A Mixture of 50 Smart Strategies to Be Happier and More Successful in the Next Decade
1. Be intentional with your kids
Today, I took my daughter to ballet, and she wouldn’t go in. She sat down and refused to put on her ballet shoes. I was “this close” to pushing her to do it — the sometimes-we-have-to-even-when-we-don’t-feel-like-it speech was on the tip of my tongue. I surprised myself by asking her why she didn’t want to go instead. She replied, “You know how you always tell me to listen to my body, Mama? Today, my body feels too tired. I need a little break.”
She’s 4. Who am I to push her to do a 75-minute ballet, tap, tumbling class every Friday? She wasn’t feeling it today, so I didn’t make her go.
It could have gone another way. I already pre-paid the month. We already missed the previous week. Also, I have a standing conference call on Fridays. It’s my catch-up day, so her not going meant I would miss out on 75 minutes of planned productivity.
I could have demanded she did it, handed her to the instructor, and left, and she would have been fine. But what would she learn if I pushed, demanded, or reinforced the message that sometimes we have to do something, even when we don’t want to?
That’s the level of unconsciousness I’m talking about, and it happens because we are all so busy. I get it. As a working mom with too much on my plate, three kids, a business, and so many gifts to buy before Christmas, time is short. And maybe my face is stuck too often in my phone, or I’m always multitasking, but we all accept some degree of unconsciousness, don’t we?
I’m not here to judge, and please don’t judge me. Just take the lesson to be with your children. When they act up or want to play, that’s their simple way of asking you to pay attention to them. So study their little faces, let your breath catch as you think “my God they’re beautiful,” and allow something else, something less critical, to slide.
Think about what lessons you are passing on intentionally and unintentionally. And ask yourself how often you are single-tasking with them. It all makes a difference.
2. Build your hype squad
I tell this to my clients and students, but it’s useful for virtually everyone. You need cheerleaders. You need people who have your back. You need people who will tell you the truth, give you helpful feedback, and stop you when you are going to jump off a bridge.
Your hype squad is the one who will inspire you to go for it, keep your head in the game when you start to lose momentum, and celebrate your efforts, not just your wins.
The way to find this group is to be that person for others.
3. Take a nap
Do you remember how quickly it went from “I can’t wait until this baby drops their second nap, so that we can leave the house?” to “Why won’t this toddler ever nap?”.
Take a cue from your dog (if you don’t have a dog, get one), and follow the sunshine around the house, curling up to take a break, where it warms you. Even if you’re Type A or measure life in productivity, try a nap. You don’t have to rest for long, and you don’t have to do it everyday, but letting yourself luxuriate sometimes is a good thing, a restorative thing, a sanity-saving, clarity-building, focus-enhancing, sunshine-filled thing.
Take a deep breath and surrender.
4. Participate in 3–4 webinars each month
To participate in three or more webinars monthly might sound ludicrous if you are new to digital marketing. If you are, NBD, it’s time to catch up. Coaches, consultants, course creators, and online business owners use this format to sell their signature programs: run ads to a webinar, give 30–45 minutes of incredible information away for free (it’s usually the what and why, but not the how), then pitch their program, and answer Q&A.
It’s so good! It’s as if you walked into a library, and the books came to life and started teaching you. Usually (although not always, so check your source), the presenter is super prepared, well-versed, and very passionate about their thing, and eager to please (and sell).
It’s a goldmine of learning. Watch webinars, also called masterclasses, or live Facebook lessons, to dive into the subject matter, to learn something new, to enhance your creativity, and accelerate your progress. Watch for actionable tips and tricks, and presentation style ideas and technical lessons. Study how they sell, what reels you in and turns you off, how they balance content and promotion.
Soak it all in to make you a better __________ (insert what you want to get good at here). And if you can’t do webinars for some reason, try podcasts for similar benefits.
5. Get to know your future self
I sometimes do a visualization exercise with my clients that helps them embody the person they are becoming. We do it for many reasons, but one of the most profound is that if you know who you need to be to have the life you want to have, you can tap into that wisdom now, making decisions, and creating behaviors that will get you there faster.
