What are your professional/personal development goals for 2013?

image of my journals

30 Years of Journals

Since I was in elementary school, I’ve kept a journal. I’ve written about everything from crushes on boys to having a baby to the joys and tears that come with moving and having a new job. Every year on New Year’s Eve I write about the past year and remember the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly. Then I write goals for the next year. This year I was so tired on New Year’s Eve I went to bed early, and I must confess I haven’t set a goal yet. New Year’s Day is really an arbitrary day and we could pick any day of the year to take stock, assess, and reassess.

I already know in my head what my goals are. I’ve brainstormed them at random times for the past month. But there is something about putting that goal down on paper and signing your name to it that makes it real, makes it a contract. So this year I’m skipping my paper journal and sharing my goals here. I hope that this will not only make me more accountable but that it will also inspire you to do the same.

Personal

  • Focus on less. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta is an excellent read. I have too much physical and virtual clutter in my life. I’m archiving all 3,500 unread Gmail messages and starting over with 0. I’m archiving photos to DVDs and selecting only the best to keep on my hard drive. I’m deleting files I no longer need. I’m taking two days off work this week to finish unpacking and declutter my home. This weekend it will be my children’s turn to do the same in their rooms. I am tossing anything that does not have meaning, importance, or is something that I am not in love with.
  • Focus on myself and my family. My children are at ages, 5 and 8, where they want and need constant attention from me when I am not working. I’ve cut down on nearly all my outside commitments to focus on them. In a few short years they will want to spend more time with their friends, so I don’t want to miss a moment of this precious time when their brains and hearts are like sponges ready to learn, love, and be loved. I made the difficult decision to put off graduate school until my kids are older. I have no regrets and feel relived by my decision. As I’ve said in the past, we can have it all, just not all at the same time.

Professional

  • Make email a tool for me, and not let myself become a slave to email. Enough said! When I figure out how to do this I’ll let you know.
  • Connect with customers. Now that I’ve learned much about my organization and its products and met some initial short term goals, I’ll be reaching out to customers in my role as customer relationship coordinator. My job is to make sure customers are having the best possible experience with our products and maximizing use of their products. I will help customers succeed in their goals.
  • Just like my personal email, I’m clearing out my RSS feeds and limiting myself to 10 feeds. When I can manage 10, I’ll add 5 more, and so on. Having more than 500 feeds is counterproductive and causes me to be so overwhelmed I just don’t look at them.
  • Complete my Facebook best practices for professionals project. Look for an updated survey soon!

So these are my goals for 2013. What are yours?

The Power of Changing Your Thoughts

I’ve given a lot of thought about what I want to write as the first post of 2012. Hence the date on this post. I want to share something will you that has changed my life in many ways–personally, professionally, spiritually. Ironically this gift came to me on New Years Eve 2008, and I felt it apropos to share this with you at the new year.

This isn’t another post about resolutions. Been there. Done that. I can’t think of a resolution that I’ve stuck with for a whole year or that has been life changing. So please keep reading.

There is a reason why we celebrate the new year. It’s a time of reflecting on the past year, a time to think about the upcoming year, and a time to take stock of our lives in general. It’s also an arbitrary day. We could pick any day of the year to do these things.

On New Years Eve 2008 I thought about my life. I was not happy. I did not feel successful, and I knew something needed to change. I looked at the people around me who were most successful and asked myself what it is that they did differently. I determined it came down to one thing–attitude. OK it’s more than one thing. It’s attitude. It’s perspective. It’s finding the silver lining no matter how bad things get.

I had picked up a book on positive thinking earlier that year and began reading it on that New Years Eve. I applied the principles and my life changed almost immediately. Once I got the grasp of positive thinking I began using the technique of visualization. Many people balk at visualization but athletes, actors, musicians all visualize their performances before any event. I’ve used visualization for years before public speaking or training sessions. Envision yourself as you want to be. The book I read said to start small. I tried envisioning myself with a diet coke. No one came and gave me a diet coke.Dismissing the whole idea as ridiculous, I took out a dollar, went to the vending machine at work, and bought a diet coke. As I stared at the diet coke I questioned whether there was anything to this. But then it hit me. I did in fact have the diet coke, but I was envisioning the wrong thing. We have to envision the outcome not the solution as the solution can come in many and often unexpected ways.

After time small things began to happen. I wanted a fish-tank for my desk to help with relaxing. I envisioned the fish-tank on my desk. The next day I stopped by a coworker’s office and mentioned off-hand that I wanted a small fish-tank for my desk. Her office-mate overheard this and happened to have a small fish-tank, brand new, under her desk that she didn’t want. She gave it to me. You could say this is completely random and it is. But seriously, a fish tank? What are the chances?

When small things like this started to happen I tried envisioning bigger things. I know that visualization and positive thinking are not the solution to all of life’s challenges. But it doesn’t hurt.

When my library faced budget cuts two years ago my family was already struggling with a mound of medical bills and debt accrued from a pregnancy that had me out of work and on bed rest for more than nine months. When the library budget became so bad that my husband and I took a total of a temporary 15% pay cut we knew that we were in serious financial trouble. We tried to get by. We consolidated debt. Moved debt to zero interest credit cards. But it was too much. Eventually we lost our house and ultimately filed bankruptcy. In mid-life we basically started over with nothing. In no way am putting blame on the library. The recession affected millions of Americans. We happened to be part of that group.

If you’ve ever read about the top life stressors, you know that foreclosure and bankruptcy are right up there with the death of a spouse. What we discovered was that though the process is hard, it is also freeing. We’ve moved three times in the past two years, each time downsizing and simplifying our life. While it would have been easy to be in our situation and become depressed or overwhelmed, we chose to find the silver lining, even when it was only a small glimmer.

The icing on my cake of another stressful life event came when I was laid off in June of this year. I’m not saying it was easy but again there was a silver lining. Being laid off meant that I was eligible for unemployment and allowed me the buffer and time I needed to get my own business up and running–something I had wanted to do for years. I fully believe that had I not had a positive outlook and looked for that silver lining, I may have sunk into a pit of despair. Business has been good and I enjoy the work I do immensely.

The outlook and attitude we have in life and in facing life’s challenges are so important and affect everything we do from our interactions at work and home to our health and happiness. If I could suggest one goal for you in this new year it is to look for the silver lining and to always look for the positive in even the bleakest of situations.