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7 New Year's resolutions that will actually change your life

Heidi Nazarudin was a former investment banker and CEO of a Nasdaq listed company who now blogs full time on her blog - TheAmbitionista.com

Make 2014 the year you turn your life around in these 5 key areas. No big changes needed, just small, constant baby steps.

I don’t know much about Chinese astrology, but when I heard that 2014 is the "year of the horse" I pictured myself galloping into the sunset and hanging on for dear life. This horse-year will want room to run, so you'll need big dreams and goals worthy of a powerful steed to ride your way to success. If you’re ready to saddle up, here are a few ways to tame that pony.

Where Would 2014 Take You?

Kick start a new (or existing) career:

Ask yourself where do you want to be in 10 years, and what do you want to be doing? If you’re not doing it now, there’s no time like the present to head in that direction.

If you don’t (yet) have the skills for your dream job, then make 2014 the year you tackle those classes you need.

If you’re already in the right field, but would like to be higher up on the ladder, get to know those people whose job you’d like. You're not out to steal their jobs, but to learn from them.

Thinking in terms of the big picture is good, but you should also zoom in to see the small steps you need to take in order to get there. Every pixel is necessary to form the snapshot of your dream job.

Expand your network:

This resolution may or may not go along with starting a new career. If you love your career, it’s still vital to network so you continue moving forward. If you’re trying to jump-start a new career, it’s imperative that you expand your circle of colleagues. Two simple ways to raise your visibility in your industry is to join a LinkedIn group and participate in the discussions, or start a blog.

Score a raise:

If you’re happy where you are, you could still benefit from a raise in salary. Assuming you haven’t just asked for (or recently been given) a raise, don’t shy away from this seemingly daunting project. Asking for a raise shows that you understand your value to the company. Just be ready to cite reasons you are deserving and to explain what you bring to the table.

Get fit:

Not only will you feel and look better, but your work productivity will also improve. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and gives you creative ideas and ways to look at old problems in a new light. Do yourself a favor, though, and start small. I aimed to walk 1,000 steps more every day (easily done during lunch or after office hours). Perhaps getting an activity tracker device would help you achieve this goal.

Pursue a passion:

Ideally, you’re passionate about your work. But life is not all work. Be sure to carve out time for yourself and a separate passion. That might mean taking a cooking class, planning a dream vacation, paragliding or anything else that thrills you. For example, one of my goals this year is to schedule two hours for myself every Saturday to read a book in a beautiful park or in an elegant café.

Get a Mentor:

Find someone in your field who you admire and ask them to mentor you.Their experience and expertise will help guide you, and they very often have the contacts you will need to further your career. Mentors can direct you and open doors for you.

Be an expert:

Begin to establish yourself as an expert. This can range from starting a mini-blog (i.e. Tumblr) to organizing a Meetup group; to being active on a LinkedIn board.This will help you to stand out in the crowd and will attract people and partners to you. We all instinctually gravitate to the leader in the pack, so start marking your territory!

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