Read an Excerpt
Your Best Year Yet!
By Jinny S. Ditzler
Warner BooksISBN: 0-446-67547-4
IntroductionThe Principles Behind Best Year Yet
Successful businesses set goals and plan ahead. They know that in order to generate the kind of important changes and growth they're looking for, they must identify their priorities each year and then focus the energies of their people in such a way that these goals are achieved. The secret of realizing this kind of success for ourselves is the same-setting goals and planning our lives a year at a time. In this way we too can deal with the bigger issues, address the concerns that really matter to us, and make the kinds of important changes we really want to make.
You know about goals-we all do. We've set them and even been successful in achieving many of them. By the age of eight or ten we begin to get an idea of what we want in life. A picture begins to form in our minds of a degree, a job, a car, a house, a family ... and as we move through our teenage years our goals become even more clear to us. Soon we're twenty-five or thirty or thirty-five and we've achieved many of these early goals and trust we're on the way to the others. And new goals are already forming in our minds.
However, as life goes on, goal setting becomes a more casual and far less specific process-wants and desires seem to occur and plant themselves in our minds almost before we realize it. We don't often set goals within a one-year time frame, and we rarely make a conscious choice about which of our goals is most important to us. We find ourselves in pursuit of goals before we've really taken the time to think them through, determine their real cost, or consider what's really important to us.
Maybe you're in the habit of coming home exhausted and turning on the television rather than sitting at the table and sharing a meal with a loved one or listening to your favorite music or reading that book you've been longing to get to-or planning the next year of your life.
After the initial spurt of growing up and becoming an adult, most of us don't stop to think about goals in the same serious way we did when we carefully planned our education, our career, or our first home away from our parents. We begin to follow our noses, reacting to circumstances and meeting our immediate needs and those of the people around us. All this becomes a full-time job and more. Time goes by, and soon we begin to feel that our lives are out of control and there's nothing we can do about it. Things that matter most to us aren't getting enough attention, and life gets frustrating. We feel we're no longer in charge of our own lives.
In one of my recent "bibles," Sogyal Rinpoche says,
If we look into our lives, we will see clearly how many unimportant tasks, so called "responsibilities," accumulate to fill them up. One master compares them to "housekeeping in a dream." We tell ourselves we want to spend time on the important things of life, but there never is any time.
There are things that have to be done, and we feel we have no choice about it. And by the time we are finished doing everything that has to be done, we're too tired to think of doing anything else. Gradually we become cynical about things like New Year's resolutions and lifetime goals. Why bother?
We feel that our most frustrating situations and problems are out of our control-there's nothing we can do to change things, so we give up and try our best to cope. The thought that we could actually do something about our deepest frustrations just doesn't occur to us anymore. We give up on creating a life that is more meaningful and fulfilling and settle for what we have. We give up on ourselves and our ability to make things happen.
Yet part of us is unwilling to settle-the part that wakes up in the middle of the night worrying and contemplating the things that matter most to us: What am I doing here? What have I really accomplished? Why can't I make better use of my time? What can I do to take better care of my family? When is it going to be my turn? Surely there must be more to life than all these worries and frustrations? What's the point? Or perhaps when you're listening to music or watching a play or film, you're lifted out of your busy life and moved to remember who you really are and what you want for yourself and those you love. And then morning comes or the play ends and these important questions fade into the background, covered over by ritual doubts and fears. The day takes over, as it always does, and you don't take the time to think about what you really want or how you could make it happen if you did.
The strongest motivation for doing Best Year Yet is that you find the way to live your life so it shows what really matters to you-so you are true to yourself. Probably you, like many, get frustrated and say, "I've had enough!" You set a goal and start to do something about making it happen, but then your drive fizzles once again. Too often our most important goals are not set with the belief that they can really be achieved, so that before long we lose momentum. We've forgotten how to keep our attention on what we've accomplished rather than on our failures and mistakes. We forget how to live our lives remembering what we do well and therefore stop building confidence in ourselves and our ability to succeed.
We human beings have an enormous capacity to remember our failures while forgetting our successes. Memories of our failures cause us to lower our sights and lessen our opinion of ourselves. We become frozen in the shadow of our biggest problems and can't turn around to face them. While in parts of our lives we may be strong and capable, we seem to lose potency in the face of the concerns that cause us the most pain.
Here are examples of the kinds of problems I'm talking about-many of them have been shared by clients, and many I've faced myself:
"My relationship with my teenage son has gone astray, and that brilliant, sparkling little man who used to run and jump on my lap and tell me everything seems lost to me. If I let myself think about it too long, I would weep."
"The success I've struggled toward for so long is here, but I'm working harder than ever and there's no time to enjoy it. The days go by so quickly and I'm not making the best use of the time I have. The dream for which I sacrificed so much has dissolved."
"The body that used to bound up stairs and give me the energy to work and think for hours and hours seems to have run out of steam, but there's no time to get it back into shape-and it's probably too late anyway."
"I seem to spend most of my time at the office in meetings, handling last-minute emergencies or dealing with other people's problems. I can never seem to get around to sitting back from my job and thinking about the future and how we're going to get ourselves out of some of these messes once and for all."
"I want to make my mark, I want my life to matter. How can I find more fulfillment in my job? Should I leave this job and find another one that gives me a better chance to do this? Why don't I devote at least some of my time to causes I care about?"
"I feel as if I'm chasing my tail most of the time. There's always a deadline to meet and it's always tomorrow. I know I should plan ahead and stop procrastinating as much as I do, but I don't have time!"
"What's wrong with me? Why isn't there one person in the world to love me and share my life? I don't want to be alone."
