A Kinder Take on Work-Focused New Year’s Resolutions


Photo by Inga Gezalian on Unsplash

We all engage in goal setting. Yet goals can either help & hurt us, depending on their inherent ability to energize. New Year’s resolutions are cut from a similar cloth. They are essentially goals wrapped in a loaded, time-stamped, end-of-the-year package. As a coach, I’ve harped on clients to refine or even lose goals that no longer serve them. Resolutions can fall prey to this state — and are often of the lofty, vague variety — failing to direct us in a meaningful way.

I’m wondering if we can craft improved work-focused New Year’s resolutions that might be better for us?

One strategy, is to apply what we already know about Positive Psychology to resolutions. With its roots in humanistic psychology —  positive psychology theorizes that we have the power to re-frame our life experiences to help us become more positive and productive.

Consider the following passage:

“Positive psychology is…a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology,” – Christopher Peterson

We could re-frame resolutions with a nod toward what is right — and not wrong with our work lives. When we look toward the New Year, we might recognize what has worked well and what we have actually accomplished during the previous year. (Sustaining energy requires that we actively acknowledge the good.) Taking the time to remind ourselves of what we already have accomplished, can provide the fuel that we need to build energy and resilience.

So — ask yourself: What brought you a sense of accomplishment during 2019? A sense of meaning? Joy?

First, carefully consider what you have already accomplished during 2019. Make a list of  steps in the right direction. Remember, that no step is too small to acknowledge. Celebrate the successes and take something from failures or disappointments. Secondly, craft a few behaviorally-defined resolutions for 2020, which build upon your progress. (Be ever-mindful of how your “inner script” can influence emotions and behavior.) Try to avoid broad, overwhelming resolutions such as “Find a better job.” Be specific, yet supportive of your on-going journey. Integrate what you have learned from the highs and lows of 2019. Think of yourself actively completing these resolutions. What are you actually doing?

Here’s how this might look regarding one of my 2020 work life resolutions: To identify/develop opportunities for collaboration. Please note: I failed to find a viable collaboration opportunity during 2019 (a personal disappointment). There were many stumbling blocks, yet there has been progress.

Progress in 2019:

  • Continued to define my concept’s message and mission.
  • Engaged in spirited conversations (virtually and IRL) regarding core stability at work
  • Wrote & published the concept’s “origin story” and its guiding principles.
  • Began identifying HR/HR Tech micro-influencers, whose work might align with my own.
  • Completed one promising conversation with a founder.

What’s Next in 2020:

  • Hone list of possible HR/HR Tech contacts.
  • Reach out on social media, where possible.
  • Write an email a week regarding potential collaborations.
  • Schedule one conversation per week regarding possible collabs.
  • Continue to define research parameters: subjects, scope, funding.

Let me know if this process brings you any “resolution” clarity.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her training series The Core — helps people & organizations build a stronger work life foundation. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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Marla Gottschalk


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