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There’s something about new beginnings. They tend to fill us with hope, energize us, and drive us to make positive changes (whether minor or major). The new year is the perfect time for a fresh start and a new outlook. Whether you’re trying to set goals for yourself, making positive life changes, or simply attempting to start the year off on the right foot, committing to the new year with an optimistic outlook is the perfect way to stay motivated.

The truth is, it’s easy to be dragged down by negativity or everyday annoyances (a flat tire, a poorly timed illness, a co-worker that can’t seem to turn in their assignments on time).

But it’s important to remember that dwelling on the bad can exacerbate your problems and pull you into a negative downward spiral. Marque Medical reports that people with high levels of negativity are “more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, and recover from sickness much slower than those with a positive mindset.” That, alone, should be reason to adopt an optimistic attitude!

Another reason to practice positivity is tied directly to productivity and performance. Those who see the glass half full tend to perform better in their jobs and in life, in general. Amazingly, this applies to companies as well. Companies that tend to be more optimistic have been found to be more productive.

How to Adapt a Positive Outlook?

Committing to the new year with a positive outlook means keeping your attitude in check, recognizing that one setback doesn’t define failure, and understanding that you will go through seasons of success and adversity. It also means being aware of your thoughts and prioritizing positivity by actively looking for the good in each situation.

Use the new year to set yourself up for success and become more optimistic. Here are a few tips to help you do that:

1. Identify your biggest fears and insecurities and make a plan for how you can address and conquer them.

2. Make time to do something that you enjoy thoroughly—take a walk, go to the gym, paint, bake cookies.

3. Look for something to be grateful for every single day, like strong relationships, career opportunities, or simply your own health.

4. Practice self-care and positive affirmations. Remind yourself that you are capable and strong.

5. Look for opportunities to learn from failures and mistakes—and use them as growth moments.

6. Focus on solutions rather than problems.

Starting the new year with a positive outlook can be a challenging, but rewarding, undertaking. It requires dedication, self-awareness, and actively looking for the good in every situation. By embracing these steps and striving for optimism, you can better equip yourself for a successful year, both personally and professionally. Positivity often brings with it greater productivity, improved relationships, and even improved physical health. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to kick off the new year with a renewed sense of optimism!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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Happy holidays! Many people try to relax during this time of year—perhaps attending holiday gatherings or taking a vacation. But many of us struggle with truly relaxing. Modern life has a way of moving quickly…even when you’re trying to slow down.

According to the Center for Integrated Healthcare, there are numerous benefits of deep relaxation. These include reduced anxiety, improved sleep, better concentration, and even improved digestion. But how do you get into a state of relaxation when so many things are vying for your time and attention?

This week, let’s talk about 4 factors that tend to derail relaxation, and how to prevent them from doing so.

1. Notifications

Picture this: You’ve settled in at the dinner table and you’re about to eat a relaxing, homecooked meal with your family. Then, your phone dings and you see that someone has commented on a picture you posted on Instagram. You start dishing up your plate, but your phone dings again. This time, it’s giving you an update on your favorite sports team. Ding! You have a Twitter notification. Ding! An eBook on your wish list is on sale.

Before you know it, your mind is caught up in all the activity on your phone. You’re distracted, and your family dinner no longer feels relaxing. You want to hurry up and get through it so you can attend to all these notifications.

Few things clamor for our attention like our phones. The average person will pick up their phone 58 times per day. It’s clear phones have us on a tight leash!

To combat the pressure to always pick up your phone, try some of the following tactics:

  • Turn off app notifications
  • Periodically put your phone in airplane mode
  • Use an app to track screen time (this will help put things in perspective!)

2. Emails

For many of us, emails take up a large portion of the day. We see an email come in, and we’re immediately pressured to respond. Even if we choose to ignore an email for a while, we know it’s there, hanging out in the back of our minds.

I urge you to set healthy boundaries by taking control of your email. You might choose to only check and reply to email 2-3 times per day. Or you can set a firm “cut off” point (say 5:30 p.m.) where you mute your inbox and step away from emails.

