Every year in January there is a great amount of pressure to reinvent ourselves. “New year, new me” is a common refrain on social media, gyms fill up with optimistic exercisers, ambitious goals are set, bad habits are renounced. The start of a new year feels like a clean slate — we can be someone better than we’ve ever been.
Of course, the majority of those idealistic ambitions are abandoned before February even starts. The dazzling vision of who we could become fades, and we are left with the self we so desperately wanted to reinvent.
New Year, Same You
What troubles me about this focus on reinvention is that we typically focus on what we don’t like about ourselves. “I want to lose weight,” is just another way of saying, “I’m not happy in my body.” “I’m going to start eating healthier,” is just a rephrasing of, “I think there’s something wrong with the way I eat now.” And to get a bit personal for a moment, “This is the year I’m finally going to finish my novel,” is just a way for me to badger myself for failing to finish it last year.
I wonder if we’d have more success if we focused on celebrating and amplifying the things we do like about ourselves. What if we embraced what we’re good at, what brings us joy and satisfaction, and focused on sharing those great parts of ourselves with others?
Ditch the Negative Resolutions: You’re Already Great
When we say “I am going to be better” we are inherently telling ourselves, “I’m not good enough to begin with.” But if we flip the script to say, “I’m great, and I’m going to share that with others,” we might just have a happier, healthier, and more productive year ahead.
Here are a few things that I’m celebrating about myself as I approach 2018:
I make incredible lasagna (and I’ve got some pretty great other recipes up my sleeve too). So instead of resolving to eat less take out, I’ll just invite more friends over to eat. And I’ll end up with a tray or two in the freezer, so in the end, I likely will eat less takeout.
I’m good at distilling complex ideas into writing. But I’m not going to resolve to finish my novel this year. Instead, I’m going to focus on translating my thoughts and feelings onto a page, and sharing that writing with those closest to me—without the pressure of having some grand, complete masterpiece. A paragraph is better than a blank page. And over time those paragraphs might add up to something—and if they don’t, that’s not a character flaw or a failure.
I know that I’m good at helping people and that I find small moments of helpfulness to be deeply gratifying. One of my favorite things about myself is that helping people is often automatic. Grabbing a door for someone struggling with a stroller, offering directions to the person who looks lost, chasing down the person who just dropped their mittens in the street, all happen without me really thinking about it. Imagine how helpful I could be if I paid just a bit more attention, and imagine how great it will feel.
Amplify the Good
The same principle can apply to a team or organization, or to the way you approach your role as an individual contributor. What are you great at? Is there a way you can do more of it? Can you share your favorite parts of yourself more freely with your colleagues? And just as importantly, ask yourself what the members of your team and organization are great at. How can you amplify, celebrate, and ultimately leverage, the individual strengths of the people you work with?
Before you get into the ambitious planning, the resolutions to do better, and the goals and objectives that define the year ahead, take some time to think back on what went really well in 2017, and focus on how you can apply those strengths to your current challenges.
I don’t mean to suggest that we should never take an honest inventory of our weaknesses or flaws, but perhaps the start of a new year, with all the promise and excitement it offers, isn’t the right time. The year ahead will offer us plenty of opportunities to beat ourselves up, strive to do better, to stumble and get back up again.
Take stock of your strengths both big and small.Tweet
Instead, I invite you to think about the great person you are today —not the idealistic vision for who you want to become, or the shame you feel for not becoming that better person already — and celebrate it. Amplify it. Share it with the people around you.
Take stock of your strengths both big and small — your ability to pick the perfect soundtrack for a dinner party or your uncanny knack for always choosing the perfect avocado are just as worthy of celebration as your expertise and skills at work. Sure, you could be better, but I’m willing to bet that there are things about you that are already fantastic. Make 2018 the year that you stop beating yourself up for all you haven’t done, and start rewarding yourself for how awesome you already are. For once, that’s a resolution that I’m excited to stick to long beyond February.