This is my favorite time of year. Yes, I like the holidays, family time, gift giving, Christmas music, parties, and faith-filled traditions. However, my love for this time is the focus on reflection and the opportunity to start fresh with a new year.

Now, I absolutely believe we all can have a “start fresh” moment in an instant, any time, any day with a shift in mindset and a decision to do something differently. Yet when the New Year comes around there is an extra oomph and spark to learn from the past and set a new course to create a different future.

Whether this year has been your best yet, one you’d like to forget, or a mixed bag, there is always something to celebrate, and something for which to be grateful. Start there before dwelling on what needs to change.

Once you’ve celebrated your wins and acknowledged all you have to be grateful for, shift gears. Reflect on this last year with the following two questions:

  1. What mindset(s) and behavior(s) patterns of mine held me back from achieving the success I desired this last year?
  2. What mindset(s) and behavior(s) do I need to adopt to achieve my 2017 goals?

Be honest with yourself. If you’re really not sure then maybe talk it through with a friend, business partner, or coach. The answers to the two questions will not necessarily be the same or related. What your specific goals are likely doesn’t really matter. Most mindsets and behaviors necessary for success are the same no matter what the goals may be.

Journal on each of these questions and keep prodding yourself to go deeper into your answer. Most likely you’ll come up with one to three key words or phrases that capture the success mindset and behaviors you need in the New Year.

Mine showed up as presence and action. Below I share how I assessed what each of those words mean to me, and how they show up in my life now, and what I’ll be doing to shift and engage both presence and action in the New Year.

Presence – I like to think I’m a masterful multitasker, but in all reality I get more finished more quickly when I focus. It’s just damn hard to focus sometimes especially with email and social media just a browser tab away or an indicator light/ding on my phone. Sound familiar? Since I work from home I also sometimes have music, or a podcast or TV show streaming in the background. To some extent this is my way of feeding my extrovert that needs to feel connected.

I know I can work with background noise, often even better than in silence. But what that background noise is, and the type of work I’m doing, makes all the difference. Coffee shops and co-working spaces aren’t a very good fix for me because I love people watching too much. Podcasts are a horrible idea because I love learning and end up constantly backtracking to that juicy bit I just missed, all the while when I’m supposedly working and hardly making progress. Streaming TV is just silly while working and must stop.

So here’s my revised approach: I have a playlist I curated a couple years ago specifically with writing / substantial work in mind. It’s a groovy one. I also will reactivate my Focus@Will account. They have great soundtracks for any type of mood or work, including “coffeehouse” without the distraction of actual people. Also, I can do some work with podcasts or other things streaming in the background, i.e. getting through much of my email, skimming blogs, keeping up with social media, handling personal business. Yes, a lot of that is not actual work, but some of it is, and all of it has to get done. This will work for me.

There are two other sides to multidimensional “presence.” One is being present with people. This I feel I’m pretty good at. I’m not perfect and I’ll strive to be better at staying in the moment and in the conversation (or in the silence) when with others, be it in work or play. The other side of presence is staying in the present moment for the sake of fully experiencing and living what is, instead of having my mind and heart in the future. There are times I’m really good at this and times I struggle because my nature is more visionary. But there’s no point in dreaming up incredible futures if you don’t take action to make them happen and then stay in the moment to enjoy them.

That brings me to my second outcome of the above questions: Action.

You wouldn’t think this would be difficult, but sometimes it is. When you’re not taking action you’re not moving forward, you’re not checking things off the list, you’re not creating, you’re not implementing those beautiful plans. You’re not making it happen. I am a visionary. I can be an executioner. I’m very detail oriented which makes me great at both for different reasons. I just really excel at one and often struggle with the other due to perfectionism and a deep dislike of monotony. Everyone has a preference or knack at one end of that spectrum or the other. So while I’ve shifted my business and work to leverage my strengths, I still need to improve my focus on taking swift, imperfect action, squashing procrastination, and consistently moving the needle forward, making progress.

Action is an important word for me as it will help me move from “knowing” to “doing.” When I took the VIA character strengths test last year I was not in the least bit shocked to find out the my highest strength is “love of learning.” I do love to learn! I’m fascinated by so many things and soak it all up. The upside is that I have a broad base of knowledge, or at least awareness, of a lot of things, as well as a lot of depth on a few of my favorite topics. That integrates well with three of my other top strengths that serve my clients – “perspective,” “judgement” and “connectedness.” All of this gives me a bountiful well upon which to draw when working with clients in all sorts of specialties and industries.

Where I can fall short is stopping the influx of information long enough to take action and put it to use in my own life and business. I’m great at doing this for other people and my clients, less so with myself. Focusing on Action will help me move from someone who knew to someone who will do. I know I’m not alone…how many courses, books, or programs have you taken only to never complete them or take action on what you learned? Maybe Action is one of your words for the year too.

I should also point out that it isn’t just about taking action. It is about taking meaningful actions. Let’s be honest, we can all fill a day full of actions; but if they’re just busy work and not the things that push you forward then you’re really just stalling, being busy for the sake of busy. It’s important to delineate between those actions that get you closer to your goals and those that just take up your time. When you’re a business owner you also have to separate those actions that serve your clients and those that serve your business. It is all too easy to focus action IN the business and never get around to working ON the business. I have fallen into that a few times over my eight years in business. Well, I have a system to prioritize my day that has worked for me in the past, so I’ll be dusting that off.

There will always be days when you just aren’t sure what to do next. Or perhaps what you’re working on feels overwhelming. This last year I struggled quite a bit with migraines, which made it difficult to do much of anything. I often felt like such a loser even though I logically knew I was doing the best I could. What made all the difference was taking the smallest actions I could, just to achieve something. It may have been as simple as washing a few dishes, doing five minutes of meditation, or getting that one client email sent. Something. Anything. Action gave me hope through accomplishment.

As I prepare for 2017, setting goals and laying out specific strategies, I’ll keep Presence and Action front and center. These words will influence my vision board process scheduled in the coming weeks. I’ve started to include them in my morning meditation. I’ve put them on a post-it stuck to the edge of my computer screen. And I’ll be writing them at the top of my planner/to-do list each day as a reminder. I will also use them as guidepost questions: am I being present; am I taking meaningful action?

I hope you’ll take the time to celebrate your 2016 successes and acknowledge all you have to be grateful for. Then I hope you’ll consider the two questions above, dive deep, and see what words may show up to shift your mindset and/or behavior patterns to create a new reality in 2017.

Wishing you all best!

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