12/31/2014 12:11 pm ET Updated Mar 02, 2015

5 Easy Steps to a Brave 2015

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Here we are at the beginning of another new year. It's a time of great possibilities, endless resolutions and expensive gym memberships. You're probably thinking about your resolutions and how you'll make 2015 different and better. But, rather than making the same resolutions we have made for the past decade and forgetting them by January 15, let's make this the year we create real change. If you're ready to create the brave life you truly want and deserve, here are few simple steps.

1. Believe. It's not just enough to say you want to quit smoking, lose weight, improve your relationship or start a business. You have to actually believe that you can and will, and that you are truly deserving of a healthier, happier life. If you haven't been able to accomplish these goals in the past, you probably have some negative beliefs that are holding you back.

We all have these negative beliefs lurking. Sometimes they have been passed on to us neglectful or stressed parents or former abusive partners. Sometimes they are created by our own fear and insecurities. However they got there, it's important to realize that these negative thoughts are not real, and we can choose new, more positive beliefs. Decide today what you truly want and then believe that you can and will achieve it. Believe that you are worthy of it. Believe that you deserve it -- because you do.

2. Release. This year, make a commitment to let go of anything that no longer serves you. This includes letting go of the negative thoughts and beliefs you discovered. It means letting go of guilt -- a completely useless emotion that women are, unfortunately, experts at cultivating.

It's also time to let go of everyone else's burdens. If your mother is judging you, your partner cheated on you, your friend is gossiping about you -- those are not your burdens to carry. Let them go!

Yes, you do have to decide how to respond. But, you do not have to carry around the shame or burden of someone else's bad decisions or bad attitude. You have the right -- and an obligation -- to make choices for your own life. But, you can't do that if you are too weighed down by everyone else's stuff. So, really, let it go.

3. Awaken. So many of us are living on autopilot. We get the kids to school, go to work, come home, make dinner, watch mindless TV, knock out in complete exhaustion... rinse and repeat. We rarely take the time to truly be aware of what's happening in our lives. So, my friends, it's time to wake up.

Take an honest look at what is happening in your life right now -- not what you hope might happen or what happened two years ago, and not what you post on your Facebook wall. Is your relationship really healthy and happy? Is your career truly fulfilling? How do you really feel about your life?

Start to become aware of your life and your emotions, without judgment. If scary or painful feelings come up, feel them and let them pass. Resist the urge to numb them with coffee, wine, your news feed or stale candy canes. It's time to stop numbing and start truly living.

4. Visualize. Now that you are aware of what is right now, you can decide how you want things to be. Decide what you truly want for your life -- not what anyone else expects from you, and not what you want for those around you. Take some time to really decide what you want for you. This sounds simple, but can be tough, especially for women. But, we'll never create the life we truly want until we know what that life will look like.

Take some time to write about your vision or create a vision board full of inspiring images. Do this with your new set of positive beliefs, with your new awareness and with a focus on what's best for you. Then as 2015 takes you through twists and turns (as it inevitably will), always remember your vision. Look at it every morning, and stay focused on the big picture. Stay focused on your dream -- and remember that you deserve it.

5. Empathize. I truly believe that empathy is our secret weapon. In fact, if there is one gift that I wish every parent would instill in their children, this would be it. Empathy is the ability to feel with someone. It's not the same as sympathy, which means feeling sorry for someone. Empathy, instead, allows for true, vulnerable connection.

As we've discovered, we all carry around some not-so-good beliefs about ourselves. We all carry heavy burdens -- many that don't even belong to us! And we all have ways that we numb. And guess what? So does everyone else!

So, the coworker who is always gossiping -- yep, she's numbing. Your friend who is always negative -- she probably has some cruddy beliefs about herself. We all have monsters. Some monsters are just dressed up or wearing better disguises than others. But, a monster is a monster, my friend. So, we have no business judging anyone else's monsters, or anyone else's choices. Empathy means letting go of judgment and accepting everyone for who they truly are.

Here's the truth: Anytime someone judges you, that's their stuff. The great news is, that's not your burden to carry! Of course, the opposite is also true. Anytime you judge someone else, that's your stuff. That's a clue to you that you have some baggage full of negative beliefs that you haven't unpacked yet.

For example, when I was waitressing to pay my way through college and living mostly on ramen noodles and hot dogs (which could be why I'm a vegetarian today), I used to have a lot of judgments about very wealthy people. But eventually, I realized that these judgments were caused by my own insecurities and worries about money. It was my stuff.

So, when you see a mother with her child and think (or say), I can't believe she lets her child dress like that! Maybe what's really being triggered is your own worries. Maybe you're really thinking, I always feel inadequate as a mother. I don't know if I'm good enough. But, at least my kids aren't dressed like hers, so I must be at least doing better than her, right?

Recognize when it's your stuff. Be aware of it. And then let it go. When you set down the guilt, shame and insecurity, you will have no reason to judge anyone. That doesn't mean you have to go out and buy your kids green mud boots and tutus -- you don't have to replicate, or even like, what anyone else is doing. Just don't judge it. Think, that's not for me, but great for her!

Imagine how much free time and energy you will have when you let go of negative beliefs, other people's burdens, mindless numbing, and judgment! You'll finally be able to focus on creating the life you truly want and deserve, while encouraging others to do the same. Because really, that's what being brave is all about.

Pamela Jacobs is an attorney, speaker, and advocate dedicated to empowering women. Learn more at