year_end_life_audit.jpgIn a previous post, we laid out the steps to getting your financial house all cleaned up and ready to face the new year. But what about the rest of your life? The uncertainty of the economic and professional atmosphere of the past couple of years may make you feel like there are too many things going on that are beyond your control. Take advantage of the burst of resolve and energy that come with a fresh new year to wrest back control with these three steps, which, while simple, though not exactly easy, will be rewarding when you do them right and stick to your guns.

Step 1: Assess and analyze your life. Taking stock of your life is never an easy task. Because you’re living it (and therefore in the thick of everything), it can be difficult to remain objective. Still, do your best to step back and asses your life from a wider perspective with these two steps: note the things, relationships, and behaviors in your life you enjoy and that make you more productive and list the ones you need to improve on or do away with completely because they make you less productive and generally stress you out. This will mean looking at the individual elements that make up your life: the roles you play (e.g., the professional, the dutiful daughter, the loving wife, etc.), your values, your skills and talents, your interests and passions, your work, your advocacies, your relationships and attitudes, and so on.

Step 2: Take control. Thoughtfully completing the first step should give you a better idea of the positive and negative elements in your life. Now you know which areas to focus on—you can begin to spend more time on enjoying and improving the positive things and eliminating or reducing the negative ones. Check out’s article on reducing negativity in your life and Marshall Goldsmith’s article on reducing negativity in the workplace. Practice positive self-talk so you can become your own cheerleader; but be balanced enough to dish out some tough love to yourself when you need it. When you have relationships that affect your life negatively, you can try various methods of improving your communication with the people that just rub you the wrong way. Remember though: you can control yourself, but not others, so if you’ve exhausted every method to fix a troubled relationship, learn to let go.

Step 3: Plan ahead. To really improve your life and reach the goals you set for yourself, you need to clearly define what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them. When doing this, lists are your best friends. Practice goal-setting for every aspect of your life: your family, career, education, finances, travel and leisure, and so on. Make sure the goals you set follow the SMART model: they must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Create life plans that are time-based and show where you need to be at any given point in time. For more about creating life plans, check out this article in or this entry in Michael Hyatt’s Leading with Purpose website.

Remember that after these three steps—knowing where you are now, deciding what you want, and making plans to get it—there is a fourth critical step: persevering until you achieve it! Give yourself time to go through all of the steps. Pressuring yourself to accomplish everything now (no matter what the title of the next book says) is discouraging and can lead to unrealistic expectations and burnout. You’ve got all of 2010 ahead of you… make the most of it!

For more information on performing life audits, check out Caroline Righton’s book, The Life Audit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Taking Stock, Gaining Control, and Creating the Life You Want . . . Now.  

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Do you feel like your life is out of control? What areas do you need to improve on? What negative relationships are dragging you down? Share your end-of-the-year plans here! Leave a comment below or talk it up with other GIRLTalkers on our forum!


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