gratitude: how to measure a year

I thought long and hard about what my one word for 2014 should be.  For the past two years, my words have focused on what I wanted to do and accomplish in each year.  This year, I want to focus more on the small, everyday things that bring me joy, make me smile, or give me pause.  I find that life is passing by far too quickly, and I often struggle to remember all of the moments that make up a year.  In an effort to measure my year, I plan to share a daily thought on what I am grateful for that day.  I might tweet, write a post here or share a photo on Facebook in order to create a log of the year. I also hope this will help me to re-focus on my blog writing.

I know that 2014 will be a year of change and transition, so practicing gratitude will be especially important.  I have much to look forward to and I can’t wait to share this with you.

gratitude 1

For day one, I am expressing my gratitude for the warmth and comfort of home.  After traveling for the holidays, it is great to return to a warm, comfortable home.
Have you decided what your one word will be for 2014? I’d love to hear the story behind it! 

one word for 2013

This time last year, I chose a word to help guide me through the year, instead of creating a list of New Year’s Resolutions.  That word was movement.  I wanted to move my body more, secure a new job and inspire others to move towards their own goals.  Looking back over the year, I found success through movement.  After a lengthy job search (38 applications, 10 interviews and two offers) I found a job that I love.  Not only does this job challenge me professionally, it has had a huge impact on my personal life as well.  Sean and I lived apart for four years (we worked in different cities – you can read our story here), and now we work on the same campus.  What’s that about things happening for a reason?!

I also used my word to motivate me to move my body more and start the process of getting to a better physical me.  I got outside a lot more, walked in the winter, swam in the summer, and returned to Irish dancing in the fall.  I’m only down 10 lbs, but am on the right track for 2013.

Feeling successful with my one word for 2012, I have chosen a new word to direct me in 2013.  That word is do.

Using Nike’s popular slogan to “Just Do It” as motivation, I will strive to discard the things that are holding me back (fear, lack of confidence, negative thoughts, etc.) and just go for it.  Here are the things that I will do in 2013:

– Complete my Masters thesis (or be really, really close by December 2013)
– Make health a priority – through exercise and a much better diet
– Take a vacation with Sean
– Continue to advance professionally
– And, whatever else brings me joy

dont wait do it

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful New Year to each of you.  May 2013 be your best year yet!

What is your one word for 2013? How can I help you to achieve your one word resolution? 

the art of expectations

Expectations.  We all have them.  We have expectations of ourselves, of others, of tangible and intangible things.  Expectations impact the work that we do on a daily basis.  Sometimes expectations encourage us to strive for excellence.  Other times, expectations leave us feeling inadequate and ashamed.

Before I unpack this, a definition of “expectations” is necessary.
According to Google, expectations (noun) can be defined as:
1. A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
2. A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

I recently attended the GLACUHO webinar; “Setting Expectations, Setting Up Success.”  The presenters focused on expectations for residence life student staff, but a lot of the content was applicable to many of the people (supervisors, colleagues, friends, spouses, etc.), and things, we have expectations of.   Not surprisingly, the take-away message was to generate dialogue when crafting expectations and to clearly communicate your expectations with those they apply to.

This webinar made me think.  How do we know when our expectations have been met? And how do we react to unmet expectations? I like to think that I am very clear in my professional expectations at work, but know that I can do more to communicate my expectations at home and in my personal life.

I often find myself asking: “Are my expectations too high?”  I have a tendency to work out the plans and details of events (vacations, birthdays, career moves, and so on) in my head and find that I’m often disappointed when reality does not match my expectations.  Being incredibly detail-oriented does not always serve me well in this regard.

I remember being in high school, and wanting to arrange a fantastic getaway for my group of friends over the Christmas break.  Everyone showed enthusiasm, and I took that as the “go-ahead” to start the planning process.  As an avid skier, Whistler, British Columbia seemed to be the perfect location for our fabulous getaway.  I ordered travel catalogues and researched accommodation options.  I looked into flights and other travel arrangements and presented my friends with a very detailed outline of our options.  Suddenly, plans fell apart.  No one would commit and in the end, we didn’t go anywhere.  I was obviously disappointed and felt that my hard work had gone unnoticed.

I can think back and conjure up a number of other examples similar to the one above.  Because I am so concerned with details and planning, I do not like surprises.  I assume that the surprise will not live up to my expectations, so why bother?  I often get caught in a catch-22 though.  I feel that I shouldn’t have to tell those that are nearest and dearest to me what I want, but then am disappointed if my expectations aren’t met.

When I think about this in a professional setting, it is absurd! I would never assume that  my staff could read my mind and intrinsically know what I expect of them.  Instead, I complete an expectations exercise with colourful post-it notes, where each person writes out their expectations of themselves, their colleagues and of me, their supervisor.  While I’m sure my husband would look at me strangely if I got out the post-it notes at home (then again, maybe not, he’s a student affairs professional too), I know that I need to be more clear about my expectations at home.  I strongly subscribe to the idea that I do not expect my staff to do anything that I myself am not willing to do.  I need to bring this into my personal life as well. This is something I am working on.

Expectations are a funny thing.  We all expect different things.  This is why it is crucial to discuss our expectations with others, both in a professional and personal setting.

How do you communicate your expectations of others? 

goal getter

Working in Student Affairs, we’re well versed in goal setting.  We talk about it with our departments and stress the importance to residence life staff during training.  We know why it’s important to set goals, know the tools to use to reach them and what to do to stay accountable along the way.   Just because we have this expert knowledge, does not mean that we’re expert goal setters or achievers ourselves.  I know I’m sheepishly raising my hand right now, admitting to being a part of that group.

Because September, not January, is more like the “new-year” for those who work in education, it’s the perfect time of year to reflect, revise and reset.  Reflect on the previous year: What was amazing? What do you want to change? What do you need to accept and move on from? Revise your goals from the previous year and reset yourself.  Use the new year as a new chance to start over in areas you want to continue to improve upon.

I had a great opportunity to put goal setting into action during residence life staff training this past week.  Like many of us do during RLS training, we went bowling one night.  There were five of us on a team, none of us expert bowlers to say the least.  The first game, we did okay.  We had fun and didn’t pay much attention to our score.  I think we ended up with a total team score of 380, or somewhere in that ballpark.  For our second game, we set a goal.  We agreed we wanted to achieve a team score of 500.  With encouragement, commitment and a lot of cheering, not only did we reach the goal, we surpassed it!  We ended up with a total team score of 517 (see photo for proof of sheer joy in zooming past our goal).  While this was all in good fun, it did make me think.  If we took the same level of encouragement, commitment and cheerleading to all of our goals, I’m certain we’d have some pretty stellar success stories to tell.

I have some pretty big goals for the upcoming year.  Some are professional, some personal, some health related, others focusing on finances.  I think where I have faltered in the past with goals is not having sound encouragement, strong commitment and no cheerleaders.  If I’ve learned anything from the big bowling win, it’s that I need those things to be able to successfully achieve my goals.  If I don’t tell others about my goals, how am I going to stay accountable?  Who will cheer me on when I need it most, if they don’t know to.  Who will I celebrate with if I try to go it alone?  These are all important questions that I’ll need to remind myself of along the way.

I’m excited about the goals I’ve set out for the year ahead.  It’s going to be a big year, I can just feel it.  I hope you are just as excited to get it started, and I look forward to embarking on the year with you all!