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New year, clean slate: what to do with it?

Though I enjoy the hustle and camaraderie of the holidays, it’s good to be back at my keyboard starting another year. By now, New Year’s resolutions have been made, and, for some folks, already broken. Nonetheless, the new year is a good time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next 12 months.

The devastating earthquake and tsunami in southern Asia have been vivid reminders of our vulnerability to unanticipated disasters. Likewise, the earthquake in Iran last year, the terrorist attack of September 11th and 2004’s Florida hurricanes are further reminders of just how vulnerable we are to catastrophes, both natural and man-made.

What does the future hold? No one knows. I fear that we will have more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil over the coming years. Scientists predict that, one day, earthquakes will devastate both Memphis and Los Angeles because they are located on fault lines. And, just last week, CNN reported that Canada has another confirmed case of mad cow disease.

Can we avoid disasters? In a word, no. Last week, here in Jackson, a driver fleeing from the police crossed the median on Interstate 20 and ran head-on into another automobile, killing its innocent driver instantly. We know that spring will bring beautiful weather and the bane of living in the south central U.S., tornadoes. We don’t know where they’ll strike, but strike they will. And, lives will be lost and property destroyed. It’s just a role of the dice where it will happen.

With all of this negative stuff on our minds, is there an antidote to brighten our days? Why, yes there is. It’s all about the way we live each day. Because one of the few certainties in life is that one of these days will, in fact, be our last day on earth. All of the things we put off until some other time will go undone when that day comes.

A meaningful life

Living each day to the fullest is the secret of living a meaningful life. Absolute honesty, even at the expense of hurting someone’s feelings, is necessary if life is to be meaningful. And, beyond merely being truthful about what was said and done, we need to live the truth of our own consciences. Keeping silent when we should have spoke up is as much a dishonesty as lying on our tax return. Quietly speaking our truth in every instance reveals our true selves to those around us and defines our character. True, it would probably be more popular to keep quiet and go with the flow, but being truthful and forthright will let people know that we have depth of conviction and cannot be easily manipulated.

Having bravely exposed our hopes, fears, beliefs and ambitions lays the groundwork for doing the important things first. Cutting some of the mindless activities out of our lives opens up time for doing the important. It takes courage to define ourselves for all to see but the payoff is enormous. In fact, it spells the difference between living a shallow, but popular, life and living a life full of meaning.

Food for thought

Following are some thought questions that might provide some food for thought.

1. Do you have a spiritual connection with some religious faith? If so, how could you enhance and deepen the connection to make your spirituality more alive? In not, should you be thinking about getting one or are you prepared to face the end of your life spiritually unconnected?

2. Do you have close relationships with family and friends? Are you honest enough with them that they really know who you are and what you stand for? Could any of your close relationships stand a little tweaking during the coming year?

3. How effective are you in the work place? Do you really do the best you can or just enough to get by? Do you manage your personal and professional time well?

4. Are you saving enough for retirement or are you spending too much just enjoying life? Do you have cash reserves to handle the unexpected? Could you go six months without a paycheck and survive?

Even without the tragedy in Asia the beginning of the year is a good time to get the brain in gear and make some improvements. The tragedies that are part of our everyday lives merely add a sense of urgency to the situation.

Thought for the Moment

Be patient in little things. Learn to bear the everyday trials and annoyances of life quietly and calmly, and then, when unforeseen trouble or calamity comes, your strength will not forsake you. — unknown author

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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