"Those who reach decisions promptly and definitely know what they want, and generally get it. That is why they are leaders. The world has a habit of making room for people whose words and actions show they know where they are going." Napoleon Hill
"Did you ever have to make up your mind?" The Lovin' Spoonful posed this question in a pop tune from the '60's. Unfortunately, most people never make up their mind on life's important questions -- they're only good at making the least important decisions, like will it be the Big Mac or the Whopper for lunch.
One of our most important freedoms (and responsibilities) is the ability of each of us to decide what we want out of life. This was underscored by Napoleon Hill in his 1937 classic book on success, Think and Grow Rich, where he devoted an entire chapter entitled "Decision, The Seventh Step to Riches." Here are areas of your life in which you need to make important decisions:
Mission Perhaps the most significant decision you'll ever make is deciding your major purpose in life, what you're all about. If you have never done this, you're normal -- most people don't, as we're not really educated properly to do so. But it's a must if you want to have a clear direction for your future. By the second chapter of Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggests you create a "statement of major purpose, or definite chief aim," in other words, a Mission Statement. When I begin coaching a client I have them craft a Mission Statement for their business, the starting point of defining their next level of success. I did this for myself back in the early 1990's, and I've tweaked it only in minor ways since then: "My purpose is to create happy, successful clients who have a clear cut sense of purpose, high self-esteem, meaningful, achievable goals and the skills they need to succeed, guaranteed!"
Finances Maybe money can’t buy you love, but it sure can provide you with options, and even freedom. Most people just take a job and settle for whatever wages their employer is willing to pay, then figure out a way to get by on that. If you want more, based on your lifestyle, have you decided how much money you need to support it? And, if you want to retire someday, how much you'll need to put away? If you can’t figure that out yourself, have you considered working with a financial advisor?
Health & Fitness The three decision areas here are diet, exercise and rest.
Diet You never want to “go on a diet,” because by definition that means you’ll go OFF of it at a certain point. When I say “diet” what I is mean is “consumption habits" -- what to eat, how much, what to cut back on. There’s solid research on the benefits of smart food choices, including whole grains, fruits & veggies, lean meats and healthy fats like olive oil. And plenty of evidence on the consequences of bad choices, namely eating processed foods that contain trans-fats and high fructose corn sweeteners. Have you decided on a healthy diet you can stick to year round?
Exercise There’s also plenty of research on the benefits of regular exercise. Again, this doesn’t mean you work out vigorously for a month, lose a few pounds, then quit and go back to couch potato-ness. What form of exercise can you take on for the long haul? Keep in mind that 3 or 4 workouts a week is good for maintaining where you’re at but it takes 5 to 6 sessions a week to get in top shape.
Rest I’ve heard reports that many people are sleep-deprived. If that describes you, have you asked yourself how much sleep you really need to be rested? It’s probably between 6 – 8 hours a night – what’s stopping you from getting it? (Does that mean you’ll have to decide to shut off that late night talk show to wake up bright eyed in the morning?)
Relationships How would you like your relationships in your life to be with your spouse, your kids, your parents, other family members, friends, business associates, community members, et al? The main guideline I follow: Do you have a positive, supportive attitude toward them? And, are they positive and supportive of you? If not, they may need to go. I eliminated “negaholics” from my life years ago, and am happier for it.
Fun All work and no play makes you a dull person, period. What do you do for recreation, renewal and just plain good clean fun? There's a whole universe of activities, hobbies, pastimes and diversions to stimulate, relax and renew yourself with. My favorites: Playing guitar, cooking (everything starts with olive oil and garlic!), bicycling, going to hear live music, reading and swimming.
Spirituality Scientific studies have validated that regular spiritual practices like prayer, meditation, attending religious services, etc. can increase both your longevity and your happiness. Whether through a formal religion or on your own, have you developed a relationship with God, or your own conception of The Infinite Being? And how have you decided to practice your faith?
Attitude The one thing you have total control over is your thoughts. And your thoughts create your attitude, which in turn shapes your reality. What attitude do you choose everyday to bring to the world? Do you start your day with a morning success ritual that has you ready to take on the challenges of the day?
The Bottom Line Why is it so important to clarify these areas for yourself? People are looking for leaders. Leaders are people who are decisive. In order for you to lead others you first need to be a leader in your own life by deciding who you are and what you're all about. So the answer to the question posed in the title is: Decide, and they will follow. And that will lead you to your best year ever.