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Happy New Year - Martha Randolph Carr

It's time for our third annual New Year's Day tradition where we all let ourselves off the hook with the whole resolution thing and pick a word instead.

For those of you who are just joining us, for the past two years we have skipped making a list of resolutions,because, really, it's only a list of what we don't like about ourselves.

That's a real downer and has been proven quite effectively to be an unproductive waste of time. It's not like we don't know what we'd like to change about ourselves, but, perhaps, focusing on all of the things we haven't gotten to is a little too overwhelming.

Instead, I and the readers of Martha's Big Adventure, have been picking a word that's more like a theme and incorporating the idea into our lives. There doesn't have to be a lot of soul searching. This can be about the word that comes to you in a moment.

My word for 2009 has been "balance."

Over the year, I ended up taking a look at all of the pieces in my life and reviewed whether or not there was some kind of balance. I have a tendency to lean too far to one side or the other, which can lead to a lot of dramas, big and small, and eat up a lot of time.

The assessment showed me that for one thing, I hang on to a lot of business projects well past their expiration date, out of some idea that letting go of what wasn't working was failure and failure equaled lower self-worth.

I closed a few things, got off a few committees and was ready when a bigger opportunity at www.marthasbigadventure.com arose later in the year. My career plate had an opening and I was able to keep the idea of balance in mind when negotiating my role in a new venture.

The whole idea of balance was also very useful in 2009 when I moved out of New York City and had to pick a new place to live. Rather than choosing a new home based on one or two reasons, I tried to balance out all of my needs. Chicago has turned out to be a great city for me.

The theme of balance helped when I had to deal with melanoma and all of my options as well. Keeping the idea of balance in mind all year has reminded me that I have choices in dire circumstances or even happy occasions and that there are ways to figure out which option I really want to take.

When I found myself turning 50 in a new city where I didn't know anyone, I used the idea of balance to parse out what I really wanted in terms of a celebration. What mattered to me was having something low-key with a lot of people, so I came up with a pot-luck and handed out fliers to all of my acquaintances. The party was a huge hit and acquaintances turned into friends.

Now, it's time to pick a new word for 2010. There are no rules about whether or not you share the information with friends and family. However, in order to avoid having someone else frame what the word means to you, it might be wise to let it settle in for awhile. Often, especially around a new year, well-meaning loved ones shape their answers around their own expectations and fears.

After two years of going resolution-free and just choosing a theme, there are a couple of things I've noticed that have been welcome by-products. The first is that it's been easier to incorporate changes and feel successful because there's no end goal in mind.

Choosing a resolution, like losing weight, meant success or failure. Choosing a word like balance meant asking myself all the time what that means for me and being a lot more flexible with the answers.

The other by-product has been that I've learned how to trust myself more, because having a theme removed the need to compete with myself or others in order to feel better, and replaced it with the theme that life is a journey. There are no destinations.

That made it easier to live one day at a time and be satisfied with what I could reasonably do in a day. That's a great definition of a balanced life. My word for 2010 is going to be "Partnership." I'll let you know what that shapes up to be. Stay tuned. Happy New Year's everyone!

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Ask Martha how to get to your dream and receive a free gift of Martha's new Big Adventure book, "The 3 x 5 Game" -- www.marthasbigadventure.com. E-mail her at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.

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