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This past year, it’s been difficult to feel in control of anything. Work situations have changed, family dynamics have been altered, and our basic lifestyles have had to adjust. We’ve had to rethink even our most basic activities, such as going to the grocery store or sending our kids off to school. With so much out of our control, let’s take a moment to focus on what is within our control…namely, YOU.

No matter what the year ahead will bring, we can always focus on self-improvement. This way of thinking is not selfish—it’s essential. If we do our best to be our best, everything around us tends to improve: relationships, workplace interactions, productivity. Thus, self-improvement can (and often does) actually lead to vast improvements in our external world.

Where can you focus your attention?

Here are five different ideas. Over the next five weeks, I’ll be covering each area in greater depth. For now, a summary:

1. Improve Self-Awareness

You may think you know yourself fairly well, but we all have blind spots. Digging deep into your strengths, communication preferences, modes for interacting with others, areas where you’re struggling, etc. can help you become more confident, productive, and efficient. Not only that, improving your self-awareness can also help you better tune in to the needs and preferences of others.

Begin your self-awareness journey by taking a recommended assessment test (my favorites are Insights Discovery® and Insights Deeper Discovery®), talking with a career coach, reading books that discuss self-awareness, or simply making a concerted effort to pay attention to your thoughts and actions, and the motives behind them.

2. Own Who You Are

As our work patterns and lives have changed, other sides of ourselves may have emerged. Perhaps you’ve surprised yourself with how you’ve adapted to this year’s many changes . Maybe you’ve found that you enjoy working at home or, on the flip side, maybe you’ve realized that you enjoy the company of co-workers more than you realized!

Regardless of how much you have or have not changed over the past year, one thing is certain: You are multi-faceted, and it’s a good idea to learn to embrace all sides of yourself. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve in certain areas (there’s always room for improvement). What it does mean is that you shouldn’t shy away from your true self—the person at the core of your being.

3. Practice Self-Kindness

You likely have a lot of practice in forgiving others for their mistakes. If someone is late for a Zoom meeting or has to bow out of a commitment, we tend to forgive them and move on. If a friend is struggling to keep their house clean because they simply have too much on their plate, we laugh and say, “That’s okay! I understand.”

Are you as forgiving with yourself? Or do you beat yourself up over the little things? It’s time to be kind to yourself. Forgive your small mistakes, take breaks when you need them, and don’t worry about falling short of perfection. 

4. Get Flexible

No, I’m not talking about stretching and doing more yoga (though, that couldn’t hurt!). This year, we’ve all had to stretch outside our comfort zones, and I see no sign of that stopping. Workplaces will continue to adapt, relationships will evolve, and technology will constantly change. Are you ready?

The more willing you are to be adaptable and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. No one can predict what’s next, but one thing is certain: Change is inevitable. To get yourself comfortable with change, practice putting yourself in new, uncertain situations. Challenge yourself and make a concerted effort to grow. This might entail signing up for an online class, attending a virtual webinar with a group of strangers, or taking on a project that will have to stretch your skillset.

5. Improve Communication

One of the great lessons of this past year is that communication is essential. For many of us, we’ve had to greatly alter the way we interact with others. Instead of popping into a nearby cubicle and asking a question, we have to set up meetings or write emails. Instead of dropping by a friend or neighbor’s house, we’ve had to be intentional with our get-togethers and respectful of boundaries.

But how much have you actually thought about the ways and methods of your communication? Are your communication systems working like a charm? Or, could they be improved?

It’s possible all those video chats aren’t necessary. It’s also possible (probable, really) that some people will prefer one style of communication, while others will prefer an entirely different style. It helps to pay attention. When is communication flowing smoothly and the conversation is bearing fruit? And when does it feel forced and counter-productive? It could be time to rethink the frequency and modes of communication between yourself and others.

