Forget New Year Resolutions – Create a Life Contract

sign hereInstead of New Year Resolutions, create a life contract. Create this contract with yourself stipulating: “Here are five or six things I would really like to achieve in my life. I hereby promise myself that I am going to try to accomplish them.”

Write these things down on paper. When you write down your thoughts like this, you have taken the first important step toward changing your life and making it more rewarding and memorable. Getting started will require some thought, and moving forward will require some action. The following tips can help you get started:

1. Open your mind (and shut the door). You may have no clue what types of things to include, but that’s only because you haven’t devoted enough thought to it. All of us have dreams and notions of things we’d like to try-your list probably exists in the recesses of your imagination, waiting to be coaxed out. Close yourself off from the daily grind for an hour with a pen and pad (lock yourself in the bathroom if you must) and you’ll start to develop ideas.

2. Make it uniquely yours. I don’t believe in generic lists taken from books of “things everyone should do.” Your list should be different from everyone else. Maybe you want to go back and earn your college degree, retrace a journey your grandparents once made or build something with your own two hands. The possibilities are endless (which is part of the challenge of making such a list; you have to make choices). Overall, it’simportant to create a list based on experiences that have special meaning to you.

3. Themes can help. If you need to spark ideas, divide your list into these themes: Face Your Fears, Get Lost, Test Your Limits, Rediscover Your Childhood, Express Yourself and Aim for the Heart. Most are self-explanatory, except maybe the last one, which is about seeking an experience that helps others or makes someone else’s dream come true. Think of an interesting idea that ties in with each of these six themes and you’ll have a great list.

4. Go public. Stashed away in a desk drawer, a list is easy to forget about or ignore. Once you’ve written it, keep it in plain sight. Keep copies all over-on the fridge, near your desk-so you constantly see it and are reminded of your dreams. Show it to your spouse, your kids and your friends. Soon they will start encouraging you to take action.

5. Lose the guilt. I know, I know. You’re a “responsible adult.” People depend on you. If you’re off having fun, how will everyone survive? Answer: They will manage. And maybe everyone will be better off. By leading a fuller life, you’ll make yourself a happier, healthier person and a better spouse and parent. Your loved ones will probably be thrilled and supportive (and willing to fend for themselves for a day as you go chase a rainbow). Don’t be surprised if they begin to follow your inspiring example and make their own dream lists. Make time for dreams. Your life is big, and there’s room in it for work and dreams. It’s simply a matter of how you prioritize. If you consider fulfilling your dreams unimportant, you’ll never find time. You must choose to rank them above, say, cleaning out the shed. Remember, having an adventure is not a waste of time; rather, it’s one of the best ways to maximize our limited time on earth.

6. Failure is not an option. Fear of failure often stops us from trying something that is challenging. But when you set out on any type of personal adventure, you really can’t fail. Just by going out and trying it, you guarantee yourself a memorable experience regardless of outcome.

Happy 2014! Make it your best year yet!