How to Make This Year Your Best

The first week of the year was rich with gifts for me.  Among them was the gift of free time, and as I spent it happily reading and listening to teachers of all sorts, I collected a whole basket full of ideas that I get to share with you!

I sincerely hope your week brought shining gifts, too—Memorable moments that you can treasure all year through.  If not, it’s a brand new week in a still-very-new year, and it’s brimming with possibilities.


We forget that because we get trapped in our routines and habitual thought-boxes.  But it remains a fact that you can add more zest and meaning and joy to your life any time you decide to.  Here’s a little 3-step formula I strung together from the quotes I gathered this week:

  1. “The first step to getting anywhere is deciding you’re no longer willing to stay where you are.” ~David Icke

Make a quick list of things that, if dropped, would make your life lighter, healthier, more like the life you want to live.  You know what they are.  You can probably list at least ten right off the bat.  Go beyond (but include) the easy ones like exercising more, eating better, stopping smoking.  Think about ways you spend time that could be invested in more creative, rewarding, or satisfying activities.  Think about your relationships and what you could stop doing that keeps them from being more meaningful and authentic.  What are you no longer willing to do, to be?

  1. Ben Stein says, “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”

So we have two different ideas about our first steps.  Personally, I think Ben’s first step is an outgrowth of deciding what you don’t want.  We know what we’re doing that’s holding us down.  It’s close to home.  And whether we look it in the face or not, we know on some level that it’s hurting.  Identify those things, then ask yourself, “What do I want instead?’

Get real clear on this.  What DO you want instead?  What would that look like?  How would it feel?  Think about a few options for beginning to move in its direction.  How will you begin?  When?

An old mentor of mine often said that if we’re not making the progress we want and know that we’re capable of making, the reason is that our goals aren’t clearly defined.  “Crystalize them,” he said.  Spell out what you want in tangible terms:  “I want to spend two hours more every week with my family.”  “I want to lose ten pounds by March 1st.”  Then decide how you’re going to do it and begin.

  1. Finally, the real key to making it happens is in this quote from Jim Rohn: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”  Okay, I know that “discipline” isn’t a warm and fuzzy word.  But the root of it is the same as the one for “disciple,” a follower.  When you’re disciplined about moving toward your goal, you’re following your own vision of what and whom you want to be.  It doesn’t mean you have to attain perfection all at once.  It means you keep moving, one little step at a time, one hour, one day at a time, in the direction that you’ve chosen to go.  Some days you’ll make leaps and bounds.  Some days you’ll fail altogether.  Discipline means you keep going, that you keep your eyes on the prize.

I’ll close with a key phrase that has served me well when I’ve chosen to make changes in my life.  It turns on my sense of daring and adventure, so it gives me a delicious sense of courageous nonchalance.  It’s these simple two words:

Why Not?!

Wishing you soaring dreams and the gumption to pursue them.


The Ultimate Fresh Start

Well, here we are, teetering right on the razor edge of a brand new year.  Another chance to take a stab at being our best, at finally deciding to focus on our best dreams.

And then the next day comes and all the excitement and determination fades right away with the rising sun.  With unadmitted relief, we slide back into the comfortable routines.

And that’s okay.  It’s called being human.  Back-sliding is built right in.  That’s why the more realistic among us don’t even bother making “resolutions.”

Still, it’s good to take some time when the New Year rolls around to give some thought to what you would like to do better, what you would like to leave behind.  That’s how real change happens, after all.  And every morning, every minute, offers us a fresh start.  You can grab one any time you decide to trade something old for something new.

So, if you were going to name something you want to claim more of, or something that you no longer want in your life, what would it be?  Over the next day or two, roll that question around in your mind and see what you come up with.   It’s a good thing to know, just in case that genie with the magic lamp shows up to offer you wishes.

Personally, I start thinking about what I want more of and what I want to leave behind several days, and sometimes several weeks before the New Year dawns.  Then I tuck my answers inside two words or phrases that I use as guide words for the year.  I write one of them atop the first page of my journal and the second one atop the facing page, and every time I turn the page, I write them again.  If I didn’t keep a journal, I’d write them on a card and put it somewhere that I’d see it every single day—on my fridge, in the notes section of my weekly calendar.

For my focus in 2017, for example, I chose the phrases “Vibrant Health” and “Inspired Creativity.”  Looking back, I see that I’ve significantly expanded my knowledge of nutrition and tweaked my food choices in harmony with that.  I’ve added some simple exercises to my routine.  And almost every day, I’ve taken my camera for a walk, fulfilling both guidelines at once.  I’m more playful.  I doodle more.  I make up songs on my electronic keyboard.  I read more poetry and I think my writing has improved.

I’ve come to call my two words/phrases my “nudge words.”   I don’t really think about them or make any conscious effort to act in harmony with them.  But my daily encounter with them seems to give them some power.  They sink into my subconscious and remind me how I want to be, what would make my life richer.

It works for me—effortlessly.  And as this old year slides over the horizon, I find that I’m excited about seeing how my new set of nudge words will be reflected in my life in the days to come.  Pick a couple of your own and give it a try.  It’s no magic genie, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found.

