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Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

Chinese New Year: How To Make This Your Most Successful Year Ever

London, U.K. 10:00 PM

I was in London speaking at a corporate event when the monkey handed the reigns to the rooster. Yes, I’m talking about one of the most important and celebrated days of the year for 1.5 billion people — the Chinese New Year.

It seems that the only time I feel like running is when I travel. Not a good recipe for staying in shape, but a simple and easy way to explore the city, take in the sights and clear my mind. The logical destination on the eve of this new year was to head down to Chinatown in the City of Westminster and take in some of the festivities.

I had plenty of time to think along the run, as the destination was 10 km away. As this was my first run in over a month, it was slow.

I began to think about the Chinese New Year after a couple of kilometers. I thought about its rich history, dating back to the 14th century, why and how it started and some of the myths and folklore that have carried on through the ages. Then, I asked myself, “I wonder how many people truly adhere to the beliefs that stem from the origin of this day.” And, more importantly, how do those beliefs impact the way people live their lives today?

One after another, a tsunami of questions and thoughts kept crashing through my brain.

With all the consulting work and speaking I do around the world, I see one constant that cripples people in every culture – fear. Fear of job loss, fear of making a simple decision, and even fear of communicating with someone in person. Fear stems from lack of belief – especially in oneself. It promotes poor performance, diminishes company culture and stifles our ability to creatively solve problems.

For many of us, we have more than ever before. Yet we are more uncertain, fearful and miserable than ever before – both personally and professionally.

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After a brief stop for some oxygen relief, I began reflecting on how important our beliefs are in shaping our outcomes, desires and successes in business and in life.

But first, some very interesting history…

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is based on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, which means New Year’s Day can vary between January 21st and February 19th. Also known as the “Spring Festival,” this year the party starts on Saturday, January 28th and continues until the Lantern Festival, 15 days later.

Each Chinese New Year is characterized by one of the 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.

The Rat. Ox. Tiger. Rabbit. Dragon. Snake. Horse. Goat. Monkey. Rooster. Dog. Pig.

There are many myths as to why and how each animal was chosen. There may also be variations in the animal representing the year depending on which version of the Chinese zodiac someone follows. Still, each animal has symbolic characteristics given to it by the ancient Chinese.These animal attributes come in six contrasting pairs that are harmonized, like yin and yang, and are the primary factor governing the order of the zodiac. It is believed that your animal has a huge influence on various aspects of your life — personality, future, career, love and general luck.

If you’re familiar with western astrology, the major difference between the two is that each house (animal) in the Chinese zodiac is one year in duration instead of one month. This means that according to Chinese beliefs, people who were born in the same year have similar traits, as opposed to the Western belief that those born during the same month-long time frame have similar traits.

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Are You a Rooster?

This year is said to be the year of the rooster. The rooster is the tenth in the 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac sign. The Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029…

The Rooster is the embodiment of dependability and punctuality. For ancestors who had no alarm clocks, the rooster’s crowing was significant, as it could awaken people to get up and start to work. It is said that people born in a rooster year are independent, honest, and competent but can be emotionally volatile. (Aren’t we all? Emotionally volatile that is :))

But…

As luck would not have it, the year of your sign is believed to be one of the unluckiest years of your life, according to Chinese astrology. Sorry, roosters.

If you’re not a rooster you can check out which animal you are below based on the year you were born.

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Sheep: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Once you’ve found your animal sign, feel free to indulge on one of the thousands of astrology sites to see if your animal is representative of who you are and what the year ahead may have in store for you according to Chinese astrology.

Will You Be Successful In The Year Ahead?

Back to beliefs.

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Do you believe in luck? Routines? Superstitions? Spirituality?

Black cats, breaking mirrors, lucky Jupiter, pregame songs or lucky socks?

Belief is a state of mind. It’s hard to describe or articulate, especially when there’s little or no empirical evidence toward justifying its existence or consistency of truth. It’s purely subjective and can trigger many emotions.

Four words come to mind when I see or hear the word belief —confidence, opinion, acceptance and trust (COAT). These are the building blocks of who we are, how we think, what we say and why we do the things we do.

I do believe that there are external forces that are constantly working for and against us which are beyond our control. Like when and where we were born.

We didn’t have a choice.

I also believe that our internal force, or belief system, is more powerful than any external forces out there.

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And, we do have a choice in defining who we are based on the circumstances that are presented to us.

No matter what your beliefs are, whether you believe in Chinese astrology or not, the Chinese New Year gives us all an opportunity to reflect and become more self-aware. The world, for many of us, is one that is out of control — one that is  living constantly in a hyper-reactive unconscious state. One that sacrifices freedom for traditionalism.

There is nothing wrong with following traditional beliefs— if this serves you well. If it doesn’t, then question it. Tune your beliefs to something that does. Uncover which ones are moving you forward in a positive way and which ones are holding you back from the true essence of who you are. Now is the time to change the latter.

It starts with a central belief. A belief that you control the life you were given — not someone, some app or something else.

Xīn Nián Kuài Lè (Happy New Year) (新年快乐)

“Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái” (Wishing you a prosperous New Year ) (恭喜发财)

Featured photo credit: Craig Gauthier. via media.lifehack.org

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Craig Gauthier

Author, Speaker, Strategic Adviser, Consultant

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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