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As children we all learned some very traditional games and stories from which memories stay with us and continue to shape our patterns to this day. For instance in “Simon Says,” we learn to respond to “Simon says do this!” and “Simon says do that!” And if the leader doesn’t precede the directive with “Simon says,” then you’re out of the game. Lots of laughs were had with this game. And what a lesson to stick with you. Don’t do anything unless you have the right permission. Argh!

Or how about Chutes and Ladders – the game of reward and consequences. No matter how much you practice this game and how much you prepare there is still no skill involved in winning. Winning is random and determined by a spin of the dial. We played this for hours at my next door neighbor’s house as kids because at any given time, any of us could win. The shy kid could beat the block bully. Spin well, help a cat out of a tree and climb a ladder. Spin poorly, write on the walls and fall down the chute. The laughs were great but what did this teach us about control over our own destiny?

Many fairytales are repeats of the same theme and taught us a lot about romance. Girl is alone and sad. Girl meets prince. Prince rides her off into the sunset to happiness. That puts a lot of pressure on the “princes” of this world.

And how about the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland? Many people seeking to find their life’s calling and entrepreneurs conduct their lives and their businesses like the Mad Hatter. They often feel as if they are running in circles saying to themselves, “I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” when in fact they can’t even focus on what it is that is so important.

Get off the treadmill of busyness. Put the glass slippers away. And forget about asking for permission from anyone.

You are writing your own story. You are creating your own Game of Life. And the only way you will shake the head trash you carry from the past is to replace it with something – new habits. Here’s how:

1) Create a Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement defines in concrete form exactly who, what, where, when why and how you want to be in the next one to three years. Keep in mine you are defining these things in terms of your character, behaviors, values, actions, habits and qualities. Keep it positive, passionate and emotionally motivating. You might start your Personal Mission Statement with “To live each day with …[value and value]… so that …[what living by these values will give you]. I will do this by …[specific behaviors you will use to achieve these values].” Or “To develop the qualities of …[two to three character traits]… that I admire in …[an influential person in your life]… so that …[why you want to develop these traits].”

2) Write Measurable Life Goals That Will Lead You to Your Mission.
Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results oriented and Time framed. There is a complete article on writing SMART goals at http://www.StartingOverNow.com. A life goal might be that in order to have more time for your family you will devote an hour every evening to family time without distractions for things such as games, TV, homework help, dog walking together or some other activity. Another goal might be to devote the first two hours every morning at work to focusing on the most strategic part of your work. If that is sales, that may be when you make cold calls. If you work in a service related industry, you might schedule meetings with managers on quality improvements for the first two hours every day. You might consider writing a goal that you will meet with a mentor once a month to discuss your progress. There is an article on finding a mentor on the Web site as well.

3) Create Daily To-Do Lists that Reinforce Your Mission and Goals.
Creating a daily To-Do List keeps you on task to your ultimate goal. If you do not have a To-Do List or journal on a daily basis, you often may find yourself mitered down with mundane tasks that FILL UP your day instead of FILLING UP the meaningful parts of your life.

How often do you sit down at your desk and start your day by reading and responding to your email and phone messages? Then there are a pile of things on your desk that need short term attention that you complete because now the “In Box” is less full and it appears that you have been productive because, “Look, I’ve finished all this work!” And Snow White swept all the floors. And Cinderella cleaned the entire fireplace. And two of the Little Pigs built houses they thought were great but were they able to withstand the wolf?

The first things on your To-Do List should be the things that will reinforce your Personal Mission Statement. Then prioritize your To-Do List. Think of your time in terms of what is going to bring you the most valuable return. Clearing your desk of clutter is not it. Your goals will help guide your To-Do List so that you are focusing on the strategic objectives of your life and not just clearing your desk.

I create my To-Do List for the week. Nothing on it includes daily work that I know will be on my desk – letters to sign, meetings to attend, etc.

Think of your life as a framework of relationships and that does not just mean with people. Think of your work in relationship to how it will help you achieve your To-Do List which is focused on your goals which is focused on your Personal Mission. You are thinking in terms of systems and relationships. Not in terms of short term gain, unproductive patterns of past behaviors, and head trash.

Remember: Personal Mission Statement, SMART Goals and a Focused Daily To-Do List sets a pattern to start new behaviors. Habits take 21 days to form. Stick with it until then and you will write your own happy ending. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is a personal turnaround, leadership and productivity expert who went from being a stay-at-home mother with four children living a country club life to the reality of a difficult marriage, divorce, homelessness, and welfare. As a guest speaker, she demonstrates how she went from an earning capacity of $27,000 to president and CEO. Visit her Web site at www.StartingOverNow.com. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores. Email Mary Lee at info@StartingOverNow.com.