08 January 2015

Pursuing the promise of a new year

I woke up on New Year’s Day morning with a sense of renewal and rejuvenation, just as it is supposed to be at the dawn of a new year. It was a glorious day in the high desert of southwest Idaho, frosty, nippy, and fantastically sunny!

Winter birds gathered around the feeders, and multiple coveys of quail feasted merrily on wild birdseed distributed along the back fence as both human and furry friends warmed themselves near the living room’s toasty fireplace. As I gazed out the window, enjoying a freshly brewed cup of Italian roast coffee and sharing quiet moments with my husband, my mind wandered to the promise of a new year.

For many, New Year’s is a time of letting go of the past and looking toward the future and some of us make New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes, we are successful in keeping resolutions throughout the year, and other times, we maintain them for only a week or so. Some people don’t make resolutions at all. Commonly made commitments include losing weight, saving money, reducing stress, organizing closets, and getting more sleep.

Focused and simply stated
While these are all worthy goals, the resolutions I have been most successful in maintaining are those that are well aligned with my personal, professional vision of the future. For example, each year, I make one personal and one
professional (or work-related) resolution. I like to keep them focused and simply stated so that each reads like a mantra. That way, I am more likely to be reminded of my resolutions and more motivated to achieve them as the days, weeks, and months pass.

I often say, if your resolution is pithy enough to fit on a coffee cup or T-shirt, you’re more likely to remember it and remain inspired. For example, my personal resolution for 2015 is: Be grateful everyday. This means I need—and want—to pay attention to the blessings in my life and live as much as possible in a state of gratitude, knowing that, if I do this, I will likely accomplish other important goals, such as being present, living a healthy life, valuing relationships, and reducing my overall stress level.

For my professional resolution, I aspire to: Make a meaningful difference. To make a difference to my team, organization, and the people we serve, I must be thoughtful and mindful, so that my contributions add value and make a positive impact. As with my personal resolution, achieving this goal helps me achieve other goals. My work with faculty members, students, and nurses will thrive, and my writing and presenting will create positive momentum and change.

Passion and purpose
What are your New Year’s resolutions? If you are focusing on one or two goals in 2015, be sure they stem from a sense of passion and purpose and fit with your personal, professional vision of your future. Set goals based on something you love, not on something you dread. For example, if you love to write, make a commitment to submit at least one paper for publication, or write an editorial for your local newspaper. 

If your goal is somewhat lofty, break it down into achievable measures, and celebrate each accomplishment along the way. Creating resolutions based on issues that really matter to you will likely result in accomplishments that positively influence your workplace, your community, and your life. Certainly, there will be setbacks and days when we fall short of our goals. We must be prepared to put those days in the rearview mirror, look forward to the future, and strive to make the next day even better.

Celebrate success
So, whether it’s starting a new workout regime, nutrition plan, or organizing your office, do not expect complete and immediate results. Set achievable short-term goals that can be accomplished along the way, and celebrate them with gusto! Perhaps you can make a small sign to hang next to your work area, or use your smartphone to send yourself daily reminders or inspirational quotes that help you achieve your goals. However, the way you choose to remind and motivate yourself to accomplish your goals is less important than celebrating short-term wins and keeping the momentum going.

Real change takes time and commitment to the long term. If you struggle with self-doubt, keep a journal of small and large accomplishments, and periodically reflect on them to keep you motivated and moving forward. Consider sharing your resolutions with others. This makes them more real, more likely to be accomplished. Garnering support from family, friends, and colleagues can help you reach your goals, but be aware of individuals who may sabotage your efforts and keep you from making progress.

My genuine and sincere hope for all of you is to have a fulfilling and memorable 2015! Stretch yourself to experience the joy that awaits, and know that a few speed bumps may lie in your path, but, as Albert Einstein stated, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Happy New Year!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.