We’re coming up on one of my favorite times of the year. No, it’s not any of the traditional holidays you think of in December. I love the planning and preparing for a new year. It’s not the glitz and glamour and champagne of New Year’s Eve that I love. It’s the clean slate. A fresh start. A socially acceptable time to try something completely new and different than you’ve ever done before! 

As a person who is frequently trying something new and different, I can safely say that people are much more open to that sort of thing for New Year’s. It’s a chance to dare and dream bigger and people are less likely to question your sanity. Of course, naysayers gonna nay (no idea how that phrase didn’t end up in Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”!), but for a short time around the first of the year, it’s a little less.

For all my joy surrounding this special time of year, I’ve never been big on resolutions. In fact, I don’t make them. Ever! It strikes me as odd that if a person discovers a big change they want to make in July, that they would then wait until January to follow through on it. I’m a big believer that when you find something you want to improve, you should take positive action immediately! 

On the other side of the resolutions-spectrum, maybe there’s no major change you feel like you need to make right now. So why would you expend the energy trying to come up with some resolution to do (that you’re likely not fully committed to!) just to appease those who want to know what your resolutions are? There’s nothing worse than trying to accomplish something you think you “should” do instead of something that you truly desire for your authentic self. It’s a recipe for a failed resolution.

All that said, this is THE time of year for making resolutions and for some people, it’s the only time of year they are willing to consider doing something differently. So this seems like the perfect opportunity to spend some time talking about what positive action looks like… well… in action!

First, let’s talk positive. On any given day, there are lots of actions that you can take to achieve any number of results. Not all of those actions are positive.

Here are two definitions of positive that I love:

  • Constructive, optimistic, or confident
  • With no possibility of doubt; clear and definite

Here’s an example of how to work positive into your action. Last week, my car broke down unexpectedly as I was driving my two kids to an appointment. I’m grateful I was able to maneuver safely to the shoulder of the road, getting out of the way of the rush hour traffic. It was frustrating and inconvenient to be stuck. Both the tow truck and my improvised ride home (my wonderful spouse!) were more than 30 minutes away. It would have been easy to fall into a whole bunch of not-so-positive actions (complaining, getting out of the car to kick the tires like they do on tv, etc.). In the moment, I had a choice: I had to ask myself what positive action I could take instead.

I should point out that I am not mechanically inclined, so opening up the hood (however you do that!) and working on the car wasn’t a positive action available to me. Given the volume of traffic whizzing by us, walking elsewhere was also not viable. 

I decided that the three of us would use this quiet time in the car to build the ultimate Christmas music playlist. We had a blast taking turns picking favorite holiday tunes and singing along as we added each one to the ultimate playlist. It was a fun way to spend close to an hour and we may have a new holiday tradition now! 

Singing didn’t get us out of our trouble any faster (contrary to what musical theater would have you believe!), but it did make our time spent a lot more enjoyable. It’s only one example of the myriad ways you can incorporate positivity into whatever action you’re doing every day.

By contrast, the following evening after a series of stressful events, I made a less positive choice in a conversation with that same wonderful spouse who had willingly agreed to come pick me up less than 24 hours before. I had to reset (after I apologized!) and move forward. The point is, it’s a journey, and our default reaction may not always be the most positive action.

#PositiveAction Find one action today that could benefit from positivity and make the intentional choice to engage in positive action. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask yourself the question: How can I make this activity more fun? Or How can I use this to bring me one step closer to a dream I have?

Now that we’ve got positive covered, we’ll prepare for the new year by spending the next six weeks taking a deep dive into the elements of ACTION.

 

Image by jwvein from Pixabay

One of the classic holiday tales (and song and TV special) is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. In the extremely unlikely case that you’re unfamiliar with it, Rudolph is a reindeer that is different than all the other reindeer. He has a bright red nose that lights up. Unfortunately for Rudolph, no one appreciates his distinctive strength (the thing he’s good at that no one else can do) and instead, he’s teased and excluded.

Think back to when you were a child. Did you have something that made you weird, like Rudolph? I definitely did! The key is to try to harness that weirdness as a strength. I was a “bookworm” and read all the time. I mean All. The. Time. It was definitely a source for being teased and excluded. On the other hand, it also gave me a distinct advantage when it came to schoolwork – I loved to read and do the assignments!

Being a bookworm also come in handy throughout my adult life. I have a wider breadth of knowledge on topics from all those books. I can make connections among seemingly unrelated topics because of that background. I love diving into research and reading to help me solve a problem. I can use all the books I’ve read to carry on meaningful conversations with people who have all sorts of different interests and hobbies. Basically, that thing that I got teased about as a kid is a huge asset to me. Just like Rudolph. 

What’s interesting about Rudolph’s story is that it took the keen eye of his boss (aka Santa), coupled with a new challenge they’d never had to solve for (some unusual weather conditions!) in order to recognize and value Rudolph’s distinctive strength. And once the boss shared how much he appreciated that strength, Rudolph was finally able to see it as a strength too. Then all the reindeer loved him and shouted with glee and whatnot!

