It’s New Year’s Eve and you’re making plans for the “special occasion”.
Would you rather attend an expensive, crowded soirée, only to find yourself regurgitating your party fare into a Porcelain God the next day, while worrying about what you might have said or done in the midst of your drunken stupor? Or, would you rather spend the night in a quiet and relaxing environment, determining how you want to live for the next 365 days, and then wake up feeling inspired, motivated, and ready to tackle the world?
Why do so many people choose the first option?
Is it to commemorate our ability to survive another year of living in a world full of violence, abuse, political corruption, poverty, injustice, and discrimination—to name a few? Or, is it just another excuse to let loose and blow off steam with friends?
Legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.” If we are afraid to embrace positive people and experiences in our life, then we are actively choosing a “ride” of acceptance; we remain complacent with the unsatisfactory life that we have and believe we deserve. On the other hand, if we spend time with people we care about and set clear goals for ourselves, then we are more likely to achieve the “ride,” and life, that we truly desire. In short, we get back what we put in.
As the CEO of my life, I choose the latter.
Despite there being a lot of wrong in the world, I’ve decided to focus on what’s right, and more importantly, do what I can to create positive change through community work. Having overcome poverty and horrific trauma, I find it especially empowering to make a fresh start each year with a clear plan for success. Undoubtedly, my resilience, ambition, and ability to focus have played a significant role in any success that I have achieved over the years. However, I believe that my annual New Year’s Eve ritual has played a huge role in ensuring that my goals were aligned with the person I was at the time, and who I aspired to be.
So, while people are busy drinking and having fun, I spend quality time on my own on this momentous night, reflecting and journaling about the year that is drawing near, by documenting my successes, challenges, key learnings, and even regrets.
To create my SMART goals for the next twelve months, I ask myself the following important questions:
What do I want?
Why do I want it?
What possible barriers can get in my way?
What tools do I have to overcome these barriers?
This magical process is simple, really.
I create ambiance by filling a dimly lit room with a dozen candles and make space for my favorite pen and a beautiful new notebook, which is used to plan and curate my dreams that evening, and throughout the coming year.
If you haven’t guessed it, I LOVE New Year’s Eve because it’s an ideal time to reaffirm and reinvent myself. Sure, I can do this at any time of the year, but I find the symbolic freshness of embarking on a new year to be a great motivator for change. If we are fortunate to be already living the life that we truly want, it’s also the perfect time to celebrate and practice gratitude.
That, my friends, is why New Year’s Eve is the perfect impetus for embarking on a life-changing transformation!
Article by Christine Morrell
BAPC Distant Ed. Student
Accomplished orchestral conductors dance an amazing dance. They have an ear on the purity of each note and the capacity to ensure each piece of music unfolds in splendour. They enliven each score with a vision of all it can be for each listener. As students and developing professionals, we can learn something from these maestros.
The past year has been a growing one for folks enrolled at Royal Roads. Juggling work, learning, and family is rich and challenging. Shifting from course work to integrating this learning is just as exciting.
It is, however, no small feat. Putting our best selves forward, applying all of our new learning, and integrating authenticity in all aspects of our lives requires the same intricacy, attention, and poise as the orchestra conductor.
In my experience, it is always difficult to maintain the balancing act. I have had success in integrating my professional experience, personal skills, and aspirations in my busy life; yet I sometimes still feel inept in my journey.
As a graduate of the Executive Coaching program at Royal Roads University, I would like to share some of the ways I’ve had success in putting my best self forward and some reflections on the results in my own life since I left Royal Roads one year ago.
Knowing who I am. And reminding myself that authenticity matters.
Clearly defining where I want to be.
Paying attention to what works. Letting it evolve.
Putting service to others as a priority.
Finding my path forward.
Support. Accountability. And pushing reset when it isn’t working.
Again and again. And again.
And, as I strive to honour the melody and the dynamics, the crescendos and the diminuendos…
Self-care! Self-care! Self-care!