I’ve written about this before, and I’ll write about it again because it’s fundamental. When you know your future self, you trust your current self to make good decisions in concert with your future, and you can unload your burdens because your perspective is stretched. It’s an acknowledgment that you can be, do, and have more than you currently are. You get into partnership with someone (your future self) who wants it as much as you.
Think about those WWJD bracelets. Imagine an invisible one on your wrist that says WW(your first initial)D. When you feel yourself sliding or losing traction, drifting to Oreos instead of veggies, look at your wrist. You’ve got to be the person you want to become. Don’t let what you want now get in the way of what you want most.
6. Recommit to your favorite relationship
Show up fully and be generous to those you love. I read this piece on Medium about Brené Brown’s concept of Wholeheartedness. She talks about the gender expectations that drive men not be perceived as weak, and women to be everything to everyone and happy about it.
When you think about the people who you love best, who you could not go on without, show up fully and generously for them. Let him show his weakness; let her vent. Don’t fix anyone. Let them be who they are, and love them even more for revealing it. Then, return the favor. Let them see some piece of you that you keep well hidden. Be open to a deeper relationship.
7. Catch up to your promises
Maybe you told yourself you’d do something in 2019 that didn’t happen. Maybe it’s been on your list for a decade. Perhaps you have something you really really want to do but are afraid to put it on your list because you’re scared you won’t work up the courage to accomplish it.
Set a deadline, make a plan, make it happen. You’ve got this.
8. Focus on just one wellness goal
Quit sugar, lose weight, sleep better, break bad habits, stop biting your fingernails, quit smoking. Think New Year’s resolutions, but pick only the most important one, and follow someone who has done what you want to do, study their methods, and do the darn thing.
9. Build a morning routine (and a bedtime routine)
You likely know friends, family, and colleagues who seem got off guard by morning. It’s not that they don’t know it’s coming, it’s that every single morning is a new concoction of crisis. Where are the kid’s shoes? Did anyone feed the dog? Where’s my purse, keys, wallet, subway card? What do you mean I didn’t sign the thing, do the homework, wash the outfit, get there on time? They come to meetings flustered, out of breath, and needing a few minutes to collect themselves.
Start with empathy. Who knows what their home life is like or what they have to endure, but if you are the one with messy mornings, find a better way.
You know what mornings are made of and what it takes to set the tone for a good day. Even if you are the nightiest of the night owls, it’s inevitably going to be a better day if your mornings happen rather flawlessly. Establish a routine, prepare the night before, automate everything that can be automated, and ease into your days with grace and optimism.
If/when you’ve got that down, do the same for nights. Download the Calm app, take your bath/wash your face/brush your teeth, and wind down way in advance of sleep time to maximize your evening with your family.
If you struggle with any of this, remind yourself that you can’t teach what you can’t do, and can’t give your children what you don’t have. You know, as in it feels instinctive and has been scientifically proven again and again, that if you are a good sleeper, everything gets better. Work on it until you don’t have to think about it anymore. Let it be automatic for an easy, exponential win that you can model for your children.
10. Unfollow or unfriend everyone who isn’t good for you
I don’t know if I need to expand on this one, other than to say, social media can be a b*tch. If you feel angry, upset, or less than, and it’s triggered by the same source more than once, stop opening the door to that influence. Don’t let them in your house (or brain).
And one more thing about that. When you feel compulsive or FOMO about social media, or set goals for how many people like or comment on your post, it’s time for a break.
11. Choose soft skills over hard skills
At this point in your life, you are probably at the stage where you have gotten as far as you are going to get with hard skills, and you need to leverage your soft skills to go further.
Examples of hard skills are math, writing, and technical proficiency. Examples of soft skills are leadership, teamwork, work ethic, and problem-solving.
They aren’t exactly opposites, and they don’t balance each other. Think of it this way. The more skills that are in your toolkit, the more likely you are to employ the right one at the right time, which may mean you are the right person to be tapped for the project or job.
If you’ve plateaued, it’s probably a soft skill deficiency. That said, it may be a culture fit issue too, so don’t beat yourself up, just take a hard look in the mirror, and plan accordingly.