Let’s start the new year off right. Take the time to focus on improving yourself, your interactions with others, and your adaptability. Even small changes can make an enormous difference.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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person jumping at sunset

Happy New Year! Now is the time when many people reflect on the past year, examine their life paths, and resolve to make meaningful change. Though you may start the year with the best of intentions (earning a promotion, losing weight, learning a new language), it’s easy to quickly lose steam after a month or two have passed by.

You might slip up once, then twice, then you toss the whole resolution out the window and tell yourself you’ll do better next year. But that doesn’t have to be the drill. It IS possible to commit to the resolutions you’ve made and actually make positive changes in your life.

Try these three steps:

1. Try 90 Days Instead

While this may seem like cheating, it is actually a good idea to commit to a goal for 90 days rather than an entire year. According to David Horsager, author of the Trust Edge, the attention-span and commitment of most people doesn’t usually stretch beyond three months.

However, he argues that most people can make huge strides in just 90 days. If you map out a plan for that stretch of time (outlining not just what you’re going to do, but how you’re going to do it), you can do everything from losing 20 pounds to writing a novel.

2. Lean On an Accountability Partner

Whether a trusted friend/co-worker or a professional coach, it’s a great idea to use an accountability partner. This is a person who knows about the commitment you’ve made, and agrees to hold your feet to the fire. Ideally, you and your accountability partner will have regular check-ins, so they can keep tabs on your progress and you have an added incentive to get things done.

3. Break Down Your Goals

When I’m coaching individuals or teams, I often advise them to take their goal and break it down into “bite-sized pieces.” When you only look at the end state you’re trying to achieve (write a book, get a raise, eat healthier, etc.), it can seem daunting or downright impossible.

Instead, set incremental goals that lead you to the BIG goal you’re trying to achieve. Whenever you hit one of your incremental goals, don’t forget to celebrate! This will give you a little extra incentive to keep at it.

It’s the New Year, and you want to start it out right. No matter what big-picture change you’re trying to make this year, you CAN get it done. Follow these steps, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have an off day, and don’t forget to celebrate your achievements. Happy 2020!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S NEW ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Another year nearly gone means another year to create and accomplish! New Years is a great time to take a look at your own personal and professional development, and decide where next to chart your course. What’s the best way to keep these New Year’s Resolutions? Whether career-oriented or personal, setting attainable goals is important for fulfillment and vitality.

That leaves us with the question that’s always asked: what are the best ways to keep your resolutions? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Everything Starts with Realistic Goals

Taking stock of where you’re at in your life and where you can go in the year ahead requires a good timeline! Look back at your development throughout the previous year and reflect upon how much you’d like to get done in the year ahead. Incremental challenges to increase productivity are often attainable and great motivational tools. Did you learn the basics of a new skill for professional development? Set out to become an intermediate or advanced learner!

2. Make It Visual

Often mental resolutions can wither or be pushed aside by more urgent projects. Keep written reminders for yourself in calendars and planners of the long-term goal you’re working toward. If you’re known to respond to structure like this, take it a step further and set intermittent and smaller and deadlines to meet them to keep your steppingstones clear.

3. Give Credit Where Credit is Due

Achieving any part of a year-long resolution should be celebrated! Brains respond well to positive reinforcement. Like self-care, self-celebration is an important part of seeing resolutions through to their end. Reward good behavior and accomplishing tasks with fun rewards, like a favorite dessert or a small weekend getaway. 

4. Collaborate

Friends and coworkers may just be the added umph you need. A group mentality is a great external motivating factor in getting work done that needs to be done. Collaborators help keep deadlines firm and goals clear. At the same time, sharing resolutions can foster closer and improved working relationships between you and your colleagues. If your resolution requires seeking out a new skill or group of people, enlisting help outside your existing circles to meet resolutions can provide excellent opportunities to network as well.

Do you feel inspired to tackle your resolutions head on? Sometimes all it takes is a little push. I wish you good fortune in the new year! If you’d like a little more guidance, I’m here to help.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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