Here are some lessons I learned in 2013.
Some were brand new revelations while others were just strongly reinforced over the last twelve months.
I hope you find at least a tidbit or two you can take away from the following list that will make your 2014 your best year ever.
1) Always Show Gratitude
In 2013 I made it a habit to show gratitude in a multitude of ways on a daily basis.
Firstly, I started keeping a gratitude journal (thanks to my good friend, Craig Ballantyne for the inspiration).
Each day I write down the things and people that I am grateful for. It’s usually small stuff like the fact that the sun was shining and I had a nice 20-minute, head-clearing walk on the beach.
Or it could be a great conversation with a stranger in line at the grocery store, the fact that someone trusts me enough to ask for advice, a nice Tweet I got from someone or the fact that “momma cooked a breakfast with no hog.” (If you get that line I’m giving you a cyber hug right this very second.)
It doesn’t have to be all job promotions and new PR’s at the gym.
When you learn to appreciate the small things and the great people in your life it’s a lot harder to get down or depressed about anything. There are plenty of people who have it a lot worse.
I also make it a habit to reach out to people via hand written letters, texts, phone calls and smoke signals to let them know how grateful I am to have them in my life.
There are no words to describe how impactful this practice can be.
2) Live a Life of Service
Zig Ziglar said “You can have everything you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”
It’s perfectly normal to focus on your own needs. Most of us want more money, more sex, better relationships and more fun in our lives. So we constantly work towards that end.
But something interesting happens when you shift your focus. When you think more about how you can help your friends, colleagues, customers, fans and less fortunate people in the world, suddenly you start to get all the things you want.
You may also discover that what you want is different than what you thought it was.
The more you help others the better your life gets.
3) It’s All About the Relationships You Make
As a kid I could sit alone in my room with my superhero action figures and be perfectly content for hours. As an adult I can do the same with a book or my guitar.
I like chillin at home.
But that’s not how memories are made and friendships developed.
So, in 2013 I made it a point to attend more events and go out to lunch and dinner with friends every single week of the year. And as a result I formed some incredible relationships that have been life changing.
If I accomplished nothing else over the past twelve months, developing great friendships with the following six people would have been more than enough for me to say 2013 was a rousing success:
If you guys are reading this I thank you for being a part of my life.
4) Yes, Jay, You Do Have the Time
Everybody wants to acquire a new skill, take up a new sport, learn a language or an instrument, but nobody “has the time.”
I told myself that same lie for years.
Then I woke up and realized what nonsense it was. Of course I have the time. I was just choosing not to make the time.
Instead, I was wasting hours each week on busy work and trivial nonsense that wouldn’t make any difference or enhance the quality of my life in any way whatsoever.
The funny thing is that having more on your schedule actually forces you to be MORE productive and therefore you get more done.
That’s because there’s no time to waste.
Too much free time is a bad thing. I always do my best to avoid it.
5) Ruthless Time Management
So how do you actually become more productive AND simultaneously learn new skills and take up new hobbies?
You have to be as ruthless as MC Ren when it comes to time management. I like using timers and adhering to a fairly strict schedule.
If you were the CEO of a company you wouldn’t just fly by the seat of your pants every day. You’d have a schedule and a plan.
You would write down your meetings on some kind of planner, not just leave them to chance and hope you remember them.
Well, you’re the CEO of You Inc. when your work day is done. You’re in full control.
If something is important to you, like learning the guitar or painting, you will schedule it in each week. Write it down or put it on your phone calendar app thingy.
Then block off specific time frames (and actually use timers) during which you will practice that skill completely free of all distractions like computers, cell phones, TV’s and other humans.
It’s simple but it works.
6) Don’t Make Too Many Changes at Once
You get all gung ho and you break your bad habits and adopt a bunch of good ones. Life is great. Then what happens? You fall off the wagon and are back to your old ways before you know it.
You’re checking Facebook too much like you said you wouldn’t. You’re eating sugar again. You stopped reading and practicing your new skills as much. You’re back to square one.
Been there, done that several times.
It’s a classic mistake that everyone makes. Instead of trying to change everything about yourself or your fitness routine or your daily schedule, try changing one thing.
Focus on nothing else but that one thing for thirty days. Make it a habit, and then look to change something else.
Form one new habit at a time or you’re destined to fail.
7) Constant Reinforcement is Required
No matter how many great changes you make there’s always the temptation to slip. No one’s perfect. It’s a lot easier to be Clark Kent than it is to be Superman.
That’s why you have to constantly reinforce good behavior.
I highlight every book I read like a madman. If the book was particularly impactful I type up the ten most important lessons learned from the book and laminate them on nice paper.
I then add that sheet to my collection and I review 1-3 of them every morning to remind myself of the habits I want to keep and the behaviors I must practice in order to be successful.
Others I know do this on notecards. Both systems work. And both keep you on the path you want to be on and prevent you from slipping.
I urge you to try it.
Another way to constantly reinforce positive habits is to always surround yourself with people who are where you’d like to be or are doing what you’d like to be doing.
I’m lucky enough to have numerous friends who motivate and elevate me, friends who are constantly doing awe-inspiring things. Sometimes when we’re at dinner I start to twitch while listening to them speak and actually want to get up and run out the door.
That’s because they get me so fired up to be better in every way, so I want to leave my steak behind and go take immediate action.
The people you surround yourself with are the greatest positive reinforcements you can find.
What lessons did you learn this year that made a big difference in your life? I’d love to read them in the comments section below.