12 Positive Practices for a Great Year

A client’s writing inspired this post.
When I reach the end of a coaching relationship, I invite the client to reflect on what s/he is taking away from the experience, and what commitments s/he will make going forward to ensure their personal growth continues. Recently a client who is ending a year of coaching sent me a list of practices she will carry forward.
As I scanned the list I found myself in awe of the progress this client had made in a short time. As a writer, I also noticed that the list made a great outline for an article! So the client created the list, I filled in the detail.
The following twelve new habits have worked for my client, and I believe they can help you create a more powerful and positive space next year.

Twelve Positive Practices for a Great Year

just breathe

  1. Breathing Practice. Breath is the primary tool that can shift you to calm, help you center, and settle down your brain when your thoughts are going in a million directions. A breathing practice is at once simple and difficult: merely stop, shift your attention to your next breath, and breathe in and out on purpose. This practice trains your system to move back to center and calm, and is one of the most powerful tools of an emotionally intelligent person. Just Breathe.
  2. Look at the Positive. In every situation there is opportunity to improve AND there is something that went right – but we are trained by our culture and our education systems to look first at the mistakes, the bleeding, the brokenness. Taking a more appreciative approach to life and work is not about ignoring the negative; rather, it’s about LOOKING at the positive, noticing it, giving some space and attention, and noticing there is balance in the world.
  3. Collect Data, Make Observations, Take Notes. This client realized that an education in the world of science has actually given her a powerful tool for her assessment of self and others. It’s not the events around us that make us happy or sad or angry – it’s our STORY about what happened. When you nurture the skill of looking at data as data (vs. data as drama), you build more capacity for objectivity in your life and work.
  4. Ask for Feedback. Most of us tend to be far harder on ourselves than others. Purposely inviting feedback from others – boss, peers, family, friends, even direct reports – gives us more opportunity to see ourselves through the lens of our accomplishments. To be clear – asking for feedback ALSO opens you up to risk that you’ll hear something negative. But if you don’t ask, many times you’ll never get that feedback, and how can you change/correct something about which you are clueless? Once you have the feedback, you have the power to choose what you do with it.
  5. Work on Trust. Trust is both an emotion and a decision. Notice what happens when you choose, deliberately, to trust others rather than living in suspicion. Oddly enough, being more trusting can cause others to assess you as more trustworthy.
  6. Body gestures: eye contact, listening intent, stance, regular heartbeat. My client worked often with body language, sometimes needing to work against cultural training or what is considered “normal” in the workplace environment. What she learned was that when you make better eye contact, conversations progress more quickly and positively. Paying attention to her grounding and posture helped her feel more confident, which created better outcomes and relationships. Noticing when her heart was racing helped her realize how often her own fear or anger got in her way (see Breathing Practice, #1, for how to get calm using breath).
  7. Imagine the Expected Outcome. If you walk into every conversation expecting to be beaten up, pushed back, or aggravated in some way, guess what?! Yep, you’ll notice all the little slights, turn every clipped phrase into a personal attack, and your conversations will never go well. BUT if you take time to visualize a more positive outcome and imagine that the other people are striving for the same goals as you, what happens? YOU show up differently, you process different signals and in more positive ways, and the outcomes improve… simply because you expected more.
  8. Give Myself Permission to Celebrate. In a culture of relentless demand and constant change, there’s nobody who makes it their job to give you a hug and say, “great job!” So when you succeed, you need to take a moment to Take Your Own Oxygen.
  9. Strive for Balance Between being a Leader and a Manager. I’ve written extensively in this newsletter and in my work of the importance of nurturing BOTH the skills of a manager (command, control, process, problem-fixing, deadlines, quality, efficiency) and those of a leader (conversation, relationship-building, questioning the process, declaring vision, effectiveness). Whether you are in a titled role or not, both of these skills sets, in balance, are necessary for a good life – both personal and professional.
  10. Remind myself “I want to learn; I want to engage; I want to help.” Sometimes your efforts to do your best or help others will fall short. You dramatically improve your probability of success, however, when you take a moment in your planning to set a positive intention for every meeting or interaction. If you seek to learn, grow, engage, help, etc., you are more likely to do or say the right thing in that next conversation.
  11. Don’t Take It Personally. How much time do you spend thinking about other people versus your own agenda, your own thoughts, your own “stuff?” Exactly. Others are just as focused on their own agendas. So when people get bent out of shape, remember that is saying far more about their maturity, focus, angst, etc., than about yours. Don’t take on other people’s moods. Take a deep breath instead (see #1 again!)
  12. Set Aside Personal Time to Practice. It has taken your entire life to become the person you are today – the good and the bad of it. If you want to change how you show up in the world, it won’t happen in a single workshop or conversation. Give your personal development priority status. Allocate time every day to focus on a new habit, a new thought, a new pattern of behavior. When you do something deliberately every day, every day, every day (even if just for a couple minutes) you create new pathways in your brain. Practice may not make perfect, but it does create progress!

Do This For Yourself:

Make time to reflect on the past year and consider what you want to do and be differently in the next year. Maybe adopt one of the above practices each month during the next year. Heck, even if you try JUST ONE all year you’ll see a difference!
Be Happy, and above all, notice you have the power to change your world next year – starting with YOU.

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