For many, the New Year is a chance for a new beginning, perhaps best represented by the baby and the old man, symbols of the new and old years since the time of the ancient Greeks.

The fresh-faced cherub connotes so much promise.  But so often, a few weeks into the new calendar, the good intentions and hopeful resolutions start to fade.  Change is hard and old habits are stubborn.  The future starts to look much more like the old man.

Could this year be different?

Yes.  But only if you resolve to make the effort.

Consider the case of Gary Boone.  As a young engineer at Texas Instruments in 1972, Boone came up with the idea for a full computer on a chip, later to be called a microprocessor.  He patented his invention, and eventually made enough noise to get a meeting with the top computer guru at TI.  He explained his idea, only to be met with this response:  “Young man, don’t you realize that computers are getting bigger, not smaller?”

Resistance to change like that can destroy companies.  Gary Boone’s big dream changed the world.      

Or how about the tale of two Steves:  Jobs and Wozniak, that is.  They tried to sell the idea of personal computers to their bosses at Atari and Hewlett-Packard.  But their bosses weren’t interested.  So they started Apple Computer.

Whether it’s a new job, a new business, a new whatever, you have to be committed to making changes that will bring about your desired outcome.  And I will caution, sometimes big changes take a lot more than one year. 

But if you don’t want this year to look like last year, the time to start is right now.

Start by taking charge of your life.  Not easy, but necessary if you want to make the new year your best year.  You don’t have to do what you’ve always done or what everyone else expects from you.  Think about what you really want to achieve and why.  Then determine how you can make that happen. 

Maybe it’s learning some new skills that translate to a new job.  Maybe it’s formulating a business plan so you can finally be your own boss.  Maybe it’s working with a mentor to get inspiration or practical advice.  Maybe it’s just giving yourself permission to take a risk.

Motivate yourself by identifying the benefits of change.  Money is always a motivator, but there are other factors that are equally important:  job satisfaction, personal growth, marketability, pride of ownership, peace of mind. 

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Once you decide what you want to do and why, the next logical step is to get started.  Focus on one area at a time.  Allow enough time to make real, sustainable progress.  Change will not happen overnight.  But as the pieces start to fit together, and you see actual progress, staying motivated will be much easier.

I mentioned working with a mentor, and I cannot emphasize how important that relationship is.  Find industry organizations that match your goals and seek advice.  Identify people in your network that can help you connect with their contacts.  Share your dreams with people who will not only support you, but also challenge you and encourage you to keep working toward your heart’s desire.

Big changes often mean big risks.  What if what you thought you wanted doesn’t work out the way you thought it would?  What if it works out even better?  No risk, no reward.     Open yourself up to the possibilities. You might discover that you weren’t dreaming big enough.

Keep track of your progress.  Note every little accomplishment and take stock of how far you’ve come.  If a journal or chart would make it more tangible, go for it.  As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Do one thing every day that will get you closer to your goal.  Even if it’s just reading an article or signing up for a class, be persistent.  Developing habits like this are central to making changes that stick.  It keeps you focused on the prize.  It also sets you up to succeed beyond your goals, because you know what is required for the next big thing.    

January 1 may have come and gone, but don’t wait another year to get going on your dream.  A happy new year can start today!

Mackay’s Moral:  You don’t have to uproot the whole tree to turn over a new leaf.

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