Reflecting on 2014 allowed me to look back and see what a difference a year has made in my life since Royal Roads.
I love getting up in the morning and being of service
I am grateful for my teachers – even the unexpected ones. For my peers – who continue to encourage and challenge. And most importantly, for my clients, who have trusted me to make a difference. Reflection will allow you to put your accomplishments in perspective.
Royal Roads University has encouraged me to bring all of myself on this amazing, and challenging journey. I have been changed on this journey, which I am grateful for. I would recommend the experiences I have had to anyone and hope that sharing my experiences will help you bring your best self to the table.
Some Final Questions to Think About:
What changes do you want to reflect on in January 2016?
What are you willing to do to create those changes?
Right before 2014 ended my aunt and dear friend Marguita passed away. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye despite her illness having lasted months. It was devastating. I felt regret and deep sadness as I came to the realization that she was gone and I hadn’t had the chance to make my own peace with her.
This brought me new perspective on the fragility of life. I knew I had to change something and, as 2015 begins, it is a good time to reflect how I am spending my time, or to be more precise, who am I spending my time with.
Life is unexpected. We never know what is going to happen next. I have realized in the wake of my loss how important it is to understand who is important in my life. How much time, energy, and effort dedicate to those friends, family members, and significant people who accompany me through this life journey will make all the difference.
I learned I should never take for granted a hug, a kiss, an opportunity to share the impact someone has made on me. Seize every moment
You may want to ask yourself, as the year begins anew, who might be waiting for your words, your kisses, and your love. I know I wish I realized this sooner.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
By Yvette Mucharraz
Yvette is a Master’s student at Royal Roads. She is the author of A Life in Eight Words.
Connect with her on Twitter @ymucharraz
There have been many periods of reflection in our lives—most of which result in some form of learning. In these times we have remembered our struggles and our pain, our failures and our victories, our love and our hate, our hope and our discouragement. Now, as you look at yourself, you can recognize how strong you have become. You are entering a new chapter of life again: a new year that is both exciting and motivating.
So, how do you want to be this year?
No matter how you want to be, make a point of reminding yourself that each day and each moment is the newest day and the newest moment of your life. You are the newest you who is newer than who you were yesterday and, perhaps, even a moment ago!
Do you want to live with more awareness?
Do you want to feel clean, healthy, authentic, transparent, and be constantly “going”?
Do you want to stick to old and sticky patterns that hold you back from achieving your dreams? Or do you want to let go of your fear, resentment, anger, and egoistical thoughts and, instead, flow like water?
I did want that freedom, and I continue to. Water has inspired me in troubling times throughout my life, and I hope you can draw inspiration from it as well.
Water is like velvet—distinctive and treasured—just like your heart.
It is cleansing and washing, so let all of your anger and grudge be washed away from your velvety heart because YOU deserve peace. Water leaves heavy stones behind and flows smoothly, finding its way even in a still pond. As water does, let us leave the burdensome thoughts, hurt, and discomfort behind and move on; the ocean is waiting for us.
Water is persistent—as is your heart.
Persist in life and know that you will eventually find your way to the ocean merely by being authentic. You must love and surrender to what is happening now, while moving towards a better life and a better you.
Water never stops flowing and transforming— neither do you.
Follow your passion purposefully and you will find peace within. Love yourself so that you can love all the rest, only then will you be abundant. Remember, you are a beautiful spirit that has been given the gift of life; live it fully in connection to others and your Higher Source, and bring up the fruit of love.
According to Mental Health First Aid Canada (MHFA), 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health problem by the age of 25.
Many Royal Roads University students are working and going to school, so it’s easy to get swept up in the rush of everyday life. It can be difficult to realize how much stress and anxiety we are under, and how much it really affects our mental fitness. Along with the physical stress on our bodies from lack of sleep, pushing ourselves to meet deadlines and trying to juggle a personal and professional life, stress can leak into all facets of our lives.
