12 Ideas for Shaking Up 2013

You’ll notice I didn’t use the word “resolution.” I asked some friends about setting New Year’s resolutions and heard responses like, “I don’t do them anymore”; “I still feel guilty about last year’s resolutions”; or “They’re called New Year’s resolutions because they only last through January!”

Even if resolutions strike fear in us, it’s the time of year to pause and think about how to make 2013 the year we hope it will be. I’ve listed my favorite ideas for starting the year with new energy and insight. Each of us is in a different place with unique plans and hopes for the upcoming year. I hope that at least one of these ideas will make you think and help you start the wave of change for 2013.

1. Change one little habit. Know your unconscious habits. Are you more interested in your phone than in the people around you, or do you instinctively start to answer before you even understand the question? In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg makes the case that changing just one habit in our routine can create momentum for different results. Find one small habit that you will change in your routine and see the impact it can make.

2. List what’s in your control with your favorite frustration. Identify your top frustrations that get most of your attention. Then, make two lists: 1) what’s in your control and, 2) what isn’t. Decide how to put your energy into what you can control this year and set aside the rest.

3. Find your options. If you know you want to make a change in your life, list every possible option available to you for taking action as well as the pros and cons of each. Include even the possibilities that don’t seem viable at first. Ask a friend to help you. This exercise can spur new ideas and variations. It can also help you decide that a less than ideal option is actually the best choice.

4. Remember what you loved as a kid. Remember what you love and enjoy! Set aside your grownup self and think back to your definition of fun when you were 10 years old. Painting? Sports? Playing the piano? A friend rediscovered her love for the piano this year by taking lessons again as an adult. It is a source of relaxation and fun that she now shares with her children. We still need fun.

5. Learn something new that scares you just a little. Use this year as an opportunity to learn something totally new. My colleague Marta Steele took a comedy improv class to learn how to think on her feet. Volunteer to be a mentor. Take a cooking class. Do something new to keep you and your life more interesting and a little unpredictable.

6. List 3 things you’ll take off your ‘to do’ list. List the activities you won’t do next year. You can’t do everything and you can’t be everywhere. Learn to say no to something – starting now.

7. How will you serve? My colleague Emily Bennington wrote a great blog on the question you should ask yourself: ‘How will you serve this year?’ This question focuses your energy on how you will serve others and the difference you want to make – not on your own personal measures of success. I think she’s got the right idea.

8. Take one little baby step on your big dream. You’ve heard of ‘taking a bite out of the elephant.’ It’s time to take a nibble. If your dream is big, move one step forward rather than let its enormity keep it out of reach. Start researching your business idea or take that first class on your degree plan. Get started.

9. Do one thing every month totally out of your zone. Decide that every month you will do one thing that the old you wouldn’t do. Go to the museum instead of run errands. Surprise your son by picking him up early for opening day at the ballpark. Ask the new family over for dinner. You’ll be surprised where it may lead.

10. Journal. This is one of the best ways to clear your thoughts. Include what you are grateful for – it’s amazing all that goes unnoticed.

11. Do the domino exercise. List your 5-7 biggest successes from 2012 and then trace every step back to the first domino that started the momentum. Was it from the generosity of others, a risk you took, or an investment that opened new doors? Learn from where the first dominoes started and consider it in your plans for 2013.

12. Find the magic in the ‘normal’ days. This past summer we lost my mother-in-law, Helen Johnson. I look back at the countless visits and holidays, which seemed so ordinary at the time, but are now treasured memories. When my husband was in an accident a few years ago, I prayed for the return of the ‘normal’ days.

I hope I always appreciate the normal days in 2013, even more than the remarkable events that often get all of our attention. It’s a great time to think and dream about 2013. I hope that at least one of these ideas will help get you started on making next year a special year.


Patti Johnson is a career and workplace expert and the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and human resources consulting firm she founded in 2004. Previously, she was a senior executive at Accenture and has been recently featured as an expert in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, Money Magazine and Working Mother. Patti is also an instructor for SMU Executive Education and a keynote speaker on “Leading Change.” Her first book, Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work & in Life, hit shelves in May 2014. Visit her website at PattiBJohnson.com.

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