Sometimes people recognize their own distinctive strengths. More often though, we end up feeling like Rudolph on the Island of Misfit Toys and we need some help (and maybe an annoyingly catchy song!) to figure it out. 

#PositiveAction Think back to a time when you were like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and find a way to leverage it as a distinctive strength! 

Inspiration for this post came from one of the most amazing, thoughtful, uniquely talented people I know. Thank you!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

One of my favorite holiday movies, Elf, stars Will Farrell as Buddy the Elf. Buddy is adopted as a baby and raised by an elf at the North Pole. Through a series of events focused on identifying people’s strengths (which as a career coach, I love!), he is shocked to discover that he’s actually a human, rather than an elf, and sets out to find his birth father in New York City.

There are lots of delightful scenes and quotable lines in this movie, but the one I want to talk about today happens when Buddy is at work for the first time with his birth father. The office phone rings and Buddy dives over his father to answer it by saying, “Buddy the Elf. What’s your favorite color?” The business person on the other end of the phone line immediately hangs up, maybe because it seems like such a ridiculous question.

Watching the movie this year, it occurred to me that “What’s your favorite color?” isn’t a silly, unimportant question. It’s actually a critical way to get to know someone on a deeper level and it’s a question that my children ask almost everyone they meet. 

“What’s your favorite color?” is way to understand something that is important to another person. My kids use it to inform the art that they make when they create a drawing or a card for someone else. They use it when they are selecting a gift for a friend or family member. The favorite color becomes a way for them to show they care about something that is important to someone else.

When’s the last time you asked a meaningful question to someone at work? Are you using that information to show them that you care about whatever it is that’s important to them? One of the 12 questions in the Gallup survey used to assess global employee engagement is “Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?” If you’re not confident that your co-workers would respond yes, maybe you need to find out what their favorite color is!

In case you’re not sure where to start, here’s 25 questions to get the ball rolling. Not enough? Here’s 70 more questions! And you are welcome to read what engaged employees do differently and how you can help (spoiler alert, it’s asking good questions!).

#PositiveAction Ask a co-worker a meaningful question to get to know them better, listen to the answer, and then find a way to demonstrate you heard them. This type of small, kind gesture can be transformational in the workplace!

 

Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

If only our dreams introduced themselves to us so neatly!

For a long time, I had a dream to “help the environment someday”. A very nebulous, though perhaps noble, goal. Unfortunately, there were always things that seemed to get in the way. I recognize them now as mostly excuses and fears, but at the time, they seemed like legitimate concerns.

I’m too busy. It’s very inconvenient. My kids are small and need all my attention right now. The list goes on (and on and on!). 

So I did what most of us do when confronted with all the reasons not to pursue my dream. I waited. I waited for the perfect timing (it never came!). I waited to be less busy (I never was!). I waited for the right conditions (you guessed it, never happened!). I waited for a sign (still waiting!). And a decade went by. 

You might be wondering to yourself how a person like me, known to many as a great accountability partner, could let this happen. Where was the accountability on my own dream? So glad you asked!

The first obstacle for me was that I didn’t acknowledge the fact that this was a dream. I had been treating it as a nice-to-have-someday sort of wish, rather than a dream I wanted to work to fulfill. We’ve talked before about the importance of dreaming big. I had failed to do that in this regard.

Another way I let myself off the hook was through inaction. I was paralyzed by trying to decide the best way to help the environment someday. Every time I would think about it, I’d feel stuck or overwhelmed, so I’d stop. I’ve shared before that hope isn’t a plan and sometimes the best plan is to stop planning and start taking action!

Interestingly, we all end up in this scenario at some point over the course of our careers. Sometimes, it’s the role we’re afraid to say out loud that we’d really love to have. It can be the new technology you’d like to take a class to learn more about, but are afraid of being the oldest (or youngest!) person there. Maybe you’d like to do a full career pivot, but don’t have the slightest idea what you’d pivot to. 

The writer Sarah Ban Breathnach reminds us, “It’s never too late to reclaim your individual gifts, resuscitate a dream, create an authentic life.” That’s some great encouragement! Especially for those of us with dreams that have been on the backburner for a decade or more!!

Where to start? How about with the same two principles that helped me finally move forward. Acknowledge your dream and put some clarity around it. Then, try doing one small thing to get some momentum. 

For me, it started with reading a few books and watching some documentaries. Then I decided to apply for a leadership training. After the panic wore off from getting accepted to the training, I found ways to make the training as meaningful as possible, including building connections with people. That led to forming a group in the Milwaukee area to support each other and continue to take action. 

I couldn’t plan out all these steps in advance because I didn’t know where each action would lead me. That’s the interesting thing about action. It often will surprise you with where you end up because you’re learning and adjusting as you go.

#PositiveAction Do you have something that you’ve been putting off for someday? It’s time to acknowledge that dream and turn it into action, one small step at a time!

 

Image from Pixabay