"I feel stuck in this job-I'm going nowhere fast. They don't realize how good I am and probably never will. But I really don't know how to find something with a better future. I can't figure out what to do, so I do nothing."
"Why can't I find some time to 'stop the music' at least once a day to meditate and contemplate and let the noise of the 'to do' list be silent for a moment? How do I stop the mental chattering when I do?"
"What's driving my life-me or my debts? Most of my vital spirit and energy is spent in the pursuit of money and I don't know how to get off this merry-go-round of survival."
"The person I married years ago who loved me so deeply is now too busy and preoccupied to really look at me or listen to me. But now I'm so frustrated, angry, and resentful that I don't really care whether he does or not."
The longer we go on putting up with these painful situations and not reclaiming our dreams, the more we diminish in our own eyes and then lose our ability to make the changes that mean the most to us. At some point we stop thinking about the possibility of changing any of it: That's just the way it is; I mustn't grumble. The idea of even setting a goal such as Start enjoying the success I've achieved or Put some romance back in my life or Find a new job that gives me a chance to prove myself simply never occurs to us anymore.
Sometimes we make promises to ourselves, such as:
Tonight I'm going to go home and not touch the television.
This weekend I'll take my son out for a drive and see if I can't begin to get closer to him.
Next Monday the diet starts!
Tonight I'm going to the gym on the way home.
First thing tomorrow I'm going to look in the classifieds and pick a few jobs I could go for.
On the way home today I'm going to stop and get some flowers and a bottle of wine ...
But too often we don't keep these promises, and every time this happens we become somehow weaker and believe in ourselves a little bit less. It is this way of thinking about ourselves that stops us more than our failure to think ahead or set goals. We come to believe that we're not capable of making the changes that matter, and therefore we stop setting goals and planning ahead in any meaningful way. And the life we really want for ourselves drifts out of reach.
Our limiting beliefs about ourselves become like brick walls in front of us, keeping us from even thinking about how to make the big changes or set the big goals.
Once we've come to this point in life, we begin to protect ourselves with familiar defenses and excuses, such as:
Once something's gone bad, you can't really change it.
Why think about it; I know I can't afford to have what I want anyway.
Goal setting and thinking about what I want is such a selfish and self-absorbed business.
I want to keep my options open!
Once I get through this busy time, I'm really going to take time to sort myself out.
It's boring to know where I'm going and what's going to happen next.
I'm not willing to sacrifice now for something in the future.
I can't stand the thought of trying and failing one more time.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
I really can't be bothered.
And so, while we wouldn't think of getting in a car and not knowing whether we're going to Newark or Nashville, we gradually become passengers in our own lives. Years go by and we never get out of the car to see how it's doing or where it's going. We simply sit in the backseat preoccupied by our busy, busy lives, which are moving too fast to allow time to stop the car, take stock, consider alternate routes, or set goals to change direction-in short, to get back into the driver's seat.
Best Year Yet
The Best Year Yet three-hour process forces us to get out of the car and take a better look at ourselves and our lives. What have we accomplished on this trip? What do we do well? What have we learned about traveling? Have we taken any wrong turns? And most importantly, how far have we come?
This exercise, although not always easy, becomes more of a pleasant and uplifting experience than a painful process of recrimination. It helps us face these important questions and take stock. The biggest challenge is finding three hours in a life where there is no time to do this kind of thing. But if we want to be more responsible about creating our lives rather than merely coping with our lot, we must do Best Year Yet instead of something else.
This is the most difficult part for most of us. Just don't do that thing you think you have to do right now. Do Best Year Yet instead. We've often held our public Best Year Yet workshops on a Saturday, and it's easy for the people there to realize that in order to come to the course they had to forgo the weekly laundry, the Saturday errands, cleaning the house, writing the letters, paying the bills, seeing their friends-or whatever else they usually feel they have to do on a Saturday.
Even though they will have spent a big part of the day at the workshop, they can see that they'll get the clothes washed and somehow get food in the house. Those things always get done. It's not those things that are the problem; finding time to plan your life is the problem. But once it's done, it makes far more difference than getting the laundry done. So grab yourself by the collar, get a pen and paper, and make yourself sit down and answer the ten questions. Or take a lesson from the people who have come to the workshop: Book three hours with a family member, colleague, or friend, and do the exercise together.
The process asks you to look back over your past year and then begin to think about the coming year by asking yourself these ten Best Year Yet questions:
1. What did I accomplish?
2. What were my biggest disappointments?
3. What did I learn?
4. How do I limit myself, and how can I stop?
5. What are my personal values?
6. What roles do I play in my life?
7. Which role is my major focus for the next year?
8. What are my goals for each role?
9. What are my top ten goals for the next year?
10. How can I make sure I achieve them?
Best Year Yet is like successful gardening. While I'm not the first person to suggest a strong correlation between life and gardening, think about it for a minute: We must prepare our soil before we're ready to plant the seeds we want to grow in the next year. As we answer the first two questions, we look to see what grew and what didn't grow last season. The third question helps us discover what we've learned and what we want to remember for next year.
Reviewing successes and failures in the garden involves little guilt or self-recrimination-a good lesson. We take a moment to enjoy the successes of the past year so we can be strengthened by them rather than weighed down by our failures. In other words, let go of your disappointments and failures-pull them out as you would weed your garden. Why should they crowd the space and negatively influence what happens next year?
The fourth question is the last step before planting. Here we fertilize the soil-enriching every clump by working in the lessons and the intentions we have for the year ahead.
Excerpted from Your Best Year Yet! by Jinny S. Ditzler Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.