My 7 Wishes for You in the New Year

A new day dawns over the water...It’s a new year.

Like many peo­ple, I never start a new year with­out spend­ing some time reflect­ing on the last one.

It’s an oppor­tu­nity to learn from past expe­ri­ences, to decide what to take for­ward and what to leave behind.

Usu­ally my new year’s reflect­ing is more soli­tary and per­sonal — about my own lessons learned, the things I want to cel­e­brate, the occa­sional sighs of relief as I put dif­fi­cult chap­ters behind me, my goals and wishes for the com­ing months.

But this year — I hope you don’t mind — I’ve done some reflect­ing on your behalf too.

I’ve spent the last few weeks think­ing about all the amaz­ing peo­ple I encoun­tered through my work in 2012 — con­sult­ing, coach­ing, train­ing, facil­i­tat­ing, and even here online — and about some of the lessons we’ve learned together.

And from this reflect­ing, I’ve arrived at a list of seven wishes for you and me in 2013.

Here are the wishes, and a lit­tle bit about the peo­ple and expe­ri­ences who inspired them. You’ll prob­a­bly find your­self in the list.

In 2013, I wish for you…

#1: Self-compassion and self-acceptance.

So many of the clients I work with are much kinder to oth­ers than they are to them­selves. This trend con­tin­ued in 2012.

What a pity.

Not only is it the cause of unnec­es­sary suf­fer­ing — set­ting unrea­son­able stan­dards for your­self, sac­ri­fic­ing your health and well-being in an effort to tend to oth­ers’ — it also ulti­mately makes you less help­ful where it really counts.

You prob­a­bly have sup­port­ive friends and col­leagues who help coun­ter­act any such ten­den­cies by remind­ing you to be kinder to your­self, or sim­ply by treat­ing you with the same kind­ness you try to show to them. (If you don’t, that’s another big wish I have for you!)

But this year try being that friend to yourself.

Show your­self a lit­tle self-compassion; more than a lit­tle — show your­self a heap of it! Embrace who you are and let go of who you think you should be.

This is not about mak­ing excuses for your­self or being self-indulgent. It’s sim­ply about treat­ing your­self in a way that nur­tures your long-term well-being.

To help build your self-compassion in 2013, explore some of the ter­rific (and free) resources at the website.

Or to get bet­ter at know­ing and cel­e­brat­ing who you are and the spe­cial strengths you bring to your work, try delv­ing into Now, Dis­cover Your Strengths, which offers (with pur­chase of the book) free access to the Gallup organization’s pop­u­lar online Strengths Finder assessment.

#2: The courage to put your needs and feel­ings into words.

I saw a num­ber of clients get into trou­ble in 2012 by not doing so.

They sat on these things, and then resent­ment often built and leaked out in other more destruc­tive ways. Or at the very least, impor­tant needs went unmet.

But I also saw these same peo­ple make a change, tak­ing the risk to speak their hearts and minds.

The result was inspir­ing: Their rela­tion­ships (at work and beyond) became stronger and more trust­ing, they got more accom­plished, and ulti­mately they felt a lot happier.

If you want a lit­tle inspi­ra­tion to help you with this one, try watch­ing Brené Brown’s pop­u­lar TED Talk about “the power of vul­ner­a­bil­ity” or read her lovely book, The Gifts of Imper­fec­tion.

Or for a dif­fer­ent spin on the topic, read what Craig Runde and Tim Flana­gan have to say about “express­ing emo­tions” in their out­stand­ing book, Becom­ing a Con­flict Com­pe­tent Leader.

#3: Pow­er­ful questions.

Reflect­ing on the coach­ing I did in 2012, the moments with the biggest impact were the ones that required the least effort from me.

All I had to do was ask the right ques­tions, and my clients did all the work, sud­denly com­ing up with great insights and bril­liant solutions.

I saw the impact of good ques­tions in other con­texts too…

    • non­profit lead­ers using them to moti­vate their staff and volunteers;
    • church facil­i­ta­tors using them to engage con­gre­gants in mean­ing­ful spir­i­tual discussions;
    • fundrais­ers using them to build stronger rela­tion­ships with donors;
    • meet­ings that were more focused and pro­duc­tive thanks to the right questions;
    • blog­gers and social media pro­fes­sion­als who used great ques­tions to build com­mu­nity online.

Sim­i­larly, I got some enthu­si­as­tic feed­back last year about a blog post I wrote on using jour­nal­ing to improve your effec­tive­ness at work. At the heart of that tech­nique is the prac­tice of pos­ing pow­er­ful ques­tions to your­self and then answer­ing them in writing.

Want to get bet­ter at ask­ing good ques­tions in 2013?

Try read­ing this free arti­cle about The Art of Pow­er­ful Ques­tions. Or get your­self a copy of Michael Marquardt’s book Lead­ing With Ques­tions.

#4: A less is more mentality.

This is one I’ve always strug­gled with, although I made some gen­uine progress in 2012.

Per­haps you strug­gle too? Some of the most stressed-out peo­ple I coached and taught last year were ones who needed a big dose of “less is more”.

Too many “pri­or­i­ties”. Too many projects, goals, and meet­ings. Too many roles. Too many options. Too many words. And so on.

I fre­quently get myself into that sit­u­a­tion and then have to care­fully back myself out again. (By doing this, for exam­ple.) At least I’ve got the self-compassion thing going for me (see Wish #1), which helps when you dis­cover you’ve yet again been overly ambi­tious, or you’ve over­done some­thing or over-committed yourself.

