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January 2010

a year of amazing: how to make this one the best yet

You know, I have a good feeling about 2010. There's something about that nice, round number that makes me feel calm, makes me think this year is going to be a really good one. When I was searching for an image to use for this post and came across the one above, I was super excited. I have high hopes for the year and the picture I found seemed to echo them perfectly. While I really am trying to live in the moment and focus on what's happening right now, I can't help but look to the future of 2010 and have hope that it's going to be an amazing year. Of course, the reason I think it's going to be an amazing year is because I plan to make it an amazing year. In 2009 I learned one thing for certain: your life is what you make it. 

Prior to last year, it was so easy for me to fall into routines and patterns, thinking that everything just happened because that's the way it went. Though of course the thought had crossed my mind, I didn't realize just how powerful my own abilities were. I didn't realize that I really could take control of my life and spend my time in ways that were productive and healthy. It was a really hard year, but it was a really great year. I learned more about myself in those 12 months than in all the 26 years that had come before them. The other day I read this quote by Charles Richards: 

"Don't be fooled by the calendar. 
There are only as many days in the year as you make use of."

When I read that, I thought to myself, "Wow. That's really true." I thought back on the years before, all of the days I'd wasted, and then I thought of last year and how I'd done my best to make every day worthwhile. Sure, they weren't all great days and they weren't all filled with productive, positive activities, but, for the most part, I can say that I made the most of my days in 2009. Having spent a year that way, I cannot imagine going back to the way it was before, to those days I spent lying on the couch, watching TV or thinking negative thoughts. After the year I've had, I just cannot imagine going back. 

What I can imagine, however, is going forward to an awesome year in 2010. Part of me, admittedly, is a little nervous about my hopes for the year. What if 2010 isn't as great as 2009? What if I don't change and grow and learn so much, the way I did last year? What if I'm setting my expectations too high and I reach the end of the year feeling let down? This post is all about putting those "what-ifs" aside and developing a plan to make 2010 even better than 2009. With a plan in place, I just know 2010 can be -- will be -- amazing. 

How To Make 2010 Your Best Year Yet

Get excited. Stop and think right now about what gets you excited. If you had a day to do anything you wanted to do, what would it be? What is that thing that, when it crosses your mind, leaves you feeling so overjoyed or pumped up that you can barely sit still? Keep that thought in your mind, keep doing whatever it is that makes you that happy, and keep surrounding yourself with people who support those things that make you oh-so-excited. You need to support yourself. You need to do the things that make you the happiest. And you need to have people in your life that support your happiness. 

Get involved.
 Now is the time to get involved in what it is that excites you. No, not next month or later in the year. NOW. Think back to the things or activities or people that get you excited and ask yourself, "How can I become more involved? How can I get into that, and experience those feelings, even more often than I already do?" You need to be doing whatever it is that you love most in the world. You need to be figuring out a way to be involved with what you love most and to be involved with it as often as you can.

Get going.
 Now that you've identified what you want to do and how you can become more involved in it, it's time to get going. 2010 may have just begun, but it will be over before you know it. Don't put off the things you want to do. The year will be shorter than you imagine it to be. You will find yourself at the end of it, thinking,"What did I do this year?" Don't let yourself get to the end of the year without doing what it is that you really, truly want to do. It's a new year, a new decade, and it's time to get going! 

For me, last year was a good one and it's inspired me to make this one even better. But if you didn't feel like 2009 was everything you wanted it to be, now is your chance to change things. I believe you can start change at any time, but why not embrace it now when everyone else is so into it? If you want your life to be different, make it different. If you're looking for some inspiration, check out some of these posts: 

Stop, Drop, & Roll: How to Prepare for Change

You CAN Have It All: 8 Tips for Balancing Work and Life

Breaking the Spell of Someday

Let's Go! 5 Steps for Getting on the Road to Your Goal

Change Your Mind About Change


stop, drop, & roll: how to prepare for change


“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t.
It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.”
James Gordon

