How to Make This Your Best Year Ever

By: Maralee McKee, Manners Mentor

You can make this your best year ever. No New Year’s resolutions required! That’s a good thing, because while 62 percent of us make them either frequently or sometimes, only eight percent of us ever achieve even one of our resolutions.

That’s a depressing statistic.

In fact, the third Monday in January is now known as Blue Monday, after psychologist Cliff Arnell dubbed it that because of the spike in blue feelings and guilt caused by holiday debt and failed New Year’s resolutions. The day is also called “Divorce Monday,” because more people begin their divorce proceedings on that day than any other day of the year.

But that’s not you. And that’s not me. We’ve got this!

We’re not going to make a resolution that, if broken, makes us have to begin anew next year and lose out on making any significant, positive life changes this whole year.

Through this post, we’re going to build a strategic plan for our year based on a solid cornerstone of a core change we want to see in our life, fortify the plan with carefully-thought-out pillars of purpose, and complete it with actions that bring out the best in us and those around us. 

It’s going to be our best year ever, and even better, it’s not going to end December 31. We’re going to change our life — not just our year.


By focusing on developing new ways of feeling that are as refreshing as a walk on the beach instead of diving into the choppy waters of resolutions that tend to drown many of us (myself included) in overwhelming guilt or stress.

How to Make This Your Best Year Ever

This is a three-step process that will take you between 10 and 20 minutes to map out. The first thing to do is to grab a sheet of paper; go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait here for you!

How to Make This Your Best Year Ever

Step One: Answer Your Cornerstone Year™ Question

At the top of your paper, write your Cornerstone Year™ question, which is “How do I want this year to be different than last year?”

Think carefully about the best and worst of last year. Don’t think about particular events, good or bad. “I earned a $10,000 raise.” or “I flew to London for vacation.” would be examples of good events. Bad ones would be major and along the lines of “My _____ died.” or “I was fired.” But that type of good or bad isn’t what we’re trying to focus on at this moment.

We want to go under the surface to the essence of what was good and bad about last year. The good comes naturally for you, so you’ll carry that into this year without much thought or effort.

It’s the bad that we want to change. For instance, when looking back over last year, maybe you realize that you feared, worried, dreaded, complained, whined, or felt insecure, angry, unforgiving, incapable, unloved, etc. These are examples of core life issues. Everyone has something, and that’s what we want to change for the better this year. 

Limit yourself to three or fewer core issues, and include them in your answer to our foundational question for how to make this your best year ever. For this to work best, you need to limit your answer to one sentence.

For example:

How do I want this year to be different than last year? I want this to be the year that I don’t lash out at my loved ones, because I know it’s wrong and because the guilt that I feel weighs heavy on me.

How great would it be if you didn’t experience your worst feelings, actions, or insecurities this year?!

Sure, it would be wonderful to lose 24 pounds, learn a new language, or travel more often — typical resolutions — but even if you accomplished all of them and were proud, you wouldn’t change the essence of your most pressing heart issue(s).

Change your Cornerstone Issue™, and you’ll change your life, not just improve it!

Please note: Below, I’m sharing with you my Cornerstone Year™ question and answer, and my Pillars of Purpose™, which is how we work through our answer during the year. I almost didn’t share something so personal, but what good is a mentor who won’t be authentic with you? This is the real me, flaws and all. Please don’t judge. We are all at different places in our journey. 

How to Have Your Best Year Ever

An Explanation to Help Explain My Personal Answer to The Cornerstone Question™

I struggle with general anxiety and panic attacks due to childhood events and the death of my first husband from a five-year battle with cancer when I was 27 years old. The attacks had gone away but stampeded back with a vengeance when my youngest son was diagnosed with multiple severe learning challenges in first grade. He’s making strides that were never dreamed possible for him, so I’m doing better. Yet I still struggle with driving. I have a very limited driving range. It’s been hard on me and my family. Kent, my husband, has done all of the driving for several years. So this is the cornerstone area where I most want this year to be different from last year.

Here’s my Cornerstone Year™ Question and Answer: How do I want this year to be different than last year? This year I want to overcome my fear of fear, drive on major roads again, and be bold in facing each day.

When I change that, I’ll change my life. And this will be my best year ever even if I never exercise, learn a new language, or travel to foreign lands for an exotic vacation. If I had a million dollars and could spend it to get well, I gladly would. What would you pay a  million dollars to change? That’s the answer to your Cornerstone Question™. The answer has to focus on you. It might be that if your spouse, boss, coworker, best friend, or someone else would change, your life would be better. But we can’t change anyone else. So let’s go with what we can change: ourselves!

How to Have Your Best Year Ever

Steps Two & Three: List Your Pillars of Purpose™ and What You’ll Be Concentrating On In Each of Them  

Now that our foundation is laid, it’s time to install what I call the Pillars of Purpose ™ into our year. The pillars are the areas of your life that you will choose as the most important for you to succeed in to be able to feel you’re fulfilling your plans, purposes, and priorities.

