I’ve been a cognitive behavioral therapist and entrepreneur for over 20 years. At the beginning of every year, my clients come in carrying a lot of vented up anxiety and nervousness about coming back to work after the holiday season. Most are already struggling to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions and set realistic work goals for the year. January is a particularly challenging month, which is why January 21 (Blue Monday) is considered the most depressing day of the year.
I’ve dedicated considerable time to developing and refining motivational lifestyle techniques that can help people cope with and manage their personal and professional expectations. When these techniques are coalesced together, they can help people feel more empowered, self-reliant, masters of their lives, and capable of achieving what I call sustainable life satisfaction. If you’re willing to be your own change agent, challenge yourself, and test your resiliency, these six methods can open up a more rewarding and satisfying work life in 2019.
1. Divide and conquer your tasks.
Break tasks down into small chunks so you don’t avoid large tasks and miss deadlines. Completing tasks is extremely important to fuel self-esteem. When tasks are left uncompleted, they haunt us. If tasks seem too overwhelming in scope, break them down into smaller chunks. You’ll feel more satisfaction in completing the chunks as opposed to perpetually feeling dissatisfied for not having completed the whole assignment. The empowerment you feel at work will increase the more tasks you close, regardless of scope.
2. Listen to your instincts.
Trust your instincts instead of overthinking. It’s easy to get multiple opinions and perspectives on many decisions that need to be made daily at work. This is particularly important in the new open work space environments that encourage communication and collaboration. Collaboration is great, however, trusting your intuition and decision-making ability is also important in building feelings of self confidence. This will enable you to end the year feeling more capable than you felt when you started. Pick and choose carefully when to challenge yourself to make decisions on your own and when to collaborate, so that you have a healthy balance between the two.
3. Face your fears.
Embrace being emotionally challenged at work. There are a lot of situations at work that make us emotionally uncomfortable, be it advocating for ourselves during a review, asking for a raise, requesting to be added to a project, or wanting to be considered for a promotion. All of these challenges create a feeling of anxiety and fear. Facing these fears makes us feel more competent and effective in the world as well as build feelings of self-confidence. We inherently feel stronger and more satisfied on the other side of fears that we challenge ourselves to face.
4. Be honest about your goals.
Be honest with yourself and your employer about the goals you set for the year. It’s important not to overpromise to yourself or others and then under-deliver as you take on more tasks in an effort to please. Sometimes we do this to make ourselves seem indispensable or invaluable to others. When we are our own harshest critic and set ourselves up to meet unrealistic goals, the person we disappoint the most is ourselves. Don’t push your own goals aside by trying to fulfill someone else’s requests. Own the truth. Avoid people-pleasing behavior, and you will be more satisfied and stronger for it.
5. Communicate, don’t assume.
Communicate mindfully and transparently when issues arise instead of allowing non-issues to become issues. It’s not uncommon to attempt to “read” non-verbal communication, as a way of interpreting someone’s assessment of your job performance. We do this when we’re looking to the outside world for reinforcement. However, we can easily fall into a negative assumption cycle regarding how others are evaluating us. Once we do that, our interactions with our co-workers and employers change. Since nothing has been verbally communicated, they are left confused. Make a commitment to either be patient until verbal feedback is offered or mindfully ask for feedback. Avoiding assumptions about what others may be feeling about us, albeit challenging, leads to a healthier work life.
6. Make time for self-care.
Engage in self-care weekly so you start the new work week re-energized. In order to reinforce that you’re working toward your work goals successfully, taking responsibility for rewarding yourself for a job well done is critical. Waiting for the outside world to reward you in the form of praise, raises, or bonuses is unreliable. Own the task of reinforcing yourself by seeing it as a self-care task of rejuvenation, the same as you would with exercising or eating healthfully. Choose something you like to do, and remind yourself when you do it that you’re choosing to do it because of how hard you work. The more you link hard work to personal reinforcement schedules, the more likely you will feel the hard work is worthwhile for the long haul.
The last word
Remember, starting strong is the easy part. Finishing stronger is much harder. If you’re not achieving your goals within your designated time frame, then recalibrate and set new deadlines for yourself. When you’re successful, reward yourself. If you trust the process, you can have a very satisfying 2019.
Dr. Jennifer Guttman
Dr. Guttman is a clinical psychologist and author of the new book, A Path To Sustainable Life Satisfaction. She has over 20 years of experience specializing in cognitive behavior therapy for children, adolescents and adults. Her practices are located in New York City and Westport, Connecticut. Please visit her website: guttmanpsychology.com.