This is not a message telling you how to make your new year better. It is a message to help you make every moment (or at least most of them) great.

Flipping the calendar fills us with joy and hope. There is something magical about writing a new number at the tail end of the year. January 1 is not only the basis of our resolutions. It is the start of a brand new possibility of positive change.

The trouble with New Year’s resolutions is we often try to change who we are to fit a mold we think is better for us.  We look forlornly in the mirror at our expanding waistlines and at our statements at our receding bank accounts. We think what we are doing is somehow wrong and that it would best to make a quantum leap towards a better future. The challenge is most radical changes are not sustainable. Incremental change, however, can lead to lasting improvement and well-being.

Whatever your goals are, it is possible to set and attain them at any time of the year.

Whether you have fitness, financial or family-related goals, you can live the life you deserve every day of every year. Think about your New Year’s resolutions as a chance to show the world who you truly are. It requires a bit of courage to denounce the common resolutions most people make, but my guess is, if you are reading this, you already have what it takes.

  1. Name the year. While in graduate school, my husband and I developed a system of naming the New Year something to help each other realize our goals. One year was the Year of Fun. We spent it looking for new, yet inexpensive ways to be entertained. Another was the Year of Travel in which we took ten trips to various places. Last year was the Year of the Book as I completed and published The Power of Slow. What will your focus be this year? Family? Career? Inspiration? Fun? Have the title reflect your main goal for the year. You may have many goals, which is great. The key here is to identify your main focus and to drive your efforts in a common direction.
  2. Get a new calendar. As silly as this may sound, holding a fresh, unmarked calendar is a powerful, hope-filled exercise. Flip through each month and envision how you would like to spend your time. Make a few notes in the margins or on the days themselves. Find inspirational quotes that motivate you towards your main goal. Add them to the page.
  3. Be realistic. The fastest way to discourage yourself is to set unattainable goals such as running twenty-five marathons in as many days. Recognize your limits. Be kind to yourself. New Year’s resolutions are about empowering yourself to live your best life, not a tortured one.
  4. Go slowly. We often get impatient when we ‘miss’ our self-induced deadlines. Celebrate the small wins and embrace the setbacks as something you have learned. Take baby steps to sustain your energy and your progress. One step forward is better than a giant leap, then a tumble to ground zero. Sometimes we achieve our goals in the most unexpected ways. Allow for surprises and trust that your life is unfolding just as it should.
  5. Get support. Gather your tribe of like-minded people to help you achieve your goals. Whether it is a weight loss group, an exercise buddy or a partner who lifts you up when the going gets tough, we all need human connection to help us on our way. No man, or woman, is an island. Sharing your goals with others also gives you a higher level of culpability than if you keep it to yourself. If you struggle with procrastination, ask others to help keep you in check. Do the same for them.

The New Year is a time of hope and renewal. It is a period of transition to our higher selves. We can reside in that place of heightened awareness more often than we think by tapping into our inner voice and actually listening to what it says. What do you truly want 2010 to be?  Take a moment to reflect. It can be yours for the asking.**

**Parts of this essay first appeared on WoWoWow.com.

The Gift of a Year

January 3, 2010

The Christmas gift I enjoyed most this year was a used book my sister sent me. It was simply perfect as my sister had gushed for almost an hour on the phone about the effects the book had on her earlier this summer. The Gift of a Year: How to Achieve the Most Meaningful, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Year of Your Life by Mira Kirschenbaum walks you through the steps to take a year for yourself. It doesn’t mean you have to shave your head and enter a nunnery. Nor does it mean leaving your friends and family in the dust literally. It is about focusing on the one thing that’s been ‘missing’ in your life.

Looking back on 2009, I lived the gift of a year without really knowing it. I merely decided to fulfill my childhood dreams by doing things differently. Acting in German television shows, doing commercials and video skits, I enjoyed my year immensely. Now that I know what to call what I did (gifting myself a year), I  decided this year would be the year of beauty for me personally (my husband and I name each year something by selecting a focus. Last year was the Year of the Book. This year is the Year of Entertainment). Whether I commit an act of beauty, marvel at the beauty of nature, or surround myself with beautiful people, I have decided beauty, both inside and out, might be just the thing to keep my focused and in alignment with my truest purpose.

So it was perfect timing when I came home after the long six-hour drive from the Swiss Alps to our home nest where a copy of Shannon Honeybloom’s new release, Making a Family Home was waiting patiently by the wood pile. The book’s premise is to be conscious about how you design your home by taking into consideration the sensory aspects and the hidden meaning behind the space. In flowing prose, Shannon conveys her own struggles with raising three small children in her Austin home. The isolation, the challenges, the taxing nature of early parenting can all be alleviated by using the home as the basis on which to build our lives. Beauty, joy, love and warmth are what nurtures our souls. The lovely photography by Skip Hunt augments the book’s message: home is where the heart is. Fill your house with love, no matter the location.

How will you gift yourselves this year?

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