On your mark, get set, STOP! Wait, What?!?!?!

Did you make any resolutions this year?

Have you abandoned them yet? An article in Forbes by Kumar Mehta reports, “Studies show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. In my observations, the number of failed resolutions is even higher, and most of them fail well before we enter the shortest month of the year.”

That’s been my experience, too. But despite the failure rate, about 40% of us still make at least one resolution each time the ball drops. And what are those resolutions? The Top Ten always include these favorites:

  • Lose weight, get in shape
  • Save more, spend less
  • Eat healthier
  • Get organized
  • Learn a new skill

And so on. I’m guessing many of us have taken a shot at most if not all of the above.

But this year, I’d like to invite us to focus on the last one — learning a new skill, something that can serve us well throughout the new year. Instead of trotting out (and failing at) the same-old-same-old, let’s consider three behavioral shifts that can help us and those around us.

Focus on others.

We’ve all read corporate documents that express core values like customer commitment, making a difference, high integrity, and transcendent purpose.

To some degree or another, the many business owners and nonprofit leaders genuinely want their organizations to enrich the lives of their employees and customers. Much time is spent crafting the exact language that will inspire staff and stakeholders to put values like ethical behavior and accountability into practice internally and externally.

That’s all well and good, but I’m wondering if all this verbiage isn’t just overcomplicating a very basic (and age-old) idea…The Golden Rule

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” 

This “rule” is centuries old, usually credited to Jesus of Nazareth. However, it is also found in Jewish rabbinical writings and even in Hinduism and Buddhism. But does it still make sense for today? A modern version of the same passage clarifies how we can apply it to our daily lives as leaders: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.” 

Did you catch that? Grab the initiative. Let’s make that a goal for 2022. Let’s put others ahead of ourselves and be proactive about it. Instead of looking out for Number One, let’s put the needs of others at least on a par with our own. Higher if possible. Let’s use the Golden Rule as a grid for making our decisions this year.

American poet Edward Markim put it this way, “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.”

Focus on confidence.

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin sung the immortal words, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Some might say that his message was a “pie-in-the-sky”, lazy approach to life. On the contrary. He further encouraged us by saying, “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double…”.  The inference is that it’s OK to think ahead and plan ahead, but don’t worry ahead.

Still, easier said than done, right? Yet we all can benefit from this wisdom. After all, worry doesn’t just make us miserable, it can make us sick. High levels of anxiety trigger stress hormones that cause our heart to beat harder and faster. Being prone to worry can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels, hardening of the arteries, and even higher cholesterol.

All for a mental activity that’s pretty much useless.

Another quote from Jesus of Nazareth says, “You can’t add a single hour to your life or an inch to your height by worrying.”  If we can’t even make small, incremental changes happen by worrying, why fret about all the drama and disappointments in of our workplace and daily lives?

If you’re tired and worn out, consider this from Dale Carnegie, “Our fatigue is often caused not by work but by worry, frustration, and resentment.”

I know we’ve all heard this before. But how many of us have mastered it? Let’s resolve to live one day at a time. Let’s be fully in the moment and don’t “borrow trouble” from a future scenario that may or may not even happen. Let’s make a decision today not to worry about tomorrow.

Focus on resting.

This is my main point, but I listed it last because you can’t really rest if you’re consumed with promoting yourself or worrying about the future.

During the month of January, most minds in the business world focus on what needs to be done in the upcoming year. It’s a longstanding tradition. Objectives. Plans. Quarterly goals. Strategies developed in January are the typical starting point for the rest of the year.

But what if this year, we started differently? What if instead of starting with our “to-do” list, we started with our “to-be” list? What if instead of starting from a place of busyness, we started from a place of rest?

What might it look like if we began our next 12-month journey around the sun by establishing patterns and rhythms of rest? As a coach, I’ve seen that doing this may help us become more productive, fulfilled and fruitful. It can help us avoid burnout, stress, and feeling overtaxed.

Even before the pandemic, many Americans were stressed out. Pushing ourselves every waking minute had become standard operating procedure. As a result, unrelieved stress was negatively impacting our physical and mental health more and more each year. Why? Because rest is vital for our brain function, energy level and immune system. Without taking time out for rest, our concentration, memory, and overall metabolism suffers.

Many leaders and influencers are so busy we don’t take the time to truly rest. Many of us (especially high-achievers) are caught up in the daily grind of work and family responsibilities. Even our weekends are jammed and overbooked. Too often, we only allow ourselves to truly rest is when we’re on vacation or sick in bed. No wonder insomnia is at an all-time high. If we’re going to thrive in the new year, it’s absolutely essential that we learn to prioritize adequate, restorative rest.

What is Proper Rest?
Rest is any behavior or pastime aimed at restoring physical or mental welfare. It can be active, like playing golf or going for a walk outside. It can be passive, like “taking five” to read a book or meditate. Rest can be a week of hiking through the woods or ten minutes of deep breathing in the lunchroom. Rest can be doing a marathon or doing a crossword puzzle. It’s different for each of us. The common denominator is that true rest “recharges our batteries” and rejuvenates our mental and emotional state.

Yes, I can hear you… you well-intentioned folks that see skipping relaxation or skimping on sleep as a badge of honor. Frankly, it’s not. You many see yourself as the one sacrificing to get ahead. But truthfully, a lack of restorative rest will inevitably break down every system — from our cognitive function to our ability to fight off infections. It even wears down family and relational systems. All of which spell poor health and diminished quality of life.

That’s why I’m inviting you to join me in starting this year with what I’m calling “The Rest Challenge.” Together, we’ll identify, schedule, and hold to the practices and patterns that are proven to bring real rest. To help us succeed, I’m providing a few key resources I’ve found helpful.

There’s no such thing as an “instant fix,” but the materials I’m linking you to below are designed to implement the kind of real rest that can help any one of us reset, recover and recharge

  • A blog post entitled, “What is Rest?” It’s written by yours truly, and it’s a guide to establishing predictable patterns of rest. Read it here.
  • A .pdf document that explains the “Rest-Work” cycle. Download it here.
  • A “Rest-Work Rhythm Worksheet.” Download it here. I recommend you work through this chart as follows:
    • When looking at the year, consider daily, weekly, quarterly and annual times of rest and build them into your schedule.
    • Identify the practices that bring you rejuvenating rest. (Remember, rest is not “crashing” or “vegging out.” Proper rest is restorative. We can tell when we’ve rested properly because afterwards, we feel “ready to go” and prepared for the work or projects ahead.)
    • Plot your schedule, formally incorporating the times and practices you’ve identified.
    • Identify the next steps necessary to make engaging in this practice a practical, ongoing reality.
    • Share this plan with someone who’ll keep you accountable.

You and I will face challenges in 2022.

Pressure. Failures. Setbacks. They’ll come in different ways for each of us. We may face disappointments, misunderstandings, and missed opportunities. People may let us down. Circumstances may delay us. Even the successes we enjoy may carry risk. But if we focus on helping others, worrying less, and resting more, we’ll have a banner year.

The equation is simple: Each time we choose the Golden Rule, our character and reputation are enhanced. Each time we choose boldness and confidence over worry, our life is improved. Each time we choose rest instead of exhaustion, our wellbeing is enhanced.

May this year be your best ever. Make good choices. Remember to rest. And as always, if I can be of help, feel free to contact me.