By David and Andrea Reiser, coauthors of Letters From Home: A Wake-up Call for
Success & Wealth (Wiley, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-4706379-2-0, $27.95, www.ReiserMedia.com)
Refuse to acknowledge anyone who doesn't say "please" and "thank you." It's the best way to showcase the critical importance of courtesy and good manners—with your children, yes, but also with other adults.
Do the right thing, even if it's really, really tough. (Especially if it's really, really tough.) Whether you're blowing the whistle on an embezzling boss or returning the extra $10 the cashier gave you by mistake, acting with integrity is its own reward. Plus, it's a more powerful teaching moment for your kids than all your lectures combined.
Take a stand—even if it makes people uncomfortable. If someone you know is doing something wrong—say, cheating on a spouse or bullying a coworker—confront him or her. If you don't put yourself out there, who will?
If you really believe in it, fight for it. (Getting worn down from "fighting the good fight" is no reason to give in and abandon your convictions.) When we're dealing with difficult situations and conflicts, it's easy to get fed up and "wash our hands" of the problem. As a result, those with the most stamina and the loudest voices end up running things. (This is how bad policies get signed into law and other poor decisions get made.) From now on, resolve to stay strong and refuse to go down without a fight. If it's important to you, it's worth your time and energy to see it through to the end.
Don't just complain about politics; do something about it. Write your congressperson. Join a political action group. At the very least, vote.
Don't tell white lies. Don't accept them either. Just be honest and heartfelt. Everyone may not "like" you, but they'll know where you stand. (Most likely, the vast majority will find you to be a breath of fresh air!)
If you can't pay cash for it, don't buy it. Consumer credit has been the downfall of many a family.
Find a way to give back. Help your children do the same. Volunteer work done as a family teaches gratitude and kindness and creates precious "together time."
Be willing to do whatever needs to be done, whether you love every minute of it or not. Show up; don't just phone it in. If you rely on others to accomplish what you want to see happening in the world, you'll be waiting a long time.
Learn everything you can, from anyone you can, at any time you can. You never know when that knowledge might come in handy.
Don't dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what you can do to move forward. Otherwise, you may stare so long at the closing door that you may not realize another is opening.
Make sure you're not living in a dream world. Surround yourself with people you trust who are willing to give you an honest critique, and listen intently to what they have to say.
Know when to cut your losses. Everyone makes mistakes and goes down the wrong path from time to time. The trick is to know when it's time to refocus your efforts.
Be a person of your word. Do what you say you're going to do, whether people are watching you or not.
Take the forward view instead of wallowing in past failures. Spend time productively, making positive changes, and finding solutions—not whining and complaining.
If it's tough and tedious, that's okay—as long as it's taking you somewhere that matters. Be willing to make a temporary sacrifice for a longer-term payoff.
Allow your children to make mistakes. No, don't let them put themselves in terrible danger...but don't "fix" everything for them, either. If you do, they'll never learn to problem-solve and pick themselves up after taking a spill.
Embrace the "Suck it up, Dude!" approach to setbacks. Quit whining, get over it, and move on. This is a good philosophy for raising kids with resilience—and also for fostering that valuable quality in yourself!
Don't play the blame game, and don't allow your children to, either. Whether your circumstances have been negatively impacted by a person, your genes, the weather, or something else entirely, you'll never move forward if you don't take responsibility for what happens from here on out.
Challenge yourself to make life better for everyone you meet. Doing this can be as simple as offering a heartfelt smile!
Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down the many ways in which you've been blessed will make a tangible difference to your level of happiness.
Be courteous. Hold the door open for someone. Let another driver merge into traffic. If the toilet paper roll is empty, replace it. These are little ways of showing respect to others.
Say it nicely if you can. Yes, get your point across. But don't let a nasty tone creep into your voice. Whether you're trying to send a badly cooked steak back to the kitchen, critique an employee, or ask your spouse to stop burning up the credit card, you'll get better results if you stay calm and reasonable.
When people are doing a good job, tell them so. This might be your server, your bank teller, your coworker, or your spouse. Everyone likes to hear praise for their efforts once in a while.
Measure your decisions against your regret. Ask yourself, "If I pass up this opportunity, will I regret it?" If the answer is "yes," then act.
Find your own "dirty little secret." No, not that kind of secret. Ask yourself what you really want out of life (it's amazing how many people are afraid of the answer!) and go for it!
Make every moment count. Don't waste your life worrying about situations and issues you can't do something about—and remember to get the most out of all you do by being fully present.
Break out of your comfort zone. Take a different route to work. Start a conversation with the person behind you in line at the coffee shop. Volunteer in your community. All complacency and no challenge makes you a dull American!
Set boundaries—and don't move them. Decide how you want to spend your time, how you want to rank your priorities, and what you will and won't tolerate—and then stick to your guns.
Guard your reputation like it's gold. (It is.) Before you do something you're not sure about, ask yourself: Would I be upset if this appeared on the front page of the newspaper? If the answer is yes, don't do it.