There are many outlets for individuals to find mental health resources, including RRU’s Coaching & Counseling Services available on campus, as well as via phone and email. An experienced and licensed counselor is on campus full time to assist RRU students who are on enrolled in any and all programs. There is also individual and team coaching available for students as the university puts a large emphasis on teamwork. RRU’s Student Services is also developing a wellness workshop series with a focus on mental health and academic success aimed to launch this spring.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for improving the mental health system and changing the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians around mental health issues. Through its unique mandate from Health Canada, the MHCC brings together leaders and organizations from across the country to accelerate these changes. One of those organizations is the Canadian Mental Health Association, which offers a helpful Mental Health Meter that defines the characteristics of mental health and offer a quiz that helps users identify strengths and areas that can be improved.
Checking in on our own mental health on a regular basis helps us take preventative measures to prepare for when we experience stress. The Mental Health First Aid course is based on self care and guarding our mental health and supporting those with mental health issues. We can help manage our stress levels by getting enough sleep each night, pre-planning the week and ensuring some downtime is available, as well as managing substance use, such as alcohol. The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse has drinking guidelines to prevent future substance issues, identifying supports such as other students, teachers and counseling centres.
As students and professionals, many of us feel the pressure to get everything done and feel disappointed when they let something slip. Maintaining a balance can be easier said then done. For example, we might concentrate on finishing our assignment that’s due in a few days and then plan to catch up with friends afterwards. It sounds simple enough, but when we have numerous balls in the air that need to be caught, it is easy to feel inundated. So, when we have to work the night that three assignments are due, the balancing act gets tougher.For some, balance means putting more effort into their career and work over time one day, and then the next peeling themselves away from from their desks at 4:30 p.m. right on the dot.
In the meantime, when we’re juggling our personal and professional life, finding ways to cope with those emotional moments, helps us and those we are close to. As we experience large amounts of stress, it tends to affect our personal relationships. So, when we might be ready to throw our coffee mug at the computer or are about to take our frustration on a loved one, taking a breather is important. Find an activity that helps take our mind off whatever it is that we’re doing. If you’re stumped while writing an email or paper, stand up and take a walk. Physical exercise helps with maintaining mental fitness.
The MHFA points out if that many of us would know what to do if someone we knew sprained their ankle, however, chances are we wouldn’t know what to do if they were having a panic attack. If you notice a change in the behaviour of someone close to you, it’s important to recognize if someone is exhibiting signs of depression. We can all do this by increasing your own mental health awareness. If someone decides to confide in you, you can help by genuinely listening and validating their experience and giving reassurance. Besides making yourself available as part of their support system, you can also encourage them to seek appropriate professional help or informal support.
For the past couple of years I made a New Year’s resolution to floss my teeth every day.
Every year I’ve managed to stick to the regime for a few days before falling off the wagon.
My hygienist’s stern advice and disapproving comments get me back on the wagon periodically, but they haven’t helped me stick to a regular routine. When a group of friends gathered at our house this past New Years—as they are wont to do—the question of resolutions came up between bottles of champagne. Most were of the opinion that there was no point in making one; after all, it was not as if any of us were going to keep them.
Who was I to argue given my track record? Nevertheless, in the spirit of third times the charm, I resolved yet again to floss my teeth every day. My friends laughed, having been there before. One even opined that Einstein had said, “Doing the same thing again and expecting different results was the definition of insanity.” Einstein didn’t actually say that, and I’m not of the opinion that persistence is insane.
As a student in the Leadership program at Royal Roads University, I am all too familiar with how hard change can be for individuals and organizations. Given what I have learned over the past two years in the program, shouldn’t I be able to lead myself to do this one simple thing? It’s not as if I had resolved to run a marathon—as my wife has—yet I repeatedly failed in the past. When I reflected upon my daily routine, it was plain to see that there are a number of opportunities to floss: I brush my teeth several times a day and there is dental floss in ready supply.
How could this simple act have proved so difficult to have turn into a habit?
