We Must Stop Apologizing for Our Light!

If you’ve worked hard to get where you are and are striving to be the best, you better tell people that!

Stretch!No healthy person sets a life goal to be dim. No one aims to be unnoticed and unimportant. Not one person desires to be forgotten or cast away.

So why do we do it?

Why do we shrink ourselves and diminish our contributions?

Why do we shy away from notice, accolades or appreciation?

The truth is this:

Confidence is not the equivalent of bragging.

If you’ve worked hard to get where you are and are striving to be the best, you better tell people that! Be the one bold enough to say it. Be the one proud enough to claim it.

And guess what?

They’ll either respect you for it and walk alongside you or they’ll be intimidated and get moved out of the way.

You aren’t sorta okay.

You’re not kind of …

You are GOOD.

You deserve the best for your life and the fruit of a bright future.

I never met a tree that refused to stretch its branches for fear or offending the sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Receiving the Gift of Growing Pains

The “stretch of life” is hard, uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, but necessary. These seasons are the cornerstones of our testimonies.

anton-van-der-weijst-603824-unsplashBeing in an uncomfortable spot in life is like wearing a dress that is too snug. You’d almost rather stand up and be awkwardly stable than to risk sitting down and busting that sucker wide open! Life is like that sometimes. One day, your shoes fit and the next day, they don’t. You can become accustomed to the hustle and bustle until you’ve had enough and would rather make the trade for peace and quiet. We may love our jobs until the day we become aware of what we’ve sacrificed to maintain it.

Growing pains are necessary. Think of it as the “stretch of life.” It’s those periods of discomfort, uncertainty, fatigue and anxiety that drive us toward change. If it weren’t so, we would stay in our small boxes way longer than meant to be. The hermit crab eventually becomes dissatisfied with its cramped quarters and seeks out a new place to inhabit.

It hurts like heck though. Pretending it feels good to be thrusted out of your comfort zone is just plain silly. There will likely be tears, frustrations, possible fits of anger and wavering faith along the way. But the process is a gift and the outcome is its own reward. Allow the stretch. Bend with the wind so you don’t break and try not to swim against the current.

The beauty of self-awareness is being able to recognize whatever season you find yourself in. Wisdom comes with accepting that no season lasts forever. Be uncomfortable enough to become open to change, willing to try and bold enough to risk failure. Cultivate your strengths and make concessions for your weaknesses. Own the transition while moving forward at the same time.

Don’t get stuck. Don’t throw in the towel when things get tough.

Your ultimate breakthrough is right on the other side of difficult.

 

(Photo courtesy Anton Van Der Weijst on Unsplash)

Overcome the Pull of New Year Remorse

Maybe you thought it would all be coming along by now or you’d already be arriving at that magical destination you dreamed, prayed and planned for.

Untitled designLet’s face it…2017 was tough! There aren’t many people who didn’t let out a sigh of relief and a “glad I survived that one!” sentiment as the clock struck twelve.

Now that January is halfway over, you may be feeling that slow slump of disappointment coupled with a bad case of the “I wish I would’ve, I should’ve or could’ve” blues. We tend to look back at the previous year and lament the things left undone and the many detours that led us farther away from our goals. Maybe you thought it would all be coming along by now or you’d already be arriving at that magical destination you dreamed, prayed and planned for. Maybe you just didn’t expect the avalanche of the unexpected to hold you at bay for so long.

Right about now, according to statistics, New Year’s resolutions have been altered from what they once were or have failed all together – to get more organized, to eat healthier, to join a gym, to find more work/life balance, start writing again, start painting again, go to yoga, etc. Depending on where you live, you may also be suffering from the winter blues that blows in with the cold temperatures, yucky weather and lack of sunlight.

So, what to do about it? Can anything really be done about it?!

Well, here are a few things to get you unstuck:

  • Write down all the things that you regret from 2017
  • Take that list and crumple it into a nice round ball
  • Now, throw it in the trash or set it on fire if you feel the need!

