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The 4 Secrets of My Best Year Ever

Focusing on your "Highest and Best" activities.

Allyson Lewis, 12/22/2011

The last year has been extraordinary. In fact, I can easily say it has been one of the best years of my life.

If you regularly read my articles, you will be familiar with several of our key concepts:

• Change happens in an instant! It happens the moment you decide to change.
• If you want things to be different tomorrow than they are today...then you must be different.
• You must choose to take tiny, positive, strategic steps forward every day.

In my new book, The 7 Minute Solution, I share my very personal story of what it is like to work in the same job in the same industry for more than 29 years and wake up one morning and decide that there can be more to life.

How many of you reading this column have been doing a good job...but not a great job? How many of you wake up, turn on CNBC, and predetermine if your day will be good or bad based on the S&P futures market pointing up or down? Or how many of you walk into your office without a written plan of action, without a list of goals, and without fully knowing what personally motivates you or your team?

That is exactly where I found myself. I was a middle-aged wife, mother of two children, out of shape, and slightly overweight. My business productivity was well above average, but I was tired--very tired. I wanted to believe the value I was providing to our clients was meaningful, and I found myself wanting to re-engage in my daily work at an entirely different level.

The book shares my whole story, and I know I am not alone. Every day I hear from men and women just like me. I am confident many of you reading these words are nodding in agreement and saying: Allyson, you are so right. I do want more out of life. I want to wake up in the morning and feel that sense of expectation that a new challenge holds. I want to know that each client needs the knowledge and skill sets that I bring to the table. And I want to rediscover more purpose and meaning in my daily work.

Ready to get started? Begin by reviewing the 4 Secrets of My Best Year Ever, outlined below, and then apply those secrets to your life using the 7 Minute Life™ Highest and Best worksheet, which is downloadable in the Member Tools section of our website. (Each section of this worksheet may take seven minutes or more for you to complete. Nonetheless, consider the high price of not taking the appropriate amount of time to determine how you can live life at an entirely different level.)

1. Focus on What You Love About Your Work
Re-engaging in your daily work requires that you reframe that work in your mind. Think back to why you wanted to be in the financial-services industry. What were the specific things you loved about your work? Did you find meaning in working with clients, creating and executing business plans, crafting investment strategies, developing risk analyses, meeting new people, learning?

Reflect on the exact parts of what you still love about the work you do--you may be surprised by the large number of activities that you actually like to spend your time doing.

2. Revisit Your Strengths
Force yourself to articulate what you believe to be your personal strengths. My personal list included: enthusiasm, a never-give-up attitude, a love of learning, hope, creativity, an incredibly fast ability to process information, and proficiency in math.

When was the last time you took even seven minutes to write down your own gifts? After you write them down, you will feel a growing sense of understanding about why you chose to be in the financial-services industry.

3. Detail Your "Highest Value Activities"
Your whole life changes when you understand the power of focusing even 50% of your time, energy, and attention to what we call "High Value Activities." This is a starting point in so many of the conversations we have when people ask us how our team functions. And the bottom line is that each member of our team has clearly defined what we love to do. We have a deep understanding of our individual strengths, and we spend the majority of our time focusing our full attention on completing high-value activities.

Every day you make choices to spend your time on "high value activities" or on "low value activities." What will you choose to focus on in the New Year?

4. Regain Awareness of the Deeper Rewards
Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter is a sports psychology expert, coach, and best-selling author of Your Performing Edge. She trains Olympic athletes and corporate executives on how to use motivation and training techniques to improve their daily results.
In a recent interview, she told me, "Motivation is basically an inner desire...you have to be hungry for success, hungry for results, hungry to be the best person you can be. That is motivation."

When you challenge yourself to stretch beyond every possible boundary, you will find that intrinsic motivation where working in your current job--doing the same activities you have always done (just choosing to do them at a level you never before believed possible)--becomes the reward itself.

To motivate yourself at this level, you must regain an awareness of the deeper rewards you are really looking for in life. Those may be making a difference in the lives of others, personal respect, or higher levels of integrity, freedom, or discovering your purpose and meaning in life. These are the rewards that will become the inexhaustible fuel to give you the energy and passion to re-engage in your daily work.

The new year is the perfect time for financial advisors, branch managers, and members of senior leadership teams in the financial-services industry to consider how they use these simple strategies to make this year your best year ever.

As a special supplement to this column, you can download a free one-hour MP3 audio podcast of Allyson Lewis interviewing Joe Rugger that outlines how he implemented The 7 Minute Life™ Highest and Best Worksheet.

Time strategy expert and best-selling author, Allyson Lewis has spent the last 29 years developing and teaching concrete, actionable business ideas all over the country. In her latest book, The 7 Minute Solution: Creating a Life with Meaning 7 Minutes at a Time, she shares strategies to help you Prioritize, Organize and Simplify® your life for greater meaning and productivity. Take advantage of the worksheets, webinars, and more--subscribe to the FREE Member Tools area of our website www.The7MinuteLife.com and follow her @allyson7minutes.

Allyson Lewis is the author of The Seven Minute Difference. She speaks about improving time-management, increasing productivity, and rediscovering purpose. Find out more about her new online video training program, The 7 Minute Life System, here. She also has a blog and a Twitter account.

The author is not an employee of Morningstar, Inc. The views expressed in this article are the author's. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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