Lessons for the New Year

I always feel pressure to write an inspiring column in celebration of the new year. But the truth is I’ve got nothing.

I’ve kicked back so much this holiday that I have to give myself a pep talk just to get off the couch.

If you really want to know, I’m sitting in a somewhat messy office, still in my pajamas even though its now afternoon, sporting hair that definitely could use a wash, trying to summon up the energy to stay focused until I finish this column. The worst part is that I’m berating myself yet again for not living a more balanced life, exercising as regularly as I should, or losing the weight I was so determined to lose.

However on the plus side, I’ve learned so much this past year about leadership, team building, community development, and my own personal strengths and challenges that I’ve often said I’d like to stop growing just for a day. 

So for what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my top ten learnings over the past year.

10. Trust your gut.
Even when it doesn’t always make sense, trust your own inner voice. While intuition is too often underrated, it is an increasingly essential leadership skill.

9. Do what you love.
Steve Hudson, Vice President Corporate Services at Niagara College, told me to follow my heart. Surprising advice from a smart, rather left brained engineer with a military background, but he was right.

8. Keep learning.
Life will never ever be boring if you keep exploring new ideas, reading, taking courses, attending conferences, and tackling new challenges. One of the best strategies I’ve found for growth is hanging out with, and listening to, people who don’t think like me.

7. Embrace technology.
Technology is like driving a car.  You don’t have to build the car or even fix it if something goes wrong, just get in the bloody driver’s seat. This year my brilliant boss, who describes himself as a grey hair and a technology luddite, evolved to the point where he sends his own emails and did a presentation managing his own powerpoint.  His spirit of willingness and commitment to ongoing growth is inspiring.

6. Its okay to stand still.
When faced with difficult decisions its okay to stop and take a deep breath.  I’ve had to learn to squash an overdeveloped conscience and my ingrained thinking that everything needs to be dealt with immediately. Standing still, reflecting, gathering feedback from others, and patience yields better results.

5. Even if they say it’s not personal, it is.
This year I’ve been the recipient of sometimes difficult feedback. If I react and suggest it’s been hurtful, the sender will insist it’s not personal and I shouldn’t take it that way. Despite my best attempts to grow a thicker skin and accept that it isn’t personal, I’ve concluded that it’s all personal. As a result I’m learning to be more mindful that even feedback with the best of intentions has the potential to hurt.  Being kind and nice to friends, families and colleagues is essential for trusting and productive relationships.

4. Be okay with chaos but know that others aren’t.
In world that’s constantly changing, know that there are very few who are comfortable with change and it’s often resulting chaos. Also, know that just when you are at your wits end thinking it will never come together, it does. 

3. The time is ripe for big picture, creative thinkers.
As we shift from a manufacturing era to the dawning Conceptual Age, the community and workplace terrain too must change. Daniel Pink, author of the best selling, “A Whole New Mind” suggests the new economy will require right brain skills and a set of senses that include design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. If you have artistic, creative tendencies, rejoice for your time has come. If you don’t have them, get to work developing them.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Although I like to think I’m a good communicator, in today’s world people are bombarded and overloaded with data. To really communicate, it’s necessary to use a variety of mediums. Even though writing an email seems efficient and effective, I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to pick up the phone or meet over coffee to really connect.

1. Simple is good.
Life isn’t about the stuff you accumulate because the best things in life aren’t things. Life is basically pretty simple. It’s about family, friends, connections, and quality of life experiences. In the upcoming year may you maximize your life by eliminating something unnecessary from your life, breaking a habit or doing something that scares you. Happy New Year! 

Posted on 12-28-08

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