says. Start by reading product labels for sodium content. Be wary of processed foods and soups, sugar-free items; even raw poultry can contain added salt. Baking soda also contains about 1,000 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Ask restaurant servers for low-sodium options—you’d be surprised how eager they are to help. Look for low-sodium options at the grocery, such as bread and deli items and, of course, fresh produce.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2009 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.