“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
“So many fail because they don't get started – they don't go. They don't overcome inertia. They don't begin.”
W. Clement Stone
A start in the form of just one small step can take you further than you might have dreamed. No matter if we’re talking careers, relationships, a habit or an actual journey somewhere in the world.
And a good start to your morning can set the tone for your whole day and greatly help you to make it a good or even great one.
But we can also expand our perspective. Zoom out and see a whole new year in front of us.
How can you start your 2017 off on the right foot and set a good or great tone for the year?
Here are 10 of my simple and favorite tips – that I plan to focus on during this year – for doing just that.
1. Keep things simple.
This year, keep things simple.
And get back to the basics that you may already know work well for you but have for some reason fallen by the wayside during last year.
- Stop trying to come up with the perfect plan before you get started. Instead, come up with a good plan and then take action on it. You can always readjust along the way towards your goal. And it’s a whole better with a good plan that you actually take action on than a perfect one that you just keep polishing for weeks, months or years.
- Focus on what matters the most – the tasks and steps forward – first thing in your day and if possible first thing in your week (when you are likely most rested and clearheaded).
- Do just one thing at a time to do the best and most focused job you can. No matter if it’s at work, in school or in your personal life. Trying to do several things at once usually just leads to mediocre results or half-finished jobs.
2. Reduce the distractions.
Distractions are all around us and it’s so easy to get swept away by them and get stuck in not very important busy work or in procrastination.
So remember to reduce them to protect more valuable time, energy and focus during your day and week.
A few ways that I’ll be doing that during 2017 are:
- Put my smart phone in silent mode while I work. And then put it at the other side of our home and only check it 1-2 times during my work day.
- Take 5-10 minutes to go through my inbox and reduce the recurring emails that I haven’t read or gotten something good out of in the past 30 days. Doing such a cleanup and unsubscribing to various email lists can make a big difference throughout the year.
- Keep a reminder – just below my computer screen – that I see every day of what the current month’s biggest and most important goal or focus is. So that I stay on track consistently and get what truly matters done step by step.
3. Replace one negative influence with a positive one.
What we let into our minds can have a big effect on what we think, feel and on what we do or not do.
So be careful about what influences you let into your mind on a daily or weekly basis.
A simple way to improve this area of your life is to ask yourself this question:
What is the biggest negative influence in my life right now?
You may for example find that it’s a person in your life that is very negative or drags your life down. Or a website, online forum or other media source that impacts you negatively and may make you feel worse about yourself and put a lot of pessimism about life into your mind.
Now, ask yourself:
What’s one person or other source that lifts me up, adds energy and that I want to spend more time with this year?
When you have an answer then follow up with this question:
What action can I take today and over the coming week to make a change in my reality and spend less time with the negative influence and more time with positive one?
Think about it and come up a small action plan – maybe just 1-3 steps – that you can take action on. This can have a huge impact on your year.
4. Get regular exercise.
During the last few days of 2016 I got started with a 30 day challenge of working out every day – on some days that means lifting heavy weights, on others a walk in the wintery landscape – and I’m half-way through it now.
The focus of this challenge for me is not so much about getting stronger or faster but about the mental benefits.
Because one of the simplest ways to more easily think optimistic thoughts, remain focused for a longer time, be more decisive and to reduce stress and inner tensions is in my experience to get regular exercise.
Besides the mental benefits the aim is also to make the exercise such a natural habit for me that I don’t skip out on it even if I have a setback in life or a tough day or week (this is something I’ve sometimes done in the past).
5. Accept what is.
If you’re, for instance, honestly not in the physical shape you were a couple of years ago then accept that this is what is now. Don’t deflect or try to push it away. Then it only persists, it takes up much of your attention and time and it can cause anxiety, worry or other negative emotions or behavior.
And this isn’t just about your fitness level but can be applied to any negative situation in one of your relationships, at work or in school or with money or your home.
If you’re in a negative situation then accept it first. That will give you clarity and you’ll be able to direct all your mental energy towards making a change about what is in your life.
