THE BLOG
01/13/2016 06:13 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2017

The Power of Possibilities for 2016

5 Ways to Make This Year Your Best Year Yet!

Happy New Year! While we say this phrase to friends and loved ones at the start of every January, have you taken the time to think about what this would really look like for you? What specific actions trigger your happiness and well-being at a deep level? From my work as an executive coach at SHAMBAUGH, I've identified five steps you can take, starting today, to make 2016 stand out as an exceptionally positive year, no matter what type of challenges you are currently facing:

Get Grounded. A key part of "out with the old, in with the new" involves refreshing your belief system. Have you taken the time to figure out what's important to you today, versus structuring your life and decisions based on outdated patterns or routines? Since humans naturally change and evolve over time, we sometimes need to revisit and update our belief system to reflect our current values. Each individual will have different areas where he or she may be ready to evolve, both professionally and personally. For example, you might sense that you are starting to outgrow a position that you always thought was your dream job, but now you feel stagnant in the role or need a new career challenge.

Another example: I am coaching a business leader who has been working hard all his life and now has accumulated plenty of wealth, yet still worries about money like he did when he was just starting out as a junior employee. It took some introspection on his part for him to realize that he had become overly focused on hard work. Once he recognized this fact in light of his current belief system and values, he was able to allow himself to start living the other parts of his life in a more grounded and well-rounded way, so that he could enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Take time to reexamine your own belief system and ask yourself if it is still working for you. If not, have the courage to reframe how you're thinking to better align with your best year.

Be Mission-Focused. It's easy to get caught up in the clutter of our to-do list, which we will never complete. You may be the type of person who enjoys crossing things off your list for the sake of personal satisfaction -- but as leaders, we need to find the space to focus on the things that are truly the most important. Simply crossing items off of a list does not necessarily get you closer to your mission if your tasks aren't related to that mission. So instead of making a to-do list of random projects pulled from all over the map, think in terms of creating a "best list" that reflects what you must do to meet your most important goals, both professionally and personally. When identifying elements of your professional "best list," think about what is critical for you, your team, and your organization. Then think about what you would personally like to change or improve. Craft your "best lists" based on how you want to feel, what ignites your passion, and what triggers your happiness and well-being.

Allow for Unplanned Miracles. Sometimes we miss opportunities because we are not keeping ourselves open to possibilities. I decided to put myself out there last year and signed up for a board seat for a major nonprofit. I made this decision not for business reasons, but for personal reasons -- to give back to a cause that I believe in. It was unexpected, but soon after joining the board, I got to know a fellow board member who is CEO of a Fortune 150 IT company, and we are now collaborating on a major initiative in leadership development. It's not easy to gain entree into this type of large multinational corporation, and it most likely would not have happened unless I was willing to step outside of my day-to-day role and get involved in something that I care about. When you do something for the right reason, miracles can happen.

Be a Compassionate Leader. Have you ever seen "compassion" listed as a required skill in a job profile at work? Likely not, as most organizations don't consider compassion to be a skill. Yet workplace studies indicate that when leaders build a culture based on a foundation of compassion, people work harder and are also more satisfied and committed to the company -- all of which contribute to bottom-line performance. Compassionate leaders take time to understand the wants, needs, and feelings of others. They find ways to connect human values to business objectives and have genuine concern about the culture in which their business operates and the way employees are treated. Being compassionate also means showing self-compassion, which requires willingness to be vulnerable and a lowering of expectations to be perfect in an imperfect world.

Develop a Learning Mindset. If there is one thing that kills confidence, it is holding a "can't do" mindset. In a challenging new situation or job, it's better to respond with a learning mindset. For example, you might say, "Even though I've tried this before and it did not work for me back then, this is a new moment and maybe I can learn something from it now." When obstacles arise, instead of falling prey to a limiting narrative that says you can't handle what life throws your way, you can remain curious and open. Use difficult experiences as your teacher, and remember that it's not about passing or failing; it's about continuous growth and creating your "best self" so that you can reach your potential and fulfill your highest aspirations.

Each day can be the beginning of a "new year" if you focus on developing fresh habits and skills that can increase the possibilities in your life. You don't have to make every change suggested above or address all five strategies at once; start small and build on your successes. Begin by putting even a few of these techniques into practice today, and they will yield dividends all year long, including improving your leadership ability. Remember, you have a choice to make this your best year yet -- so choose wisely!