Not long ago I made a list of the new projects I was starting for 2020. As I reviewed, edited, shared, edited and continued to critique the list it occurred to me that a significant part of it are items of self-improvement. Several of the items are things that cause me some type of discomfort, be it physical or mental. Most physical trainers will tell you point blank that if you’re not pushing your limits then you’re not forcing yourself to grow; you stay stuck in any comfort zone. To improve… to grow… you have to experience discomfort in some way. The question becomes, as you consider 2020 and any resolutions you may have made, in what way are you challenging yourself to improvement? Here are a few ideas.
Count your blessings. Yes, it seems cliché, but it’s a great way to motivate yourself as you consider what self-improvement you want to undertake. Consider what the year ahead holds for you, your family members, friends and relatives. Take delight in not only your own blessings but also the blessings for anyone you care about. Find the positive energy to approach your self-improvement efforts and goals.
Improve your health. A ton of people use the New Year to launch diet programs. They dedicated themselves to losing X number of pounds and they usually have a goal date in sight. The problem is that they don’t have a plan past that date and they have no plan to improve their physical condition beyond losing weight. Many don’t even think about the difference between cutting fat weight and cannibalizing their muscle mass due to poor dietary intake. To improve your health you need to improve your intake AND increase your activity level. STRETCH, perform cardio, strength training, etc. Pick your goals, understand the whole approach and then make the necessary lifestyle changes. One person made the statement, “I have the whole rest of my life to make changes; why rush into it?” Well, the ugliest most honest answer I can give is this: Because the longer you wait, the shorter your life gets. Your time is lessening at both ends. Get started.
Improve your mind. This is the place where there are lots of opportunities and you can choose where to focus your efforts… for now. The cool part is that you can always change your focus simply by deciding to. Improving your mind means learning something new. Take a college course. Take an online class in something that interests you. Learn a new language (DuoLingo is a free app you can do this with).
Learn a new skill. This isn’t simply the acquisition of new knowledge; it’s the learning of a new skill. The example I’ll use is… working on your car motor; learning something about vehicle mechanics. Learn how to flush your radiator (if you can still do that on your car). Learn how to change your own oil. Take on a new hobby that requires you to learn how to work wood or leather. Pick up a paint brush and some canvas and see what you can create. Try something new. Get out of that comfort zone.
Plan to relax beyond your sofa and Netflix. Do you know where you’re going on vacation this year? Do you know for how long? Is it budgeted? Do you have your reservations as necessary? Perhaps more importantly, does your employer know you’re going on vacation this year? Do they know you will be 100% out of touch and ON VACATION – which means NOT taking work calls, NOT answering work emails. It means focusing on YOU; disconnecting and relaxing; recharging your emotional batteries and mental calm. It means doing things that you only find to be fun and entertaining.
Celebrate the important days: birthdays, anniversaries and accomplishments. So many people treat their birthdays like curses or negative events. They seem to adopt the attitude that another birthday means “growing old.” Let’s remember something: Growing old is something some people never get to do and we mourn them. In fact, even after people have lived to be 104 and they pass away we STILL mourn them. Celebrate the fact that you at least survived, and perhaps even enjoyed, another trip around the sun. Remember that your birthday number is how many you’ve lived; not the one you’re starting. We celebrate our first birthday after having survived our first year. Celebrate anniversaries – marriage, engagement, first date, new job… whatever. Celebrate anything you can. It’s another fantastic reason to be happy about something and to share that joy.
So how, you ask, does celebrating birthdays or taking a vacation push your limits? The limit being pushed is celebrating life. Some people are lucky enough that they enjoy their job, celebrate accomplishments and the completion of tasks. Truly good employers celebrate having great employees, productive teams, and the formation of new ideas / projects. If the employer doesn’t do it than the employees should. Samuel Clements (Mark Twain) said, “If your vocation is a vacation then you never work a day in your life.” Some are that lucky. Some are not. Either way, celebrating anything is a good way to expand the happiness in your everyday life. And that’s work. Celebrate the things that aren’t work related and may be of even greater – often immeasurable – value to you.