"Whether you are 25, 49, 63 or 90, you have a unique opportunity to take control of the direction of your life over the next 12 months. If you really go for it, what happens may completely change your experience of yourself, your life, and the world around you."
How to Succeed in 12 Months by Serena Star-Leonard is thought-provoking to say the least. One of her key messages is that success and what it looks like is individual and unique to all of us. Therefore, what looks like success to one person may look nothing like it to another. I admit I had a little chuckle when a colleague who spotted this book on my desk commented:“if you’re career hasn’t changed in 12 months I’ll know the book is no good…” Having compiled a list of bucket items (one of the activities in the book), it is possible that my career (a traditional measure of success), may not be my sole focus for this coming year.
Persistence and Focus are Critical
"The main reasons why many of us don’t achieve our lifelong dreams are because we either don’t start, or we give up too quickly. It is no surprise, therefore, that the most successful people are often the most persistent."
12 months provides a long enough time to deliver on a dream, or at the very least, to have made a good start at achieving it. Even the most unimaginable dreams are possible if you establish a plan of how you might go about achieving it, any dream is impossible if you take no action towards achieving it.
Fear of failure stops many of us, Star-Leonard believes this is because society has trained us to avoid it. However, having the right attitude to failure requires embracing it and reaping its benefits which can include learning what went wrong and how to avoid it happening again, getting a chance to try again in a different way, seeing how determined, strong and persistent you really are.
Star-Leonard introduces the concept of lifestyle design—I found this a great way of thinking about what success looks like to me over the next year. Her description of a freedom mindset is quite inspiring and can help you see some of your current lifestyle elements as items where you are not calling the shots. A freedom mindset requires you to recognize that you call the shots, that you are responsible for your life, and you owe it to yourself to look at what would make it more fulfilling—and then develop and implement a plan of action to help you achieve it.
To help you think about your lifestyle design, the book provides a series of checklists for you to consider your current situation and what you would like your live to look like in 12 months. These checklists cover your relationships, finances, business/career, quality of life, personal satisfaction, and health. These are great tools to help identify where you want to focus for improvements.
Adopting the freedom mindset requires you to become an Action Taker, “someone who thinks and then does, someone who has an idea and then starts the process of creation without worrying about all the reasons why you can’t do it.” (35)
Anything is Possible
"It is possible for you to choose a goal that is seemingly impossible and make the impossible, possible. You probably read about people who do incredible things every day. You probably know people who have fought against all odds to achieve their goals. Now – today – at this very moment, it is time for that person to be you..."
The next part of the book is spent getting the reader to consider their attitude to goals and goal setting and highlights the importance of acting (a common theme) and being prepared for failure and needing to try again. The crucial thing is to retain a solution focused mentality where you focus on how you might overcome the obstacles as opposed to allowing them to stop you from achieving your dreams.
This also requires designing your future life and putting pen to paper with your thoughts and ideas. The essence is that if this goal doesn’t “strike some fear in your belly then your goal is probably too small to be life changing” (page 60).
Star-Leonard urges the reader to go back to their bucket list, developed earlier, and choose one item that is most exciting and that if achieved, would change how you life your life.
Once this is established, the reader is then asked to set a timeframe, create milestones that help keep you on track towards your overall goal and identifying the critical elements to help you achieve your milestones.
Great Things Come from Small Things
"Think of an idea or a goal as the seed of an apple tree. The seed is small, yet the promise of what it could become is much bigger..that something bigger is only possible if you take the seed, discover what conditions apple trees need for growing, plant the seed in a good spot, water it, ensure it has the right nutrients, and protect it from disease and being trampled on or eaten when it is small."
I love this analogy, it demonstrates the journey of an idea and the importance of acting to secure it and enable it to flourish. Star-Leonard talks about the importance of momentum and if you persist in taking one step in front of the other, eventually your 12-month project will take on a life of its own. The author advises against getting overwhelmed by everything you need to do to accomplish your goals, the important thing is to take a step every day in the right direction. Here are 7 practical steps for success:
- Contact people who could help you
- Prioritize what is important to you and look at what you can stop to help you act on what is important
- Build a team of people who can work with you and help you achieve your goals
- Jump out of bed in the morning – get excited about your plans for the day
- Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone as this helps you create bigger and bigger dreams for yourself
- Shake up your response and say yes to things you would normally decline and vice versa for things you would normally jump at
- Always look for new ways to achieve the impossible and be alert for the opportunities around you
One of the lovely things about this book, and there are a few, is the number of real life stories of how people have changed their lives in 12 months, as well as the author’s genuine belief that anything is possible—it oozes out of the book but avoids being schmaltzy.
How do you feel about your current lifestyle design and what would you like it to look like in 12 months? How will you put it into action?