A few months ago, my friends and I were reflecting on our lives and tracing our footsteps to how we arrived at our present careers.

Interestingly, at a point in our lives we all had ambitions of becoming a medical doctor. Let me share my story with you. Mine started when I visited the hospital with my mum and the doctor gave me a candy bar. That was when I decided I had to wear that white coat when I grow up.

Unfortunately, that dream didn’t see the light of day. The same doctor gave me an injection a few weeks later and I rescinded my decision. The pain from the injection was temporary but I couldn’t forgive the doctor. 

Later, I met one of my mum’s friends. A civil engineer by profession, he looked rich and owned a sleek car. After some deliberations, I decided that’s the kind of life I wanted to have. I made enquiries on how to become a civil engineer and I was told to take my science lessons seriously in school.

I held unto this dream for years until one day, my Junior High School science teacher embarrassed me in class for something I did. From that day, my love for science dwindled and with it my dreams of becoming an engineer. 

Later, I decided to pursue a career in law which influenced my course selection in senior high school, obviously that did not pan out either, the quest continued however, in pursuit of my ideal job.

I stumbled onto finance at the university during my first internship. I thought that was it then nonetheless, my second internship was what developed my interest in marketing and that’s how I found myself in my current profession as a marketing professional.

In retrospect, I have come to realize that I was solely responsible for all the decisions I took concerning my career. Perhaps, I could have still been a medical doctor if I really wanted to.

My favourite quote of all time is ‘Life is what you make it’. This means our current state is largely because of all the decisions we have made up until this time. Each day, we will be faced with situations that will require us to make certain choices. Some decisions may be easy to make while others may take some time.

As I grow older, I have come to realize that this holds true – we are responsible for our choices and actions. The consequences of our decisions can have a ripple effect on various aspects of our lives. The choices we make today can evidently make or break our tomorrow especially decisions about our career, health, relationships, education and even business.

Nokia, one of the biggest telecommunications brands in the 90’s had the chance to purchase the Android software but they refused, because they felt the world wasn’t ready for the Android Operating System. Blockbuster had the chance to takeover Netflix on a silver platter, yet they refused to do so because they were slow to decide. On the contrary, Facebook realised how popular Instagram and WhatsApp were becoming so they took advantage of the opportunity to own them. You can argue that these companies failed to innovate, but I will say they failed to decide quickly enough.

As we have started this New Year, there are certain critical decisions which will shape the rest of our year. I have identified five life changing decisions you must make which will set the stage for a successful 2021.

1. Career

The average person spends most of their lives working. Technically, it means if you don’t enjoy your work you will spend half of your active hours during the day complaining. You know it is time to look for other opportunities when you dread going to work every morning or you begin to feel unappreciated at work. Another reason is when your role at work becomes stale and there is nothing new to learn on the job.

I have had multiple conversations with people who complain bitterly about their work and when I inquire about what they are doing to change their situation without making effort to better their situation.

Most of them haven’t updated their CV or upgraded themselves to position themselves for bigger opportunities in the job market.  Hence, if you are not happy with your career, you have the power to do something about it. It all begins the day you decide to do something about it. The onus lies on you because no one will make that decision for you.

2. Personal Development

The world is fast changing, and there are several transformations happening in every sector to improve our way of work and life in general. The degree that was valuable in 2011 doesn’t have the same value in 2021.

Investing in yourself can help you advance your career and accomplish your professional objectives. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and you must decide to make time for what is important to you and that includes upgrading yourself every now and then. This is necessary if you want to be relevant wherever you find yourself.  

Jack Ma the owner of Alibaba said, what you do after work determines your future. You have approximately 4 hours (6pm -10 pm) after work every day, multiply that by 5 days and you have 20 hours to yourself after work in a week.

Life can be a little overwhelming but upgrading yourself entails so much and so little at the same time. Let me break it down, it can be as simple as learning a new skill or transforming your hobby into a source of income to enrolling in that master’s program with a leap of faith even if you do not have a trust fund to finance your pursuit of higher education. Where there is a will, there is a way. It could also be as simple as getting over your bruised ego and retaking that professional course exam you put on hold because you failed. 

There are online learning platforms like Udemy, LinkedIn learning and Edx which are great tools to sharpen your skills or learn new ones. Don’t end 2021 without upgrading yourself because even the phone you use will upgrade its operation systems and applications before the year ends.

3. Relationships 

Our mental health and personal wellbeing are tied to the quality of our personal relationships. The relationships mentioned are not only the ones we have with family and close friends but also the wider groups and communities we belong to. While growing up, change is one thing that is inevitable and maybe some of your relationships didn’t adapt to some of your changes, and that’s fine. It is important to know the company we keep influence the way we think and behave. 

In this new year, audit your relationships honestly and brutally because every relationship should build you up and make you better. Take time to decipher whether your relationships contribute and nurture your growth, or they stall your progress. The answers may surprise you and you must make the tough call of letting some people go or giving them a longer leash in your circle.  On the other hand, you will realise there are certain relationships that require you may have neglected that need nurturing and you must invest more time in them.

4. Personal Finances

Making bad financial decisions can cause stress and have consequences on your mental health. However, with the right ones, you can ease life’s burdens tremendously and give yourself a happy, healthy, and secure life in 2021.

Your key financial decisions around budgeting, saving, debt and investing will impact every part of your life and can mean the difference between prosperity or poverty this year. Unfortunately, managing your finances is not taught in the classroom therefore you will need basic personal financial literacy which will equip you with the knowledge and skills to manage money effectively.

You can acquire personal financial literacy by attending webinars, reading books (Rich Dad Poor Dad) having mentors, listening to podcasts and even taking up online courses on the internet.

5. An additional Source of Income (Side hustle)

A side hustle simply put is an additional source of income and this appears to be one of the biggest decisions of adult life. However, extra money makes everything happen faster makes one’s life easy. One of the biggest excuses for not starting a side hustle is the perceived lack of time which is understandable but not acceptable.

Jim Rohn an American entrepreneur once said, if you want to do something you will find a way, if you don’t want to do something you will find an excuse.

We can all have and manage a side hustle because the only skill you require to start yours is motivation. Whether you want to earn extra cash or follow a passion that your 9 to 5 doesn’t satisfy, having a side hustle, could be a great way to diversify your income and protect your financial wellbeing.

I know a chartered accountant who is a photographer during the weekend and that has been his passion since childhood, and you will be surprised the thousands of stories that are similar to this one

With 365 days in the year, every second counts. Failure to decide today, will mean an undecided future.

As we begin this year, ask yourself a few burning questions about that decision you have put off for so long.

However, to make smart and informed decisions, you need to first identify your goal, weigh your options, be critical about the options and factor in all the pros and cons and get on with it. There is no time when we do not make a decision the important thing is to make the right ones.  

Always remember my favourite quote “Life is what you make it”. Be responsible and make the right decisions this year.

Happy New year to you and yours!!

If you have other areas you think were left out, do not hesitate to reach out or leave your comment.

Profile of Joseph Edward Mensah

Joseph is a seasoned marketing professional who is passionate about marketing, and mentoring the next generation of corporate leaders. Joseph is self-motivated, energetic, driven for success and results-oriented. He is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), United Kingdom and holds an MBA in Business Administration from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA).

Email: joseph.ekmensah@gmail.com