This past Thanksgiving, I spent a few days with my in-laws—second-generation Italian-Americans (Sicilian). My in-laws are well into their seventies, so many of the discussions are usually dominated by health issues—procedures they or their friends are having, side effects of certain medications, and more. But this year, things were a little different. There was a lot of talk about finances.

Over the past 50 years, my in-laws worked hard to build a nest egg. My father-in-law worked 50 plus years at a blue-collar job to raise and support a family and leave a legacy behind him. He was proud to leave his children an inheritance. But now his nest egg and his well-laid plans look scrambled. Here he is, near the end of his life’s journey, unsure if he’ll have enough to care for his spouse and himself.

Thankfully, my in-laws have a window (though small) to try and change the course they’re on, but it’ll require some tough decisions. These decisions will challenge 75 years of beliefs and plans. This isn’t going to be easy for the guy who once chased one of my wife’s old boyfriends around town with a baseball bat because they guy drank and drove with my wife in his car. The phrase “a man’s man” was coined for my father-in-law, Phil.

The Time for Change is Now

Unfortunately, this scenario is playing out all across the country. This is probably hitting home for some of you as you read this passage. We all probably have some tough decisions to make as we move forward. Fortunately, we all have something in common with Phil. We all have a window of time.

Depending on your experiences and your subsequent feelings and perceptions, the next 30 days could have a huge impact on the next two years. We all want to relax, enjoy and reward ourselves over the holidays. We work hard all year. But now’s the time to push forward and assess what’s working and what’s not working in our lives. Putting off changes or improvements will only prolong your recovery. Don’t procrastinate until the new year.

There’s No Bail-out in the Real World

No one’s going to hand you $20,000 to prop you up. The same challenges you’re experiencing today will still be around next month, so get a jump on the year and take action.

Action Plan to Kick-Start Your Life

  • Make a Plan.

    Every day you push forward and take one tough step in the direction of your goal, you position yourself ahead of your competitors. Give yourself the gift of knowing you did your best. There are roughly 18 business days (opportunities) in December to make this happen.

  • Rejuvenate with Purpose.

    Though you may have lost a degree of swagger and confidence, now is a great time to re-invest in yourself. The best way to improve confidence is to seek knowledge. Peter Drucker, the great business mind, often writes about the need to become more self-aware of our strengths and challenge areas. This is the first step in feeling better about yourself and making a positive change.

  • Create a task list.

    Write out a list of thoughts and actions you will either start, stop or continue in the new year. Evaluate what’s working and what’s not working for you. If possible, do it with a group so you can test the validity and accuracy of everyone’s list. Group feedback will keep you honest and focused on the right changes.

  • Take it one game at a time.

    Selling is endless—there really is no finish line. You may win, you may lose, but either way you have to prepare for the next game. There’s no shame if one year gets the best of you. The scoreboard changes every year.

  • Make a list of your year-end goals.

    This year may have kicked your ass, but you can kick back next year. Call it the “The Time is Now – Top 10” and it should include all the things you put off this year.

  • Don’t let the past suck you dry.

    The past only becomes the past when you acknowledge it and let it go. The biggest challenge people have is getting over the past. They keep dragging it around like a ball and chain. My father-in-law is experiencing this. He can’t move forward until he lets go of all the “what-ifs” and “could-have-beens.” His energy, emotions, and ability to act are hostage to his circumstances. Until he lets go, he won’t be able to move forward.

Don’t make today’s best intentions next year’s resolutions. Instead of focusing on what didn’t happen or how hard you had to work last year, focus on the window of opportunity you have over the next few weeks. It doesn’t matter if your pride took a hit or your hard work didn’t match your results. Just keep moving forward and do the hard work now.