Six Simple (But Not So Simple) High Yield Affirmations

For many of us, a New Year represents a chance to change. We take a look at the goals we want to accomplish for that year and resolve to achieve them. Simple right?

Not so fast.

The resolutions we make often centre on the areas of our lives that we feel are most in need of development. We put our lives under the proverbial microscope and then usually resolve to “fix” these issues within a certain timeframe. The problem that I have always found with this practice is that we forget that working on ourselves – whether personally or professionally – isn’t an on paper, one-off project like the ones we often deal with at our jobs.

For starters, there are no hard and fast deadlines when it comes to our lives. Since not one of us knows with any great certainty our appointed place and time of passing, how then can we reasonably expect to make good on deliverables and set time stamps for the goals that we want so desperately to accomplish?

One the one hand, we can place physical aspirations on ourselves like “I want to lose 10 pounds by March” or “I want to run my first 5K by June.” But what happens when March comes and we’ve gained 5 pounds or June comes and we can barely walk up a flight of stairs without being terribly winded? Do we give up? Do we give in?

How do we level the charge as leaders when it comes to setting goals for ourselves and our teams, and, more importantly, how can we effectively achieve them?

Last year, we looked at many of characteristics that go into being an effective leader. One of the most salient is understanding that our limitations do not define us. They should encourage and empower us. And this is because the features that make our goals so difficult are the very ones that should make them worthwhile.

So, for the New Year, let’s work together on declaring affirmations for ourselves as opposed to simply making resolutions. Let’s set about working on goals not with the end in mind but with the understanding that if the year ends and we haven’t achieved what we set out to do, we have a fresh year ahead to keep at it.

Here are six affirmations that I want each of us to consider as individuals, teammates, professionals and leaders we strive onward in 2020.

1) Character Development
Somewhere along the course of leadership, many of us forgot that every leader is a human. As humans, we bring a little something unique in the way we think, work, play, and live. This is the core of having character. So take a moment to rediscover the traits that have endeared you to your people and focus on building them up in 2020.
This isn’t to say that the year should be a pointless crusade to be liked by everyone. Rather, let’s make it with the profound understanding that along with the competencies and the commitments that every leader has, he or she must also have character and must work on developing it with every passing day and each interaction.

2) Be grateful … “Show appreciation at every opportunity”
Being thankful is difficult; being ungrateful far too easy. Make an affirmation to show true, genuine, and heartfelt thanks to your teams, your loved ones and friends at every juncture and with every gesture.
This doesn’t have to always be an expensive gift or token of appreciation (in fact, we should affirm to move as far away as possible from these in the New Year) but it must always come from the heart and it must always come on time.
When our teams see us being genuinely thankful and appreciative, they in turn foster that culture within the organisation, their lives and families, and in the community and broader society.
It costs nothing to show someone gratitude, but it will cost you more than you ever thought when you don’t.

3) Focus on what matters … “Don’t sweat the small things”
This is a big one. We have deadlines. We have clients and customers who demand our attention and our time. We also have families and loved ones who rely on us for a wide range of needs. Let’s face it: on any given day, there are a million forces pulling and pushing us in various directions.
First step: Take… A… Deep… Breath…
Now that we’ve done that, we can get to heart of this matter. Focus. Focus on the priorities that matter most – not only in the short run, but the long term. I understand that many of us, in fact maybe all of us, will have different priorities in our lives. What should be consistent, however, is our affirmation to look at situations with a broader view and understanding that not everything is or can be a priority. There are real priorities and there are those that we think are.
Whatever or whichever we decide is which, we should affirm to give these our attention and not waste that energy on the small stuff.

4) Lead by example … “what is good for the goose must be good for the gander”
Not much needs to be said here but not because this affirmation isn’t as important as the rest. Integrity and fairness are the cornerstones of effective leadership. I would even go as far as saying that they are the foundations of being a respectable human being.
We have all pledged as leaders to abide by the tenets of integrity and fairness in both our public and private lives. I’m asking us all to take that pledge a step further as an affirmation to live by in 2020 and beyond; embodying it in our thoughts, our words, and above all, our actions.

5) Take ownership especially when things go wrong
Following on from Leading by Example is an affirmation of accountability. We so often demand it from those around us and those that we lead that we too often forget to demand it of ourselves. This more than simply consigning ourselves to being the “here” where the so-called buck stops; this about understanding as both leaders and teammates that in the same breath that we accept praise when things excel, we must also understand our role in taking ownership when they don’t.
Above all, in taking ownership, also take the lesson. Where did we go wrong? How can we fix it? How can we work to ensure that it never happens again? How can we make it right and keep it right? Let’s affirm to accomplish this level of responsibility in both our professional and personal lives.

6) Invest time in your health
I spoke earlier about physical goals and resolutions (running a 5K, dietary change), however, here I’m talking about something a little different. “Work-Life Balance” has been one of those buzzwords of the last decade. Which isn’t surprising given the technological leaps and bounds we have made in that time. We can have meetings with colleagues in different time zones. We can take work “home with us” and are now able to multitask on a variety of projects at any time of day or night. The problem, as we soon learned, was the toll that practice had on our quality of health and life.
This last affirmation is most important of all, and the one I put last for a reason: we tend to put our own health and wellbeing at the foot of everything else. We cannot expect to do that as leaders and as people with loved ones and reasonably expect the practice to be sustainable.
Let’s affirm to take better care of ourselves in the New Year. It’s as simple as that.

I think 2020 is going to be a watershed year for many of us. Share some of your affirmations with us on how you intend to make good on all the promise the New Year holds.

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