12. Practice publicly
To practice publicly is to develop a habit of sharing your work consistently before you ever succeed. I wrote about it in one of my first posts on Medium, and I fell in love with the concept almost immediately because it was so entrepreneurial. It flew in the face of bureaucracy, hierarchy, and proprietary notions.
The idea is, put your thing out there, see how the market responds, refine, re-post, repeat. It’s a cyclical way to identify your voice, target your market, and find your sweet spot. Sean McCabe says if you aren’t willing to do something every single day for two years before you see the reward, then you aren’t serious.
I don’t know if it’s the timing so much as the commitment, the public demonstration, and the willingness to be all in for the journey, but it works.
13. Make the first move
Making the first move isn’t a negotiation or dating strategy, it’s behaving the way you want to be treated. Need something? Offer something up first. Working towards a goal? Help someone else achieve theirs too. See something that needs fixing? Fix it. If you know an introduction would make a difference, connect someone. If you see that an organization needs a volunteer, raise your hand.
Don’t wait for an invitation. Don’t hesitate because you don’t have ownership. Go a little bit out of your way to do the right thing without overthinking it.
14. Let go of something heavy
If you feel sluggish, like what you want is out of reach, it’s likely because you are carrying too much baggage. You’ve got to unpack something to make room for something else.
I’m not talking about Martha Stewart’s packing prowess, losing weight, or paying extra for hefty baggage fees, I’m talking about how our actions, decisions, and beliefs compound. Simply put, we can drown if we aren’t willing to let something go.
15. Go outside with your kids or dog or both
Change your perspective, cool off, get your blood flowing, find a clear head, feel happy, and inspired. Everything you need 85% of the time can be found outdoors, in nature, with your kids, your dog, or both.
16. Prioritize your to-do list
A to-do list is a powerful tool, or necessary evil, depending on your perspective. It can also be a source of anxiety and overwhelm if you don’t tame it.
Here’s a test. Look at your (unedited) list right now. Line item by line item, ask yourself, “will finishing this move my family, my business, or my life forward”? If not, re-evaluate why it’s on the list.
For more on this, see number 43.
17. Help someone out for free
Helping someone out for free is a little different than making the first move. It’s about sharing your gift with someone who needs it. Your instinct is likely to monetize your talents. Fair enough.
But as you start, as you are developing your expertise, or even if you are far down the path when you encounter someone who needs it and can’t pay for whatever legitimate reason, consider offering it for free.
18. Create an endearing family catchphrase
My husband says, “good morning, beautiful” more mornings than not. When we kiss the kids good night, we have a little wish we’ve said every night since they were born. When we, or others we know, go on vacation, we say “happy vacation” every morning.
These are silly inconsequential things, but they add up. They connect us, they infuse our relationships with lightness and happiness, and we anticipate them. Little things add up.
19. Age gracefully
Don’t feel pressured to be youthful or adhere to a standard of beauty, but do take care of yourself and find support. Ask an esthetician, friend, or a stylist to help you with an annual audit. Be open to the truth and make a plan to stay current and healthy.
One way to make it stick is to do the decade challenge. Look at photos from 2010 and 2019. Try to remember where you were, what you were doing, how you felt, what mattered to you in both years. What changed? Now visualize 2020 and 2029. How old will you be? How old will your children be? What will you be doing, how will you feel, what will matter to you?
It’s sobering, no matter how good it is. Life goes fast, friends. Maximize it.
20. Set one goal
Set one big, hairy, scary, audacious goal…then accelerate the timeline. Adopt a sense of urgency and focus.
Don’t give yourself an out; aggressively pursue it. And remember, you only get to pick one, it must seem beyond you, or practically impossible.
21. Fix your sh*t
If the same stuff keeps getting in your way, if you trip over the same issues, if you get stalled by the same challenges, if you feel like you keep having the same (frustrating) conversations, you aren’t getting the lesson.
Start with the one thing that’s been coming up or hanging around the longest. Try a different approach, get coaching, surrender a little more, visualize how free and energized you’ll feel when you get past this. Figure out what you need to know, do, accept, or let go to move on without friction. This is not the decade to keep pushing that boulder up the mountain.
22. Automate one thing
Similarly, if there is something that you are doing over and over in your business and life, that takes a significant chunk of time, whether you enjoy it or not, create a template, build a workflow, or outline a process, so the next time it comes up, it’s automatic.
