Instead of setting the same vague goals year after year, try these six unexpected career resolutions that experts say could make you happier, more engaged, and even more successful in your work.
We’ve all seen the research about how many people are not engaged in their work or actively hate their jobs. You have a decision to make: You can dive in and decide to make positive changes. Or you can detach from your job emotionally and get your validation elsewhere, says Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential and author of The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership.
Many people are disenchanted with the state of the world, Harlan says. Think about the changes you need to make to feel more fulfilled overall. “Think about the organization you’re working with: What do they do, or what does my team do that creates a positive impact in the world? Look for what choices you can make, and actions you can take, that are going to bring you more meaning,” she says. That may mean making changes in your career to get the fulfillment you’re seeking, or readjusting the rewards you seek from work and other areas of your life.
Are there people in your work life you can’t stand? It’s probably hurting you more than it’s hurting them, says former Wall Street analyst Amy Newmark, publisher and editor-in-chief of the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, and author of Simply Happy: A Crash Course in Chicken Soup for the Soul Advice and Wisdom.
Try to let go of the negative emotions and take a more analytical approach, Newmark says. What is the person’s motivation for taking objectionable action? Usually, it’s more about them than about you. “I realized that almost all the things that have ever been unpleasant—somebody yelling at me or whatever—really weren’t about me. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t take these things personally,” she says. You don’t have to be a doormat, but you also don’t have to waste energy on grudges.
Too often, Kathi Elster’s clients put off asking for what they want until “they feel like they’re 110% ready,” says the executive coach and coauthor of Working for You Isn’t Working for Me: How to Get Ahead When Your Boss Holds You Back.
Sure, you want to make sure you can prove your case for what you’re asking, but you can always make up excuses about why you’re not ready, she says. The longer you put off asking for a raise, promotion, or other career goal, the longer you’re likely going to wait for it. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. You don’t have to be 110% ready—75% to 80% ready is fine, she says. (Or even 51%.)
Whether you’re supervising staff or just interacting with your fellow team members, showing confidence in the abilities of those around you may not seem like an obvious resolution. But trusting your teammates and employees, encouraging them, and supporting them in their own stretch goals is going to strengthen your relationships—and make those around you stronger, enabling you to accomplish your goals, too, Newmark says.
If you’re serious about reaching that goal, Harlan recommends finding an accountability partner or group. When selecting a person or group to keep you honest and on task, accomplishments don’t matter as much as their dedication to staying committed to moving forward with their own goals—and expecting you to do the work to achieve your own.
A 2015 study from researchers at Dominican University of California measured the impact of accountability on goal achievement. More than 70% of study participants who sent weekly updates to a friend either completely accomplished their goal or were more than halfway there compared to 35% of those who didn’t share their goals or write them down.
Elster says this might not be the most surprising resolution, but to move forward, it’s important to understand the obstacles in your way. Do you have a boss who isn’t helping you develop in your career? Are you a “yes” person who takes on too much to the detriment of your professional development? Use this resolution-setting time to really think about the actions you need to take to clear those obstacles and get to where you want to go, she says.
“What trap are you caught in that you can try to break down?” Elster says. “Look at how you can break free from anything that’s holding you back.”