[IMGCAP(1)]Ready or not, a new year is upon us. So, how did you do in 2013? Were you successful in your career? Your personal life? Or professional development?

For many of you the answer might be “No, (insert excuses here).” Many of those excuses could be legitimate, so my next question is really where it counts: what are you going to do about it?

It’s the time to start living harder and working smarter. As CPAs we have incredible opportunity to change the lives of the people around us and make our mark on our communities. But if you are like me, by the middle of February you are stuck under so much paperwork that you can only concentrate on getting a couple hours of sleep that evening.

Try this experiment with me. While you’re reading this article, imagine you’re kicking back, sitting on a couch with the fire going. Your shoes are off and you have your beverage of choice.

If only life could always be this relaxing and enjoyable, right? Stop right there. Life and work can (and should) always be this relaxing and enjoyable. Make 2014 the first year of a new outlook on your life and your profession. Challenge yourself with these five changes:

1. Lead your team
Don’t let your team lead you! Lead your team. Whether you are a partner or a staff accountant, we all have the opportunity to lead. All too often followers leave the heavy lifting to the leader to fix, wrap up, and complete. The number one cause of this tendency is due to the fact that the follower fails to recognize their underlying interest in the outcome of the project. During this next year, focus on enhancing your communication with your team before the project begins. Specifically, advise your followers about why a positive outcome is beneficial to the follower on an individual level. Through true leadership, you enhance your value and reduce the amount of time spent cleaning up the mess.

2. Focus on projects that you enjoy
Do you have that client that you dread? Are you asked to perform a task that stresses you out? Stop doing the things you don't enjoy. Next time you are given the task that you don’t enjoy, take a step back and ask yourself, “Is there a better way to do this? Is there another person who could take the responsibility? Is there a different way you can approach the project?” I’m not advocating dumping your work on your teammates, but I am challenging you to let go of those projects that you dislike in favor of seeking the projects that you love! Why? Your passion will become your career.

3. Exercise and take care of your body and mind
Why is another CPA telling you to exercise? Because there is no reason not to exercise—plain and simple. You’re of no value to your clients, your family, or your community if you are ill. Exercising will improve your health and will therefore allow you to meet the mental challenges that come across your desk. In the upcoming year, take a physical challenge that you have always wanted to do but have never had the ability or time to achieve. Once you have accomplished this feat, every time you look at a daunting project that crosses your desk, just remember how this challenge is nothing compared to your physical challenge.

4. Be yourself
This seems really simple, but is incredibly difficult with the pressure that CPAs succumb to on a daily basis. We are all human beings; we inherently make mistakes; we surrender to peer pressure. As CPAs we customarily fall in line with the status quo. Stop! Challenge your team! Question your colleagues! Be flamboyant! Yell at the top of your lungs! As a CPA you have the opportunity to lead change. What was true yesterday is not necessarily true today. Take a step back this year and don’t just think about the problems that you live with; act on them.

5. Learn something new
The CPA license is only a designation. It means you can practice public accounting. It has limited bearing on whether you can actually provide value to clients, your staff or your community. The value that you create stems from your lifetime of experiences. The reason why the first-year CPA is not the managing partner of the firm is because he/she hasn’t faced the challenges or the failures that the managing partner went through to get where he/she is today. In order to enhance the value that you create, I dare you to try something new. It could be taking a painting class or learning how to bird watch. Whatever you try, you will find that your new perspective will enhance your professional and personal performance.

How did the experiment go? Do you feel rejuvenated? Step up and take action to make it your best year yet. Meet your goals and do it with your legs kicked up by the fireplace (or at least make it feel that way).

Adam Blitz, CPA, is a manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek LLP in Fresno, Calif.

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