It works for families too. What’s the one thing that will elevate your family’s routine and make life a little more effortless? Automate that first.
23. Create your perfect smoothie
On workout days or busy days, you need a go-to meal that sustains you and is good for your mind and body. Test a few recipes out in the kitchen until you find one a smoothie that is the perfect blend of nutrients, supplements, taste, texture, and convenience, then let that be your default instead of a bar, or a handful of chips, or a caffeine-filled pick-me-up.
Stock the pantry accordingly.
24. Go there
When someone, a colleague, a client, a friend, especially your children or spouse, says something unexpected, intriguing, or vulnerable, stop what you are doing, hold the moment, and let it unfold. Wait. Listen. Be cool. Then say, “I love that you shared that,” and see what comes next.
Don’t judge it, solve for it, or over-react. Keep a poker face, match their energy, and give them room, so you can be in it with them and see where it goes. Don’t miss an opportunity to know their hearts.
25. Celebrate complexity
Further, let people, especially women, show up fully. Don’t simplify, categorize, explain away, or minimize who they are. If she’s mature, poised, and all business one moment, and silly, a hot mess, and all heart the next, that’s her prerogative. Women are multi-faceted. They do not process everything linearly or logically. That’s good. That’s essential balance for the way men process. We need both.
Also, it’s not your job to make sense of other people. Handle your own business.
26. Hang over-sized prints
Here’s a practical little hack that immediately enhances your space. Pick a few favorite photos that are super high resolution and print them online to Staples as an engineering print. It’s basically a blueprint (you can choose color or B/W) and in sizes up to 30x40 for under $20. Pick a great frame at your local craft store and hang them in your home.
You won’t mind changing them out every so often when it doesn’t cost hundreds to do it. You’ll love the museum feel of having images that mean something personal to you on display in your home too.
27. Crowdsource a few new apps
Ask your friends, network, and Facebook groups what apps they can’t live without and see if they are a fit. But don’t ask what they love or what’s great, because you’ll get fun, distracting apps. Ask how do you create amazing graphics, how do you schedule your social media posts, what do you use to meditate, what do you use for presentations, how do you manage your budget, what scheduling system do you use, what are your favorite productivity tools?
Ask a quality question to get a quality answer, even when crowdsourcing.
28. Master note-taking
Create a system for retaining important information: the things you see, read or hear that resonates, that you know you’ll need later. It’s capturing your ideas, inspiration, and to-do’s in an efficient system that makes you more productive.
Date everything, put it all in one location (vs. keeping a notebook, loose sheets, a physical planner, a notes app, and a google document), format it the same every time, schedule everything that you can’t afford to fall through the cracks, and reverse engineer everything that you want to achieve. The advantage of having a digital system is that it’s searchable.
Oh, and do it for yourself, for your family, for your business, all aspects of your life. I don’t know if this is the Beyoncé method, but channel someone who seems to have 48 hours in every day.
29. Schedule time with your financial adviser
Maybe you have a financial adviser; maybe you don’t think you are making enough money to qualify. Just get one. Be honest about where you are, what you want, what your fears are, what you struggle with, what you need to know, and ask what you need to know that you don’t even know to ask.
Think of it as level-setting or building a strong foundation — You have to start somewhere. If you have a financial adviser and are comfortable with what you know, it’s time to get some next-level strategies or double-down on your plan. Can you accelerate your goals?
30. Spend less, or make more, and invest before you’re ready
I attribute this to Suze Orman because she’s the “people first, then money, then things” financial guru. In my early 20’s when I was looking for financial advice, I appreciated her in-your-face style. I can still picture her saying, “you can either make more, spend less, or both, but there’s no other way to improve your situation.”
It cut through. It wasn’t complicated, but it also wasn’t easy. It’s kind of like conventional wisdom about losing weight. You can either eat better or work out more, or both. We know the things we need to do, but we want a cheat code, so we keep searching for more convenient methods, or someone who will validate the way we want to do it.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Don’t expect results overnight. Stay in the headspace of why it matters and that it will be worth it. Don’t let what you want now prevent you from achieving what you really want.
