Practise starting each day well
Beginning your day in a stressed rush sets the tone for the next few hours. In contrast, making a good start each morning is a form of momentum, giving you the energy and control you need to have a good day.
Try getting up at least 30 minutes earlier than necessary so you have some quiet time to yourself. Use it to do some yoga stretches or meditate, or just sit with a cup of tea and reflect on the day ahead. Sorting out what you're going to wear the night before, including accessories, and locating the items you need, will also help you to start on a positive note.
Make friends with your fears
Whether you shy away from joining a choir even though you've always wanted to sing, or you find it hard to stand up for what you want in your relationship, fear could be holding you back from being as happy as you could be. But analysing your worries and trying to vanquish them could be counterproductive, keeping you focused on them and making them seem even more important.
Try this instead: when that internal voice crops up, telling you that you can't do something or that you'll fail if you try, make a point of thanking it, but carry on regardless. What you're doing is acknowledging your fear but not letting it take control of you.
Doing this automatically minimises your anxieties. You may find yourself thanking your fears many times a day at first – which sounds a little strange and does take practice – but you'll soon find that they start to intrude less in your life.
Know when not to quit
If something isn't working out for you, it's tempting to assume you should stop wasting time trying. But persistence is a valuable trait many successful people share.
There are various messages that tell us to give up: you don't have time at the moment; you can try it another time; you've already done enough… Be ready for those close-to-quitting moments and seek support from friends and family members to encourage you to keep going.
Think about what you'll get from trying to follow your dreams aside from the end result, whether it's learning skills or helping others. When you come up against failure or disappointment, remind yourself that it's an important part of succeeding, and see what you can learn from it.
Unlock your hidden ambition
We all have desires that make us unique, yet they often get buried. But a first step to feeling fulfilled is identifying these ambitions.
Doing this will boost your confidence and you'll begin to recognise that some of the desires you might initially have thought strange may give you a more interesting and satisfying life. It may also help you recognise that another person's life, even if it looks attractive, may not be right for you.
List your ambitions, then divide them into those you live by and those you keep hidden. Perhaps you find birdwatching relaxing but don't do it because your friends aren't into it. Or maybe you were good at ballet as a child and would like to try it again but think it's too late. Go through the list and unearth one ambition you can try today.
Undertake a friendship audit
Look at your closest friends and analyse their key qualities – everything from diligence to kindness.
Think about who has the qualities you admire most; the more time you spend with people who have those particular traits, the more they will start to rub off on you. For example, if you want to have more balance and you have a friend who does marathons, look at how she organises her life to fit in workouts.
You also need to be honest and acknowledge any friendships that bring you down. If anyone belittles you, acts selfishly or has views that make you uncomfortable, it's time to pull away from that relationship.
Familiarise yourself with your blind spots
It's hard to live a successful life if you don't fully understand your own personality – including the not-so-lovely bits.
Thinks about how you act when you're under pressure at work, stuck in a traffic jam or having an argument with your partner – stressful situations tend to reveal your weaknesses. We can all be over-sensitive or negative at times, so don't be overly critical of yourself.
The point is simply to understand some of the traits that might undermine you, so you know when to make a special effort to speak less and listen more or, conversely, know your strengths and speak out.
Acquire a little expertise
Concentrate on developing something until it becomes an expertise. Consider training to build on your professional abilities, sharpening your life skills such as financial management, building your personal traits like empathy, or acquiring a new skill like learning a musical instrument.
By becoming an expert, you'll increase your self-esteem and become more open and optimistic. Developing expertise takes time, so it's a good way to develop patience with yourself too. A great way to master something is also to teach it to someone else; help a friend learn how to budget or talk to your teenage children about listening skills.
For more health and fitness stories, pick up a copy of the latest Good Health Choices.