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 solitary and personal:
- my own lessons learned,
- things I want to celebrate and give thanks for,
- occasional sighs of relief as I put difficult chapters behind me,
- and my goals and wishes for the coming months.
But I hope you don't mind...
This year 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.
From this reflecting, I've arrived at a list of 7 wishes for you (and me) in 2013.
Here they are, along with a bit about the people and experiences who inspired them.
You'll probably find yourself in the list.
#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 Kristin Neff's self-compassion.org 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.
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?
#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. 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.
It 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?
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.
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.