New Year … New Beginning

New Year with Blank Canvas copy

The start of a New Year is symbolic of change regardless of your personal view on the ritual of setting resolutions.

Great leaders are reflective; seeking feedback on how to enhance their effectiveness and then deciding what, if any change they are willing to embrace to create greater personal or professional satisfaction.  Everyone is a leader; some lead others, while everyone is responsible for leading themselves.  Ringing in the New Year becomes a logical point on the calendar to contemplate change.

We are all confronted by many cues that infer we aren’t enough.  Our number one human need is to feel connected and belong.  Marketing efforts capitalize on this need by feeding our inner critics with the five thousand impressions they expose us to every day.  The messages are a variation on the same theme “you aren’t enough, buy this or try that and you’ll belong”.  Don’t even get me started on well-intentioned friends, family and co-workers that also have an opinion on “how I need to change” and who left their impressions during Christmas, I mean the “holidays”.

Trying to please everyone leads to “pleasing fatigue” draining our emotional (and financial) resources; leaving us unfulfilled and seeking an exit ramp off the hamster wheel of life.   The exit never appears (or if it does my GPS doesn’t provide enough notice to change lanes).  We’ve learned that multi-tasking is a myth, eroding our ability to focus and generate the best possible outcomes in a given situation.  Constructive feedback from multiple sources (friends, family, co-workers and the media) must work the same way – too much of it, from too many sources can leave us paralyzed; unsure of where to begin.

Feeling overwhelmed?  A great place to start for the New Year is on “being” vs. piling on more “doing”.   Statistics show that 80-92% of personal improvement goals are never achieved.  In my coaching practice, most clients are looking for alignment and harmony to enhance their personal and professional satisfaction.  Taking a big picture approach, focusing on the whole person (not just individual goals that are often symptoms of an underlying issue) is a good place to start if change is in your cards for 2016.   Applying some simple steps to the change process can make it more palatable and increase the chances of joining the allusive 8% that achieve their personal change goals in the new year.

  1. Get clear on your life purpose by defining the size and shape of your sandbox.  Your purpose is actualized through the various roles you play (employee, sibling, parent, spouse, volunteer etc.).  Having a clear life purpose, supported by role clarity not only defines the space you’ll play in, but more importantly makes it easy to avoid distracting playground activities that might be important to others but not to your authentic self.
  2.  Leverage your strengths when considering change.  Tap into signature strengths that align with virtues known to bring harmony, satisfaction and fulfillment.  Leveraging strengths is much easier than honing skills that fall outside the gifts you were born with (there is a reason I only sing in the shower and don’t subject myself to the scrutiny of public performance).  Everyone has strengths – think back to age seven when your inner light hadn’t been dimmed by the need to conform.
  3.  Define your core values so others invited into your sandbox will know what to consistently expect from you.  Values are tricky because many are subconsciously imprinted on us by early influencers and standout experiences.  Regardless of the past, you always have the choice on how you want to be experienced in the future by consciously choosing to embrace values that resonate with the deepest part of your being.  Values and role clarity simplify decision making when you are confronted with competing priorities.  You’ll know when your values aren’t being honored by others because it creates a negative feeling or emotional response within.  Values guide behavior and are tested during difficult periods.  When working with clients who have just shared a horror story about what someone else did or said, my fall back question is “So given their behavior, how do you want to respond and be experienced?”.  You always have a choice.
  4. Consider feedback a gift (sometimes the gift that keeps on giving) that can help align your intentions (how you want to be experienced) with your impact (how others actually experience you).  You can’t please everybody but you should be aware when your intentions aren’t aligned with the impact you want to be having in the world.  When receiving feedback, the goal is to hear what’s being said.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to defend your position or feel the need to agree with what’s being expressed.  Your role in receiving feedback is to listen carefully to what’s being said (or not said).  You can decide later, what if any action you want to take.  When giving feedback to others you’ll find your audience is more receptive when it’s delivered through the filter of courage and compassion.Pay attention to constructive feedback received using a simple 1-2-3 approach; once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.  Let go of mistakes and coincidences, and focus on patterns.  In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.
  5.  Decide what’s working by paying attention to patterns and asking “What am I willing and motivated to start, stop or continue that will move me closer to my ideal state of being?”   Resist the natural tendency to do more, because magic can be found in doing less and opening up more space to fully embrace your purpose and the roles you choose to play.
  6. Create empowering routines that will lead to desired results over time.  Setting a lofty goal is discouraging when results aren’t immediately achieved.  Empowering routines create the conditions in your life for good things to happen.  For example, if you set an intention to lose weight, an empowering routine would be to purchase less processed food and introduce more plant based alternatives to your diet.  Don’t worry about the scale … that will look after itself over time.
  7. Celebrate progress by regularly reflecting on what’s working; what has been accomplished vs. what still needs to be done.  Every step in the right direction is positive movement as you begin to prune away old behaviors and thought patterns.  New brain imaging technology measures neuroplasticity and proves change is possible with patience, persistence, and gradual progress.  Change involves rewiring the brain by creating new neural pathways that over time, can replace thoughts, beliefs, feelings and behaviors that no longer serve you well as you approach the New Year.

Build momentum over time and don’t let others (or the marketing machines) tell you aren’t enough.  You are enough because you are alive, breathing and part of this universal experience of life.