Wishing you a fine New Year, full of health, kindness, beauty and love.


A Commitment to Excellence

commitment to excellence

“Nothing great happens on the O.K. level.”  ~Robert Schuller

I added a new skill to my repertoire this week:  I learned how to operate a chain saw.  It’s a small one, electric, with only a 14” blade.  But still, I’m beaming with pride. Not every 71-year-old woman would tackle such a feat.

I enlisted my 81-year-old neighbor to give me lessons.  He taught me how all the parts worked, how to hold it properly, how to stand securely while using it, and where to place the blade relative to the wood I intended to cut before starting its motor.  Then he held wood while I practiced, pointing out things to watch for, reminding me to let the saw do the work.  I don’t consider myself proficient, and I’m fully aware that the primary piece of the process is to maintain focused attention.  Fortunately, I’m good at that.  By winter’s end, I expect to be darned good at sawing thick branches for my fire.  I’m committed to excellence.

My neighbor gave me a demonstration of that, too.  He built a saw buck for me, a x-shaped cradle made of 2×4 lumber that holds the pieces of wood you want to cut at a comfortable height so you don’t have to bend over while you’re cutting.

I watched as he drew a sketch of it, then watched him picture in his mind were the screws would go that held the cross pieces and the bolts that let you adjust the width of the X to accommodate both the thickness of the wood and its height from the ground.  We bought the lumber and hardware, and I got to see him carefully measure where the screws would go and mark the pieces, “top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right.”  I watched as he selected exactly the right size drill bit and figured out how deep to drill into each piece.  I watched as he made sure everything was perfectly aligned and that the screws would drive in straight.

It was a simple construction, but he wanted it to be perfect, and he took the time to think it through and to carefully execute each step of the process.  When he finished, we were both grinning at the great job he’d done.  The buck will last me a lifetime.

Wanting to do things as well as you possibly can is a hallmark of positive people.  That doesn’t mean being a perfectionist.  But it does mean that you want your work to stand as a testament to the fact that you put your best effort into it.  And it doesn’t matter whether you’re washing dishes, writing a report, kissing your partner, or designing a jet airplane.  The old adage still applies, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.”

Taking pride in your work not only produces a feeling of satisfaction, it speaks well of you to others.  It lets them see that you take responsibility for what you do.  It makes you stand out from the mediocre many.  And because it allows others to trust in your commitment to excellence, it paves the way to greater opportunities and success.

Not only that, but you become a silent standard-setter.  Your commitment to excellence inspires those around you to raise their levels of performance, too. Your doing-well becomes the rising sea that lifts all ships.

And just as in operating a chain saw, the key lies in only two things—committing to doing the very best you can and giving the job your unflinching, focused attention.  The first is a decision.  The second is a matter of ongoing practice.

Decide you want to be great.  Set your sites on excellence, and keep on keeping on.


Focused Intention: Remembering Your Best Self

Your Best Self


Whether you’re trying to improve a relationship, get to the gym more often, finish that report, or clean out the garage, one of the keys to achieving your goals is remembering your best self—the you who you want to be. The things we’re aiming to achieve, after all, are a reflection of the values we hold and the traits we want to express. Maintain a focused intention on those things and watch the barriers to achieving your goals melt away.

Here’s a simple two-part process you can use to move more easily toward any goal.

Identifying Who You Want to Be

First, think about what you’re hoping to get from achieving your goal. Ask yourself the classic “WIIFM” question: What’s in it for me? Even if the result you’re aiming for is represented by something tangible, like that finished report or a clean garage, if you think about it, what you really want is the feeling that you lived out a value that you hold in high regard. You want the experience of holding the mindset or attitude that the process of achieving your goal asks of you.

Suppose, for example, that you want to improve your relationship with your partner who has been irritating you lately. What mindset or attitude could you adopt that might smooth things out? Who do you really want to be when you relate to her? Someone who is more patient, maybe? More caring? More empathic? More cheerful?

Imagine setting an intention to express those traits. Imagine how it would feel being that person in your relationship. Imagine how your partner would respond to a person like that.

Or suppose you have to work on an assignment that you’ve been putting off. Who would you have to be to dive into it? What traits could you express? More curiosity? Keener interest? A heightened sense of responsibility? More inventiveness?

No matter what you’re aiming to achieve, your goal is asking you to focus on being who you need to be in order to achieve it. When you identify the traits you want to use and develop a focused intention to live them in your daily life, they will carry you toward your goal. It’s just a matter of remembering who you want to be—and step two, below, will show you how to remember.

If you need a little prompting to decide what traits you might want to adopt, check out this handy little list: Positive Traits for Building Your Best Self.

Focused Intention

The second step in remembering who you want to be is creating a focused intention using a simple practice called the PARK technique. It anchors your intention to live out the traits you want to express, and doing it takes only a minute or two.

Begin by choosing two or three traits you think will work best for accomplishing your goal. Then say to yourself, preferably out loud, “My intention is to be filled with ___________ and _________ .”

Next, take a couple minutes to close your eyes and remember a time when you felt each of them and let yourself experience that feeling as fully as you can. Feel a little smile on your face and, as you feel your first intended feeling, say its name while you tap the heart region of your chest three times—“Capable. Capable. Capable.” Then do it with the next intended feeling.