6. Take daily breaks to reboot your mind.
My favorite time during the work week is the mornings. My mind is rested and empty. Thinking clearly is most often quite easy.
It feels like a new and fresh start.
But as the day passes the mind tends to fill up with events, thoughts and feelings.
It becomes tired and thinking clearly becomes less easy.
Here’s what I do when that happens.
- I sit down in a comfy chair or couch. I close my eyes. I breathe through my nose.
- I make sure that I’m breathing with my belly and not my chest.
- Then I just relax my body for about 2 minutes and focus only on the air going in and out.
- After those 2 minutes are up I open my eyes.
And my mind feels clearer again, usually like it does early in the mornings (or something at least close to that). I’m back in the present moment instead of lost in mental cobwebs.
It’s like I have rebooted and refreshed my mind and then the rest of the afternoon goes smoother, with less stress, inner tensions and a sharper focus once again.
7. Ask yourself questions that set you free.
One of the most common habits that drag us down and hold us back in life is in my opinion that we ask questions that aren’t so helpful. Questions that zap your personal power and add pessimism and victim thinking.
So ask yourself better questions. The ones that open up your mind to possibilities and set you free to do what you deep down want.
If, for example, fear is holding you back from doing something ask yourself:
What’s the worst that could realistically happen?
Then make a small plan for how you could bounce back from that worst thing if it were to happen to find clarity and to reduce your vague fear.
If you dream of having or doing something but always think it’s something you just have to wait for maybe for a couple of years or a decade then question that assumption by asking yourself:
How can I take one small step towards my dream not sometime in the future but today?
Quite often you’ll discover that you don’t actually have to wait to get started. If you want to write that book, go on your dream vacation or start a side business don’t let it stay a daydream by putting imaginary obstacles in your mind.
Instead, find a first small step you can take towards it and take action on it today.
8. Choose to do the opposite in one common situation in your life.
We all have negative patterns we repeat.
To start this year off on the right foot, choose to do the opposite compared to what you did in 2016 in a common situation in your life.
- Just ignore or take the high-road with a person that usually makes you angry or irritated.
- Find one thing you can learn from a setback instead of feeling sorry for yourself the whole day or week.
- Eat some carrots or go exercise when you have a bad day if you usually go for eating unhealthy food to handle such a situation.
Make a choice that is contrary to negative pattern that you know you usually follow. Do it just one time. And start breaking your pattern.
9. Be kind to yourself when you stumble or fall.
As you work towards what you want this year there will likely be a setback or two in January or February.
It might be tempting to beat yourself up in these situations and to use that as motivation to do better the next time.
But that way of handling a mistake or failure is in my experience often counterproductive as it leads to lower self-esteem and self-confidence and sometimes to going down into a spiral of negative thoughts and inaction.
So I suggest being kind and constructive instead.
- Zoom out. After you’ve stumbled remember that a failure does not make YOU a failure. The setback is only temporary. Just an event in your life. Not something that will last forever if you do something about it.
- Ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation? Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.
10. Truly appreciate and enjoy your lazy time.
I’ve found that I do a better job when I work if I also set off plenty of time in my week for guilt-free relaxation and just lazying around.
Because that – just like many parts of my work – makes me happy. It recharges me. It renews my creativity and helps me to clear my mind and let go of stress.
If I spend most of that time consciously. And not by just, for example, aimlessly watching TV-shows that are honestly just OK.
- Spending time on walking in the woods or just lying in the grass and watching the clouds during the summertime.
- Reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a movie or playing a game that’s exciting to me.
- Spending time with people I really like spending time with.
I’ve learned that if I spend my lazy time in this more conscious way I appreciate my life and recharging time more. And I’m also more motivated and energized to go back to work when it’s time for that.
So be careful so you don’t fall into the trap of treating yourself like a robot that’s always working at the start of this year and make time for conscious recharging time too. If you’re anything like me then it will benefit you in several ways.