C. S. Lewis is right. You're never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream. And there is never a better time than right now to make sure your next year, the new year, is your best year ever.
So let me ask you, "What are you going to do to make sure you're going to have a great year ... personally and professionally?"
Some of you will try making a few New Year's resolutions. But they may not work. John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, has discovered that only 46% of the people who make them actually achieve them. To ensure a great new year in 2012, ask yourself 4 questions instead of making some half-hearted resolutions. As you figure out your answers to these 4 questions, you're bound to have a better, more successful year.
1. Ask yourself the "what" question.
As wildlife researcher Jane Goodall says, "Every individual makes a difference. We cannot live through a single day without making an impact on the world around us. And we all have free choice. What sort of difference do we want to make? Do we want to make the world around us a better place or not?"
In other words, you are not a neutral. You make your organization a better or poorer place to work. You make your family a healthier or sicker place to live. You make a difference. The question is WHAT.
I liked the way radio personality Earl Nightingale put it. He asked, "Are you pleased with your present place in the world. If your answer is 'yes,' what's your next port of call? If your answer is 'no,' what are you going to do about it?"
Great questions. So ask yourself, "WHAT are you achieving with the only life you have to live?" If you like your answer, celebrate. If you don't like your answer, change.
2. Ask yourself the "why" question.
It's bound to give you a better year. You see ... a person who knows "how" to do something has a pretty good chance of having a job throughout his life. But the person who also knows "why" she is doing what she is doing is almost always more effective and successful. As psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl said, "If you know your 'why,' any 'how' is possible."
So I challenge you to take some time to answer these questions for yourself.
WHY am I in my field of ... accounting, advertising, sales, public service, nursing, construction ... or whatever field you happen to be in? Why do I believe in ... my company, my employer, my boss ... or whomever I report to? Why do I believe in myself? Why do I think I can do an excellent job in my career? Why do I want to improve ... my job skills, my people skills, my attitudes ... or whatever else I think is important in my life and my work? Why do I believe I can truly help ... my customers, clients, patients, coworkers ... or whomever else I serve?
When you uncover your personal and professional "why's," when you build a stronger belief system in who are and what you do, you always end up with a better year ... because you become bolder and more courageous. You will be able to follow writer and editor Ruth Boorstin's advice. She says, "Be bold in what you stand for and careful what you fall for."
Of course, your new year will not be lived in a vacuum, so ...
3. Ask yourself the "who" question.
As the old poem states, "No man is an island." With few exceptions, you have to live and work with other people, whether or not you like them. And the quality of those relationships will have a major impact on the success of your new year.
So figure out WHO you have to get along with and make a conscious effort to spend a quantity of quality time with them. It's a lesson David M. Vassos from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada had to learn. As David explained, when he was six, a stray dog followed him home one day. David got him some food, and from that moment on, he had a new best friend. He called him Butch.
Butch accompanied him every morning on his paper route. He even helped David with a contest to sign up new subscribers. When David talked about how he hoped to sell extra papers to earn the money to buy his dog a license, Butch would sit nearby looking sad. It worked like a charm.
That winter, David hooked Butch up to a sleigh as he pulled him around the neighborhood to deliver his papers. The two of them were inseparable. But things changed after David went to high school and discovered girls. There was less time for Butch. And Butch didn't like that.
Once, when the two of them visited David's friend George, Butch immediately took a liking to the place. George made such a big fuss over Butch, feeding him and playing with him, that when it was time to go, Butch didn't want to leave.
There were times after that when Butch would go off and not return for days. David soon learned that Butch was hanging out at George's place and sleeping over.
One day, when David was coming out of his dad's coffee shop with Butch, George walked by and called out to the dog. Was George trying to steal his dog? He didn't know, so he called out to Butch, as well. For a few moments, Butch just sat there looking between the two of them. Then he got up and went to George. David was heartbroken.
As he later noted, that was the day he learned that the best way to keep a friend is to be a friend.
It's an important lesson for all of us to apply to everyone that is important to us ... at work and at home ... if we expect to have a great new year. Be a friend.
Finally, spend some time to...
4. Ask yourself the "how" question.
Certainly, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of "how" questions you could ask. I recommend two in particular.
First, HOW do you plan on improving yourself in the upcoming year? How do you plan on getting better at your job? How do you plan on serving others at work more effectively? How do you plan on interacting more harmoniously with others at home?
Without some thought given to this question, without some thought on how you're going to improve, chances are you'll be the same next year at this time as you are right now.
Second, HOW do you think things will work out in the world around you? You see, you are very much affected by the world around you, so it's vitally important that you know what is happening and what is about to happen in the world of politics, business, finance, technology, religion, and every other big important topic. You simply cannot afford to not know what our leaders and potential leaders really think and what they're trying to accomplish ... or you may wake up one day and wonder what happened to your country, your company, your job, or your future.
There's even a fun way you can work on this question. Get a group of people together this week and have a "New Year Prediction Party." The setting could be a team meeting at work, or you could get some friends and family together to do this activity over a festive lunch or dinner. Either way, I guarantee you'll not only have a great time at the "Party," but you'll be a lot more tuned into the world over the course of the next year.
Before you meet, make up some forms for each person to fill out when you get together. Just tell them to be thinking about their 2012 predictions in the areas of Politics, Sports, Money, Work, Family, Weather, and a few other assorted categories because they will be writing down their predictions. Of course, you can make up whatever categories and questions you think would be the most interesting or relevant for your group. Your questionnaire might include such questions as:
Who will be the Republican nominee for President? Who will win the 2012 presidential election -- Obama or his opponent? Who will win the Senate? The Republicans or Democrats? What about the House of Representatives? Where will the stock market be on December 15, 2012? Will your company have more, fewer, or the same number of employees at the end of 2012 as it did at the end of 2011? Will your company make more or less money in 2012 than it did in 2011? Who will win the 2012 Super Bowl? Who will win the 2012 World Series? What will be the biggest change in your family situation in 2012? How many hurricanes will be reported/recorded by the National Weather Service? What are two goals you expect to achieve in 2012? Which movie-star/rock-star will make the biggest news in 2012? What is a major world event you predict will happen in 2012? When you have your "New Year Prediction Party," pass out the questionnaire. Give people time to read the questions, think about their predictions, write them down, sign their names, and put each person's questionnaire in a separate sealed envelope. Then, if you like, go ahead and talk about your predictions. Or keep them secret. It's your choice.
Finally, have someone collect the envelopes and keep them until you all meet at an agreed-upon date and time one year later. When you meet, go over the questions and have each person read his/her prediction for that question. Tally up the number of correct predictions each person made. You can even award prizes for the best and worst forecasters.
This is a great team-building or family-bonding event. But it's also a great way to start paying greater attention to "What do you think is going to happen in the world around you?"
Four questions ... the what, why, who, and how questions that will give you a better year than ever before.