2011 is drawing to a close and for many recession-wracked American women, it feels like just another mile marker in an endurance race going nowhere. Buck up, girlfriend. You can do a lot more than (barely) get by—and 2012 can be the year you actually start living your life again.
I’m not talking about the kind of New Year’s resolution that’s just wishful thinking pasted on top of your old lifestyle. I’m talking about truly changing the way you think about things, breaking old habits, putting some real boundaries in place and tapping into your determination. I’m talking about taking responsibility for your own happiness.
I have earned the right to be a tough talker. In 1982, I faced the reality that I was unhappy with the direction life had taken. I was a registered nurse with a bachelor’s and master’s degree. But after six short years of hospital experience, I felt like I was in a dead-end job. I still wanted to be a nurse, but on my own terms. Today I am the founder and CEO of a multi-million-dollar legal nurse consulting company.
It is possible to create a life that excites and energizes you. But first you have to make a conscious choice to step out of your old, unfulfilling one. To achieve what I call “wicked success,” you have to cultivate a new, wickedly resourceful mindset. Here are nine strategies to help you do exactly that in 2012:
Break the feel-good addiction. Remember, where you focus is where you’ll yield results. And because we like to feel good, we gravitate toward what’s easy instead of what’s productive. Let go of time-sucking distractions. The more superficial things you engage in, the more superficial your life and accomplishments will be. So the next time you have a break at work or the next time all the kids are out of the house, instead of checking your e-mail, Facebook or texts, use the time to take a step toward achieving one of your goals.
Stop being the Chief Everything Officer. Don’t say “yes” by default. To be wickedly successful, you have to understand that by saying “no” to some things, you will have the time and energy to say “yes” to the right things. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and pulled in every direction, you won’t be able to lead yourself much less anyone else. You need to set your own expectations of what you want to accomplish. Don’t let your career or life take a back seat to everyone else’s.
Do something big every day. You eat a whale the same way you eat an apple – one bite at a time. The wickedly successful understand that to accomplish any project you can’t expect to do it all at once. This is often why our New Year’s resolutions don’t work out. You say, “I am going to lose 20 pounds!” And then you implement a new exercise regimen and after two days of no weight loss, you get discouraged. You aren’t going to achieve your goals over night. Commit to doing something big every day toward that project or goal and you’ll reach it.
Stop hanging with the biggest losers. When you choose to participate in negative behaviors, they rub off on you. If you want to be great at golf, you don’t hang out with a bad golfer. Successful people tend to hang out with other successful people, not with losers who whine about someone else’s success. Stick with the winners. The view from the top is meant to be shared. Find someone who’s already there to share it with, not someone who’s never seen it.
Expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself. Studies show that women will underestimate their own abilities, judging themselves lower than their skills prove, while men overestimate their abilities, judging themselves more competent. If you see yourself as powerless, that’s what you will be. Any time you find yourself entertaining doubts or trying to limit what you think is possible, remind yourself of your past successes. Let them infuse you with confidence and bolster your resolve.
Believing you can do it—whatever ‘it’ is—is 90 percent of the win. When I walked into my first meeting with a potential client, my legs were literally shaking. I forced myself to remember that this attorney needed specialized knowledge that only I—a critical care nurse—could give him. That reminder didn’t banish all of my nervousness, but it did enable me to make the points I wanted with my first client. I learned that when you expand what you’re willing to believe about yourself, you can transform who you are and what your life looks like.
Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect. Along the way to becoming wickedly successful, you may have to redefine what success looks like for you. Conditions will never be perfect. There will always be something muddying the water, even if it’s just a little muddy.
The real challenge is accepting that you have to keep on giving your best even when things aren’t perfect. Misguided perfectionism can keep you from stepping out and going for what you want. Perfectionism also can rob you of the enjoyment of experiences. Distinguishing what does and doesn’t require perfection is the hallmark of wickedly successful women.
Surround yourself with as many successful mentors as possible. Inept coaches don’t fail to help you. They help you to fail. Look around for others whose work you admire, and model yourself after them instead. Get out of the rut of your own habits. Take your advice from people with a proven positive track record. Accepting the leadership of others does not make you less capable of achieving your goals. It actually boosts your abilities. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. And when you get good advice, don’t be too proud to follow it.
Regenerate your passion for work. Do you remember why you wanted the career you have? There aren’t many jobs that offer easy hours and easy money, so that probably wasn’t it. It was probably the love you had for the profession. Tap back into the frame of mind you had when you were just starting out. When you take this inward look, it is entirely possible you’ll see the path ahead going in an unexpected direction. Your passion might lead you somewhere else. That’s what happened to me when I started my business. I was a registered nurse and I realized I wanted more passion, more joy in the part of my life that sucked up 10 hours every day. That journey led me to pioneer the profession of legal nurse consulting.
Take care of yourself first. If you stepped back and looked at your daily routine objectively, as if it were happening to your best friend, what would be your advice? Slow down? Take a few deep breaths? Spend a few moments enjoying one day before another day crashes in with new demands? We need to give ourselves such loving advice—and listen to it. Don’t be so busy taking care of others that you forget to take care of yourself.
There’s no reason why 2012 can’t be your biggest, boldest, most wickedly successful year yet. But for that to happen, you have to match your big goals with some real changes. You have to take on a wickedly successful mindset that doesn’t take “no” or “I can’t” or “I’m too tired” for an answer.
Vickie Milazzo, owner of Vickie Milazzo Institute, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman” (Wiley, 2011, www.WickedSuccess.com). Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.