What gets us unstuck is the determination to move forward, learn from what didn’t go well and keep it moving. Drive is a powerful thing. Now make a new list of no more than seven things you would like to accomplish in 2018 and identify one duty for each item that you can start doing. Why seven? Biblically, seven is the number of completeness and perfection for both physical and spiritual things. So, I figured it’s a good number to start with. Last, take out your calendar and add at least one thing to it between now and the end of June for each item. For example, if you want to change careers this year, add time to your calendar this month to edit and update your resume. If you want to exercise more, don’t buy a gym membership just yet. Instead, block off times over the next few weeks where you can take a morning walk.

Our power isn’t just in what we survive. It’s also in how we thrive. End the pity party now and get back to living!

We were excited to see you arrive, but now we’re even more thrilled to watch you fade into the past. Goodbye, 2017!

 

Three Reasons Why You’re Not Done Growing

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations…

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It doesn’t matter if you are 25 or 65, who says you’re done with life? If someone has already opened their big mouth to form the words and allowed them to pass their lips, they lied to you!

Let me tell you the honest truth about people who have nothing but negative things to say about your dreams and aspirations – THEY ARE SCARED!!

You are about to do something that would keep them up at night and give them the sweats. You have a dream and vision outside of their small corner of the world and they feel as if you are leaving them for the wilderness and will soon be eaten by wolves. They are so consumed by their perception of the worst-case-scenario for you that they can’t even pretend to be happy for you. They don’t know how.

But that isn’t your problem. The first rule of airline safety is that you need to apply your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. Live and breathe your purpose because it’s in you and needs to be fulfilled. You can bring all of the naysayers and “see it to believe it” types up to speed later, if you choose.

You’re not done growing:

  • You’ve Got Fertile Soil: Because you have a dream that’s bigger than where you are now. For some of you it may literally be a dream that reoccurs when you sleep and reminds you that there is more for you to do.
  • Just Add Water: You have muscles that need to be worked! There are gifts and talents inside of you that you haven’t begun to fully explore. You know they’re there, but you need to spend time on them and nurture them to bring them to the forefront. Drink plenty (get some good books to read, take a class, attend a conference, local fellowship or workshop).
  • Open The Window and Let the Sunlight In: Surround yourself with healthy relationships that will stretch you. Connect with people who model your vision of balance and success. Glean from them and give them the space to tell you the truth in love, which will allow you to flourish.

 

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Ladies, We Can Have It All! … Right? (4 min read)

Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But…

Sitting in a conference room with a group of women had never made me so uncomfortable.

The meeting was due to start, but everyone was casually talking while waiting on a key person to arrive. It started as most conversations do: a little chatter about the weather, what everyone had on their agenda for the rest of the week and what was going to be happening in the coming week at the organization. I shared also … at first. Everyone was in the same boat – tired and a bit over-extended due to the demands of our prospective jobs.

Then, it took what I felt was a negative turn, but I seemed to be the only one who bowed out at that point. One of the ladies made a joke about how many days had passed since she’d seen her elementary-aged son due to her hectic work schedule. Quickly, someone else quipped that she’d be stopping by a local meal prep service on the way home to grab food for her family because she didn’t “have time to cook anymore.” More stories were traded back and forth with a startling theme. They all had in some way forsaken their spouses, homes, children and personal lives to meet the needs of their ever-demanding career.

Watching it all unfold in what felt like slow motion, had an effect on me. Motivational speaker, John O’Leary calls this “an inflection point.”

“Inflection points” can appear as insignificant or monumental; as positive or negative; they are the events, encounters and decisions that, once they’ve occurred: life afterwards is completely altered.*

I had a decision to make.

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Two paths were being put before me, but only one of them was being normalized. I had been on a personal crusade for months at that point (unbeknownst to the other women). My husband and I were determined to develop a healthier work/life balance. We were spending more time together, dating more, protecting our personal time and we had promised not to bring work home every day. Compromise for the sake of our jobs had taken priority for years and our marriage started to suffer.

I am a firm believer in Matthew 6:24, which says that no one can serve two masters. Can you be a stellar wife, mom AND career woman? Of course! But along the way, compromise will be required and a time will come where you’ll have to rank what’s important to you.