This made me wonder what answers lie in the nature of the human mind. Dr. Sandy Pentland, of MIT’s Human Dynamics lab, has found we are not the rational, deliberate creatures we believe ourselves to be.
Here’s a simple test you can take to prove this to yourself:
Sit completely still and do absolutely nothing.
Don’t blink or draw a breath without consciously forming the intention to do so.
See how long you can last.
If you regularly participate in Tai Chi, Yoga, or another form of meditation, you might last a while. Many will not as we, as humans, are wired to act on imperceptible stimuli—intentionality is a discipline. Furthermore, neuroscientists David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz have found that we are wired to resist change. Repetition of past patterns of behavior makes us feel good, rewarding us for doing things the way we have done them before. On the other hand, the development of new patterns of behavior and thought take concentrated effort: failures are inevitable and persistence is required. Even worse, we experience change as pain.
The sense of wrongness that comes from trying something new or thinking in a different way is a form of pain.
Try saying something grammatically incorrect such as “quickly blueberry” as fast as you can; you will want to stop before the headache gets too bad.
So what is a poor soul to do when the deck is seemingly stacked against change? Know that people kick far worse habits (think cigarette, alcohol, and drug addictions) than your resolution adjustment likely is. Rock and Schwartz have found that change requires focused attention on the new pattern of behavior and avoidance of the old: addicts kick the habit, yet the old patterns are waiting to draw them back in. It’s not enough to make a resolution; you need a plan to go with it as well—a very focused plan.
Complex adaptive systems theory gives a clue to what this plan will look like. Dave Snowden, of Cognitive Edge, has described how patterns of behavior form around attractors such as a television in the middle of a party—conversation dies as people’s attention is drawn to it. The tricky part is that these patterns can be positive or negative. Sooner or later someone will say, “Turn off the damn TV!” Everyone will be relieved, and conversation will resume again. As a host in this situation you must be aware of the attractors and have a plan to manage the patterns of behaviour that result: positive or negative.
What does this say about the importance of the company you keep? As an example, if people you associate with drink in excess socially, inevitably so will you. When you were young, your mother probably advised you to stay away from the “bad sort”, but Sandy Pentland has found that you can leverage that company as well.
Most of us have grown up being rewarded for what we do: annual bonuses, carrots and sticks, and that special something if you achieve the goal you set in your New Year’s resolution. Contrary to belief, this model has never truly worked. B.F. Skinner identified that an anticipated award, particularly one that is received consistently, quickly fails to motivate. The Harvard Psychologist found that random, unanticipated rewards for behavior are actually the way to go—hence why wiser managers will randomly take their teams out to lunch. It’s hard to randomly surprise yourself with a reward though, no? This is where the gap is in Skinner’s theory: His conceptions involve a dyadic relationship of giver and receiver. Advances in the study of the complex adaptive systems that are human networks have revealed different and more effective modes. Sandy Pentland and his team found that small rewards given to close connections for behavioural change in others reinforce the pattern of change. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but “under the covers” human beings are profoundly affected by the relationships they have.
Generosity rewards both the giver and the receiver, and reinforces behavior.
Could more focused support also help the process of personal change? If you are struggling, a coach can certainly help you work through obstacles and maintain motivation. Keep in mind, however, that not all coaches are created equal. Most will support you in identifying a change that needs to be made, but the better sort will also push you to make a plan of action, and hold your feet to the fire to achieve it. The best will encourage you to enlist the help of others in achieving that goal. While rewarding others for your successes is not common practice, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that your last weight loss bets rewarded the winner. Now imagine the difference if at each weigh-in those who had lost the most bought the drinks…
You might think all of this sounds crazy, but that’s because we’ve been brought up to believe in cause and effect. At times this notion creates confusion, however, our thin veneer of rationality can serve us well in this situation. Everything in consideration this approach makes sense; we need to own the goal, live a plan, and have supporters with a vested interest in our success.
For my own part, I’m going to give my children the biggest hug ever after we have all brushed and flossed. Why? Because it makes us all feel great and it’s working. It would be crazy to stop.