Learn Your Top 3 Lessons in 2014

01/09/2014 02:02 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

One of the biggest frustrations in my life and other's lives is -- as Albert
so wisely said -- "doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results." It's madness. For example,

  • Frantically trying to get it all done
  • Spending most of the day at the computer
  • Procrastinating about exercise until it's too late
  • Losing touch with people we care about
  • Worrying about serious problems, but not doing much to solve them

My best response to this insanity is to make my Best Year Yet plan -- a process that is about being more of the person I want to be, and less of the busy bee nut case that gets lost in her head, forgets to breathe, take a break, and be still.

The initial part of the exercise directs us to identify lessons we want to learn, given what happened in the past year. Step 1 happens in the planning process: Discover the lessons. Step 2: Learn the lessons, occurs in life as we practice them and demonstrate that we've learned them.

It's too easy to get caught up in blaming others and things beyond our control for our problems and anxieties. However, having made my 2014 plan last week, I'm motivated with a sense of energy I haven't felt for some time. And just yesterday I found the perfect reminder for me in my own book: "Circumstances don't create our reality, our happiness, our contentment or our fulfillment. That's our job."

Your Top Three Lessons for 2014

While in the past I've talked about this process of discovering your three guidelines for the coming year, carrying out this exercise this time has already made a big difference to me. So I've decided to share my own new guidelines because I'm hoping that doing so will inspire you to do the same.

To access my lessons, I reviewed my accomplishments and disappointments from last year, taking time to write them before searching for the lessons buried there. When I looked at my list of accomplishments, I found the lessons by asking myself, "How did I behave to achieve that?"

Then I reviewed my disappointments, and here's where I learn even more by responding to the question, "What would I do differently to have a better outcome next time?"

Review your responses to these two questions, identifying the lessons to be learned. Perhaps one of your lessons is that if you'd paid more attention to the things that matter most to you, your life would have been happier and more meaningful.

Then the trick is to take that wisdom and boil it down to short commands telling you how to behave. Create a brief instruction you can easily remember -- you don't need the whole story. For example, your guideline for the lesson above might be as simple as stick to what matters, or take care of myself, or focus on priorities. Short, simple, and telling you exactly how to behave in order to learn this lesson.

In short to Learn Your Top 3 Lessons in 2014:

1. Discover your lessons
2. Choose three that, when learned, will make the biggest difference
3. Write short commands called guidelines
4. Follow your guidelines through the year until you learn them

My Three Guidelines for 2014

1. Solve the problem -- or let it go.

This lesson came from being blind-sided by a ruptured disc early last year. The pain was so distracting and the limitations on my movement so frustrating that they kept me from achieving several important goals.

I did tons of therapy and consulted a few experts, and in the fall things started to feel better. But by the end of the year, the pain became worse than ever. I'm sick of this -- what can I do? Clearly my focus was on my suffering rather than taking steps to solve the problem.

Within a few days I had crafted this first guideline. With my problems I can dither around about them, step up and solve them, or just let them go. So what -- live with it! As the Italians say, Non 'e una tragedia!

2. Speak authentically.

I've known for some time that I'm not always honest with others. It's not that I lie but rather I don't say what's on my mind either from not wanting to upset them or because they wouldn't like me if I said it. Sound familiar?

The wording of this lesson came from a brand new book, written by friend Dr. Anne Brown: Backbone Power. The announcement of the book arrived in my inbox the day before I made my plan, and I knew this was an issue I was ready to face. Already it's making a difference -- removing the filter is so freeing. Be authentic, be me. What more do people want anyway? So far it's already made a difference with my doctors, my family, and my clients. Feels great to be tackling this moldy old lesson!

3. Slow down

Now this one just jumped into my mind as I was doing the exercise -- no thinking required. Yet instantly I dismissed it -- why should I slow down? My quickness is one of my greatest assets, isn't it? How can I do all I want to do if I slow down, for heaven's sake!

But I decided to trust my inner voice. Following this guideline doesn't mean doing less -- in fact, I'm discovering I accomplish more when I listen to this wisdom. What it means is slowing down the motor inside, the one that pushes me, urging me to speed up. It's the voice that got upset yesterday when the traffic light turned red as I was in a hurry to my physical therapy appointment. Key word, hurry. I looked at the time, realized I would make it easily, took a deep breath, and said Slow down. Learning this lesson is going to be invaluable when it comes to ridding myself of one of my most harmful habits. Whew!

The thought I want to leave you with is the most important.

You have all the wisdom you need within you.

Just as I found inspiring words from my own book, your responses to a review of last year reveal exactly how you need to behave to make 2014 your best year yet. The guidelines you choose for yourself are far better than any I or anyone else could suggest for you.

Please trust your heart and mind to give you the lessons you need to learn in order to accomplish the things you most care about. May your 2014 be an extraordinary year for you!

Please leave a comment below or write to me: jinny@bestyearyet.com. I'd love to hear about the lessons you plan to learn in 2014.

For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.
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For more about Best Year Yet, click here.