31. Appreciate what you have
I’m a gratitude junkie. It’s the easiest method to stack up big wins and love your life. Gratitude works. It reframes everything and keeps me in the space of appreciation and expansion. It can bring meaning and relevance to your life too.
When I was in elementary school, two kids in my small class got to visit Hawaii with their families. I couldn’t believe their luck. I was sure their parents were wealthy, generous, and life at their homes was perfect.
When they came back, they shared souvenirs and photos at show and tell, and the longing I felt was palpable.
When my aunt and uncle decided to take their kids to Hawaii, I scored an invite. Since then, I visited on two business trips, again with my boyfriend, who proposed to became my fiancé, once to baptize our twins, once to baptize our youngest, and most recently, as part of our South Pacific adventure.
Me! Do you know what it feels like to have multiple opportunities to visit a place you’ve dreamt about, that calls to you, that you never thought you’d visit? It’s better than you hoped.
You’ve likely heard the story of the man who broke the four-minute mile. It was as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. When he did it, his teammates and opponents saw the barrier break, and just 46 days later, another runner broke the barrier again. Then, a year later, three runners broke the four-minute barrier in a single race. Now more than a thousand runners have conquered a limitation that had once been considered hopelessly out of reach.
Getting to go to Hawaii changed everything for me. It was my four-minute-mile. Those trips made everything else out of reach seem more feasible. And this Jedi mind trick can work for you too. Look to others who are doing incredible things that you want to do. Let their example confirm that it’s possible for you. Channel your longing and get it done.
And when you do it, freaking celebrate. Honor your efforts, love the journey, be full of graciousness and gratitude, and take in what it means to have, do, or experience what you wanted. Write it down. Journal it, post about it, share your appreciation with those involved. Even the most intentional miss the magnitude some times. Writing it down forces us to see it.
Use gratitude to prevent yourself from taking life for granted.
32. Tap older wisdom
You probably have family members or friends of friends who are a few years older or a few steps ahead of you. Ask them the questions that you want to know. Start a conversation about what you are working towards, worry about, and wonder.
There are so many people in your life who can help pave your way, but many of them are too respectful or private to offer up unsolicited advice, so invite them to weigh in.
Try to ask the hard stuff, “what did you always wish you did that you never got to?”, “what do you miss most about having kids at home?” , “how did you take care of your skin differently in your 40s?”. You’ve got to finesse it a little bit — you can’t just say, “Hey, how are you, tell me all your secrets,” but why go at it alone? Why reinvent the wheel?
One more thought: You don’t have to take everything they give you as gospel, filter it, and apply what resonates.
33. Help your kids pick a thing
I met Temple Grandin, Ph.D., professor, author, inventor, and autism expert, several years ago as part of an HBO screening event.
The message that I carry all these years later, and I’m paraphrasing, is that it’s our job as parents to expose our children to all the things they could do, be or experience in life, but also, it’s our job as parents to let our children gravitate to what they love. And if they are good at what they love, we’ve got to make room for that thing in their lives and our lives.
It may not seem like the biggest deal, but it has a way of becoming foundational, and here’s why — opportunity cost. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else, or when we say yes to one thing, we are also saying yes to the implications of that decision, but we rarely think of it that way.
For example, our twins are in a language immersion charter school where they learn for half of each day in Mandarin. This was really important to us, but it meant sacrificing a few other things. This school is very academically inclined, but it’s not the place for music or physical education, so to choose it meant that we would have to meet some of their other needs outside of school.
At any given time, all five of us are pursuing big things. We must evaluate opportunities in the context of what’s best for the individual and the family. That’s not always easy, but it’s necessary, and a valuable life lesson.
34. Be a generational bridge in your family
Call your grandparents, or your nieces and nephews, and get to know them at different stages of life. Be the one who links your family’s past to your family’s future.
There’s something extraordinary about extended families that get each other, are there for each other, and share the experiences of a lifetime.
35. Become a better writer
When my husband and I first started dating, one of the things that sealed the deal was that he was a good writer. We’ve never talked about, I have no idea if he considers himself a great writer, but I can remember thinking he was eloquent and expressive, funny and smart, and I was attracted to that. I think I knew I could trust his quality of thinking.
