I’m a sucker for self-help books. And if this year’s review of the industry by New Yorker Magazine is any indication, its $11 billion in sales — through books, videos, seminars, and more — reveal and appeal to more than the average blogger looking to overcome writer’s block.
I’m currently reading Jenny S. Ditzler’s “Your Best Year Yet!”, which was recommended by a favorite podcaster (who is not to be confused with my favorite other podcaster and hero, Dan Savage). In fewer than 250 easy-on-the-eyes pages and 10 do-it-yourself questions, the book delivers these three keys to a great year:
Get With Goal Setting
The fundamental premise of this book is that goal setting is as vital to personal planning as it is to the workplace.
If you’re a regular reader of this Motivational Monday column, you’ll know that I am big on letting go, on remembering to breathe in the fresh air, and on gaining a perspective that is greater than your day’s list of things to do.
This isn’t to contradict that. We need time to play, to dream, and to be creative and those times should peacefully coexist with decisions that are well-conceived for getting things done. That is, they enable each other. Says Ditzler,
"The quality of thinking you need to do in order to select your most important goals forces you to make the choices that will guarantee balance in your life."
Ditch the Pity Party
There’s one in every office: that person who makes a career out of complaining. From his perspective, everything is horrible: the bosses, the work hours, the project loads, the clients.
Are you that Mr. Negative for yourself?
“I hate my weight/nose/feet/lips.”
“I’ll always be broke.”
“I’ll never get this right.”
Ditzler’s book doesn’t say that we should run away from our mind’s Mr. Negative — there may be something to those complaints that are truly undermining our attempts at personal success. But if there’s a role for Mr. Negative it’s not to be the leading role. Indeed, Ditzler asks that you start your journey of self-awareness by first spending some time — really, truly, deeply — acknowledging the things that you have accomplished in the last year, major and minor.
In starting with patting ourselves on the back, we place ourselves squarely in the role of someone who can (look, there’s the evidence) and place the negatives on the “will be improved” list. In this way, says Ditzler, we accept “the challenge to live life in the context of gratitude instead of complaint.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
While the “devil is in the details” that goal setting and accomplishment tallying deliver, it’s intention that ultimately makes the difference between a successful year and one in which we’re merely “passengers in our own lives.”
You aren’t born a good driver. And your first attempts behind the wheel, while inspired, might well end up in a fiery crash if you aren’t open to learning key principles and the rules of the road. Nevertheless, given the “book learning” there’s nothing to beat taking the wheel in hand and heading out on the road yourself.
Ditzler’s keys are given as 10 questions, starting with the acknowledgment of what you’ve already done and moving through to the list of your top goals and your plan for how you’ll achieve them. It’s a fabulous model but, like so much of the self-help model, reliant ultimately on your will to succeed.
Want your best year? Get yourself back behind the wheel of your own life and drive, baby, drive.