What you spend time on, devote energy to and feed will ultimately grow. What you neglect shrivels up and eventually dies. That’s just the way it is. Men and women both fight these battles silently every day, but it’s usually us women who experience the brunt of the guilt.

Can we have it all? Truthfully, I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe we can be everything to everyone and serve in a demanding corporate culture and put our children and families first at the same time. I don’t believe we have enough in our being to be excellent in all and everywhere we need to be and still have sanity at the end of the day!

I’ve never met a balanced high-level executive, company president or business owner who hasn’t made some type of compromise or change in responsibilities to achieve a family focus. It’s simply something that a stable life and nurtured relationships require.

You will either conform to the culture that opposes your priorities and values or you will need to separate yourself from it in order to stay true to yourself.

 

*John O’Leary is the author of “On Fire: 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life”

Purpose Is Tied To Who You Are, Not Who You Wish To Become

If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal.

-Purpose wants to make use of your scars, blemishes and imperfections.- - Stephanie Godwin-Chu

If I had a dollar for every moment of fear and doubt, I would be a wealthy woman!

I can’t even begin to recount all the times I’ve gone through the list: too short, too quiet, too smart, too serious, too busy, too young, too old, not pretty enough, too pregnant, too small, too fat, not knowledgeable enough, not outgoing enough, not popular enough … to go, to say, to ask, to believe, to share, to be (fill in the blank).

If you can name it…I’ve doubted it. If you can imagine it, I’ve feared it.

I’m in my early thirties and just now realizing that the vision I have for my life, for business and for my family is not tied to the person I think I should be … eventually – one day when I get it all right and have lots to show for it. No! My purpose is here, right now, patiently waiting in the corner for me to make up my mind and take another step forward. Purpose has chosen me and I have to also choose Purpose every day for progress to take place. It leads and I follow.

Your purpose is woven into the fabric of you. It’s always been there, waiting for the right time to show itself. If you look back at all of your pains, secrets, disappointments, goals, achievements and life plans, you will likely see it. Purpose leaves footprints all over our being. It reveals itself in our dreams, heartaches, how we solve problems and what drives us to get out of bed and try again day after day. Purpose looks back at you in the mirror and whispers, “there must be more than this.”

It’s time to celebrate and invite Purpose to the table of your life. Pull up a chair and allow Purpose to partake of what you have to offer. If all you have is an old second-hand chair, paper plates, red plastic cups and warm leftovers, so be it! Purpose doesn’t mind. It won’t turn up its nose at your offerings and demand fine china and a five course meal. Purpose will be patient with your flaws and meet you where you are. Purpose cheers you on at every milestone. Purpose will grow with you if you allow it.

Purpose is brokenness turned into perfection. Your purpose isn’t meant to make sense to everyone else. Purpose knows your name, address and phone number and loves who are right now and that’s all that matters.

 

Your Vision Isn’t Yet Your Present…Now What?

The truth is, if you’re waiting to have it all together to contribute to society, you may never do it. We all think that once we have the right kind of job, making the right amount of money, driving the best car and living in our dream home that we will give back in some way.

When I counsel people who are about to jump into a career or “the real world” experience for the first time, no matter the circumstances, one concern always comes up…they want to know what to do with their time in between filling out job applications and lining up interviews. If the process of securing employment takes more than a few weeks, restlessness and doubt quickly set in.

The advice I give is always the same. Some people are more receptive to it than others, but I akin it to the principles of reaping and sowing. Hey, you want someone to invest in you and give you a chance to prove yourself? You want a secure job situation with a living wage and benefits? You want to do something that you would be proud to talk about amongst family and friends?

It’s natural to want to be of use and wake up with a purpose every single day. But, where do you start? Simple: sow your most valuable asset while you are in transition: YOURSELF. You probably have an eyebrow raised right now, but believe me, your giving will be your gain. Besides, who said that going out and getting a paycheck is the only way to be of value?

I get it. You have bills to pay. We all do. So if you have to work part-time at your local coffee house to pay the rent or fold sweaters at the mall department store, there is no shame in that. The shame would be rushing through those experiences begrudgingly, while missing the opportunity to add substance to your life. So back to my solid advice…while you are working that necessary, but meaningless job – SOW YOURSELF!

