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Lynn Little

JAN 4

January 04, 2002

New year, fresh start

By Lynn F. Little


January is a wonderful time of the year for taking stock of our lives. The cold, wintery weather encourages us to slow down, and the quietness of nature invites us to pause and to be still. It is a time for reflection, a time to be nurtured by silence, a time to pay close attention to the whisperings of our hearts.

Looking back at the past year, we can count our blessings and successes and learn from life's inevitable hardships and mistakes. Enriched by this wise perspective, we gaze upon another year stretching out in front of us filled with new opportunities and the priceless gift of time.

How do you personally want to use this gift of time? Take a little while away from your normal responsibilities and ponder this question: What would you most love to accomplish during this precious year of opportunity?

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The key word in this question is "love." Thinking about and doing what we truly love is energizing. It's good for our physical health and brings us joy and satisfaction. Doing what we love stimulates creativity and is one of the best motivators ever discovered.

Next, write down your answer to the question: What would you most love to accomplish?

Avoid mechanical answers. Take a few deep breaths and let your thinking be fresh, bold, creative. Allow your heart to dream and be adventurous. Jot down whatever words or pictures pop into your mind. When you're finished, look over what you've written and pick out your "target" - a word, or phase, or picture or symbol that summarizes your answer, that pinpoints what you want to accomplish in the coming months.

Now, put your target in the center of a blank page and draw a small circle around it. Look at your target, and all around it jot down words and/or symbols of things that will help you achieve your goal.

Do this spontaneously without censoring what comes out. What results is your vision map, an integrated picture of your target and the things that will help you reach it.

Here are a few tips for following your vision map to your target goal.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In the busyness of everyday life, it's easy to forget the importance of taking regular, small steps toward your vision. Creatively use reminders that will help you follow through - a string around your wrist, a note on your calendar, a pebble in your pocket.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> We often fail simply because we give up. Don't. It's OK to fall down; it's OK to get discouraged.

But don't give up. Remember that failure is another word for learning. Persevere. It will likely be your key to success.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Take a few moments here and there to visualize the end result of your vision map as if it were happening now. See your vision in living, moving color. If doubts or negative images start to crowd in, immediately let them go and again focus on your positive imagery.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Enlist the help of a special friend, confidant or counselor who believes in your vision and will support your year-long commitment to it. Perhaps he or she might check in with you once a week or so to see how you are doing and to encourage you.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Don't dwell on problems, but do prepare for potential obstacles. Think ahead and name obstacles you are likely to meet in reaching your target goal. Plan ways to go around or under or over these barriers. When we are prepared for obstacles, we can more easily avoid them or nip them in the bud.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Stay flexible as you move toward your target vision. As appropriate, update your vision map. Remain true to your purpose, while allowing for new information and changing circumstances.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Show and explain your vision map to a few trusted loved ones and friends. Sharing your vision takes courage. It demonstrates your commitment to success, and it gives you a chance to receive helpful feedback from those you respect. After you finish sharing, use the feedback you have received to fine tune your vision map. Then post it in a place where you will see it frequently, all year long.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> As a gift to yourself and to your world, bring your vision map to life. What a wonderful way to say thanks for the invaluable gift of time that this coming year will bring.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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