Happy New Year to you and happy anniversary to Prosper for Purpose. Our small but mighty agency became official on this date in 2013. Every new year brings new chances to live with more purpose so, as we welcome a new year and launch our seventh year in business, I want to share seven secrets you can use to improve your business and your life this year. These are the lessons I have learned and incorporated into my own life and business. Whether you want to call them resolutions or goals is up to you.
1. Find (or Curate) Your Inner Circle
Over the years, I have curated my inner circle, that group of people sometimes referred to as “team,” “tribe” or “posse.” This circle is different than my work team here at Prosper. My inner circle consists of a thought partner I’ve spoken with weekly for nearly five years, a business coach, and members of several private online groups that engage on a variety of topics related to my business and also hold in person meetings or conferences. Having these relationships keeps me accountable and focused. The members give me valuable feedback and amazing support. These individuals weren’t easy to find, but they were worth the effort. I really believe leaders are stronger and more successful when they have an inner circle.
Which brings me to my first announcement: Prosper for Purpose will be launching its own group this year, targeted to entrepreneurs and small businesses. We will be sharing some of our most requested products and services, and providing opportunities for learning and networking. Stay tuned for our announcement on how you can join!
2. Practice Imperfect Action
Last week we had a team meeting for a cause campaign we’re developing. We have an idea that we were so excited about before the holidays, but suddenly we found ourselves hesitating. Can you relate? So often we wait to take that next step, even when we really want to. The truth is practically no one ever feels completely ready for anything and there’s no such thing as perfection. Most of us are better prepared than we think and we learn absolutely nothing by maintaining the status quo. Which brings me to the next secret.
3. Accept Failure as Feedback
Let’s be clear, failure hurts. It can hurt our finances, our relationships and it always hurts our pride. But failure is critical to success. It is the way we learn what we can do differently or better or even how much we really want something. I have experienced this more times than I care to count in my own business. What I’ve learned is that there is always something to be learned if we’re only paying attention. More than once, I have learned that what I initially perceived as failure was actually a move towards something better. And that may be the best lesson of all.
4. Take Care of Yourself
I have a pretty healthful diet and I drink lots of water, but I tend to forget to schedule my annual check-up and I exercise only sporadically. Recently, though, I embraced a different attitude after a few people close to me were diagnosed with some serious conditions that came with few warning signs. Taking care of yourself means not only taking care of your body, but also your mind and spirit. Self care is not selfish. I used to cringe when the flight attendant said “In case of emergency, place your oxygen mask on first before assisting others” but now I get it. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others, from family to employees.
5. Make a Difference
I used to leave Post-it notes with positive messages on bathroom mirrors on occasion, especially around the college campus where I worked. The idea that someone who might be having a bad day would encounter a cheery yellow Post-it that said “This is your day!” or “You’re perfect!” actually brightened my day.
From buying a coffee for the person behind you in line to volunteering every Saturday with your favorite charity, doing something regularly to make the world, your community or just one person’s life a bit better is a wonderful thing that feels wonderful, too. Giving without expecting anything in return may be the best kind of gift possible.
6. Do Something Out of the Ordinary
Science has proven that learning a new skill opens up new pathways in the brain. But getting out of your comfort zone is good for you in other ways as well.
I’m honored to announce that I’ve joined the board of advisors for Scare Your Soul (SYS), a volunteer-led, science-based movement that inspires people to ignite their best selves through living a courageous life. Based on the principles of positive psychology, SYS guides and motivates individuals to partake in repeated small acts of courage. The organization builds inspiration and community by sharing the commitments and accomplishments of participants from around the world. I invite you to join by signing up here — it’s free!
7. Be Kind
I once (and only once) worked retail on Christmas Eve. I was 17. The people shopping that night seemed especially grumpy and I was upset that I had to work late. Towards the end of my shift, two women began to argue over a sweater they both wanted to purchase. I had no idea who had it first and I had a line of people at my register waiting to check out. The woman at the front of my queue saw me pause to take in the chaos around me and said, “It must be hard for you to be working tonight. I’m sure you’d much rather be home with your family.” It was the first time since I’d started my shift that I felt the Christmas spirit.
It is my belief that kindness matters more than intellect or capability, more than pretty much anything. Life happens and it sometimes isn’t pretty and it often isn’t in our control. But what we can control is our behavior. And when we respond with kindness, it makes a difference. Grudges and negativity hold us back. They keep us focused on something we can’t do anything about. Responding with kindness frees us to move on.
Proactive kindness is equally important. It is the first step in making a difference. It’s taking time to ask for the manager at a restaurant so you can report good service. It’s acknowledging that everyone is busy, stressed or struggling in some way. It’s stepping outside yourself to acknowledge someone else.
So those are my seven secrets. My wish is that one or more of them help you navigate your new year with purpose, joy and hope. Here’s to your best year yet!