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When I began my master’s degree in adult and post-secondary education at the University of Wyoming, I was a 45-year-old single mom with four kids, a mortgage payment and a full-time job as a secretary at the school district. However, when an opportunity to have a portion of my graduate tuition offset presented itself, I seized the chance. Still, I was in a constant state of overwhelm.

That’s when I came up with the mantra, “In it to win it.” It was my go-to line whenever I felt like graduation was an impossible dream. I’d crack open a text book or download an article to read and tell myself I was “In it to win it” and the case study in front of me suddenly didn’t seem as daunting. I finished my degree in less than two years and to this day I believe that thought and mentality of being “In it to win it,” got me through my master’s program.

So now at the start of every year, I think of my goals and what I hope to accomplish, which usually gives way to my yearly thought.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the 2015, my thought going into the new year was simple, but powerful in its simplicity. In 2016, “This won’t kill me” kept me going. And I realized I was capable of more than I knew.

Last year, with the majority of my health problems behind me, I was excited for a fresh start. And after a year of always physically hurting, I wanted to push myself mentally and spiritually. I set out to write three, full-length manuscripts for my publisher with the goal to have all three published in 2017. So, when I saw a silver bracelet with a charm that read, “She Believed She Could, So She Did, 2017,” I bought it and wore it almost every day. I believed I could and I did. And in having three, full-length books published in 2017, I felt like I surpassed what my mind often told me I couldn’t possibly do, and what my spirit always reminded me I could.

With a new year in front of me, I have given careful consideration to what I want guiding my thoughts. It’s another simple one, but I find when I keep it simple I have the best chance of success.

For 2018, my mantra is, “Choose to shine.” It’s something I saw stamped on a glittery journal and coffee cup set that I bought for three writer friends. And in encouraging them to “Choose to shine,” I realized it was what I wanted in my life as well.

It seems so simple, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to choose to shine? But then life steps in – a rushed driver, a snappy sales clerk or a rude child and then suddenly, choosing to drop a few unkind words seems justified. But that’s the kicker. Choosing to shine keeps me centered no matter what happens around me. That means – my words, actions and daily life will focus on the positive regardless of the situation. And for someone, like me, who’s prone to reacting versus taking a beat, this won’t be easy.

But I want to remember 2018 as a year I choose to shine – personally, professionally and financially. For me, shining in those areas isn’t about seeking praise, racking up awards, or waiting for a windfall. It’s a conscious decision to pay attention to areas where I tend to be negative.

My negativity comes out personally with my children, who can push my buttons better than anyone. In my professional writing life – I watch my Amazon book rating the way a gambler watches the track – always hoping this time my horse will come in. It’s not helpful. How can God ever work in my life if I’m constantly holding the reigns? And financially I don’t always make the best decisions. If it’s glittery, I tend to buy it.

So, in 2018 – I’m choosing to shine. Personally, I’d like to be a calmer mom, who adds a little sparkle in my children’s life. Professionally, focusing on what I can do is all I can control. And financially, while glittery things are fun, having a savings account would be pretty sexy to my husband.

It’s a new year and I’m choosing to shine. I’d love for you to join me. The more of us that choose to shine, the less we’ll all fizzle out!

Happy New Year!

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Mary Billiter can be reached at marybilliter@ymail.com

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