As one year comes to an end and a new one begins, it really is a special time. The madness stops for a few days: The phones are quiet, emails abate, and there is time to relax and reflect. In the always-on, always-connected world we live in, we rarely make the time to step back and celebrate what we've accomplished, reflect on what we've learned, or make plans to change how we go about life. Daily habits and the rhythm of life take most of us captive, and we often end up doing what we've always done, and each year starts to look very much like the last. And while the arrival of a new year prompts many of us to make simple resolutions, like giving up alcohol, joining a gym, or cutting carbs, most of us don't use the start of each new year to reset how we live to ensure we get the absolute best out of the entire year ahead.
Each of us has the ability to choose how we show up to life every day: sleeves rolled up or hands out. Go into the New Year living consciously and connected to the inner strength that can affect how you think about and act on each and every day. You can't control the White House, but you can control your own house, so take personal control of how you approach your own life.
As I go into 2013 I know I will face challenges, but I know they are to overcome, not to overwhelm. And while I can't change the broader economy or government policy, I can take responsibility for my attitude and how I will make this the best year yet. We're on this planet for a short time and every day we're alive is a gift. We all need a kick in the pants reminder that we are fortunate to live, work, and play in the United States of America. As I'm thinking through and planning how to make 2013 my personal best year ever, I thought the following Uncommon Sense principles might help you as you plan your year ahead.
Look back at 2012 and celebrate your successes and identify your failures. Map what you learned from both and think about what you want to change in the year ahead. Define what success looks like for 2013, setting audacious and achievable goals. Envision what you want the year to look like, literally. Write a list by month, write a year-end letter to yourself, or build a dream board, but don't go into 2013 without knowing what you want success to look like. Map out how you'll get there and what resources you'll need.
Revisit your values and what's important to you on a personal level. These foundational principles should guide decisions around how you live and work. List the principles that are central to who you are and guide how you think and behave. Put your values to work daily throughout the year ahead. If it feels like we're walking away from the founding values this country was successfully built on do what Gandhi advised and, "be the change you want to see in the world." Decide what you really care about and the role you can play in helping make a positive change in the world.
It's a universal truth that grateful people are happy people. Start every day with gratitude and thanks for the chance to live your life in a country that promotes freedom and the opportunity to be your best. Say thank you often and mean it.
Like most people, you probably waste too much time on the small, insignificant, time-sucking, going-nowhere stuff. Make a list of the things you do that waste time every day and list what you're going to do to change your behavior.
The sage father of my first girlfriend gave me some very simple advice that is as relevant today as it was then. He said, "Never make money your god." I've been asked many times this year whether the purpose for a company is to make a profit, and my answer has been the same every time, "Making a profit is the by-product of a clearly defined purpose." As individuals we know money creates choices but it doesn't answer our need for purpose. Make sure money is not the reason or rationale behind what you do.
You are the sum of all of your parts, relationships, and actions. The advent of social media has highlighted the age-old truth that every action you take, and every conversation you have, matters.
You don't have to follow the crowd. Take courageous steps to define the brand of you in 2013, reminding yourself of who you are, what makes you tick, and why you get out of bed every day. Don't feel compelled to follow the crowd. Be courageous and be proud of being yourself.
Don't surround yourself with "yes people" and fans. Friends and mentors should help make you a better version of yourself. Make sure the people around you are smarter and different than you. Have people in your life who will call you out and hold you accountable.
Time is the most valuable commodity we're given. The weeks and months fly by, so plan your time carefully and don't waste it. Spend it generously with people who matter. I get up every morning at 5:15 a.m. to surf. I do it every day, and it's my time to reflect, exercise, and connect with nature. Design time into your day that is only for you, not for work or for anyone else. A time where you think about your life and the role you're playing in it—and pursue something you love. It's the best gift you'll give yourself.
Learn to butcher a hog, ride a horse, run a marathon, write code, or play the guitar. There's nothing like the excitement and learning that comes from doing something completely new for the first time.
Shawn Parr is the CEO of Bulldog Drummond, an innovation and design consultancy headquartered in San Diego whose clients and partners have included Starbucks, Diageo, Jack in the Box, Adidas, MTV, Nestle, Pinkberry, American Eagle Outfitters, Ideo, Virgin, Disney, Nike, Mattel, Heineken, Annie's Homegrown, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, CleanWell, The Honest Kitchen, and World Vision. Follow the conversation at @BULLDOGDRUMMOND.
[Image: Flickr user ADoseofShipBoy]