What does that mean? It means that you should purpose to give of yourself in a way that is genuine and allows you to be a part of something bigger than your problem of the moment. Put your skills to work with the sole focus on helping others and see what happens!

The possibilities are endless:

  • Tutor kids at a local school, community center or after school program
  • Ask your church office if they need help cleaning, organizing, filing or need assistance with any special projects (ministries usually have so much to do and not enough man power or money to do it)
  • Cook/serve dinner at a local shelter or soup kitchen
  • Organize and package food for your local food pantry
  • Organize a group of friends/family to clean up and/or fix up a local park or playground
  • Volunteer as a sitter for a family member/friend who needs a break
  • Donate your time at the local children’s hospital, pediatric cancer center or Ronald McDonald House
  • If you can sing or play an instrument, perform at a nursing home or children’s hospital
  • Create and send inspiration cards or notes to a local nursing home or shelter
  • Become a mentor
  • Lend your time to an elderly family member or friend who may need help around the house or running errands

 

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When we step outside of ourselves to serve others, a few things happen: 1.) The mountain of problems we have, miraculously shrinks and seems more manageable or less critical in comparison. 2.) We learn more about the inner part of our spirit – what motivates us, where our strength comes from and how we relate to others. 3.) We grow in love and patience for humanity. 4.) The experience impacts our dreams for the future; family goals, career direction, financial goals, wants and priorities.

The truth is, if you’re waiting to have it all together to contribute to society, you may never do it. We all think that once we have the right kind of job, making the right amount of money, driving the best car and living in our dream home that we will give back in some way. Many people do – they write a check, put it in an envelope and send it off to work on their behalf. But there is no service in that. It doesn’t require your faith or sacrifice. Go sow of yourself while you are uncertain, feel stagnant and not sure where to go next. Do it while you don’t have it all figured out and need direction. Take your broken, depressed and tired self somewhere and offer it up to the people who will be glad to have it and put it to use.

If you can get up and go somewhere with a smile on your face and work hard with no financial benefit, imagine how much more faithful and effective you will be when your time to shine comes!

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)

 

 

 

 

2017 Encouragement: It’s Not Over!

2017 is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to shine brighter than you ever have before by faith!

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Whatever  you have been through in 2016 does not determine your future. You determine what happens from here. Don’t let those disappointments, failures, let downs, bad relationships and naysayers rob you of your joy. This is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to shine brighter than you ever have before by faith!

Watch Here to see why I am so excited about 2017 and why you should be too!

Make 2017 marvelous (the type of year you’ll brag about!)

The Art of Letting Go

I’ve gotten better at controlling my thoughts, but it’s an everyday battle to keep my mind from traveling down the rabbit hole of “what if…”

just-let-goI’ve been a master of worry most of my life. Even as a child, I worried. If I saw my parents argue, I stayed up at night and wondered if they would get a divorce and who I would go live with. If I got a message mid-day that I needed to walk home from school, I thought obsessively about the probability of getting hit by a car right up until the last bell. Speaking in front of the class meant that my stomach would be in knots for an entire week leading up to the assignment. I was almost always anxious about something.

By the time I was 16 years old, I had ulcers and acid reflux. By the time I left for college at age 17, I had obsessive compulsive behaviors that I was convinced were normal and necessary. I was particular about some of the smallest details. When I ate, I didn’t want my food to touch. I wore long sleeves when out in crowds because of the fear that my skin would touch someone else’s and I would break out in hives – which would actually happen. At restaurants, I would only sit in a seat that faced the door.

At 18, I met my now husband, who was and still is a sweetheart, but didn’t know how to properly use a vacuum cleaner, wasn’t bothered at all by a day-old sink full of dishes and only did laundry when he felt it was absolutely necessary. When we married, I found it nearly impossible to keep up the high standard I upheld when I was single. One day while I was melting into a blubbering mess over the constant grime my husband was leaving in the shower, I realized I was close to having a breakdown over something I couldn’t control.

Letting go of my obsessive thoughts and behaviors wasn’t an option. I had to do it for my sanity and overall health and survival.