Change is a funny thing. Sometimes we want it so badly and we'd do anything for it. Sometimes we're so scared of it that we'd give anything to stop it from happening. Change has played a big part in my life over the past year. I cannot think of a year when I've changed more than 2009. While I'm still working at the same place and living in the same area, almost everything in my life has changed dramatically over the past 12 months. My relationships with others, my relationship with myself, my understanding of the world, my actions and reactions, my thoughts and way of thinking -- all of these things have undergone major transformations this year. I often look around at where I am now and ask myself, "Why? Why now? What was so different about this year that made it so special?" Much as I scratch my head and ponder these questions, the only real answer that seems to stick with me is: I was ready

It took a long time -- a lot of years of doing things to make myself stronger and, in some ways, harder -- to get to the point where I was ready for change. I don't think I even knew I was ready. I just looked around one day and it hit me like a bat to the head: I had to change things. I had to change things. I had that cliched experience of looking around and realizing that this was my life and I didn't like it one bit. I'd thought this many times before. I'd always wanted a different life. I'd always thought that "someday" things would be different. It wasn't until about a year ago that I realized that I had to make things different. I had to change them. It seems simple enough, realizing I had control over my life, but it wasn't simple to get to that point in my life. As the Indigo Girls sing in "Least Complicated" (click to listen): "The hardest to learn was the least complicated." It was such a simple notion -- take control of your own life -- but it was such a complex one for me to grasp. 

I don't think I'm alone in this. I think it takes a lot of people -- a lot -- to realize that they can control their own lives. I think many people never realize it at all and end up floating along on whatever path they happen to find themselves drifting down. I was that person. I was that drifter, just floating and thinking I'd get there someday. I had hope that things would work out, but I didn't want to work for it. I just thought it would happen. Well, I can tell you from personal experience...things don't "just happen." Yes, sometimes there are those moments of excitement when things seem like they're falling in place. Yes, there are times when things seem like fate or coincidence. But the best things -- the really great things -- happen when you're working towards them, when you're making the changes and when you're putting in the effort to make yourself better. 

But how did I do it? And how can you? I don't know if I have any true and definite answers to those questions. I wish I could post a step-by-step plan for how I changed, but I know that these things are really personalized and, if you want to change, the way to do it really depends on how you are as a person and what exactly it is that you want to change. Even though there isn't a formula for change, I can offer some suggestions and some advice on how I got from where I was to where I am now... 

Stop, Drop, and Roll: How To Ready Yourself For Change 

  1. Stop being afraid. It's so easy to be scared. Believe me, I know how much courage it takes to willingly choose to change. It really can be terrifying, the thought of changing your life, of changing yourself. I honestly think it was that fear that held me back for so long. I knew I needed change. I could sense something that needed to be different in my life, but I was so afraid. If you really want to change, you have to stop being afraid. You have to take whatever fear you're experiencing and just let it go. As you can probably guess, this is not easy -- but it is the only way to really prepare yourself to change. 

  2. Drop your old ways. Sounds so obvious, right? If you don't like how your life is, just stop doing what you're doing, right? If you've ever tried to stop your habits or break your routines, you know just how difficult this can be. In theory it sounds so great, but it can be really, really hard to change things and to make choices that are different from those you'd made in the past. It was nearly impossible for me to alter some of my habits when I decided that I needed to change and it certainly didn't happen over night. It took a long time -- probably years if you count all of those failed attempts from the past -- to get where I am right now, but I know with absolute certainty that I would not be here if I hadn't changed my old ways. 

  3. Roll with the punches. As I mentioned in #1, change can be really scary. Most people don't like it all that much, especially when it's hard. For this reason, you have to to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what "should" be and live in the moment. Rolling with the punches isn't always easy (and was especially difficult for a Type A girl like myself), but it's the only way to really accept change in your life. If you're having trouble with this, I'd suggest reading The Power of Now or Loving What It Is. Both of those books really helped me out when I was trying to adjust to living in the moment and accepting my new life for what it was, changes and all. That whole go-with-the-flow thing didn't come easily to me (still doesn't sometimes!), but it's definitely an essential attitude to have when it comes to changing. 

