Five years ago, I stopped making resolutions. Sure, I wanted to lose a few pounds, read more books, spend more time with family and friends and get some exercise. I had innumerable professional goals that I strove to accomplish as well. But like everyone else, I became frustrated with the fleeting nature of all those January 1 aspirations.
I sat down and asked myself not what I wanted to change in the coming 12 months, but instead, what were the things I valued that extended across my personal and professional life? I was able to envelope these into a few manageable tenets that drive my actions year-round.
BE PRESENT: I’m all for meditation, mindfulness and staying Zen in a complex world. But Being Present has a larger meaning for me.
- Show up (preferably on time)
- Be brave. Try something new and scary
- Find the courage to get on the metaphorical bike, fall off the bike, and get back on it again
- Engage in work that impacts the greatest number of people in positive ways
- Listen intently without thinking about what I’m going to say next
- Admit when I’m wrong
- Be there for my friends, family, colleagues, clients and for strangers too
- Be better every day by learning, listening, and engaging deeply in my work and the world
Think of all the goals that could live under the umbrella of “Be Present” and you’ll understand how well this tenet has served me.
TAKE CARE: This is my catch-all reminder to treat people with respect and to take care of those I know and others who are a world away but still need my help. When I take care I:
- Volunteer my time and expertise
- Donate generously
- Take care of business honestly, authentically and with transparency
- Stand up for my beliefs and for others
- Go the extra mile for my clients whenever possible
- Wear headphones on the commuter train so that I don’t become homicidal when someone is speaking loudly on their cellphone (This conflicts with my resolve to Be Present, but sometimes sacrifices must be made.)
- Take a moment from my day to stop and help lost tourists, carry strollers up subway stairs and generally be a good citizen
I’m certain you’ll agree that taking care of ourselves is much harder than taking care of others. On airplanes we’re taught to put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others in putting on theirs. I’ve come to realize that I’m of no use to anyone if I’m not taking care of myself. Enough said.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE: I’m grateful that my life’s work, by its very nature, requires me to say “please” and “thank you” nearly every day. And there are many other ways to offer gratitude. My favorites are:
- Sending hand-written thank you notes. It’s a lost art
- Phoning to say thank you. Again, a lost art
- Remaining positive and empathetic
- Saying thank you to my co-workers at the end of every day no matter what kind of day it’s been
- Bringing copious sums of chocolate to difficult meetings
- Publicly acknowledging a job well-done or a great idea
It turns out expressing gratitude may be good for our health as well. Copious research is finding that gratitude can lower our blood pressure, reduce anxiety and improve our immune system.
These three tenets may not qualify as traditional resolutions, but I suspect they’re all I’ll need to get through any year.
What about you?