I’m not suggesting you have to become a better writer to find a spouse, but you may be surprised about how many opportunities come from being a better writer. It benefits you personally and professionally. The key is to identify where you need to improve — is it grammar, mechanics, style, voice? Where do you need to focus your efforts, and to what end? Set a goal.
Then, focus on consistency. There’s no right strategy for improvement, but if you do it daily, you’ll more easily identify what’s working and not, and it will get so much easier.
36. Define success on your terms
We’ve got to control the narratives in our lives, don’t we? Chase Jarvis says if you don’t write your script, someone else will write it for you.
It’s vital to measure ourselves against what we want vs. external pressures. For most of us, it’s not fixed. In my 20's, progress was about the climb, trajectory, and let’s be honest, the social scene. In my 30’s, it was about starting a family and growing my influence, refining my skills. In my 40’s, it’s been about being present and intentional for my family and friends and serving others.
I think of it as concentric circles. With each level, I expand my life’s purpose to include more people. I’m still me, but my focus shifts as my definition of success grows.
37. Make it right
We all have something hanging over us that we didn’t feel good about, a time when we let ourselves down, disappointed someone we love, or dropped the ball with a colleague or client.
You don’t have to pick at old scabs, but if it’s something that lingers, that’s messing with your mojo, make it right. Apologize, fix it, move on.
Likewise, if you feel misunderstood or a perception lingers that gets under your skin, address it. You can’t know for sure if by re-engaging you’ll make the situation better or worse, but there’s absolutely no reason to carry that low-vibe distraction with you anymore.
38. Define your worldview
Defining your worldview can be as powerful as getting in touch with your future self. Think about what difference you can influence, or a change you can call forth, that would be hugely influential in how the world works.
I believe that if working moms were more supported and had the opportunity to thrive and achieve wild success, families would improve, and it would set off a chain reaction benefiting communities, companies, and ultimately, the planet.
It’s easy to be daunted by the world’s problems, so instead of taking it all on, or spreading our impact everywhere, pick a question that you desperately want answered, and kickstart change. Focus on one way to make a difference, then dive in.
39. Change your beliefs about income
I used to have this idea that if I was making more than $100k, I had “earned the right” to have kids. I grew up without a lot of financial resources, so that was the number that felt “responsible.”
It was naively simple, but we don’t know until we know, right? Now I know if I would have had $500k in mind, that’s the goal I would have achieved.
Income is a funny thing. It’s like a game, where you don’t know how to progress to the next level, and then one day, you beat the level, and you wonder what the big deal was.
It’s hard to know what you are worth when income is so secretive, and career paths are so dramatically different. Start talking to your friends and family about salary, and benefits, and financial goals. It can feel a little uncomfortable at first, but knowledge and exposure are key, as is growing your network. I used to think to earn $1M would be a big deal, then I got to know people who did that each year. Suddenly, it wasn’t so out of reach. Reread #31 if you are wondering how.
40. Plan a big trip
I have written extensively about the benefits of travel. You can check out my 4-part series on How to Live Your Life on Vacation right here.
What you might not know is that planning a trip is nearly as beneficial as traveling. While living in the present is very worthwhile, sometimes the present can feel a little tedious, because there are so many logistics to manage at any given moment. Having something to look forward to keeps us motivated. When we anticipate something in the future, it can make the current to-do list turn from drudgery to purposeful.
Think back to when you were planning your wedding. Wasn’t it easier to get to the gym, to squeeze in a workout, when you visualized yourself in your wedding dress? Was it as easy after you got back from the honeymoon, or even a few years later? Probably not.
When we know we have a vacation on the horizon, whether it’s relaxation time at our favorite beach, or exploring an ancient city that we dream about, it allows us to tap into the part of us that intuitively knows how magical life can be. It enables us to transcend the ordinary and feel the transformation that will inevitably come from the trip.
So, put a (refundable) deposit down, research the stops, learn about the history and the top attractions. Enroll your family in the art of anticipation too. Like gratitude, it’s a powerful maximizer. Travel changes our perceptions about the world, about ourselves, and about what’s possible. It expands our thinking. It’s always, always, always worth it, so find a way to fit it into your life.
