Your First Step in the New Year

Woman running in the snow

January 25, 2021

Happy New Year to you and yours! 

Despite the blustery winter weather in Chicago, I am drawn outdoors in the often fleeting sunshine to put feet to the pavement to find the space for me to reflect on the past year and reset my focus for the year ahead. The arrival of 2021 shines with renewed hope of healthier, happier days to come, and the opportunity for all of us to reflect on what we learned last year and apply it towards building a brighter future. 

Some of the bigger questions we faced last year were: How do we stay focused on our goals in a time of great adversity and uncertainty? How can we move forward when the world is on hold? 

When Branding and Communications Expert Dorie Clark and I asked ourselves these same questions back in June of 2020, we walked away with four clarifying questions to ask ourselves: 

1. What is important to me in the near future? 

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it’s increasingly difficult to do long-range planning. Make your goals more manageable by breaking them down into smaller goalposts. Instead of thinking about 2021 as a marathon, think of it as 52 mini-sprints, each week getting you a little closer to your finish line. 

2. What can I control? 

Find empowerment through small actions you can take on your own, regardless of the long-term outcome. Examine your locus of control (your belief of how much or how little control you have over your circumstances), and pinpoint the areas where you have the ability to take action. 

3. What are the actions I can take right now? 

Any step is a step forward. When in doubt, take on one action item and see it through to completion. This could be as simple as deciding to drink more water everyday to seeking out new skills or education. Just doing the next right thing propels you forward. 

4. How will I be accountable? 

You are not alone on your path. Call upon trusted friends and advisors to be witnesses and champions of your journey and to hold you accountable to your goals. Keep them updated on your progress, and ask for feedback and guidance. 

The year ahead holds uncertainty but also hope. Whether you are a soon-to-be graduate entering the job market for the first time, a mid-career professional contemplating a career change, or if you’re just thinking about how to rebalance and refocus your energy, take this turn of the calendar as an opportunity to take a step forward. By clarifying our goals, taking small actions and sharing our progress with others, we can give ourselves the foundation we need for long-term success that will survive any short-term setbacks. 

What small step will you take towards your goal today? 

Patricia Carl