For many of us, 2011 was a bit of a roller coaster and it does not look like 2012 will be smoother.

Against a challenging and volatile background, how you manage your thoughts could make the difference between peace of mind and stress, achievement and drudgery, and pleasure and pain. Here are my top five tips to help you stay ahead of the game.

With these strategies, you will be making much of your own luck rather than leaving it to chance! And when you don’t immediately achieve your objectives, having the right mindset will inspire you to continue striving.

5.  Know yourself. Take an honest look at both your abilities and your areas of development. Be sure to identify dispassionately your strengths, your limitations and your personal motivations.

Also observe and reflect on the effect you have on others. Having a good sense of who and what you are will help you tackle every situation with a clear mind. It will also avoid you spreading yourself too thinly because you lack focus.

4. Play to your strengths. When you do things in a way that maximises your unique abilities, there is a greater likelihood that you will perform well and achieve a positive result and the process is enjoyable and fun.

And when you have fun, dopamine is released into your system, making you feel relaxed and contented.

At work, if you are in a role that does not play to your strengths, contemplate the changes that might help you obtain a position which will do more justice to your abilities and interests, for your benefit and that of your employer.

3. Challenge yourself. Don’t put your head in the sand: use your self-knowledge to figure out what skills you need to develop. Tackle your areas of development rather than avoiding activities that seem more arduous. Have a “can do” attitude and embrace learning opportunities. Many firms offer training, so look for and attend training to build up skills you lack.

In addition, ask others for help so that you combine your strengths with theirs and together, collaboratively achieve a win-win for all. I have observed that many people will be happy to share their knowledge, so don’t hesitate to ask and learn from others.

2. Use your time well. There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming you sleep eight hours per night, this leaves you with 112 hours to allocate to work and play.

Successful people use their time wisely. They plan their time and focus on tasks that have a strategic dimension. They know how to delegate and don’t micro-manage but rather appropriately review and supervise others and their work.

Successful people also know how to spot urgent matters. I am sure you have heard the phrase “work smart, not hard”. If you are spending your evenings at the office and often bring work home, your professional success may be at the expense of personal fulfilment and your health may be at risk further down the line.

1. Be positive. This is the top tip for a successful 2012. I do not mean the kind of positive thinking which denies harsh realities. The positivity I talk about is a combination of optimism, a sense of self-efficacy and the courage to persevere.

You may have noted that successful people believe in themselves and their actions are imbued with a sense of purpose that others notice.

In addition, research shows that the more you focus on what went well every day, the more positive, healthier and happier you become. Positive people get more out of life and when you feel good about yourself, you deal more confidently with challenges.

Have you noticed that the constructive person, who seeks solutions, invariably gains more support than the pessimist, the worrier who only talks of problems?

I hope these tips will be helpful to you in getting off to a great start to the New Year!

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