New Year’s Eve at midnight: colorful fireworks lightening the sky, popping champagne corks and smiling people wishing a “happy new year” to each other.
What does it mean, a happy new year? How much of it is destiny, how much is an accident and how much of it can we influence ourselves?
The first days in January the radio is full of broadcasts about the new year’s resolutions. People share their good intents for 2020: a healthier diet, exercising, more sports, spending more time with their loved ones… the same procedure as every year…
Who really benefits from new year’s resolutions are the gyms – more than half of their new entries take place in January. But psychologically, unspecific intents are dangerous: an academic study conducted by the University of Scranton found out that only 19% of the study’s participants managed to keep up to their resolutions in the long run. So, if the odds are against us regarding new year’s resolutions, what else could help us have a “happy new year”?
I have three suggestions, which also happen to be my wishes for you in 2020: cheerful moments, true goals and serendipity.
Cheerful Moments: I wish you as many moments as possible in which your mind is engaged with something you like and appreciate. Moments that catch your full attention and in which you are full of curiosity what will happen next. These are the moments when we experience what psychologists call the “flow” experience: you tend to forget time. Concerns and fears are turned off as you are fully dedicated to what you are doing in the here and now.
For me such cheerful moments are when I play with my family in front of the fireplace, when I go for a jog in beautiful nature, when I read a good book or write myself, when I philosophize with friends over a glass of delicious wine – or when I facilitate an interactive session with a curious and open-minded group of people.
You may ask yourself:
- What are the situations in daily life that give me a sense of fulfillment, joy or happiness?
- And what can I do to include as many of these moments as possible in the upcoming 12 months?
- What might I cancel to get more time for the situations that really count for me in this phase of my life?
True Goals: I wish you clarity about what outcomes you want to accomplish with all your heart – in your personal and professional life. I often get faced with a dramatic misconception: goals are neither performance targets set by others (e.g. your boss or corporate controlling) nor what you assume you must accomplish (e.g. because all your friends have it or somebody close demands it). True goals are desirable states you want to achieve in the future because they are meaningful to you!
Goals are an important source of motivation as they describe something that is not so easily implemented like the cheerful moments I described earlier. Goals demand focus, discipline, perhaps skills you don’t have yet, some degree of organization and even financial resources. Accomplishment will not happen if you rely on good luck. Therefore, it is fundamental to select the right goals first before you invest a lot of effort to achieve them.
When you think about goals worth striving for, you may note down a possible goal (I strive to…) and then complement it with “…in order to….” and “…because it makes me….”. Following the conjunction “…in order to…” you describe the purpose or benefit that achieving this goal should create. Just behind the “because it….” you formulate the positive effects that you expect yourself from accomplishing the goal. This exercise will help you to compare possible goals, assess them and make priorities.
Here is an example:
My goal is to write a book about life leadership…
in order to help as many people as possible to gain clarity and confidence by sharing the knowledge and tools, I gathered during the last decade,
because it is fun and gives me a sense of fulfillment and impact.
Another goal might be:
My goal is to organize a full moon summer party with all the people that really matter to me…
in order to celebrate our friendship and strengthen the relationships,
because it gives me a feeling of connection and love and it will be a magic moment I will never forget.
You may ask yourself:
- What are the outcomes and improvements in my private and professional life I want to accomplish?
- Imagining the desired end state, what steps and preconditions do I have to consider going back to make it happen? What is the price I will pay for achieving this goal?
- Do I still honestly want this? And if yes: why is it so important to me?
Serendipity: I wish you this kind of positive surprises that suddenly open new doors and may give your life positive spin, events that inspire new thoughts and actions. You may meet somebody who will change your life, you will hear about a new method or tool that will help you to progress, you may discover a new hobby or passion.
Serendipity requires an open mind and clarity about what values and topics are worth seeking. There are far more information and knowledge available these days than our conscious mind is able to process within a life span. Many people are stressed out and overwhelmed by this information overload, the numberless options, and choices, the many decisions to make. Their calendars are fully booked for months – there is no space for spontaneity and good luck. Serendipity requires spaces to allow it to happen – this may be that you go to conferences, read inspirational books, ask some interesting people for a first meeting or visit a place your intuition tells you to go to.
When our third daughter started to crawl around, our flat close to Gärtnerplatz right in the centre of Munich became too small. First, I didn’t think about moving to the countryside and started searching for a apartment in the same neighborhood. But as I did not find something affordable I really liked, I opened up a search radius of one hour driving distance to my office in Thalkirchen. By serendipity, not by planned intend, we ended up in a small city at the shore of lake Ammersee that we now perceive as the most beautiful place on earth.
You may ask yourself:
- If I had to google something that I really want to learn more about – what would be the search words or sentence that I would enter.
Just do it! Type it out and be curious what pops up on the screen.
Cheerful moments, truly desirable goals and serendipity for me seem to form a magic triangle that enables an active, positive and happy life. They demand a certain level of self-awareness and self-consciousness about what are your sources of meaning and positive emotions.
And there is one other important rule that theologian Friedrich Oetinger articulated in the 18th century already:
“God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
Putting all the above mentioned together:
I wish all of you a happy new year!
About the author:
Sebastian Morgner is co-founder of the Future of Leadership Initiative (FLI) and managing director of the MLI Leadership Institute in Munich. He is married, has 3 kids and is a passionate hiker. In his job, he advises senior executives on strategy activation and digital transformation and is a life coach to anybody who wants to lead a positive life and accomplish desirable goals.
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