Starting in high school, I had begun experiencing intense bouts of nausea and vomiting, which resulted in numerous emergency room visits over a span of seven years. I spent dozens of nights on the bathroom floor and I developed food aversions as a way to try and control my symptoms. In 2009, after a visit to the emergency room revealed internal bleeding, I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. It was a relief because the monster I had been fighting finally had a name. Although not much was known about why I had it or how it developed, I was convinced that I had brought some of it on myself.

About nine years later, I can confidently report that I have let go. I no longer have the expectation that my closets will look like a photo in a home magazine. (My husband’s corduroys hanging next to a pair of cargo shorts is not my vision of order). My house is never messy, but it’s definitely not my ideal version of clean. If I need a break, I take a nap…sink full of dishes or pile of laundry be damned! I have faith that it will still be there when I wake up. I play with my eighteen month old daughter every day. We make messes together and it’s glorious.

I’ve gotten better at controlling my thoughts, but it’s an everyday battle to keep my mind from traveling down the rabbit hole of “what if…” I question every decision I make at least twice. I imagine the worst before I believe for the best. I am overly cautious. I like rules and boundaries. Freedom and spontaneity are scary to me. I like things that fit nicely into boxes and don’t overlap. Black and white is nice, but never grey.

I protect myself when I can from threats to my health, balance and peace. I don’t diet because I can’t. It’s not wise for me to do something that requires a level of control that could lead to an unhealthy habit. I’ve cut ties with people who are toxic and only took from me and never added value. I don’t tolerate drama, gossip, negativity or people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I see a counselor regularly. I don’t watch movies or television programs that make me anxious, depressed, angry or that I find disturbing. I have found freedom in surrounding myself with positive people. I read positive books, articles and The Word in as many forms as I can digest. I do whatever I can to add to my life and then I put that positively back out into the world when I can.

It’s amazing how trivial things used to demand so much of my mental energy when I allowed them to…a messy closet, spilled milk on the couch, a scratch on the car door, a parking ticket, dog urine on the carpet, walking into a meeting late, the anticipation of a conflict, etc.

We have to be good stewards and take care of our bodies, minds and spirits. We don’t get to do it over again. We don’t get to go back in time and spend more time on the things that matter to us. We get one chance to mess it up and then course correct.

I’ve learned that bitterness and strife eat away. Anger stifles and suffocates potential. Doubt leaves trails of apprehension and the attempt to control is insanity in the making. With the time you have left, be free. Let go!

 

 

Find Purpose This Holiday Season with Ten Simply Fantastic Tips

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1. Focus on The Reason For the Season

Thanksgiving is about sharing quality time with family over good food, being thankful for our many blessings and acknowledging the relationships that we cherish. Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a special gift to mankind. New Year’s Eve is the celebration of a year coming to a close and a new year full of possibilities. Although some may try to wash the holiday season in commercialism and mindless entertainment, don’t fall for it! This is an important time of year. Keep God, family and faith at the center and you can’t go wrong.

 

2. Choose People Over Possessions

Gift-giving is a big deal during the holidays and there is nothing wrong with that, but I plan as many social functions that are not gift-related as I can. Hosting or organizing a potluck, game night, trivia night, ornament craft party, holiday movie marathon or baking party allow you to connect with those you love, while doing something holiday-related.

To keep gift expectations reasonable, pulling names, organizing secret gift parties with a dollar limit or white elephant gift exchanges, where someone’s trash can become another person’s treasure, are ways to have fun without spending a lot of money. These activities come in handy with large families or groups where individual gift-giving could break the bank.

 

3. Have a Thankful Heart

Don’t be the Grinch! If you cannot afford to buy gifts for everyone, give Christmas cards with a heartfelt note instead. When I’ve been low on cash, but had a lot of cards to give to extended family or co-workers, I delivered hand-written cards with quality chocolate or candies to simply say, “thank you.” If a person has touched my life in a special way over the last year, I use it as an opportunity to let them know.

If someone wants to bless you, let them, even if you didn’t get them a gift. Keep a few blank Christmas cards and/or thank you cards and envelopes in your purse, work bag or desk. That way, if someone catches you off guard with a gift you weren’t expecting, you can show your gratitude by writing out a card before you forget.

