By Laura Cox Kaplan, Principal-in-Charge of U.S. Government, Regulatory Affairs & Public Policy at PwC, LLP
I love the start of a New Year and the chance to hit “reset” and recalibrate what I hope to achieve in the next year. It’s also the perfect time to revisit and potentially reevaluate what’s most important and commit that to writing.
Making New Year’s resolutions isn’t unique, but I thought I would share a few practices that I find useful as we embark on this important tradition of committing – once again – to how we can be our best (or better) selves.
Personal “Year In Review”
My personal “year end/new year” tradition has two parts – a “Year in Review” and a “Personal Plan of Action.” I start by assessing what I am most proud of personally and professionally from the past year. This is a great practice for helping you tell your best story about your accomplishments. It forces you to really focus on where you’ve had an impact, and it helps you build and evolve your personal “elevator pitch” (something that takes work for most of us). I also refer back to written reflections I have made throughout the year, and include areas where I want to improve, or where I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped. I try to be very constructive (and as objective as one can be about their own performance), and I focus on making sure the language I use is more positive than negative, or at least framed toward improvement rather than just self-criticism. I tend to be particularly hard on myself and have to really work at making sure that the way I talk to myself sets me up for improvement, rather than leaving me demoralized. (It’s a topic that makes my list each and every year!)
I also use the “Year in Review” to capture thoughts about experiences, people I’ve met, books and movies that left me inspired and energized. This year, I’ve been particularly inspired by the incredible women leaders I’ve been privileged to get to know and work closely with. These are women who serve in Congress, who are leading terrific NGOs and organizations, are committed to making the world a better place, and are setting a tremendous example for the rest of us. I’ve also been particularly energized meeting with and speaking to young women leaders from groups like Running Start, as well as through the PwC Public Policy Intern Leadership Program that I created a few years ago. And, a week in Berlin meeting with women leaders from Germany and the US about the impact the private sector can have in shaping the debate around the important benefits of diversity in the workforce and in government was also tremendously enlightening and rewarding. These experiences serve as great reminders for making sure I’m fueling all the parts that lead to a full life experience and that are helping me continue to evolve and to develop new ways of looking at life’s challenges, while also continuing to bring value in my role at PwC.
“Plan of Action”
Next, I pull specific, tangible objectives that will form my “plan of action” or goals for the New Year. And, I put my goals into a few categories that help me keep my priorities in check. But first, I start with a quick restatement of what is most important to me to help me level set what will follow.
My categories include things like:
- Legacy/Having an Impact/Making the World Better – lofty to be sure, but the higher I stretch the more I’m likely to challenge myself and grow. I focus on specific investments I plan to make to have an impact on others and in areas where I have skills and perspectives that I think are worth sharing.
- Mind and Spirit – specific experiences, practices and/or disciplines I will pursue that help strengthen my mind and fuel my spirit. These for me include things like remembering to reflect and capturing on a daily basis things for which I am grateful, as well as my fitness objectives. I actually tend to be more successful with fitness objectives when I link them to a goal of mental clarity, rather than to a number on the scale.
- Educational/Creative – specific pursuits to help fuel and improve problem solving, and that help me continue to learn, evolve and grow intellectually. Last year, this included taking an online class on coding (in part to keep up with my kids!)
- Family/Personal Relationships – goals for my family as a group, areas where I can be a better spouse, mom and role model at home.
I have a few other buckets that relate to other priorities. The important thing is that the categories help me prioritize what is often a fairly long list of things I hope to tackle and areas where I hope to make personal improvements, have an impact, and make a difference.
Tools for Overcoming Setbacks
Finally, in spite of my best intentions and those prioritized categories — all wrapped nicely in renewed hope and optimism — come inevitable setbacks. So, to stay — or get back on — track I recommend:
- Keep your language and self talk positive – especially when you think you are failing with your goal.
- Don’t dwell or ruminate when you get off track. Instead reflect regularly by writing about how you are doing and what is standing in your way, and write down new ways to tackle your goal and reframe the negatives into positives.
- Remember to carve out time regularly to fuel your curiosity and spirit (while this is already one of my goal categories, I actually think it’s probably even more important as fuel to keep you going and inspired especially when you experience setbacks.
- Take it one step at a time. Breaking big things into smaller pieces or smaller checklists can make the task ahead not seem as enormous.
- Constantly remind yourself that the objective here is improvement. Even small milestones help move you in the right direction.
- And, finally, celebrate every victory – especially the small ones, as they are ones that will likely keep you going day-after-day!
As we jump into 2016, I wish you the best in all that you pursue. May you improve not only yourself, but have a positive impact on all of those around you, and may your 2016 year end be even better than it started as you celebrate all your victories — large and small. #