Well, we did it. The ball dropped, the champagne popped, and Mariah Carey blessed us all with her award-winning display of New Year’s Eve awkwardness.
2016 has come and gone, and so begins the annual tidal wave of optimistic resolutions. Every year, nearly 50% of Americans commit to a self-prescribed goal, but only 8% actually succeed*. That’s a bummer. That’s a real big bummer, and it suggests that resolutions – major, life altering resolutions – don’t work. Or rather, they’re unrealistic, overwhelming, and they set us up to fail.
That’s why, at Gemba, we’re breaking the rules. We’re hopping off the resolution bandwagon and embracing smaller, manageable, more impactful changes. We’re choosing consistent habits, daily action items, to execute every single day, nourishing our willpower and celebrating the small wins. Because, as Charles Duhigg suggests in his book The Power of Habit, “small wins are a steady application of a small advantage.”
So, this year, we’re seeking the small advantage that reaps big results, and here’s how we’re doing it:
I would like to be more productive, and although I’m not jazzed about getting up early, there’s something really rewarding in knowing that you already got sh*t done before you even get to work. Whether it’s working out, doing pet projects, or putting away last night’s dishes, it just feels so good. So far, I’ve managed to get up the past two days at 6:30am, and I’m hoping to get that down to 6am. This means that in order to be me, I have to be IN THE BED by 9pm and asleep by 10pm (this hasn’t happened yet, but a girl can dream… by 10pm, ideally).
The other half of my goal relates to Netflix. I’ve always said that I like having a TV show going on in the background that I’ve seen a few times, just to fill up the silence. I live alone, and it gets boring and lonely, and the TV shows fill that. But, as much as I like to think they don’t distract me, they eventually do, and suddenly I notice I’m watching a show I’ve seen several times, and I don’t even know for how long or when it started. Such a waste of my life! So far, I’ve managed not to touch Netflix at all, but this is a real challenge. Instead, I just ask my Alexa to play jazz or classical music, which are my “study time” jams.
Last year, I meant to approach my evening hours with good intentions – read, knit, or write. But then I’d open Instagram or Facebook and find myself mindlessly scrolling through filtered photos and dramatized social updates, oblivious to the fact that time is ticking and that book on my nightstand isn’t going to read itself.
So this year, I’m picking up a new habit and unplugging from social media. I recently watched an interview featuring Simon Sinek (on social media, of course) who suggested we charge our cell phones in the kitchen rather than our bedside, completely eliminating the temptation to scroll. But what about the alarm clock on my phone I use to wake up every morning? Sinek provides a simple solution: buy a good old-fashioned alarm clock. You now, the kind that makes that horrific screeching noise until you begrudgingly swat your hand across the giant button? Yeah, I’m buying one, and I can’t wait to see what it does for my health, my relationships, and my happiness.
When the first thing you do every morning is reach for technology rather than greet your spouse, your cat, or whomever, you know you’re addicted, and you need some rehabilitation. Stat.
I have a few habits I’d like to pick up, but one in particular that will be really good for me and challenge my willpower is to read more. It’s so easy to get sucked into Netflix, but you can learn so many valuable things from reading. My goal is to read at least three nights a week… because let’s be honest, more than that is tough!
Another habit I’d like to develop is to declutter my life on a daily basis. My house, my car, my desk at work – I want to develop a mindset and determination to keep the clutter away!
In 2017, I’m going to act more like a Roman. This isn’t a “when in Rome” story, but go ahead and make the jokes. I look to the definition of a Roman as described by Marcus Aurelius. If that name sounds familiar, yes, it’s the same guy who ruled the Roman Empire nearly 2,000 years ago. Marcus Aurelius was an avid philosopher before he became emperor, and his journals have been read all over the world for millennia because of their universal wisdom (the book is known as Meditations – could you imagine strangers reading your personal diary for thousands of years after your death? Awkwaaard). So, what’s acting like a Roman and waxing philosophical with some long-dead emperor got to do with a marketing guy living in Michigan? Good question.
In his journal, Aurelius reminds himself to, “Concentrate every minute like a Roman – like a man – on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. And on freeing yourself from all other distractions. Yes, you can – if you do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life, and stop being aimless, stop letting your emotions override what your mind tells you, stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable. You see how few things you have to do to live a satisfying and reverent life. If you can manage this, that’s all even the gods can ask of you.”
So yea, kind of heavy. Now, I’m not the supreme ruler of the greatest empire of the western world. I don’t have rivals chomping at the bit to overthrow me. I don’t have to balance politics with warfare, or grain shortages with civil unrest in the far-flung reaches of my domain, nor do I plan on invading Germania in 2017. However, by embracing the Aurelian ideals of being a Roman, I know that I can work smarter, feel better, and support my team, clients, friends, and loved ones with more vigor than ever. Here’s to being a better Roman in 2017.
Over the last year I haven’t taken enough time for myself to devote to healthy living. I want to start my days this year by exercising before work each morning, whether it’s yoga, cardio, or even a walk. Working out first thing always makes me feel better. I’m more alert, I feel accomplished, and I’m making small strides towards my healthy goals. Starting the day this way will make me a better coworker, friend, and ensure that I’m making the most of each day by jump starting my day with healthy energy. I’ll also be kinder to myself by realizing this goal will not be accomplishable every day, and allow myself a day off when it’s needed.
My goal for the year is to get in the habit of volunteering my time once a month. Sure, I could continue to fulfill my desire to help others by donating money to support cancer research (which I will do), but I want to give my time. Shonda Rhimes said, “Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week.” If Shonda can find time to volunteer and be a badass creator, writer, executive producer, and show runner, I‘m certain I can find time in my calendar. In school I was the queen of all things volunteer. If anyone needed help, I was in. Then life got busy and I didn’t make volunteerism a priority. I’m getting back to it in 2017. I’m moving out from behind the online donation portal and rolling up my sleeves to get out in the world to give my time.
* Statistic courtesy of Statistic Brain