Inspiring ideas from our experts

We asked some of the successful people who have appeared in the pages of Bottom Line/Personal to share the best things they did in 2007 that they would recommend other people try this year. Their responses…

Have a family reunion. My entire extended family — more than 70 people — met at a large cabin near Yellowstone Park in Montana. Reunions create a family culture in a way that phone calls, E-mails and holiday cards cannot. They turn cousins into close friends. It took a lot of planning to get this many people together in one place — members of the family worked on this for three years — but we had so much fun that we’re going to try to do it every year.

From: Stephen R. Covey, organizational consultant and vice-chairman of Franklin Covey Co., Washington, DC. He is author of the groundbreaking book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Free Press), which has sold more than 10 million copies. His latest book is Everyday Greatness (Thomas Nelson).

Catch people doing something right. Like many parents and grandparents, I had fallen into the habit of focusing on what my children did wrong, instead of what they did right. In 2007, I reminded myself to comment on the positive. For example, “Thank you for not interrupting me while I was on the phone.” My relationship with my kids improved, and they listened to me more. This strategy can improve adult relationships as well. Research by psychology professor John Gottman, PhD, suggests that marriages are more likely to last when positive comments outnumber negative ones by at least five to one.

From: John Stossel, investigative reporter with ABC television’s news program 20/20 since 1981. Based in New York City, he has won 19 Emmy Awards and authored several books, including Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel — Why Everything You Know Is Wrong (Hyperion).

Get a dog. I got a standard poodle puppy in 2007. People talk about how much joy and love a dog can bring into a home, but that is only half of what my dog has given me — my dog also is great for my health. As a busy person, I find it hard to stick with exercise programs. I tend to exercise for a few weeks, then stop. Now that I have a dog, I can’t skip my morning exercise — my dog is counting on me to provide a half-hour walk every day.

From: Joan Borysenko, PhD, medical scientist, psychologist and president of Mind/Body Health Sciences, LLC, Boulder, Colorado. An updated 20th anniversary edition of her 1987 best seller, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, was released in October (Da Capo).

Take a volunteer vacation. I signed up with a nonprofit organization called Airline Ambassadors (866-264-3586, for a trip to Argentina. Airline Ambassadors was founded by pilots and flight attendants who use their airline connections to transport supplies to people in underprivileged regions around the world. My group brought food, shoes and other items to an orphanage outside Buenos Aires. Not only did I get to see a part of the world that I otherwise would never have seen, I also got to do something good for those in real need. It was a life-enriching and perspective-changing experience, and it cost less than $1,000.

From: Peter Greenberg, travel editor for NBC’s Today show. Known as the “Travel Detective,” he is author of The Complete Travel Detective Bible (Rodale). In the rare moments when he is not traveling, he lives in Los Angeles.

Cultivate relationships with people outside your own circles. In 2007, I set out to expand my network of contacts in fields different from my own. When I read a book that I really enjoyed, I looked up the author’s E-mail address on the Internet and sent a note saying how much I liked it. I attended conferences outside my area of expertise. It is surprisingly useful to meet people in fields not directly related to your own. Because these people travel in different circles than you do, they can open up entirely new doors and interesting opportunitites that you might not otherwise learn about. It also is tremendous fun to meet new people and explore new ideas.

From: Richard Nelson Bolles, a leader in the field of career development for more than 30 years. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, he is author of What Color Is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed), which has sold more than nine million copies and is now in its 38th edition.

Spend time with young children. The best thing I did in 2007 was to truly enjoy the developing minds of my great-grandson, Alexander William Black (age four), and his younger sister, Julia Black (age two). When I took the time to listen to them and answer their questions honestly — not patronizingly — I found that I benefited even more from the experience than they did. Alexander said to me recently, “There were animals before dinosaurs… and there will be animals after humans.” He is quite a philosopher at four years old.

From: Hugh Downs, whose half-century in television included stints as host of the Today show, announcer of The Tonight Show with Jack Parr and anchor of the news program 20/20. Based in Arizona, he is author of several books, including Letter to a Great Grandson (Scribner).

Stop trying to do it all. I have always said “yes” to every speaking engagement and conference presentation offered to me. It was a matter of pride — I didn’t think anyone else could do the job as well as I could. In 2007, I made a point of saying “no” to speaking engagements — some quite lucrative — that involved cross-country flights on back-to-back days and conferences that would have had me coming home just hours before Jewish holidays. I’m so glad I did. My stress level has been much lower, and everyone survived just fine without me.

From: Rabbi Harold Kushner, Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and author of the inspirational best seller When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Avon). His most recent book is Overcoming Life’s Disappointments (Knopf/Anchor).

Ask yourself, “What would Lassie do?” Lassie, the famous TV collie, was always there for her family, no matter how she was treated or what obstacles were thrown in her path. She didn’t hold a grudge or become bitter or disappointed. I did my best this year to be as good as that dog was to the people around her. When my loved ones let me down, I forgave them. When I let myself down, I forgave myself. When I let my loved ones down, I apologized and asked for forgiveness.

From: Bernie Siegel, MD, founder of Exceptional Cancer Patients, a form of individual and group therapy ( He is author of the landmark best seller Love, Medicine and Miracles (Rider). His most recent book is Love, Magic and Mudpies (Rodale).

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