A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


As far as Andrea is concerned, 2003 couldnít have ended soon enough.

Itís been one of those years for her, you know? Illness, injuries, work issues, money frustrations, school hassles, two car wrecks and Ė oh yeah Ė her divorce have all taken their toll. You might say that 2003 has been "the best of times and the worst of times" for Andrea. Only without "the best of times."

Which is probably why she wasnít exactly sprinting toward 2003's finish line. She was limping, partly because she dinged her knee last week in that second car wreck (sheís fine, but her car isnít), and partly because the yearís events have left her drained Ė emotionally, mentally, physically, financially and any other "-ly" you can come up with.

"I know there are lots of people who have had a tougher year than I did," she told me recently. "Iím not out fighting some war somewhere Ė Iím home, safe and sound, with a family that loves me. But still, I hope 2004 is better. I just..hope."

And who can blame her? Arenít we all hoping 2004 is better, happier, kinder, gentler, more fulfilling and more prosperous?

We hope that every year, donít we? In fact, I have it on good authority (in other words, Iím making this up) thatís what "Auld Lang Syne" means. Itís Irish (or is it Greek?) for: "I hope the New Year is a darn sight better than the auld one."

And thatís OK. Hope is a good thing. It is faith-affirming. It is positive. It is confident. It is resolute. It is . . . you know . . . hopeful. It can make all the difference between success and failure. Just ask any Cubs fan. Without hope, Washington surrenders at Valley Forge, Lincoln gets out of politics before he runs for president and Michael Jordan quits basketball when he gets cut from the 9th grade team.

As good a thing as hope is, however, it never hurts to mix in a little goal-setting and a lot of hard work. "The future does not get better by hope, it gets better by plan," said business philosopher Jim Rohn. "And to plan for the future we need goals."

At the same time, business consultant Nido Qubein reminded us that "you may have the loftiest goals, the highest ideals, the noblest dreams, but remember this: nothing works unless you do."

So thatís what Andrea and I did on New Yearís Day. Sometime in between the start of the parades and the end of the football games, we sat down together and thought about 2003 and the lessons sheís learned from it and then strategized her goals for 2004 (which will not, I promise you, include getting married again). We did not think in terms of "what do we want to do?" but rather, "what do we want to have happen?" Then we formulated a plan for what she will do to make those goals happen, and what her mother and I can do to support her in these goals. Now weíll all work together to work her plan Ė beginning immediately Ė to make 2004 better, happier, kinder, gentler, more fulfilling and more prosperous.

After all our goal-setting and planning and strategizing and working, we still hope for the best. We hope like crazy. But weíre not going to JUST hope. Hope will fill in the gaps between what we can control, and what is beyond our control. Weíll do all that we can do, and hope that it is enough.

And that we wonít be quite so anxious for the year to end on December 31, 2004.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through