The recent (actually, ongoing, for many) housing, job and economic crises have caused an overall re-examination of the concept of success across our nation.

When people lose their homes, their jobs or big chunks of their net worth in the stock market, it’s quite normal to reconsider core elements of their belief systems about what being a success truly means, and to re-evaluate their overall approaches to being successful in life.

Book Review
Title: "Monday Morning Choices: 12 Powerful Ways to Go From Everyday to Extraordinary"
Author: David Cottrell
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2008; 186 pages; $13.76 at amazon.com

The recent (actually, ongoing, for many) housing, job and economic crises have caused an overall re-examination of the concept of success across our nation.

When people lose their homes, their jobs or big chunks of their net worth in the stock market, it’s quite normal to reconsider core elements of their belief systems about what being a success truly means, and to re-evaluate their overall approaches to being successful in life.

Right now, at year’s end, many even begin to start to implement new practices in an effort to heal their ailing careers or finances and get a powerful head start on the new year.

If you count yourself in this number, speaker and author David Cottrell, in his latest book, "Monday Morning Choices: 12 Powerful Ways to Go From Everyday to Extraordinary," offers a compelling approach to thinking and acting on the various choices we all make — intentionally or not — that impact our chances of success at work and in our everyday lives.

According to Cottrell, the choices that impact our ability to be successful at any endeavor — financially, careerwise, in our personal lives, or even just at being a happy individual overall — fall into three basic buckets:

  • character choices, which define who you are and who you will become;
  • action choices, the decisions we all make around whether or not to do something; and
  • investment choices — these are the choices we make around how we invest our time and money and the interpersonal relationships in which we choose to (or not to) engage.

If you’re looking for a new way to think about your life and your efforts to be successful at work and in life, here is a sampling of five of Cottrell’s "choices" you can opt in to and change your life:

1. The No-Victim Choice. According to Cottrell, to make the No-Victim Choice is to refuse to be sidelined by obstacles. Instead, when you fail or circumstances knock you down, making the No-Victim Choice requires that you brush yourself off, get back up, figure out what you can learn from the experience and keep moving forward toward your goals.

Cottrell says that those who make the No-Victim Choice consistently choose "to avoid becoming a victim of life’s circumstances," and instead commit to "move forward, no matter what."

The No-Victim Choice is an especially critical choice for those who have lost a job or a home in recent years — to reposition your efforts for success moving forward, get over the idea that there is a grand global economic conspiracy to bring you down, start to view your recession-era losses as nothing more than a detour or a bump in the road, and figure out what you can do next to continue progressing toward your goals.

2. The Commitment Choice. Cottrell retells the story of Julie Moss, the woman who came in second place at the 1982 Ironman Triathlon. On the first televised triathlon, Moss’s body literally shut down from exhaustion, causing her to collapse several times before she crawled on hands and knees over the finish line.

Cottrell writes that committing to your goals for the year and for your life with Moss’s level of passion and determination involves getting clarity on those goals, writing and visualizing them, planning and building your life around them and investing in the resources it will take to attain them.

For housing consumers, taking these steps is also essential to keeping on course when obstacles do inevitably arise, like the bank rejecting your loan modification application.

3. The Do-Something Choice. Cottrell says that to make the Do-Something Choice is to move out of the procrastination trap that he calls a "Vacation on Someday Isle." (Someday Isle is his funny reference to how procrastinators begin their sentences: "Someday, I’ll …")

He makes the very bold declaration that "intentions do not count," in underscoring the importance of taking even very small actions toward your goals immediately, and constantly. Cottrell also provides several specific areas in which he encourages readers to take action toward their success, including self-improvement, reading, writing and speaking.

4. The Persistence Choice. While the Commitment Choice was about who you are as an individual, the Persistence Choice is about what you do — especially after you’ve failed in your efforts. Here, Cottrell shares some of his own business stories in an effort to illustrate that often it is persevering, continuing to act, after we have a failure that positions us to finally succeed.

There’s a special message here, I believe, for those who bought homes or made specific mortgage decisions in an effort to develop financial prosperity, and failed (e.g., lost the property or properties via short sale or foreclosure). I believe that financial success is still available to consumers who have had these issues.

In fact, armed with the lessons and takeaways of having been in such a distressed mortgage situation, they might make very different money decisions and implement very different management practices going forward, positioning themselves to develop the wealth they sought.

5. The Relationship Choice. Cottrell argues that no one can become or maintain a successful life entirely on their own, so it behooves those seeking success to invest some time and energy into creating and caring for both their personal and work relationships.

Cottrell offers readers guidance on how to create the right sorts of relationships with the right sorts of people, as well as on how and what to do to nourish and optimize them.

The upshot of "Monday Morning Choices" is that spending a few moments every Monday morning trying to incorporate some of these lessons into the way you make your choices in these areas of your life is a very worthwhile investment that can pay off — big time — over the course of a year.

If you are looking for a way to structure your New Year’s resolutions, but are overwhelmed at the number of things you want or need to change, consider working through this book in 2012. Optimizing the way you make all your decisions might be an approach that pays off.

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