3. Poor Sleep

It’s tough to feel fully relaxed if you’re lacking in the sleep department. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with catching enough zzz’s, and that can make everything more difficult. You can’t be the best version of yourself if you’re running on four hours of sleep and an abundance of caffeine.

To practice good sleep hygiene, try the following best practices:

  • Shut off all screens one hour before bedtime
  • If you’re using screens at night, use blue-light filtering glasses
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Don’t eat immediately before bedtime
  • Remove screens (like TVs) from your bedroom
  • Invest in a good pillow that fits your sleep style (side, back, etc.)

4. Over-Planning

If you’ve over-planned a holiday, it can be difficult to find the relaxation amidst the bustle. You might end up feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation! (See my past blog post on planning a relaxing vacation.)

If you can’t help your planning tendencies, try adding downtime into your schedule of events. Though it may seem strange, it can be immensely helpful to set aside “do nothing” time. This will essentially give you permission to relax, unwind, and go with the flow. You can fill this space if you want, but there’s no pressure to be up and about, doing things. Instead, grab a book, play a game, take a walk, or simply enjoy being present.

Even in our busy, distraction-filled lives, it is possible to relax. Take control of your schedule (and your phone!), don’t over-plan, and focus on being present. You’ve earned it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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You might be immersed in holiday stress right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few minutes to ponder the year ahead. After all, it is right around the corner, and it’s better to be at least a little prepared than to have it sneak up on you. By putting in even 10 minutes of planning, you can add a little focus and direction to your year, rather than having it lead you around by the nose!

Take charge of your year by sitting down (perhaps with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine), pondering the year ahead, and going through the following 8 steps. You could undertake this activity in about 10 minutes, but I encourage you to take all the time you need.

1. Write down all your goals

Jot down whatever comes to mind. Don’t edit; don’t pause. Just write down everything (big and small, personal and professional) you would like to accomplish next year.

2. Rate your goals

Once you have your list, go through it and consider which items are the most crucial and which are not. You could give each entry a 1, 2, or 3 rating with 1 representing your most important goals/aspirations, 2 being goals of middling importance, and 3 representing less important goals.

3. Focus on your “1” goals

Take a look at your most important goals (i.e., the “1s”). Hopefully you only have two or three “1” goals (if you have much more than that, consider relabeling some of them) so you can place your focus on these particular objectives. You can still accomplish your 2s and 3s, but they might not be the center of your focus.

4. Work backwards

For each of your top goals, set a specific date for when you’d like to accomplish them. From there, work backwards on your calendar. How can you break up your goal into bite-sized pieces? What are some of the major milestones you need to accomplish? Fill in your calendar accordingly, working backwards from your deadline.

5. Highlight important milestones

Once you’ve completed step 4, consider your important milestones. What needs to be done by certain dates to accomplish each milestone? Starting thinking about the support/resources you’ll need, the tasks you’ll have to accomplish, and the time you’ll devote to reaching each milestone.

6. Create a derailment plan

Life happens. If you don’t happen to meet one of the deadlines for your milestones, what will you do? What’s your derailment plan? Will you sit down and rethink your schedule? Will you commit to working one evening each week (or part of the weekend) until you get back on track?

7. Think of an accountability partner (or several)

List a few people who would make good accountability partners—people who could occasionally check in to help keep you on track. Be sure to list people who will not necessarily let you off the hook if you miss a deadline or are getting sidetracked. Rather, choose people whom you respect and do not want to let down. Once you have your list, reach out to one person at a time until someone agrees to be your accountability partner for the year. If they ask, be sure to return the favor.

8. Set a “go” date!

You have a plan. You’re ready to blast off into the New Year. Now, all you need is a “go” date—a time to begin your launch. This could be the first of the year, or it might be a date further down the road—whatever makes sense with your plan.

Too many people get bogged down by day-to-day life instead of stepping back and taking a bird’s eye view of their work or personal life. It can be immensely helpful to see the forest, instead of staring at the trees. By planning the year ahead, you partake in big-picture planning. You chart your course through the forest, instead of getting tripped up by the roots and brambles that everyday life tends to deliver.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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