Great! You have created your focused intention. Next, you activate and strengthen it with these two daily practices:

First, as soon as you wake in the morning, before you get out of bed, remember your intention, repeating the traits to yourself.

Second, as you go through your day, do the PARK exercise to reinforce and nurture it. (A great way to remember it is to do it on the hour, or to do it before each meal.) Here’s how:

PPause in whatever you are doing, momentarily setting it aside.

ABecome Aware: Allow yourself to become aware of the present moment. Do a quick body-scan, closing your eyes if you like, and let go of any accumulated tension. Then notice the data your senses are bringing to you: What are you seeing? Hearing? Smelling? Tasting? What is your skin feeling? Also, do a quick review of all you have accomplished in the past hour and acknowledge yourself for it. You can do all of this very effectively in a matter of a 10-15 seconds. If you can take a full 30 seconds with it, enjoying the richness of the moment, you’ll find it especially relaxing.

RRemember: Briefly touch your heart center and allow the feeling of your intentions to be in your awareness for a moment. Know that they are alive within you and gently guiding you. (If you’re in a public situation and uncomfortable touching your heart center, simply turn your attention to your heart.)

KKeep on Task: Return your attention to the task at hand or with the next one on your list.

That’s it! Choose two or three traits as vehicle for reaching your goal, install your intention to be immersed in them, do a morning reminder when you wake and practice PARK as you go through your day.

This practice is one of the favorites of my coaching clients, by the way. I hope you’ll give it a try and experience the wondrous well-being and success that it can bring you as you move toward your goals.

Wishing you delicious intentions!


Onward and Upward: Toward a Life Worth Living

A Life Worth Living
What makes life worth living?  It’s one of the Big Questions that has haunted both mankind’s great thinkers and ordinary men and women down through the ages.

But only in the past couple decades has science begun to embrace it as a problem worthy of study.

What gives life meaning?  What promotes happiness, well-being, and thriving?  What motivates us to get out of bed in the morning?  To reach toward our ideals?  To persevere in the face of life’s difficulties and challenges?

How can we, both individually and collectively, learn to live better lives?

Peering through the lens of science (with occasional ventures into additional sources of wisdom, experience and thought), those are the questions this blog has set out to explore.  As we begin a new year, I’ve doubled my dedication to bringing you the clues I find to their answers.

What We Know

Before you can ask how to move your life in a more fulfilling, happier direction, you need to ask a more fundamental question:  Is it possible to change my life?

The resounding answer to that was stated back in the 19th Century by William James, the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States according to Wikipedia, and one most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced.  Here’s his famous proclamation:

 “The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

Zoom forward to the 21st Century and we find psychologists talking about the neuroplasticity of the brain, and the multitude of ways that we can indeed alter our lives.  Vast waves of studies from psychology , psychobiology and social psychology labs gush into the journals to tell us what works and what doesn’t.  We’re on the brink of wonderful new breakthroughs.  We have much to discover and learn.

But the one fabulous certainty is that change is possible.  Of that there is no doubt.

How to Change Your Life

The second thing we know for sure is that we human beings are messy, often unpredictable critters, living in a fast-paced, ever-changing world.   There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the puzzle of how best to change your life.  We can know what works for many, but it may not work for you.

The only firm ground in the “how to change your life” field is this:  You have to know what it is that you want to change, and you need to want it with great fervor.

What you’ll find here at Positive-Living-Now is a smorgasbord of things you can try, of practices that work for many.

Then, as Kathryn Britton, Associate Editor for Positive Psychology News Daily suggests:

“Try something. Then contemplate what happened. If it worked, great! You’ve got something to practice and make into a habit. If it didn’t, great! You’ve got a chance to learn more about your own particular way of living in the world, something that nobody is going to capture in a book. Just as good science requires being ready to learn from ideas that fail, good living benefits as well.”

Begin at the Beginning

The place to start is to think about the areas of your life that you want to take to greater heights.  What do you want more of in your life?  What do you want to eliminate?  What do you think would bring you the most lasting sense of fulfillment?

Take time to sit down and actually write out a list of your desires.  Then refine it; narrow it down to the two or three things that you want the most, and devote yourself to making these your focus.

Once you know what you want, you can search through the Article Index here for resources.  Or drop me a line and let me know what you’re interested in and I’ll consider it for a future article.

You can contact me, too, for affordable personal coaching  in your area of focus and move forward faster with the encouragement, support, and enhanced insights that personal coaching offers.

And keep checking back here for new ways to move forward.  I post new articles about every ten days.

Onward and Upward

What’s important to remember is that you do have the power to change your life, to live with more zest, health, happiness, achievement, love, and meaning.

All it takes is deciding what you genuinely want and then doing the things that will move you in that direction—one experimental little step at a time.

And I only have one question to ask you:  Why not?

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If you found this article valuable, please remember that “sharing is caring,” and pass it on.

You might also enjoy:

8 Power Questions for Discovering What You Really Want

Finding Meaning in Life

Illustration by duchesssa