Your Route to the Top: Seven ways to make a fresh start

As we enter the new year, here are seven ways to overhaul your life.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

1. Find your focus. A life overhaul is usually unnecessary and unrealistic. Establish priorities by imagining yourself a year from now, happy and fulfilled. How do you spend your time? How is it different from today? Identify changes that lay a path to the new way, and concentrate solely on them.

2. Speed through the cycle. For Gestalt psychiatrist Fritz Perls, making a change involves moving through four stages: doing, contemplating, planning and experimenting. Locate yourself in the cycle and take action to progress. Too busy 'doing'? Take a day off to think. Aimless contemplator? Write a plan.

3. Break it down. Avoid paralysis by turning your long-term vision ('I'll make a success of this business') into manageable, short-term goals (I'll call 10 lapsed clients by the end of today').

4. Up the pressure. Share your plan with colleagues, friends and family and ask them to keep tabs on your progress. Skipping a training course won't be so tempting if your pride is at stake.

5. Remember why. Whether it's the impulses you're now satisfying (independence, challenge), the strengths you're building (leadership, courage), or the passions you're exploring (politics, the arts), there are reasons you made a change. When the going gets tough, don't forget them.

6. Learn from the greats. Identify people who achieved what you want to and plot your path against theirs. Too late to change? Emulate Colonel Harland Sanders, who made his new start (and fortune) at 65. When a motorway development shut his service station, Sanders shunned retirement to secure investment in his fried chicken recipe - and KFC was born.

7. Think back. One you've settled into the new way, reflect on lessons learned. Write down how you overcame challenges, what skills you developed and how you'd do it differently next time. Use it to make future fresh starts swift and stress-free.

- The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99; www.themindgym.com/books

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