As we take time to reflect and plan for the new year, memories and emotions take over our thoughts and add meaning to the story of our lives. That’s what we do as humans. We attach meaning to anything and everything we can, so we can feel it’s level of significance. But too often we unconsciously we attach to stories that end up leading us down the very paths we were hoping to avoid.

To stop the cycle of unsuccessful goal setting, here’s a different plan of action. In this new year, instead of focusing on what success looks like to society, I encourage you to transform your mental map of what you think true success looks like by making simple small changes every day.

These 8 thought-provoking practices will help change the way you set out to achieve your goals not just in this coming year, but for the rest of your life. All because they are practical and easy to control. Each concept can be achieved anytime, anywhere.

Buddha statue at National Park in Hong Kong

Are you ready to transform your mental map of success?

Here’s a list of 8 thought-provoking practices that will help you transform your idea of what’s it’s like to feel joy and achieve true success in life. Remember any one of these practices daily and you will achieve more goals faster than you can ever imagine.

1. Breathe.

Seriously. Do it. Take a slow, intentional, deep breath right now.

As you keep breathing and reading, try to actually focus on the physical feeling of your body. Feel the insanely amazing thing that your body is doing – without your help. Always. Body Awareness is crucial to survive and success and our breath is our life force. By intentionally focusing on it we are instantly brought into the present moment. Where everything happens. Intentional breathing is the first step to everything you want.

If we can take any given moment to realize that we are such complex creatures, we can step out of our conditioned mindset and simply remember, that life itself is magical. We don’t understand it. We don’t know how we got here or why or how it all works. No one does. And I think that is freaking amazing. By intentionally breathing, we are instantly reminded of this and can immediately create a fresh new perspective of life at any given moment.

Take the first few minutes of each day to just breathe and thank yourself that you are alive. Really feel gratitude in that.

Sound cheesy or stupid. So what. Who cares.

No one is watching. It’s just you in there. You already do it anyway, so why not take a moment to appreciate it? That moment of stillness will unlock so much more magic that you can imagine.

2. Let your thoughts, be just that. Thoughts.

You know that little voice inside your head? The one that tends to argue every point, show up at the most inopportune time when are you facing the challenges of life? When you really need the confidence and all of a sudden you have none? That is nothing but your thoughts. They don’t own you. You don’t own them. So stop trying to control them.

Don’t try and reason with your voice(s). Instead, treat it like a child and just be it’s best friend. Stop fighting those thoughts, encouraging them or letting them take over by just watching them come and go. Remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. They are just one small part of your entire being. Let that sink in for a minute. What are you thinking now? They’re just thoughts.

palm trees at night faces the north star

3. Judge less.

I won’t say that we shouldn’t judge at all. We are only human. Take the pressure off yourself. It’s instinctual to judge, to have opinions. However, we can all learn to see the difference between conscious and unconscious judgments. If we simply practice judging less, we instantly expand our awareness and reprogram our minds idea of when and why we judge in the first place.

Whether it’s judging another human being or ourselves, we can learn to let go of feeling the need to have an opinion about everything and judge everything out loud. I promise this one is a biggie. It didn’t take me long to see these negative thoughts inside of me and start to let them go. It might be scary at first to realize how often we judge. But remember, slow and steady wins the race.

4. Stop taking things so personally.

When someone or some situation offends you, you have a choice to make. You can let that internal feeling control your actions or you can see that feeling for what it is. A reflection of the person who handed out the negative action in the first place.

It may still hurt. We are only human after all. We want to be accepted, loved, and understood. Our emotions are a part of our intricately designed brains. They are like directional signs on the highway or compass on the roadmap of life. But no one gives great directions all the time and I still don’t know how to use a compass or why we even need one.

My point is this. Our emotions are always going to be apart of us. But we decide how they come through us. We are the only ones who can truly understand ourselves and others judgments towards us are simply judgments of themselves. Their judgment is a reflection of themselves. Just like you are a reflection of you. Turn the mirror around.

clouds in a an orange sky at sunset

5. Don’t blame, shame or guilt anyone or anything, especially yourself.

This will be a challenging one. So let me start with this. Your only practice is to acknowledge the blame, shame, or guilt you feel.

By letting it show face, you’ve already set in motion the reprogramming you need.

Let’s think about why we blame anyone for anything, including ourselves. It almost always has something to do with our past. Which means we’re stuck in some story that doesn’t really exist. So, what’s the point anyway? I used to think if I could blame someone and let them know it, then I could teach them a lesson.

Trust me, this is no way to teach. There is only one way to teach. By being. So if I blame or shame or guilt someone, that’s the lesson they’ll learn. Remember, as long as you are true to yourself and you are intentional, there is no need to punish yourself with blame, shame or guilt. What happened, happened. It’s in the past. You may have consequences and responsibilities to uphold. That is your duty and right as a human being. But shame, blame, and guilt associated with past memories has never ever helped anyone move forward into their future.

Though, these pre-conditioned judgements will still arise, your ability to see them immediately for what they are, is essential to your inner peace and happiness. So when they show face, simply acknowledge them and let them go. Expand your awareness and reframe your story of that experience. Because what is available for you instead is empathy and growth. Growth in your mistakes, empathy for others, and complete transformation in your story from lessons you learn.

6. Be grateful.

I once heard someone say, “Gratitude is the essence of happiness.” It took me a while to really understand the full power of this idea. But once I got it, it stuck forever.

We want, want, want, take, take, take. We over-plan, over-expect, and over-consume. And then we undervalue almost everything in life. So how can we expect to really understand the deepest meaning of gratitude? We must slow down and pay attention to our choices with more conscious awareness. We have to be willing to re-evaluate every aspect of our lives if we want to feel lasting happiness. And that starts with finding gratitude for the simple things in life, the big things and all the things in between.

My heart is full, my smile is never ending and my mind is calm whenever I allow gratitude to coincide with my everyday life. Doing this has shown me what true happiness is, a constant journey from within. Try it on, see out it works for you.

Hindu Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

7. Spark joy through creativity and play.

This is my favorite one. It’s also the easiest one on the list. But one many of us ignore completely. Much of our desire to set goals and make changes in our lives is because we are on some mission to fill empty voids. We feel this need to create a plan and accomplish things that are meaningful and show progress. We do so much all the time, for the sake of just doing it and taking up time.

Well, I’m telling you I called quits a long time ago and you should too. Stop trying to fill those voids with things that the world says are purposeful and look within. Finding happiness is a daily game of play. We can’t take everything so seriously if we want to discover what really matters most to us. I encourage you to expand your comfort zone by unleashing your creativity and playing like a kid again. Pick up a creative hobby, explore an old one, or just grab your camera and come to a photography class – I’ll show you how to spark joy!

8. Love yourself.

Saving the best for last, I want you to love yourself first and foremost. No matter what. You can not, under any circumstances discover the love you want to feel from another human being if you can not feel it for yourself first. This goes for every kind of love. Whatever you’re seeking out there, identify it and find it within yourself.

To allow acceptance to set in, always find love for other human beings and your surroundings as well. When you feel those bouts of negativity arise within, find a moment to run through these last six steps and then remember always to come from a place love. When you don’t or can’t. Reflect on it. Imagine a different version where you did.

Love truly is the answer to all of our problems. Step outside your head for just a brief moment and imagine what it would be like if you took every circumstance in your life and treated it with a huge douse of love. Now imagine if everyone did that…

As you reflect and prepare for the new year, take the time to think about not just big resolutions, but simple practices you can control to completely transform your life at any given moment.

There are countless ways to help you prepare for the new year. Have you taken time to reflect and re-evaluate your goals for 2021?