Now is the time that we reflect on our successes and failures of the past year — both professionally and personally — and plan for the upcoming year, setting goals for ourselves, our firms and our practices. As I think about 2017, I see many successes, some failures and, above all, lessons I learned from both. Looking back at the “Friday Fit Five” posts of 2017 for top takeaways, there are five things I want to take into the new year with me, to continue or to improve upon. Here they are.
1. Decide what matters most to you. “Five Ways to Handle It ‘All’,” addressed the idea that while we may believe we want to “have it all,” what we want is to have all that is most important to us. In other words, “having it all” means different things to different people. As I move into 2018, I want to set my priorities and decide what matters most to me both personally and professionally.
The best life is intentional and deliberate: where we take the time to thoughtfully decide how we want our life to be. We want to take into account all aspects of our lives to ensure that we feel happy, fulfilled and content once we have it “all.” Thus, it’s crucial to spend the time assessing your values — not just your goals — to ensure that after you work diligently to “have it all” that you don’t feel empty and overwhelmed, despite your “success.” Take time to really think about what success and “having it all” means to you.
2. Create a team for success. “Five Ways to Get Your Resolve Back” looked at the importance of asking for help to achieve your goals. As you look back at this year and forward to the next, it is wise to acknowledge that an important aspect of success is being surrounded by a team of people who can assist you. Think of all the people around you who can help you to grow or continue your success in all areas of your life. For some, this may be work colleagues; for others, it could be family members and friends; for still others, it could be paid support, such as a paralegal, virtual assistant, nanny or housekeeper. For most lawyers, your team will include people from all these areas.
Create your “success team” even if you think you can handle it all on your own. You will avoid mental or emotional overload, the pain of extreme calendaring and planning, and ultimately, the exhaustion that may befall you if something causes your carefully crafted plans to devolve rapidly. Have a team in place to whom you can turn when needed — don’t wait until you need the help, because at that point, it may be too late.
3. Let go of anxiety. Anxiety comes from worrying about what might happen in the future. Mark Twain had some apt words here: “I … have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” As discussed in “Five Ways to Manage Difficult Transitions,” don’t waste your time wringing your hands about things that might go wrong. Prepare, control what you can (which is usually very little) and let the rest go. Don’t be so attached to the outcome. Focus on the moment and the process, putting one foot in front of the other. Remember that no matter what happens, you will be able to handle it, especially if you have created a reliable “success team” to assist when needed.
4. Meditate. One of the best ways to let go of anxiety is to calm the mind, and one of the best ways to calm the mind is with meditation. I wrote about the benefits of meditation in “Five Ways to Spring Clean Your Personal and Professional Life” and “Five Ways to Manage Difficult Transitions.” When you face challenges — and after all, life is full of challenges — your mind can go into overdrive, causing you to feel pulled in many different directions as you try to cope. Meditation will create space in your brain so you can think more clearly, calm your body, and respond instead of react.
Try a meditative breath practice to cleanse your body and mind: Slow your breath, breathe in deeply, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out completely. Consider starting a daily meditation practice, for as little as five minutes a day. The benefits may surprise you.
5. Take a leap of faith, have fun and laugh! Lawyers are a rather risk-averse group, which I wrote about in “Five Ways to Leave Your Lawyer at Work.” Recognize that the lawyer in you will almost always shut down any activity or idea that is deemed risky. Determine not to listen to that lawyer sometimes. Make it a goal to assess activities from a more objective perspective so you can enjoy your life, not simply survive it. One way to do this is to have fun and laugh. Laughter is one of the best stress relievers. Nothing works more quickly than laughter to bring the body and mind back into balance. It releases endorphins and improves your mood, creates a sense of hopefulness, and makes you feel alert. Laughter also boosts your immune system.
I hope you had a great 2017, and I wish you an even better 2018!