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How to Make 2013 The Best Year of Your Life

How to Make 2013 The Best Year of Your Life

We are now a couple of weeks into 2013—have you set yourself up for success this year?

In preparation for the new year, I recently posted the article “How to Reflect on 2012 and Set Yourself Up For Success in 2013

I had a number of emails from people that actually did the exercise and all of them made mention of the huge insights and benefits they got from doing so. One comment on LifeHack summarises exactly why I suggest you do the exercise:

“I just did this today and it was amazing. I went outside to a park with a beautiful view of San Francisco and wrote everything down on my iPad. I felt so thankful, happy, and inspired afterwards. It gave me great insight into how I want to approach 2013. Thanks for this post!”

best year of your life

    Reflection is the first step of understanding where you are. Before setting goals and planning the year, it’s important to look back over what you have done well, what challenges you faced, how did you overcome them, what relationships you developed and more. The best part of reflection is that it helps you to learn and develop from your experiences—something you most definitely want to do to set yourself up for success in 2013.

    I’m going to assume you have already read the article on how to reflect on 2012, so you can now progress to setting your goals for this year.

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    Ready? Let’s do it!

    1. Preparation

    Find yourself a peaceful and quiet area where you will have no distractions: perhaps head outdoors to a local park or to the beach. Even better, go to a place that inspires you and find a nice, comfortable spot  to sit.

    Take a notepad and pen with you, or if you’re “with the times”, take your iPad or other digital device for writing on. Also, don’t forget to take along the notes that you took when you did the reflection exercise.

    Spend 10 minutes reading over the notes you took from that previous exercise, which will help you to get back into the state of deep-thought and inner being. You might even find there are additional thoughts that come to mind—that’s fine, simply include them on your reflection sheet.

    2. Describe Your Ideal Life

    That’s right, we’re not getting into goal-setting just yet. First, you need to gain clarity around the longer-term.

    Describe what your ideal life looks like. Perhaps that is 5 years from now, perhaps it’s 10 years or even 20 years. Be realistic with what you think is possible, and think deeply about what you would absolutely love to be doing. You can use the questions below as thought prompters.

    What are you doing?

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    Who are you with?

    Where are you?

    Where do you live?

    How do you spend your day?

    What income are you earning?

    What’s generating your income?

    It’s important to gain clarity around where you want to get to in the longer-term before setting specific goals for the year, as you want your goals to be aligned to and help you progress towards your ideal life.

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    Take as long as you need to do this exercise.

    3. Set Your Goals

    Here is where we get specific.

    Using the inputs of the ideal life and reflection exercises, start thinking about what can be achieved realistically in 2013. Write SMART goals that you can achieve this year. To recap on SMART:

    S – Specific

    M – Measurable

    A – Achievable

    R – Relevant

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    T – Time bound

    Set yourself stretching targets. Psychologists have proven that incorporating the above elements from SMART into your goals and also making them “stretching” is the most effective way of ensuring motivation, drive, commitment, performance and ultimate success. Just remember that they also need to be realistic and achievable, otherwise you will demotivate yourself.

    Your goals should be aligned to your ideal life—if they’re not, ask yourself why you are even considering putting it down on paper and committing to it.

    Next Steps

    You know where you want to go and you’re set up for success this year!

    You’re now ready to take action. You should have a clear understanding of where you are now and where you want to get to longer-term, as well as specific and measurable goals that can create amazing change in your life this year. Change and progress happens one step at a time.

    The most important thing is that you actually take that first step. Momentum is a beautiful thing: once you start taking a few baby steps, you will learn to walk, and once you’re walking properly ,you’ll learn how to run. Your habits will be defined, and they will start to create success for you.

    I’m looking forward to sharing this amazing year with you. Here’s to making 2013 the best year of your life!

    Featured photo credit: lonely man walking via Shutterstock

     

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

    In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Step right up, don’t be shy!

    Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

    The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

    Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

    Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
    So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

    A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

    Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

    Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

    When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

    Culturally Conditioned

    We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

    I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

    The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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    Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

    Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

    1. Broadens Your Network

    After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

    2. Improves Your Communication Skills

    I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

    Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

    3. Continually Learning

    So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

    Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

    4. Increases Self Confidence

    Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

    Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

    So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

    How to Talk to Strangers

    Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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    1. Say Hello

    Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

    Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

    Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

    2. Ask About Them

    Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

    You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

    As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

    3. Just Do It

    One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

    When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

    Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

    4. Don’t Take It Personal

    One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

    When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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    5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

    I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

    One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

    6. Detach

    A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

    Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

    7. Share Your Stories

    Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

    To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

    So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

    8. Give a Compliment

    Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

    When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

    9. Relax Your Body Language

    If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

    When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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    If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

    10. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

    After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

    The Bottom Line

    As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

    There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

    Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

    More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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