Three G’s for a GREAT Year
I love January. Usually, I’ve had a break from the daily routine, time with friends and family, and more sweets and treats than I can handle by the time December ends (and I don’t even observe Christmas!). I feel refreshed, focused, and ready for another GREAT year.
Of course, not all my years have been great ones. Everyone faces the ups and downs of life. Sometimes the “downs” get me downright depressed. But those dark days can be great teachers. Here are some things I have learned about how to live a life of abundance and purpose and have a GREAT year no matter what difficulties arise:
Once, heading into the month of November a few years ago, I could see some major drama brewing on the horizon in my personal life. Knowing I was about to be shaken to my core (and the drama ended up being about ten times more painful than I anticipated), I decided to participate in the daily “thankful” posts many people do on Facebook at that time of year. Though it was still a rocky month, reminding myself of good things helped keep me [moderately] sane. I could not and would not have made it through the month otherwise.
In fact, it helped so much, that I have continued with my daily gratitude practice ever since. I keep a small monthly calendar and every day write down one thing I’m thankful for. Sometimes, my gratitude is for little things, like socks and slotted spoons and the chickadee outside my window. Sometimes, it’s for more substantial things, like a warm dry house during a winter storm or narrowly averting a car crash. Often, my gratitude is for people, especially my husband and daughters.
Taking a moment or two every day to focus on the positive changes your whole perspective on life. Over time, you learn to seek the glimmer of hope no matter what the situation. As David Steindl-Rast says in his TED talk on gratitude, we cannot be thankful FOR everything (such as war or disease), but we can be grateful IN every moment—and it’s those people who face terrible obstacles with grace that we hold in highest esteem. Be one of those people this year! By being grateful and gracious, you communicate that you are bigger than the setbacks you may face. Practice gratitude daily and it will change your mood, your outlook, and your relationships, both business and personal.
Last week, I did some shopping at the Outlet Mall in Lincoln City. As the clerk rang up my new tops (which are fabulous, by the way), she asked, “Would you like to donate some money for our charity drive? We’re ten dollars away from our goal.” When I said I’d be happy to donate $10, her face broke out in a big, genuine smile and the clerk next to her cheered! That made my day! It feels great to give something that is needed and appreciated. Not only does giving make you feel good, it actually is good for you: it can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels and blood pressure!
Sometimes it requires courage, or at least a change in mindset, to practice generosity. As Stephen Covey points out in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, many people operate from what he dubs the Scarcity Mentality, believing there’s only so much to go around: If you have, then that means I lack. Those with the Abundance Mentality, however, believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that we increase our joy and capacity to create by sharing, that your success can increase my success. We must banish fear and greed to practice generosity. That’s why being generous communicates confidence.
Practicing generosity means more than just giving money away. That certainly can be a part of it, but true generosity means living a life that benefits others. You can be generous by making someone smile or laugh, by giving a hug or a pat on the back, or by donating your time and energy. Brené Brown points out in her speech, “The Anatomy of Trust,” that one of the greatest ways we can be generous is to give others the benefit of a doubt. When someone acts poorly, assume the best instead of the worst until proven wrong. We can be generous by giving grace and not taking things so personally.
Another thing to practice giving is the opportunity for others to give to you. Sometimes it’s REALLY hard to accept help when you need it. But learning to receive graciously can provide you with yet another gift to give others—the pleasure and joy and health benefits that come from being givers! Generosity requires both a giver and a receiver. If you refuse to ever be in the “receiver” position, you short-circuit the cycle and limit yourself.
Learn. Practice. Improve. Reach. What do you want more of in your life? What do you need to do to get it? Or better yet, what kind of person do you need to be to get it? Set goals and work to achieve them. Aim high!
Of course, you’ve heard ALL this already. Especially at this time of year, we hear a lot about setting goals, resolutions, making it happen, etc. So I will not harp on this point, but I will say this: for anything to grow, it requires nourishment. To grow, your body needs vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, protein, and water. Your plants need soil, air, water and sunlight. Your bank account needs deposits that exceed withdrawals. Etc.
For your LIFE to grow—your experience, your knowledge, your relationships, your skills, your mental health, or whatever it is you’re hoping to increase this year—you must nourish yourself. Your life will not get better unless you are putting things IN to your life that help you grow. So spend some time thinking about what nutrients, figuratively speaking, you need to grow the life you want to live.
Gratitude, generosity, and growth. Find ways to turn these into habits, and you’ll not only have a great year, you’ll have a great life.