As my loyal readers know, my gift at the end of the year, from me to you, is the last column of the year. I distill some of the best advice I've offered into this column.

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As my loyal readers know, my gift at the end of the year, from me to you, is the last column of the year. I distill some of the best advice I’ve offered into this column.

Over the fifteen years that I’ve had the honor of writing to you, I feel this year has been one of the hardest years you’ve ever gone through. The humor, the insight, and the courage I’ve seen in your letters, despite your challenges, give me optimism for our collective future.

I predict 2009 will feel very much like a confluence where two rivers flow vigorously into one river. The strong currents going in opposite directions, the intensity, the chaos, and the raw energy will be disorienting unless you find a powerful anchor.

With gratitude for your companionship in 2008, may these words help you swim through the tumultuous waters of our next year!

Don’t give up: The only way to ensure failure is to stop trying.

Do imagine your worst-case scenarios. Surprisingly, vividly describing what you most fear does two things: You can make plans to survive it; you realize some of your fears are irrational. My clients tell me they use this technique nearly daily when they are anxious and it always calms them down.

Stop fearing your emotions. Despite what you may have heard, “negative” emotions are simply a different color of gas than “positive” emotions in your physical fuel tank. You will not “manifest” a car wreck because you worry about it. As long as you can feel your emotions, every emotion will act as gas to improve your life.

Make 2009 the year you wake up. Make a list of everything you do to distract, numb out, obsess, create drama, blame others and generally avoid yourself. Each month throughout 2009 try dropping one of these habits and watch your circumstances improve as your consciousness increases.

Try the theory that every challenge you are facing has wrapped in adversity the gift of your enlightenment if you’ll pay keen attention to how you ended up here and what to do next. Unless you think the only point of experience is to recognize the mistake when you make it again, let your suffering make you wiser.

Milton Berle once quipped, “They’ve finally come up with the perfect office computer. If it makes a mistake, it blames another computer.” Of course, this is funny because we know how seductive it is to shift responsibility for our woes on others. Make a list (and check it twice) of everyone you blame for your troubles. Now next to every name, be honest about your contribution. Now go fix your part of the situation.

When I was little, my mother often quoted a Scottish saying when I was having tough times, “It’s an ill wind that blows no good,” she’d observe.

So I grew up looking for the good that had to be buried in that ill wind. Nationally and globally, as the many ill winds continue to blow over us all, I see one definite good. We may have to figure out, for the first time, how to cooperate to survive. If we can learn that lesson as a species, you will have a front-row ticket for no less than an astonishing leap in the evolution of humanity.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube