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Encouraging Positive Change

Want to make this the best year ever? It's time to make some changes that'll set you up for success.

Change is in the air. I see it everywhere and in every person I seem to be bumping into or meeting with these days. New year, new chapter, new beginnings, perhaps. Or maybe we're turning into a culture of innovation and reinvention by design or necessity. As Charles Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Every year, I've tried to add something new to the mix with my business to keep it fresh and exciting for me and interesting for my colleagues and clients. I've joined new organizations and boards; focused on writing some years, speaking engagements, others; traveled more; traveled less; read more; read less; added experts in new categories; cut back in other verticals. This year, despite having agreed to be the entrepreneur-in-residence with a leading academic institution, I'm going to try a less-is-more approach, which isn't that easy for me. I tend to be a more-is-more person in many respects.

It's not that I have trouble saying no; it's just that there are so many things I want to say yes to. And the older I get, the more things I find myself interested in. The problem is that I do my best thinking when I have down time and am not overscheduled. But unless I'm incredibly disciplined, it's hard for me to leave open spaces on my calendar. My tendency is to fill them, so I'll need some willpower to combat what comes most naturally to me.

It's said that your thoughts become words, your words become actions, your actions become habit, your habits become character, and your character is your destiny. Fearing that I'm becoming my calendar, I decided last weekend, when a friend called to play hooky, I was going to join her and enjoy the spontaneity of the moment even though I had a ton of work to do. It was the weekend after all, I work too much as it is, and spending time with her always energizes me and creates more capacity for ideas and inspiration.

I was scheduled to give two talks in the coming week and had other writing and speaking commitments planned for later in the month as well, none of which I felt fully prepared for. I was blocked on a few things I'd been thinking about and needed to get out of my rut. Was I overcommitted? Do I have unrealistic expectations for my time? What I realized after walking, talking and eating with my friend is that I should create more time for fun in my life when I cut out the people and things that drain me of my energy and enthusiasm. Easier said than done, I know, but here are some effective tips I've found that should help create positive change in your business and your life:

  • Allow yourself to sleep enough. It's amazing how much you can accomplish when you're rested and feeling fresh.
  • Exercise, and get the blood flowing to all parts of your body. We lead sedentary lives today, spending too much time in front of our computers or behind the wheels of our cars. Get up and move, walk more, and do something aerobic every day. (OK, in the spirit of full disclosure: Do as I say, not as I do here!)
  • Eat well and regularly; food is the fuel for your mind and body. Sit down and have a civilized meal, ideally with an interesting person or something great to read. It'll open your mind, expand your capacity, and create energy for your day.
  • Leave room for serendipity in your life. When you have white space on your calendar to think, write, call an old friend or colleague to catch up, or just breathe. Some days I find the most productive thing you can do is actually play hooky.
  • Don't be scared to hit the pause button sometimes. There's no rewind in life, but so much of our time seems to be living in fast forward these days that when you feel like you need a break, you should listen to your gut and reflect on what's going on around you. There are times to sprint, times to recover and days that are just a marathon. Each serves an important purpose.
  • Expand your network. There are a lot of interesting people out there. Go to events or talks you typically don't attend. Join and organization tangentially related to your area of specialty or linked to a long lost hobby you used to love. There are wine groups, film clubs, weekend ski trips, online organizations and groups for every interest you can imagine. Chances are, you'll meet some great people along the way.
  • Try new things. Reach beyond your comfort zone so you continue to stretch and grow. You may just stumble into some activities you really enjoy and find out you have some hidden talents and skills you never realized. Keep those synapses firing--it may even help stave off Alzheimer's, so break those routines and shake things up a bit. Cruise control is for cars, not entrepreneurs.
  • Make this the year you deal with that issue that's been looming over your head--you know, the one you've avoided tackling. What do you have to lose? You may just solve it if you put it on the top of your to-do list and face it square on. Worst case, you'll try a few things that won't work, but you may just have that breakthrough you were hoping for after all.

Even if you don't end up making major changes in your business, making some of the small changes I mentioned will help you be more rested, relaxed and healthier, which sounds like a recipe for success to me.

Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a strategic-marketing consulting firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies as well as early stage and emerging businesses.

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