We all want to get ahead. We want those numbers on our bank receipts to get bigger. We want jobs to become careers and careers to become success stories. We want our yard, for once, to look better than the guy’s across the street. (Just me? Cool.) But there’s no sense in denying it. We all want bigger, better and more.
But no matter how much passion we have, or how loud our battle cries are, we won’t move forward without clarity and discipline. If you have the big picture in mind and you know what you’re working toward, that’s great- but set it aside for now. Look five feet in front of you. What are the practical, concrete actions you can take today to be one step closer to your big goal tomorrow? By outlining small goals and setting realistic objectives, your chances of reaching those New Year’s resolutions are exponentially greater.
Disclaimer. None of this is rocket science. Just practical, human advice to make your days better. Days that turn into weeks, weeks that turn into years, and years that make up your life.
1. Get schooled.
I know, the guy working on his seventh degree makes everyone roll their eyes. But to an extent, we should all aspire to be lifelong learners. We have the luxury of knowledge on virtually every subject right at our fingertips (thanks, interweb). So, choose a topic or skillset you’d like to grow in, and schedule your day accordingly. Make it a habit to wake up and read a few relevant articles before diving into work. Dedicate some of your run to tune into a helpful podcast. Cut your Netflix binge by just 15-20 minutes each night, and read a couple chapters from a book. Remember books? Paper, black print, binding on the side?
2. Surround yourself with good people.
This is one of those obvious, bumper sticker statements, but it’s incredibly true. A well-balanced, fruitful life is marked by a clear awareness of the people around you and what they add to your life. Frequent, healthy conversation with others isn’t just for our social/emotional health. The personal relationships you invest in will effect you professionally- either negatively or positively.
Hear me out, I’m not suggesting farming for friends that will make you money. We all know that feeling- the one when you hear from a high school friend out of the blue, only to find out they want to invite you to their Beauty Counter seminar. It feels super cheap. But don’t dismiss the value in being intentional with who you surround yourself. Take your morning coffee with people that offer encouragement. Plan a monthly lunch with a girlfriend that inspires you. You’re a better person when others are pouring into your life.
3. Offer a helping hand.
Be generous with information, power, and well-deserved compliments. If your specific expertise can be of use to someone in a pinch, give them a call. If there’s a start-up that could use some guidance in your industry, offer a few pointers. Don’t mistake this for taking on new clients pro bono. I won’t take the blame for anyone’s bankruptcy. Just try to stay mindful of where you can serve. By ushering in opportunities for others, you have the chance to deepen your relationships within your community and across your network. Added bonus, it makes you feel good.
4. Be adaptable.
Everyone on the other side of 2020 can check this one off. Pivot, adjust, reimagine, restructure- recognize those words? We all saw the devastating consequences of businesses that couldn’t find their footing when the world turned upside down last March. The ability to change your approach according to present day conditions is crucial to your success.
Be mindful to take on small practices to strengthen your flexibility. When a co-worker is out for the week, be intentional with how your schedule will change. If the house is crowded during your next Zoom meeting, consider a walk while you talk. Maybe a portion of your budget needs adjusting, so get creative with how you’ll rearrange resources. With even the smallest, deliberate acts, you can develop a growth mindset that approaches every situation with greater adaptability.
5. Rest and play.
You know you’re a grown-up when you have to incorporate rest and play into your schedule. But if you’re like me, if it’s not on the schedule, it’s not going to happen. Time away is a great tool to relieve stress, break up your routine and kickstart creativity. Look at your calendar for the next six months. Take a day here and a long weekend there, and reserve them for something fun.
Ideas? Take the kids out of school and go to a park. Spend a day at the movies. Plan a quick, 24 hour getaway with your spouse. Grab a late breakfast with an old friend. Don’t stress yourself out trying to plan the ideal vacation day. Tone it down a notch, and set aside realistic, consistent time for realistic, consistent breaks.