We’re close to entering the third year of the pandemic. Although we’re all getting used to living with uncertainty, it takes a toll. In times like this, you can’t take your professional and personal wellbeing for granted. You need to be proactive about habits and routines that can help you maintain your wellbeing along with a healthy mindset.
In his book Drive, Daniel Pink says intrinsic motivation is sparked by autonomy, purpose, and mastery. Strangely enough, the pandemic has created conditions for these three elements to thrive. Many of you have been fortunate to enjoy more autonomy when working from home. The pandemic has also caused us to think about what really matters in life: our purpose. In this “great resignation,” people are leaving jobs that don’t provide the purpose and autonomy they seek.
In 2022, invest more time in your personal and professional growth
And what about mastery, the third element of intrinsic motivation? Well, that one is up to you. We’re proposing you make 2022 the year you invest in yourself, in your own wellbeing, and in your personal and professional growth—that’s how you will achieve mastery and purpose too.
#1: Make space for learning
You’re in charge of your professional development. Don’t rely on your employer for the push or support you need for career growth. Although associations should invest in their employees’ professional development, many don’t, which is odd considering what they encourage members to do.
A new LinkedIn study found that “employees who spend time at work learning are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful, 23% more ready to take on additional responsibilities, and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy.”
Make space in your weekly schedule for learning. Start small. Like any new habit, the focus required may feel uncomfortable at first, but will get easier as you exercise different “muscles.”
Think about your professional goals and how you might attain them. What competencies do you need to acquire? What strengths do you want to enhance and leverage?
#2: Clock out
You can’t be fully present for professional development unless you set firm boundaries around your work day. When the day is done, you are done. No more emails and notifications. You are off the clock. You need time to recharge your brain and refill your well. You should be fully present when you’re at home (or out and about) so you can be fully present when at work too.
The job market is very fluid right now. If your job makes it impossible for you to set boundaries, if it drains you, if your employer doesn’t support your professional development, or if you feel like life is passing you by, brush up your LinkedIn profile and resume, you deserve better.
#3: Practice gratitude
You hear about gratitude all the time because it works. Countless studies reveal the benefits of a gratitude practice: it reduces stress, boosts your immune system, provides a dopamine hit, and makes you a happier person, just to name a few.
Learning and brain science expert Britt Andreatta said, “Several studies have shown that both gratitude and mindfulness make the brain more receptive to learning, which is vital during change, as we gain new skills and habits.”
Every morning, simply write about three things you’re grateful for—experiences, people, things, events, situations, etc.—in a notes app, Word doc, or journal. Gratitude has extra power when you think about how each one makes you feel as you write about it. You’re not just recording gratitude, you’re experiencing gratitude.
#4: Dedicate time to reflection
Association professionals always wish they had more time to think. A morning habit of reflection and journaling is a good place to start—or do it at the end of the day. Pull out a journal or pull up a Word doc and write. Or buy a journal with writing prompts or a book that provides a reading for each day of the year.
#5: Rest well
Make a promise to yourself to get enough sleep. The hustle culture is passé. Don’t let revenge bedtime procrastination get the best of you—go to bed on time. If you work from home, take naps when you need them. Back when we worked in an office, I knew a guy who swore by a late-morning nap in his car in the garage. Napping isn’t an option for everyone, so if you can’t nap, get enough sleep.
#6: Unleash your curiosity
Expose your mind to experiences and topics that stimulate your curiosity. Read outside your usual genre. Listen to a new set of podcasts. Sure, you could include a few work-related reads and podcast episodes to keep the mix interesting but go for new topics too.
Embrace playtime. Tap into activities that inspire your inner child. Put up a picture of the five- or six-year-old you as a reminder of how creative and curious you were at that age. Dr. Britt Andreatta said, “Play generates optimism, spurs curiosity, fosters empathy, cultivates perseverance, and leads to mastery.” So, try one of these.
• Play video games, board games, or charades with friends.
• Dabble in art projects.
• Get out your high school trombone and relearn how to read music.
• Tell a story to little kids.
• Go exploring in the woods.
#7: Welcome awe back into your life
Remember awe? Finding wonder, being transported by something, and seeing things and experiences as if through the eyes of a child—that’s powerful medicine.
The French poet-philosopher Charles Baudelaire said, “The child sees everything in a state of newness,” and a great artist is one “who is never for a moment without the genius of childhood—a genius for which no aspect of life has become stale.”
Researchers have discovered some surprising reasons for awe improving our lives. For example, awe makes us feel like we have more time and helps us think more critically. First, however, you must be willing to be awed. Then, make a point of putting yourself in situations where you’re likely to be awed by art, music, literature, sports, science, or nature.
#8: Befriend mother nature
Take regular walks in the woods, desert, beach, fields, park, or wherever nature exists in your world. Three times a week, you need 20 minutes outside. This is the “dose of nature that most efficiently dropped peoples’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The catch: You can’t be on your cell phone; you must be focused on the outdoors.”
#9: Be here now
Build in time each day for that nature walk or for meditation or another mindfulness activity that prevents your mind from mulling over the past or worrying about the future. Our social streams are inundated with articles about meditation because it’s an effective way to develop some mastery over your mind and reactions.
In fact, meditation changes the brain. “A daily mindfulness practice actually shrinks the amygdala, making it less reactive.” Every wisdom tradition in recorded history has championed some kind of mindfulness practice. Researchers say mindfulness prepares us for the discomfort of change, reduces stress, increases focus, and decreases anxiety: an appropriate prescription for association professionals.
#10: Practice adapting to change
It’s easy to sleepwalk through your day, doing the same old thing because that’s what the brain prefers. If you make tiny changes in your life, your ability to adapt to change will improve and your mindset towards change will start shifting.
You can practice adapting to change by simply changing a routine (like where you get gas, coffee, or lunch), what kind of workout you do, or what you normally do in the morning, at night, or on the weekend.
At the start of a new year, everyone likes to make resolutions or set goals about their physical fitness, but what about your emotional and intellectual fitness? Like a new savings habit, if you invest a little in your personal and professional growth each week and slowly increase the time you spend on yourself as the months go by, you’ll be in shape for anything 2022 brings your way.