As we all know, change can be so brutal sometimes. It's hard to face it when it's forced upon us, but it can be even more difficult when we're trying to implement it ourselves. At that point, change becomes a choice and, for that reason, it's something we can so easily avoid or give up on. Changing yourself is really hard work and these three steps are only the beginning. They are only small bits of advice to help you ready yourself for change. Around this time of year, people are thinking a lot about change, about making resolutions and changes. Recognize that change is hard, but you really do have the ability to change anything in your life. What it really comes down to, or at least what it came down to for me about a year ago, was being ready. If you're not ready for it, you won't change. But if you are ready...well, you have the amazing ability to turn your whole life upside down... 

How do you ready yourself for change? 
What advice do you have for those who want to make changes? 

there is beauty in believing

"At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them.
Though I've grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe."

Chris Van Allsburg
The Polar Express

I can remember vividly a Christmas Eve when I was about five years old. Just like the line from the film The Polar Express, "On Christmas Eve many years ago I laid quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets, I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound I was afraid I'd never hear: the sound of Santa's sleigh bells." I remember just how it felt, to lie so quiet and still, hoping and hoping I would hear those bells ringing. And... I did! Lying there in bed, in the very first house I can remember living in, I swore I heard sleigh bells. Today all I can say is that I swear I heard what it was that I wanted to hear. 

Though it wasn't long after that that I stopped believing in Santa (which occurred after I cleverly decided to compare my Mom's handwriting on a check to the handwriting in a card from "Santa"...), I'll never forget that night when I believed so much that I heard those sleigh bells. It's one of the few times in my life that I've believed that much, that honestly, and that faithfully. Though I don't believe in that type of Christmas magic anymore, I do believe there is magic in Christmas. However, it's something I don't think, over the years, I've always believed in. 

Like most people, I've had my good holidays and my bad. I've had the years I was super into and the years I thought to myself, "Why in the world do we still do this every single year?" Christmas is one of those things that, though it can bring a lot of happiness, it almost always brings a lot of stress. There are events to attend, packages to wrap. There are gifts to make and errands to run. It can be really overwhelming to suddenly be faced with this time of the year when you have a million extra things to do. And don't even get me started on what it's like to be alone at Christmas. Total bummer. Let's face it -- Christmas can be rough. But, year after year, so many of us keep doing it. We keep wrapping the gifts and singing the songs and telling the same silly stories over and over again. We love it. Why? Because we believe

We believe there's something completely and utterly magical about Christmas. We believe in Christmas miracles, in Christmas stories. We believe that even the same ratty old decorations are beautiful. We believe that the same verses sung over and over again can still sound magical. We believe in glitter and tinsel and the idea that maybe -- just maybe -- this will be the very best Christmas of all. Sometimes it seems like a miracle in and of itself that we believe all of this, especially as adults. It's one thing for children, in their sweet innocence, to see the magic in Christmas, but, for us adults it can be a little bit harder. Yet we still do it. We still, after all of these years -- the good Christmases and the bad, the disastrous holidays and the magical ones -- believe. 

When I think about that night, so many years ago, when I was lying in bed and listening so hard for Santa's sleigh, I'm amazed. I'm amazed that my mind could play such tricks on me. And I'm even more amazed that, looking back on it, I'm actually happy that my mind did that. Normally I'd be against thinking logically, especially when thinking about myself in a critical stage of development as I was at the age of five, but, in this case, magic trumps logic. When it comes to Christmas, especially to a childhood Christmas, believing wins out over rationalizing every single time. 

There have been moments in my life when I've reflected on that Christmas and thought to myself, "What an idiot I was! How could I really have thought I heard sleigh bells!?" I realize now that that reaction was not anger at myself, but fear -- fear that I really could believe in something so much that I could create it in my mind. This fear of believing in something so fiercely that I can transform it into a reality has held me back for many years. I've spent a long, long time being afraid of believing. I've spent years afraid to believe in myself, afraid to believe in others, afraid to believe in ideas that I knew could be made real. 

This year I've finally begun to get a little bit of that five-year-old self back. This year I've once again begun believing. While I may not be lying in bed imagining sleigh bells, I'm still that same little girl, flat on her back, believing in something so much that she makes it a reality. I may not believe in Santa, but this year I've discovered that I still believe in myself. It's been a crazy, whirlwind of a year, but I've come to find what I always knew to be true... There is still, and always will be, great beauty in believing.