You’ll have anywhere between three and seven pillars. Five is probably the average number. If you want, start with three, and if those go well, you can always add additional pillars in the coming months.

There will be differences, but in general, I bet most of us will overlap with other readers when coming up with our pillars: marriage, parenting, career, friendships, other relationships, spiritual issues, health (if you have a chronic health problem), personal time, large project management (personal and/or work-related), exercise and dieting, organization, etc.

Mine are listed below. I love alliteration, hence all the “M’s.” You certainly don’t need to alliterate!

When you write your pillars, number them, and leave room to write between one and three specific items under each one. The specific items will be your area(s) of concentration for that pillar throughout the year.

To come up with the areas of concentration, think back to last year and answer the Cornerstone Question™ for each of your pillars: “How do I want this year to be different than last year?” From your answers, craft the items you write under each of your pillars. Remember to limit yourself to one to three items per pillar. It’s better to make a couple impactful improvements than to list a bunch and accomplish none of them because of being overwhelmed and genuine time constraints.

My Five Pillars and Areas of Concentration In Each:

1. Manna: My time in prayer, worship, Scripture reading and study. If you’re unfamiliar with manna, you’ll discover it in the Bible in Exodus 16. You can read the beautiful story  in one of the many online Bibles. Just type “Exodus 16” into your search engine.

If you don’t align yourself with religious beliefs, I still urge you to include some type of spiritual pillar: meditation, poems, wise quotes, and such.

A. My verse for the year: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NIV)

B. My One Word for this year: Bold!

Choose a verse for the year (or a quote) that ties into the area of concentration of your Cornerstone Question™. Choose one word that you would like to add to your personality or concentrate on deeply this year. Since I want to overcome fear, both my verse, “…He delivered me from all my fears…,” and my One Word tie into that, with my word being the opposite of fear — bold(ness).

How to Have Your Best Year Ever

2. Marriage:

A. Spend three weekends alone with Kent. Stay at a hotel near home without our boys. Dates: Early February, Early May, Early October. Pick the locations, dates, and make reservations for the year the third weekend in January. Make sure the dates get listed on Kent’s Google calendar so that client appointments aren’t booked for him on those Fridays.

B. Communicate about finances. Maintain a better family budget while keeping each other in the loop about how much we are each earning and spending. Meet with Kent on the last Friday of each month at the office right after work.

3. Motherhood:

Make mealtime memories and improve the healthiness of our meals by cooking more and relying less on eating out and take-out food. Only eat out or bring in take-out for one meal per week. All others will be home-prepared from fresh ingredients. (Research freezer cooking and crock pot dishes on-line and prepare two-weeks of menus at a time every other Sunday afternoon. Grocery shop the next day after work.)

4. Manners Mentor, Inc.:

Here I listed seven items. That’s more than for the other areas; however, these are projects that have start and end dates within the year. Only one of the seven items runs throughout the year.

5. Me:

Just like the spiritual pillar, the personal pillar is important to include. Place whatever here you feel is needed. To be well rounded, it’s nice to include the three areas of The Better Me Triangle™ that you’ll find below. Other suggestions include listing a habit you want to break and a habit you want to form. Here’s my list for this year.

A. The Better Me Triangle™

1. Something Creative: I will join Corbett in art time during home school by coloring in this adult coloring book while he sketches in his journal. (My “creative” is more restful than creative, because while I’m creative in other areas, I’m not creative in the typical sense of arts and crafts. Also, it fits in perfectly with my day, and it’s relaxing, which is good for reducing anxiety.)

2. Something Healthy: Buy a used treadmill with an incline and use it Monday through Friday starting for five minutes and progressing by five minutes each week until I use it for one hour each morning before getting dressed for the day. As I walk on it, listen to a book via Audible.

3. Something that Develops Relationships: I will invite a core group of five women from church that I don’t know well but would like to know better to come to my house for a casual brunch once each quarter from 10 AM to noon. The dates will be the first Saturday in: March, June, September, and December.

Making a special point to develop new and/or strengthen current relationships is vital, because life is measured by the quality (not quantity) of our relationships. Also, we become most like the five people we spend the most time with; so we want to carefully choose the relationships we develop. Also, on stage, TV, and radio I’m an extrovert. In real life, I’m an introvert. So I need to be intentional about developing friendships, or I’ll have very few friends. (I’m tying this into my Cornerstone theme by being bold in taking the initiative to invite these ladies into my life.)

B. One Bad Habit to Break: Schedule my doctor, dentist and optometrist visits for the year by the end of the second week of January. This year, actually visit the doctor when I’m well instead of just when I’m sick.

This one was hard for me. I have a lot of bad habits to choose from! Since everything else suffers if we don’t have our health, I chose to stay on top of it. This is actually big for me because one of my major fears, besides driving, is needles. No one can get blood from my little veins. Nurses have tried up to six times. I faint every time. Literally. (I tied this into my overarching theme of overcoming personal anxiety and being bold this year.)

