Christmas is behind us, and once again we're in the midst of that strangely empty week between two major holidays.

If you're like me, your mind sometimes wanders during the days between Christmas and New Year's Day, as you ponder the challenges, opportunities and successes of the past 12 months.

This year was a particularly eventful one for me, bringing with it a career change that I couldn't have predicted last New Year's Day. But that change, and many other events of the year, have convinced me more than ever that I'm truly blessed.

Now, however, I'm looking forward to 2012. What can I do in the year to come to be a better, more balanced person?

For some advice in that regard, I'm turning today to a press release I received recently from Ethan Willis and Randy Garn, co-founders of Provo-based Prosper Inc., a distance education company specializing in areas such as entrepreneurship, personal finance and career and personal development.

Instead of suggesting that people make resolutions as they begin the new year, Willis and Garn offer 12 "big ideas" to help people build better balance regarding work, money and happiness. Those ideas are:

— "Look for your personal Polaris Point™. Just as the North Star, or Polaris, can be used as a navigational tool, you need to envision what you aspire to become, to achieve, to contribute, and to create — and how all of that relates to money and satisfaction," they write. "Once you find that fixed point on the horizon, you can stay on course."

Be optimistic. The difference between success and failure, Willis and Garn suggest, often comes down to attitude.

Believe in yourself. "Know your strengths," they write. "Recognize your value. And instead of being consumed by what you haven’t done, concentrate on — and celebrate — what you have done."

Do what you love, and love what you do. You can do more than dream about finding what you love, Willis and Garn write. If you plan and persevere, you can achieve it.

Be keen on money. "Money isn’t everything, but it is an undeniable part of prosperity," they write. "It’s OK — more than OK — to value it. Be sure, though, to mind how money actually interacts with your life and how you spend your energy and effort earning it."

Weigh wealth and happiness. True prosperity, Willis and Garn write, is a function of the difference between income and happiness.

Stay off the hedonic treadmill. "To feel free from money worries, most people say that their income would have to double," they write. "But when that happens, the security and satisfaction they anticipated doesn’t materialize. In response, many double down and keep chasing a moving target. Researchers call this tendency the 'hedonic treadmill.' "

Start with what you already have. Be aware of your own abundance, Willis and Garn write — including your abilities, experiences and contacts — and put it to work.

— "Find role models. Connect with people in your life who have achieved true prosperity."

Formulate your brand. Reflect on what sets you apart, energizes you and draws others to you, they suggest. That will help you express your personal brand.

Create a plan and write it down. "When you create a plan, something powerful happens," Willis and Garn write. "Take time to write it down by hand, using a narrative form instead of bullet points. You’ll infuse your plan with a kinesthetic physicality and really bring it alive."

Avoid the boom-crash syndrome. True prosperity is sustainable for the longer haul, they write. "Ask yourself if you feel good about what you’re doing (or want to do), if you can maintain the effort required, and if it’s ethical, beneficial to others and socially conscious."

I like a lot of what Willis and Garn have to say here. For example, I often find myself thinking I would need to make twice as much money as I do now to feel truly secure financially, but I can see how that thinking may be faulty.

Also, I need to do a better job of formulating a written plan for my year, and really for my life. I've found that I'm much more likely to achieve my goals when they're staring me in the face from a piece of paper or a computer screen.

What do you think of these tips from Willis and Garn? What are you planning to do in the new year to build a better, more balanced life? Let me know, and I'll share some of your ideas in a future column.

Meanwhile, enjoy this week of reflection, and allow me to be among the first to wish you the happiest of new years!

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