In my many years of coaching football, I’ve given many half-time speeches.  Some of these have been relaxed, our team leading the game.  Others have been not so relaxed, those games where we were behind, or where our team had made so many mistakes we had shot ourselves in the foot.  In either case, I always closed the half-time speech in the same way.

The second half was going to be ours.  Our team was going to dominate.  We were going to fix the small mistakes and, most importantly, we would not dwell on our big mistakes but recover from them and not make them again.  This is the typical way of the half-time speech.  Some of us have had a great 2013; others of us might have had a year we would like to forget.  My half-time speech to you today is to make 2014 the best year you’ve ever had, to make 2014 YOUR year.

So here we are you are ready to spring into action for a better 2014.  Or perhaps you want to continue your life of domination. Whichever it is, here are some things you need to keep in sight to make 2014 your year.

You cannot reach your full potential if you continue to surround yourself with people who keep you in a life of sub-par performance.  Perhaps the biggest influences on your life are the people you chose to keep company with.  If you want to leave your life of pessimism, then you will need to stop hanging around pessimistic people.

Find someone in your agency who is optimistic, who shares the views, the work ethic, and the positive nature that you want to embrace in your 2014.  Simon Sinek, of the Rand Corporation and the author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”, has a wonderful quote to illustrate this first point in our half-time speech. Sinek said “Some would argue that you’re as successful as the company you keep. Certainly there is a connection between our friends and who we are”.  If you want to be successful in 2014, and make it your year, then you need to have the company in place that will make it happen.  If you don’t, then you need to seek out better company.

Growing your relationships with your family is perhaps one of the most important facets of your 2014.  Everyone in law enforcement at one time or another has had strained relations with our husbands, or wives, our children, mothers, fathers, and others at one time or another.  The stress related to our careers just invites tense and sometimes possibly troubled relationships with our families.  Give your family the time that they deserve.  Your family should be important, they are your biggest fans in the stands, and when no one else is there for you, they always are.

Make the effort to be there for special times with your spouse, be there for your son’s first football game, or your daughter’s first dance recital.  Birthdays, anniversaries, all of these things are really small time commitments when you really think about it.  But they are huge to those who support you the most, your family.

Time is not the only detail involved in growing your family relationships.  Respect is another detail that we sometimes overlook when it comes to family.  They respect you; you must respect them in return.  Respect the time they use to make your lunch, give you small gifts, and meet you in odd places when you forget something at home that you need for your tour of duty.  Remember for all the things they do, at the end of the day your family members are humans too.  They deserve the same respect that you ask for.  Growing your family relationships will only help you be successful in making 2014 your year.

Another way you can make 2014 your year is to seek out information and educate yourself as much as possible.  I was guilty some years ago about being satisfied with what I knew.  Then I decided that I was still hungry for knowledge.  In my case it was not necessarily law enforcement knowledge only, but knowledge that would make me a better husband, a better person, a better officer, and a more effective leader.

I now possess a huge library of books, pdf’s, and any other things I could get my hands on to improve as a person.  The cool thing about this half-time adjustment is that it is something that improves you regardless of your current circumstances.  Formatting does not allow me to give you some samples of the books I used in my self-education, but feel free to e-mail if you wish.   I can steer you toward some suggestions based on what you wish to learn more about.

Reading and other forms of self education allows you to gain knowledge from others, in essence getting a half-time speech from many different coaches.  It is a lot easier learning from the lives of others, and most great leaders have been known to be avid readers.  Abraham Lincoln once said “All I have learned, I learned from books”.  In other words seeking out information, reading, and educating yourself is the low hanging fruit in making 2014 your year.

Another component of our half-time speech is evaluating your finances to make 2014 your year.  We sometimes forget such things as our retirement and our savings.  But our finances should be reviewed every year and adjusted as needed.  Now some of you on this point will be saying “I’m young so I do not need to pay attention to my retirement.  I’ve got plenty of time”.

I had the same thoughts when I first started my career.  All I have to say is I wished I had paid closer attention during those first few years.  Money adds up, interest comes into the picture, and re-investment of dividend, all depending on the type of retirement plans we have.  Look at your savings goals for the New Year, and make adjustments as needed.  See if your standard of living can remain the same for 2014 as it was on 2013.

If it can, bank any raise you get.  Another important part of your finances is taking stock of the debt you have, and devise a plan to pay down some of your debt effectively.  Low debt and effective retirement or savings will lead you to another victory in making 2014 your year.

One of the last steps we need to take in our half-time speech for making 2014 our year is to get organized.  I’m not saying that we are all destined for a spot on the “Hoarders” show, but I’m sure we all have some things that we can donate to someone else or just discard.  Anything you have not used in 2013 is probably a good candidate to rid from your home or office.  Another item to take care of in this step is to archive or delete any e-mails that you no longer need.  Being organized is a needed step to making 2014 your year.

Now we need an action plan.  We now have a list of goals and objectives but we need a plan, a game plan if you will, to make 2014 your year.  This like many things is where a lot of people fail, me included.  Nothing can get done without a plan to follow.  It does not have to be a full blown detailed listing down to the day.  It must however have concrete, easy steps that will allow you to reach your goals for the year in an effective way.

Your game plan should include deadlines. When making these deadlines, make sure they are manageable and something that can be realistically attained.  As an example saying you’re going to lose weight is a good start, but you need to make it something concrete, like losing 10 pounds by March.  Or saying you’re going to be an FTO for your agency by the end of the year is a good start, but you need to have more concrete steps to getting there.  Reading FTO materials from other agencies, reading up on adult learning theory, and finally attending a FTO school that your agency recognizes as certification are all steps to your final goal that somehow should be included in your game plan.

In concluding my half-time speech, I want to leave you with the same type of thoughts I leave my players before we go back onto the field for the second half.  I as your coach, or in this instance the writer, can only tell you my thoughts to take away your small mistakes.  I can only give you insight on how to tighten up, to square away your 2014.  It is now up to you.  It is up to you to put your plan into action.  It is up to you to say 2014 is going to be a better year for me than 2013 was.  It is up to you and you alone to make 2014 YOUR year.

David Crisler Jr. is a Lieutenant with a large metropolitan sheriff’s office in the Midwest. He is also an adjunct instructor with several different law enforcement training academies.  He teaches nationally as well and has been an instructor and speaker at several law enforcement and leadership conferences across the United States. He is scheduled to teach in 2014 for the Park Law Enforcement Association Annual Conference as well as the National Sheriff’s Association Conference.  David also provides consulting and training services to agencies large and small on leadership and other topics.  Outside of law enforcement, David enjoys spending time with his family, coaching high school football, and helping his local Fellowship of Christian Athlete groups.  You can reach David at [email protected] , or on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/david-crisler-jr/24/6b5/131 .