C. One Good Habit to Gain: Practice driving with Kent three times per week. Start with 10-minute drives and work up to one-hour drives. Begin with driving in the neighborhood, then to local places that I need to be able to drive to, then graduate in the fourth quarter of the year by driving on highways. (Again, I tied this into my overarching theme of overcoming personal anxiety and being bold this year.)

How to Make This Your Best Year

Your Best Year Ever Tips for Success

 1. This year, rest more by saying No more often. Life success isn’t measured by how much you get done each day. It’s perfectly polite to politely say no. If this is at all hard for you, or you want to know how to best graciously decline a request, this post will show you the way. So will this post about how to answer questions that no one should ask you in the first place.

2. In most daily things, choose to be kind over being right. In fact, always be kind. You can actually disagree without being disagreeable. People will remember that they argued with you years after they’ve forgotten what the fuss was about. It will leave a bad taste for you in their memories. They will also remember your kindnesses. They’ll even remember what they were! They will cry when you’re gone. Keep in mind that with every word and every action, you’re building your legacy.

3. Stuff takes time away from people and passions. Stuff — you have to dust it, arrange it, pack it, unpack it, worry about whether it will break, and where you’ll have space to put the next item. Get rid of stuff. You’ll feel the weight of the items fall from your shoulders.

If you haven’t used something in 18 months, you don’t need it enough to own it. If something comes up again, you can borrow one from someone else.

Clothes you’re waiting to wear again until you lose weight. Nope. Buy new ones when you reach your goal weight. You’ll deserve them. Let someone who needs the clothes now benefit from them now.

Great-grandma’s good china that you inherited but have never used or displayed: you don’t have to keep it, and you don’t have to feel bad about not keeping it. And this is coming from me, someone who LOVES heirlooms. But, if you don’t love them, you shouldn’t have to hold on to them. Tell other family members that you’re downsizing your items, and ask if they would like the items. If you have no takers, ask once again. This time tell them the day that you will be placing the advertisement for selling them. If you still have no takers, the item(s) honestly don’t mean anything to them either.

Great-grandma would rather have it used by someone who loves it than sitting in boxes in your closet or garage. Another option: just because it was her good china doesn’t mean it can’t be your everyday china. Things not in a museum are meant to be used. Handle them with care, and know that they’re probably not dishwasher-, oven-, or microwave-safe, but use them. Or give someone else that joy by selling or donating them.

Living Well Planner

4. What doesn’t get written, planned and scheduled doesn’t get done. You will notice that all my items have dates listed and times planned. Planning is a key ingredient in having your best year ever. Research by Dr. Gail Matthews showed that when people wrote down their goals, shared them with others, and asked for accountability, they were 33 percent more likely to accomplish them.

So write your goals in your planner, tell a trusted friend, and ask that person to call or text you weekly to keep you on track.

If you exclusively use your smartphone for planning, that’s fine, too! Just make sure you get everything entered into your phone and set up daily or weekly reminders.

5. We spend an average of 33 percent of our life in bed. Invest in a great mattress. You’ll sleep better. And when your sleeping hours are better, your awake hours are better.

6. Smile more. Smile a lot more. No that’s not just a “Sure that’s what the manners lady is going to say to do” thing. It really will help improve your mood and the level of joy in your life. The following benefits of smiling are all backed up by research, and even a fake smile will work (and when done enough, your fake smile will become real!). Here are the benefits of smiling: it increases your feeling of joy; it’s contagious, so you have a positive effect on those around you; it lowers anxiety levels; it strengthens your immune system; and you’re perceived by others as more competent and trustworthy.

So this year, show the world your pearly whites!

7. Into every life, a jerk or two must fall. You can’t beat jerks, literally or figuratively, and you certainly don’t want to join them. So make it a point to find the humor in their ridiculousness. They won’t get under your skin as easily, and your smiling will eventually have a positive outcome on them, or they will get sick of your smile and leave you alone more of the time. Either way, your year just got better!

How to Have Your Best Year Ever

8. We don’t make time. We find time. If something is important, we can find the time to do it. How? By looking at our sheet of paper and cutting out things that don’t line up with the plans for our best year ever. (See number 1, above!)

Embrace Each Day! 

Good or bad, today will never happen again. Embrace each one. Take from it what you can learn to make yourself an even better person tomorrow, because while we can’t control what the day brings, we can control what we bring to our day.

Keep focused on the answer to your Cornerstone Question™. How do you want this year to be different from last year as it relates not to some resolution, but to the very essence of who you are? Then make the change via your Pillars of Purpose™. These lifestyle changes will positively shape your life. With just a little planning and intentionality on your part, this will be Your Best Year Ever

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Until next week, keep doing what you were born to do: bless the world by being you at your authentic best!

Blessings galore,

Maralee McKee's Signature



How to Make This Your Best Year Ever

Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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