The Most Important (Countercultural) Steps for Making 2021 a Success
Individuals who do well in life commonly utilize four key skills to help their lives move forward in a healthy direction. That is, people who achieve healthy personal goals tend to incorporate the same tools to assist them in moving toward their aspirations.
Unfortunately, some of these tools are not valued or embraced in our culture, which makes consistently utilizing them more difficult. Yes, believe it or not, we need to acknowledge that some of the beliefs and values of the majority Western culture are actually not helpful to us in living our lives well.
Four Important (but often Countercultural) Steps to Incorporate into Your Life
Lots of lists (many, research-based) exist which delineate the “ten most important characteristics of leaders,” or some similar list. These are typically helpful. However, just as we can identify critical nutrients needed to be physically healthy, some more foundational components are needed to make those nutrients usable and useful to our bodies.
The same is true for our personal and career growth. There are many valuable and necessary skills needed to live a healthy, satisfying life, but some processes are truly foundational to support the development of these characteristics.
Incorporating these processes will provide the structure for you to move toward the person you desire to become in the coming year(s):
- Taking the time to reflect and learn from the past (both your own, and others’ previous experiences) vs. always looking forward, planning for the future. I, personally, am not very reflective by nature and I tend to consistently look forward to “what’s next” rather than to stop, think, and learn from the experiences I’ve just gone through (both positive and negative ones). But learning from our life and the experiences of others is critical to gain an accurate bearing of “where we are,” which is necessary before we plan “where we want to go.” Truly successful people who, over time, achieve the goals important to them, make reflection a regular part of their lives.
- Focusing on long and steady effort over time vs. fast, flashy success. This is not just a Boomer talking. All types of research (on successful companies and organizations, leaders, athletes, musicians, inventors) clearly and repeatedly show that achieving one’s goals is far more likely to occur if you take a long, steady approach over time (including overcoming obstacles and “failures”) rather than expecting a quick success. Clearly, there are outliers (examples of those who don’t fit the normal pattern), but their occurrence is rare.
Unfortunately, our culture and popular media tend to glamourize these unusual pathways, at the same time ignoring the tens of thousands of individuals who have tried the “get rich quick” approach and failed disastrously. Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable is not just a cute children’s story – it reflects a core truth embedded in life.
- Building habits (the most powerful tool for long-lasting change) vs. quick-fix, dramatic interventions. The American culture is notorious for looking for a “quick fix” to lifestyle challenges – a pill that will help us lose 50 pounds of fat while maintaining our same eating habits, or a “wonder” machine that accomplishes a full-body strength building exercise regimen in 5 minutes (or less!).
But again, life experience, wisdom from the ages and reams of research — all suggest the same successful, life-changing process: taking steps to proactively build positive habits into our lives. Habits, in essence, are one of the most powerful tools we have in our arsenal to help us shape our lives to reflect what we desire. Exercising three times a week, reading a personal growth book every month, getting together regularly with friends – all are healthy habits which help us grow.
- Investing in healthy relationships vs. focusing primarily on task-completion. Healthy relationships yield huge benefits in our lives. Our society, especially in the work-place, is obsessed with getting things done (though in some areas, the focus is more on “looking like” you have achieved something rather than actually accomplishing the goal). At the daily life, moment-by-moment level this ultimately leads to a focus on tasks (which are an integral part of life).
But we have largely ignored a core aspect of our humanness – we are social beings. We are born into families. We live in communities. Even our work lives intersect and are interdependent with others (customers, vendors, suppliers, those who make decisions in government). Additionally, we have innate needs to relate to others: to be cared for, to share life together, to give and serve others. If we only focus on task completion throughout our lives, life in the present will feel shallow, and in the future will lead to a sense of meaninglessness. And in the meantime, when we encounter difficulties along the pathways of life, we have no one to help us or to offer assistance to. Investing time and energy into relationships (family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances) is critical to living a healthy life. We need one another.
Do yourself a favor. Take a moment to visualize what you would like your life to be like a year from now. Think less about external circumstances and more about who you want to be as a person. Then put a time in your schedule this coming week to review the four core principles we’ve discussed and make some decisions that will help move you down the path of healthy living in the coming months. I assure you — the results will be amazing!
Since we live in community, please take a moment to share a lesson you’ve learned this year in the comments that could help another reader.
Categories Holidays, Optimism, Perseverance, Relationships