2012 marked one of the best years of my life, and it will be hard to top, undoubtedly. To begin this post, I will require a little tooting of my own horn, so apologies in advance. Over the course of this year, I qualified my first (and hopefully not last student) for the Olympics, took a gold medal in the North American Cup (team event) and received a promotion at work, to name a few highlights. My New Year’s resolution list entering 2012 was blank, because my goals and desires were set long before the turn of the year. Entering 2013, the “list” will remain blank. As we enter the holiday, this is the period we most often begin pondering our new year’s resolutions. I’m here to encourage you not to.
New Year’s resolutions are created because we have a desire to change behavior—we vow to lose weight, to commit more acts of kindness, to rekindle old relationships, etc. Marking January 1st as a moment to revolutionary change one’s modus operandi is a fantasy, and in doing so, you are breaking a promise to yourself before you even begin attempting to change your behavior.
Achieving success in life is not done through promises to yourself, but by setting expectations with your coaches/bosses/mentors. In sharing your goals with someone you consider your superior; the desire to exceed your goals becomes further motivated by your extrinsic will not to disappoint those you look up to. I am fortunate to have a great coach I have learned from and looked up to since I was eight years old, a boss who has looked out for me and has proactively guided me throughout my career, and a group of friends who celebrate my successes and remain supportive in my failures—these are the reasons why I find the idea of new year’s resolutions to be trivial at best.
I offer these points of advice for bettering yourself in 2013 (and beyond)—these will go a lot farther than the New Year’s resolutions you make every year and break within two weeks.
Find mentors. You can never have too many.
Find people to mentor. You’re not the only one who needs guidance. As much as I enjoy being mentored, I enjoy the act of mentoring even more. I have a lot of people I look up to, and I make it a goal in life to be looked up to by others. I was recently named the best onboarding advisor by my firm (accompanied with a bonus). Thus, the altruistic act of mentoring produced a monetary reward #Winning.
In fencing, I have always enjoyed coaching my younger teammates, either in form of motivating them or in the act of giving them a lesson. Nothing pleases me more than getting my ass kicked by someone I’ve taught or mentored.
Lesson learned: a rising tide lifts all ships, especially the one you’re sailing.
Set goals and expectations regularly with your mentors. Align to what they need, and seek feedback proactively. I like to sit down with my boss once a month to figure out what I can be doing to build my skillset and improve upon. The act of showing you give a shit goes a long way in the world of business.
In fencing, I’m having constant dialogue with my coach and asking questions throughout lessons to make sure I’m mastering particular actions. When we both feel I’ve reached the next level, we agree to increase the complexity of lessons.
Go out of your way to be nice to your colleagues and teammates. You never know what good karma brings. A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my office and heard a colleague in the adjacent cubicle I had never met coughing up a lung while on a conference call. I walked over to the kitchen and brought her some cough drops and water to make her call more amenable. After the call, she thanked me, and we got to chatting. It turned out she worked in a functional area of our firm I had interest in joining, and we exchanged contact information. Kindness with colleagues doesn’t do anything but good, and it will only bolster your reputation and personal brand. No one likes an office asshole.
Exercise discipline and self-restraint every day. You don’t need January 1st to remind you that eating pizza and McDonalds every day is not going to get you in healthy shape. Find (more) time to exercise, go to the gym, and eat right. You’ll feel better about life. Oh, and believe me, your personal brand is very much tied to your appearance. So, hands off the Taco Bell and sweets, folks.
If you want meaningful goals that go a long way for yourself, your mentors, and your mentees, I suggest heeding my advice year-round. Goals are not meant to be achieved alone, and behavior isn’t changed on the turn of a dime. Take your mentors and those who look up to you along for every step of the way. To all who didn’t have the 2012 they wanted, I wish you the best of luck in 2013. For those who had a great year in 2012, remember: you didn’t build that!