What is your Soundtrack?

I don’t believe in New Year Resolutions.

If you want to do something new or different, why should you only plan to make changes during one day of the year? There are 363 other days that are just as good for taking action (364 in a leap year).

Of course, year’s end and year’s beginning do give us a nice snapshot for evaluating our accomplishments over a given period of time.

As an annual ritual, I take time to evaluate and review the previous year. I ask myself, “Am I where I want to be and what course corrections may be necessary if I am not?”

It’s actually good to do this periodically throughout the year, with the end of the year being a natural checkpoint. It’s an evaluation of my personal soundtrack, that voice in my head ticking through the list of all the must-do’s, should-do’s, and nice to-do’s; the one wishing I had time to read a book, take a class, or play a round of golf.

As I pondered my current ‘play list,’ I realized I am in a good spot and am enjoying the current journey.

What’s on my soundtrack?  I am glad you asked.

Continuous Learning, Reinvention, Perseverance, and Authenticity

As a continuous learner, there is absolutely an aspect to being curious about the people and world around you, how things work, and why we make the choices we do. A longtime colleague and friend is masterful at the art of making you feel like you are the only person in the room during a conversation. She asks questions, listens more than she talks, and isn’t distracted by outside ‘noises.’ As a leader, she knows what is important to her team, her boss, and the organization she serves, yet most importantly to herself.

At a recent breakfast, she asked me what I am currently learning. We had not seen each other for a few months and it was exciting to share updates and ideas together. We touched on classes we take and teach, books we read, podcasts we host, blogs we write, and hobbies we pursue.

Where do we find the time? We don’t necessarily do it all at once – As a wise leader and friend once shared, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. It’s a delicate balance and we get there by defining what motivates and excites us, and what we desire from the journey. If you are looking for a place to start, consider these and share your learnings with others:

  • Take classes at a local university or community college
  • Read/listen to fiction, non-fiction, articles, blogs, podcasts, and TED Talks
  • Teach a class, host a workshop, or lead a discussion group
  • Attend a seminar, workshop, or conference

The nexus for learning has been the desire to continuously pursue reinvention. I am not who I was in my 20s or 30s and as I gain years of experience, I find I change more often than I used to. The world we live in today evolves more rapidly than ever before. Staying current and being relevant in an industry or field requires a level of discipline and dedication that can often feel like an obligation. There will most likely be someone more cutting edge, more talented, and simply better at it than you are. This is not a reason to shrink back, procrastinate, or increase your anxiety. It is a time to understand what you enjoy most so you can be adaptive and constantly reinventing yourself with purpose, without it feeling like a job. Remember the things you were curious about? Use them as a springboard for reinvention and to develop a plan for yourself. Consider the following:

  • How are viewed by others in terms of impact, reputation, and perception?
  • What can you do to convey a more defined and real best version of yourself?
  • Who can you tap into to provide feedback and perspective on your journey?
  • How will you be viewed differently once you make these changes?

Perseverance. Let’s be honest. It’s not easy to add activities and new challenges to your life. It can, and will, be work at times. I love to tell my team that if it were easy someone else would be doing it. How you frame this process and ensure you manage it effectively is an entirely separate set of skills.

It may require you to jettison other things that don’t add value or enable you to reach your new goals. Learning to say “no” has done wonders for me and only recently have I been able to do it without feeling guilty. When I commit to something, I don’t do it halfway. It’s a choice to go to school, blog, podcast, speak at events, chair committees, and serve on boards in addition to my family, work, and play time. When I get asked to participate in an activity or event, I line it up against what is already in flight and evaluate it in terms of if it adds to the achievement of my goals or if it reduces my focus on the big picture.

Ask yourself:

  • Is it interesting?
  • Will it meaningfully add to my experiences?
  • Will it be fun?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, graciously decline.

The wrapper to all of this is authenticity. When you love what you are doing, it is evident in how you deliver results and how you talk about it. I often find that people are doing something because they feel required to do so. I get that there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and deadlines to meet. There are so many things we should be doing yet how many of us are doing what we want to be doing? It’s not as hard as you would imagine to replace should with want in our vocabulary and life.  There will be many situations where we do face an obligation. How you frame it will make all the difference.

As you think about what you are curious about and would like to learn, be certain to remember that it takes the decision to want to do it, it is going to hard at times, and yet if you love it, you will find a way to make it happen. Reinvention is both a process and a journey, so give yourself time to select the things that matter most. Give yourself leeway to screw it up sometimes and also have a plan of how to forgive yourself and get back on track. Most important, if it doesn’t feel right to you, it won’t to anyone else either. Use your intuition to guide authenticity. This cycle will become more familiar and less daunting as you play it out in the soundtrack of your life.

Don’t forget to have fun along the way.

Your soundtrack is your own – enjoy it! What is on your playlist? Send me an email and let me know!

Sarah Richardson

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