Time and again, research has shown that — psy­cho­log­i­cally speak­ing — less truly is more.

For instance, when you’re try­ing to make a change or improve­ment, you’re much more likely to be suc­cess­ful if you focus on one clear goal at a time. (Want a great exam­ple? Read the sec­tion about milk con­sump­tion in this free excerpt from the Heath Broth­ers’ book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.)

It also turns out that too many options to choose from — even really great options — can lead to deci­sional paral­y­sis, stress, and unhap­pi­ness. Barry Schwartz explains why in this fas­ci­nat­ing TED Talk.

Finally, we’ve all seen those peo­ple who have 20-some items on their list of top “pri­or­i­ties”, or 12 dif­fer­ent hats they’re simul­ta­ne­ously wear­ing at work. And we know these peo­ple are far less likely to make major progress than are their col­leagues who have the lux­ury and/or dis­ci­pline to focus in on a small hand­ful of true priorities.


Iron­i­cally, this has turned out to be my longest, wordi­est wish in the list. Let’s stop it here, then, shall we?

(I told you I was work­ing on this one.)

#5: The right amount of pas­sion for the work you do.

The “right amount”? Huh?

We think of pas­sion as a good thing — and it usu­ally is.

But I did hear some clients talk­ing in 2012 about sit­u­a­tions where they’ve felt “too much” passion.

Do you find it hard to switch off at the end of the day? Are you unable to sim­ply do your best and then let go of try­ing to con­trol the out­comes? Do you feel a huge and over­whelm­ing sense of respon­si­bil­ity to your clients, con­stituents, or cause?

If you answered “yes”, it’s time to turn back the pas­sion dial by a few notches. Or if you strug­gle to do so, per­haps it’s time to find paid work that you’re a lit­tle less pas­sion­ate about.

But don’t turn your back on pas­sion com­pletely. When you’re pas­sion­ate about what you’re doing, work often will stop feel­ing like “work”. Instead, it will feel like an authen­tic expres­sion of YOU.

Want to amp your pas­sion up a notch?

Try tun­ing into the pow­er­ful “why” behind your work.

And make sure your work is truly a good fit for who you are. Tools such as those that Scott Dins­more shares on the Live Your Leg­end web­site can help you do just that.

#6: A reg­u­lar exer­cise routine.

I’m not some­one who loves to exer­cise. So it was quite an accom­plish­ment that (for the first time ever), I main­tained a con­sis­tent, fre­quent exer­cise sched­ule for the whole year.

The pay­off?

In addi­tion to help­ing me lose close to 40 pounds, I also noticed that with reg­u­lar exer­cise I had more energy, more focus, and a more pos­i­tive mood. (This list of strate­gies for work­ing smarter helps explain why.)

When I think about the most inspir­ing, suc­cess­ful, impact­ful peo­ple I encoun­tered in 2012, many of them are peo­ple who make phys­i­cal activ­ity an impor­tant, ongo­ing part of their lives.

Be good to your­self, won’t you? Join us.

To cre­ate an exer­cise rou­tine you can stick with, make sure you choose activ­i­ties that are the right fit for your per­son­al­ity, inter­ests, abil­i­ties, and avail­able resources. And if it helps, find an exer­cise buddy who can hold you account­able for show­ing up and stick­ing with your commitment.

#7: Laugh­ter and fun.

Last year was my fifth straight year serv­ing as an advi­sor to Non­profit Learn­ing Point as a mem­ber of their Cur­ricu­lum Com­mit­tee — and I have no plans to retire any time soon, because this has been one of the best vol­un­teer expe­ri­ences of my life.

What makes it so amazing?

Our lit­tle group gets a whole lot done while simul­ta­ne­ously hav­ing a ton of fun. Our meet­ings are full of laugh­ter and play­ful ban­ter. It cre­ates a feel­ing of cama­raderie and gen­er­ates pos­i­tive energy that fuels us as we work hard to advance the organization’s impor­tant mission.

So my final wish for you for 2013 is many sim­i­larly fun experiences.

Sur­round your­self with peo­ple who make you laugh. (My See Change Stu­dio col­league, Ann For­burger, is some­one who reg­u­larly does that for me.)

Look for the humor in life.

Learn to laugh affec­tion­ately at your own quirks and foibles.

And for heaven’s sake, make sure you take a real vaca­tion this year, ok? There’s no bet­ter guar­an­tee of fun, and you’ll come back with a clearer mind and a fresh per­spec­tive on your daily life and work.

May 2013 be a beau­ti­ful year for you.

And may we all con­tinue to inspire one another to do good things in the world while also being good to ourselves.

What’s one wish you have — or a com­mit­ment you want to make — for 2013? Post it as a com­ment below. Or click the Face­book but­ton to share it on your time­line with a link back to this article.

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My 7 Wishes for You in the New Year — 4 Comments

  1. Hi Elaine, Start­ing with this list, I’m com­ing to you for my New Year’s res­o­lu­tions from now on. From past expe­ri­ence I know that these are doable and ben­e­fi­cial. Thanks!

    • Thanks Greg! Glad you agree with my list. Hon­estly, I think that even if all of us only fol­lowed through on #1 (self-compassion & self-acceptance), the world would be a bet­ter place in 2013.

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