41. Take family photos
Digital cameras changed everything, didn’t they? We have thousands of pictures on our phones, tablets, laptops, and in cloud storage. Maybe you are the type of person who edits them, curates them, and shares them, and if you are, you are amazing.
But there’s still something about having family photos that capture a moment in time. I’m not talking about old-school, put the family in cheesy outfits, and go to a JC Penney studio to stand in front of a weird greige background. I’m talking about finding a talented photographer in your community, paying her what she’s worth, and heading outside to a stunning setting, and taking some candids and posed pics of the family. Capture your children’s ages and personalities, lost teeth, favorite stuffies, and leopard-print obsessions. These are the memories that you’ll love for a lifetime.
Taking photos and marking a moment in time is a form of gratitude. If you want to take it to the next level? See number 26.
42. Watch the sunrise or sunset every day for a month
In October of 2009 or 2010, I discovered Colorado sunsets. I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me that long. Growing up, I was in love with dusk in summer, but during that October, for the first few days that month, it seemed like I always ended up walking our puppy at sunset. I couldn’t get over the vibrancy and colors — was it always like this? It wasn’t. For some reason, October was a new level of display. I started looking forward to them, then purposefully timing my dog walks to be on a particular hill near our home for the best vantage point.
I used a weather app to confirm the timing, and the dog got into the routine too. She would climb the hill and lay down at the top, and we would share a soul-restoring moment. It was enough.
This year, December has been the month for gorgeous sunrises. Discover your months and thank God, or whoever you believe in, for all of it.
43. Pick just three
If you are skimming this entire list, and want to know which one is most important, this is a contender. It’s is a Jim Collins/Warren Buffet/Ben Hardy/Randi Zuckerberg rule and they all tweak it a bit. It’s so so good, and here’s my take on how to make it work for you.
After you’ve defined success on your terms, and set goals that truly matter to you, each day, you pick three very high-return line items on your to-do list to accomplish. These are the things that take you to the next level. For example, my definition of success is having the freedom and flexibility now to be a mom first, while growing a lucrative business that will provide the freedom and flexibility we need later to travel and explore the world with our children.
I prioritize my goals based on that vision. So, on any given day, I have three items on my to-do list that matter more than anything else on my list. One line item is usually about the kids or home, one is generally about my business or our finances, and one is often about health or wellness because it’s fundamental to my success.
I relentlessly prioritize those three items above everything else. If something else comes up, either an unexpected opportunity or a fire that I need to put out, I evaluate it relative to those three items. If those three come together effortlessly for whatever reason, I can tackle more on my list or go a little deeper. When I accomplish those things, I know I did my best.
Two things to keep in mind: First, the law of diminishing returns refers to the point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested, so don’t overinvest. Do B+ work and move on. Second, if you can’t draw a direct line between what you are working on and the outcome you want, you haven’t chosen correctly.
If you do nothing else on this list, try this one, and let me know what happens!
44. Make your bed
Remember a few years ago, when there was a viral video from a navy seal talking about the importance of making your bed? I watched it, committed, and here I am years later, making my bed every morning and reaping the benefits.
Ben Hardy, who inspired this entire post with his similar post from January 2019, says that making your bed works because you accomplish your first task of the day, and it puts you in a winning mindset. I think it’s more than that. It’s that plus it’s putting yourself first, and knowing you are creating a little haven to retreat to at the end of the day. It’s a comfort and safety thing. It’s the same reason a hotel feels so good after a long day exploring. Clean sheets, clean room, gorgeously styled, you know it’s there waiting to welcome you back.
45. Connect with someone you admire
We all need a little inspiration, and an easy way to do it is to follow the ideas, people, and organizations that make life better.
To enhance the benefits, connect with someone you admire. Don’t ask for anything; explain what they do/did that meant so much to you. You’ll know if there’s another step to follow.
Early this year, I got a surprising email. It was from a “fan” of my work, who read something I wrote, and asked for a signed copy. I didn’t do anything for a long time about that email. It sat in my inbox for months, starred so I wouldn’t forget. I don’t know if I didn’t trust it or didn’t feel worthy, or what.
