Turning A Bad Year Around in Time for a Good 2017

by Alli Polin on January 10, 2017

This week I’m honored to have a guest post from my friend and professional colleague Barbara Clifford. Barbara has worked in many fields and is now a time management and stress management coach helping busy professionals take more effective control of their work and lives. I think you’ll enjoy her insights. 

Let’s face it. Life can be full of frustrations, disappointments even, missed opportunities, broken relationships or life’s stresses. Now is a good time to prevent disappointments from dragging you down or killing your productivity and momentum. As we move into the new year, it’s an opportunity to take stock, to evolve and perhaps even re-event ourselves.

Expert Opinion

We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose to be a victor.  Science has shown that we can actually change the way our body responds to stress, simply by changing our thought processes. Kelly McGonical did an extraordinary TED talk; “How to Make Stress Your Friend” that talks about academic research in this area. Shawn Achor author of The Happiness Advantage says that focusing on the positive makes you more productive.  “Studies show that when you’re positive, you’re 31% more productive, you have 23% fewer health-related effects from stress, you’re 40% more likely to receive a promotion and your creativity rates triple.”

Be mindful of who you associate with because other’s negative attitude can be contagious.  In fact, YOUR negative attitude can be contagious   An attitude can instigate a whole movement of change.  “Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi, is a popular quote, as Gandhi is infamous for creating positive change through passive/peaceful resistance.

Take a Moment to Be Grateful

Forget about all the hype on social media about how horrible 2016 was.  Focus on what’s within your own control.  A popular prayer for mindfulness is the well know Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Take a moment to consider all the things that you are grateful for.  Even if you have had bad experiences, force yourself to come up with a reason this experience has been of value.  What lessons did you learn?  What might you do differently?  Search for a reason for why this has had a positive impact for you today, right now, at this moment.

Write these things down.  Why is writing things down so important?  For two reasons.
1.    Writing down things helps your brain form more consistent and stable pathways.  You are strengthening the synaptic nerves that empower this kind of thinking o that it becomes habitual.  Habitual thinking will allow you to focus more on these elements and there for make you more receptive to similar empowering opportunities.
2.    Each time you read, re-read and contemplate what you are writing you release small doses of the “happy hormones,” like dopamine for example.  These happy hormones help combat the side effects of cortisol (stress hormones) and help restore and regulate healthy body activity.

Once you’ve done this for the year in review, it’s a good idea to establish this as a daily journaling practice. Shawn Achor says, “There are neuroimaging studies that show it’s almost impossible to be in a depressed state and grateful at the same time.”

Identify the Triggers

Looking back on events through the year or recent events, can you identify what may have triggered the bad situation or the bad mood?  Make a commitment to yourself to be more mindful. Write down and affirm the attitude you would like to possess.   Write this as an affirmation in the now. For example “I am confident yet patient, attentive to the needs of others around me.”  Once you have a few affirmations around your attitude and conduct, you can use this as an ongoing reference point.  For example, print these and have them close by. If you feel yourself getting in a bad mood, reflect on these commitments you made to yourself and ask “Am I demonstrating these attributes? If not, why not?” and then consider a course of action.

Take Action

To break your routine of negative or victim thinking, take action.  It’s all very well establishing goals but work with a coach to break down what is the very first step you need to take in the right direction.  Alli Polin of this blog, Break the Frame, said of her new year’s resolutions that it was less about goals and more about impact.  She wanted to work from a place of results, outcomes and impact on a wider audience rather than focusing on a tangible item.  By doing this, it gave her more flexibility to work backward and consider more variables in what she may or may not do.  The key is to work with a coach to find the right method for you and to have someone keep you accountable. A coach will also help you focus on the wins, to keep your motivation and momentum.

Dr. Judy Hinwood from the Stress Management Institute encourages us to Just Have A Go. She elaborates on the idea of letting go of perfection, that we can forget about the adage “A job worth doing, is worth doing well,” rather focusing on making mistakes that lead to greater learning. Don’t wait for perfection, just start!

Change Your Routine

Consider where you have placed your time and energy in the last year.  Do you need to establish more routine around “you time,” health & fitness or professional development?  What might you do differently?  What research or planning do you need to do in these areas to create new routines?  For example, menu sources, short courses, podcasts, yoga timetables.  Think about changing your spaces.  Re-arrange your desk or your bedroom, clean out your wardrobe.  Give your life and your surrounds a bit of a “spring clean’.

Key Things to Remember When Turning a Bad Year Around for a Great Year Ahead…

*         Think of things to be grateful for
*         Reflect on what triggers your bad days or events
*         Value the lessons learned through these events (but also through the good events)
*         Write a list of gratitude for all you have accomplished even if it’s minor or a lesson learned
*         Believe that you are a victim of your circumstances you choose whether to be negative or positive
*         Accept that this is who I am or this is the way it’s always been
*         Dwell or focus on the things you can’t change or are out of your control

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) has spent over 20 years working in stressful and time precious industries such as film, hospitality, and marketing. She has always had a passion for creating order out of chaos. Barbara assists people to find clarity in their environment, control of their time and alleviate stress. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care and Health Services to name a few. To find out more visit timetamer.com.au or Twitter: @barbclifford.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

LaRae Quy January 10, 2017 at 11:44 am

Loved this article Alli! Gratitude is one of the most important emotions that we can both control and regulate. It is our choice to be grateful and gratitude is an effective way to beat PTSD. When we are grateful, it changes the way we look at our life.


Alli Polin January 10, 2017 at 5:21 pm

I agree – gratitude is a pathway forward that is too often overlooked. I had no idea of the application with PTSD too. It’s something I’m working to consciously cultivate with my children and choose for myself too.


Zafarmanzoor January 20, 2017 at 11:56 pm

Excellent points. Very much valid and effective. I also appreciate the above interesting comments.
Zafarmanzoor, Sr.Exec, Pakistan.


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