It’s a New Year, and nothing is as exciting as a clean start—a chance to set new goals and resolutions for the coming year. Most people’s New Year’s resolutions focus on eating better and exercising more, saving money and—for some—finding a new job. Sadly, statistics show that nearly 80% of people fail or abandon their New Year’s resolutions by February, and 30% don’t even bother to make them. I don’t have any magic tips for keeping your resolutions, but I do have some ideas to help get the year off to a good start.
1. Assess 2018 personally and professionally.
What was positive? What was negative? Did you have any control over either? If you did, congratulate yourself on the positive. If you didn’t have control over the positive event, feel grateful and thankful. On the negative side of the ledger, what did you learn from your 2018 negative experiences? Was it an event that blindsided you? If so, were there signs that you missed? Did you handle a person or situation incorrectly? I have found that if I look at mistakes objectively and acknowledge them without beating myself up over them, I can gain knowledge, wisdom and perspective, and come out of the experience a better person or manager.
2. Assess your career.
I counsel people to assess regularly their career, even if they are totally content. What did you learn? What is next? And will your career path and employer provide the opportunities for growth, satisfaction and, yes, joy? Put another way, assess your job on a numerical scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being optimum and 1 being “this job is toxic for my health.” If the number you come up with is a 7 or less, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to get the number higher? A change of attitude? A transfer to different department? Establish more work-life boundaries? If you can’t gain greater career advancement or job satisfaction with your current organization, you may wish to start exploring other opportunities, which ties into my next recommendation…
3. Update your resume.
Everyone should have a current resume, even if they have been with one company their entire career and have no intention of changing jobs. Updating your resume at the first of every year allows you to look back at your accomplishments. Believe me, in five years you may not remember them although today they are fresh in your mind.
4. Connect with people both inside and outside of work.
One predictor of a long life is relationships. We all need them. Some of us get so busy that work and family pretty much fills our plate. Make a goal to reach out to one friend or someone in your professional network several times a month for coffee, a phone call, etc. For me, sometimes I get home from a business trip so tired that I blow off friends. I’m committed to being better at acknowledging my friends this year.
5. Don’t let cable news be your default pastime.
Of course we all want to be informed, but my observation is that those who obsessively watch and follow political news all the time have much more anger, hopelessness and sadness. Instead, volunteer for a cause, a not-for-profit organization or a political candidate. Three years ago, I started volunteering for an animal rescue and to say it has changed my life is an understatement. For one thing, it has expanded my circle of friends and exposed me to not-for-profit leaders who are so selfless that they bring me to tears and have taught me much about running an organization and the gift of compassion. And what could be better than raising money, soliciting volunteers so an abandoned, abused or injured dog or cat would find a forever home and be loved? Oh, and if you are going to watch TV, take a break from FOX or MSNBC and watch Netflix. There are some fabulous series now showing.
6. Connect with beauty.
No matter where we work or live, there are pockets of beauty. Notice them. Seek them out. One of my friends, a well-known writer, takes a walk daily and posts beauty on her Facebook page. All of her friends have come to look forward to these moments of grace, peace and nature. Find your own. Acknowledge them. Take a picture of them. (I am @janehowze on Instagram if you want to follow my beauty journal.) I’ll bet if you review those pictures at the end of the year, it will impact you. I follow the top sunset, nature and flower photographers on Instagram, and I know that just looking at the pictures will bring a peace to your soul. The more you look for beauty the more you will see.
I see gratitude as an emotional muscle. The more you use it the stronger it gets. And the more you feel gratitude, the more things come in your life with which to feel grateful about. Sure, that sounds a little woo-woo and New Age-y, but it works (although I must admit in the middle of a crisis it is much harder to find the gratitude or the beauty). Some people keep a gratitude journal. A few years ago, it was popular to write what you were grateful for and place it in a jar. At the end of the year you were to remove the pieces of paper from the jar and rejoice at all the good things that happened to you. For me, that is too much like a New Year’s resolution, at which I am not so good. But gratitude is a feeling and really needs no form.
8. And advice for business travelers.Do not check luggage. That is the one rule I know for sure. I know very little good that comes from checking luggage. Women, wear the same shoes. Use scarves. Guys, send your shirts to the laundry. My only bad travel experience from 2018 (and I flew 225,000 miles) was when I checked luggage.
Happy New Year!