 

4. Give Without Expectation

I make my Christmas list based on what is on my heart to give. It isn’t based on who I’m expecting to get gifts from. If you are giving gifts in expectation of keeping up appearances, making a statement or getting something in return, your heart is in the wrong place.

Give freely, sincerely and without needing reciprocity.

 

5. If You Don’t Have It, Don’t Spend It!

Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a period of about 40 days. It makes no sense to go broke trying to please everyone. When January 2nd rolls around, it’ll be time to head back to work, cars will need gas, rent and mortgages will need to be paid, electric bills and gas bills will be due and refrigerators will need to be re-stocked. The best way to start of the new year is with money in the bank and peace of mind.

So don’t max out your credit cards or take out payday loans out of desperation. As a child, I remember my parents sitting the five of us down one Christmas to explain that things were tight and my three oldest siblings and I wouldn’t get any gifts. My youngest sister was too young to understand so we all chipped in to make her Christmas memorable. It made us a bit sad at first, but we survived. There is nothing wrong with telling friends or family that you are on a budget and won’t be spending a lot of money this year.

 

6. Create Cherished Traditions

My husband and I have been able to start new traditions that are being passed down to our daughter. We decorate the tree together, make ornaments to add to our family collection and open gifts together. Most of the ornaments, ribbon and other decorations on our tree have sentimental value.

If you didn’t grow up with traditions or just not the type you want to continue, that’s okay! Start making positive memories today and share those things with your friends and family. Before you know it, you’ll have a few traditions that everyone looks forward to year after year.

 

7. Give of Yourself, Your Time and Talents

The best gift you can give to anyone is often the hardest gift to give, yourself. Giving of yourself requires patience, time, dedication and planning. If you sing, go visit a nursing home or children’s hospital and sing to patients. If you are artistic, give out hand-drawn or painted Christmas cards to the homeless. Serve meals in your local shelter or help out in the church food pantry. If you find the holidays to be a difficult time of year, this is one of the best ways to get over the hump. When doing something selfless, it’s easy to forget about your own problems and sometimes, they may seem pale in comparison to what someone else may be going through.

 

8. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

You are not your mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, best friend or cousin. You are YOU! There is nothing wrong with that. There will always be people in your life that want to try and make you feel small because you don’t have what they have. Maybe you are being pressured because you don’t have children or aren’t married. Maybe you are constantly being measured against someone else’s accomplishments.

Just be you. God makes no mistakes.

 

9. Schedule Self Care

It seems like I look up from my Thanksgiving dinner every year and my calendar is filled through the first week in January. There are so many social events, parties, lunch dates, work functions, fundraisers, galas, family gatherings that I agree to attend and many more that I decline. I have to be intentional to put myself on my calendar or I know I’ll get burnt out.

So go and do this right now: Get out your phone, calendar, planner or whatever you use to keep organized. Schedule a least an hour a week of “Me Time” for the next four weeks. It may seem silly now, but you’ll be glad you penciled it in.

There are only two rules: you have to protect the time and honor it. If it gets moved, reschedule it right away that same week. The second rule is that you can’t spend your “Me Time” running errands, doing grocery shopping or working. Do something by yourself for yourself during this time like get a manicure or pedicure, watch a movie, get a massage, walk in the park, read a book, go out for coffee or ice cream, take a nap or get a haircut. This will help you stay grounded and sane.

 

10. Ditch New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, fitness clubs make millions in their first quarter from good-intentioned people who either buy or are gifted gym memberships and don’t follow through. Like clockwork, people promise to do outlandish things starting January 1, only to fall short when reality hits. If you haven’t done it yet, what makes you think you will do it in January? Why wait until January to get fit, go back to school, start eating healthier or get organized?

Try this approach instead: Identify one thing you want to start or accomplish in 2017. Then define 4 simple things you can do toward that goal. Now, schedule time for those 4 tasks on your calendar over the next four weeks – one task per week. Research shows that it takes 30 days to start a new habit. By the time the 4 weeks are up, you’ll be well into January and should be on the road to your accomplishing your lifestyle change.

Have a Christmas and holiday season full of purpose and great memories!