There’s a concept called open loops, which is a term I first heard Brooke Castillo share. Open loops are commitments made to yourself or to another person that you still have to fulfill. They are often low-level unfinished business that distracts us. Our brains can’t let go of unresolved things. It’s one of the reasons I encouraged you to “make it right” above.
Inevitably, as the new year creeps closer, my sense of urgency about closing all the open loops grows, and it bothered me that I never responded to that email.
I recently mailed her a signed copy and included a gift card for drinks at my favorite hotel in Honolulu, where she lives. Who knows if she’ll get it all these months later. Who knows if it will be meaningful or too little, too late. But I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t acknowledge that she took the time to put herself out there and tell me what one of my posts meant to her. She deserved a response, and I hope it was the right one.
46. Surprise yourself
Crush it at the gym when you feel kind of blah. Skip the glass of wine when you are craving an entire bottle. Take the dog for a spontaneous hike instead of squeezing in a short neighborhood walk. Buy flowers for someone in line behind you at Trader Joe’s. Send your hubby a sexy text in the middle of the day.
These things might surprise someone else too, but the point is to disrupt your patterns, jolt your routines, and feel a little more alive.
47. Get to know your neighbors
I guess it depends on where you live, how closely your quarters are to your neighbor’s, but in suburbia, where I live, we often enter and exit our home via our car in the garage, so we don’t even see our neighbors for days on end. We know the neighborhood kids and the dogs, of course, and a few neighbors who go out of their way, but that’s it.
We live in a middle-class neighborhood, where the majority of families travel a lot, and have pretty jam-packed schedules otherwise. For example, we took our children to Disneyland over Fall Break, and we saw six (6!) families from back home that we rarely run into in our neighborhood. I think it’s just a sign of the times.
But it makes life infinitely easier, better, and more enjoyable when you know who makes up your community, when you trust those around you, when you keep an eye on each other’s children, and when you share resources and recommendations.
48. Make breakfast a priority
Like flossing your teeth, or changing your oil, eating a healthy breakfast is a good habit, and yet, like unconscious mornings (see #9), sometimes knowing is not half the battle. When we start our day in a frenzy and grab anything convenient to fuel up, we are missing an opportunity to set the tone for the day, to honor our commitment to our health, and to eat something good for us.
It’s another little thing that makes a big difference. Are you sensing a theme here?
49. Take a multi-vitamin
Vitamins get a bad rap because the industry is highly unregulated, and whole food is always a better choice, but like making our bed, it’s a habit that reinforces we are our priority and in it for the long run.
50. Volunteer at your children’s school
School is a triggering word for many moms. It’s where we hand over the reins to others, that perhaps we don’t even know, like, or trust, to influence our children. It’s terrifying, and depending on your viewpoint, a part of the growing up process.
It’s no wonder, the percentage of American parents who want to homeschool their children is at an all-time high, and they’re citing concerns about violence, drugs, and bullying as key reasons.
Picking a school seems so fateful, doesn’t it? It probably always has, but with the myriad of public, charter, private, and homeschool choices, there are so many choices to navigate when we want what’s best for our children.
Like anything, there’s no best. There is merely choosing, trying it out, and reassessing as we go.
So, observe their environments, get to know their teachers, administrators, and friends. Feel the vibe of the classroom, the cafeteria, and the playground. Connect to your childhood, recall the angst and self-discovery, and tap into it to be a more compassionate parent.
Bonus: Smudge your house before year-end
There are three final things to do before year-end: First, Christmas Clean your house. Think Spring Clean, but do it for the holidays. Second, plan 2020. There are so many great planning sessions online. Join a class, take a webinar, follow a planner system, or keep it simple. I like to reflect on the current year first, then build my new plan. Third, smudge your home. Smudging is one way to energetically cleanse a space to invite positive energy and transformation, and bless your space and your family.
We did it! That was 50 smart strategies to be happier and more successful in the next decade. Thanks for sticking with me.
Happy New Year! Happy New Decade! Now is your time, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.
BTW: Are you a working mom who wants the best for your career and family?
I’ve created a free quiz that offers a glimpse into 2020. Click here to see what’s in store for you and how to make the most of it.