by the CI Editorial Committee
As a new year is about to unfold, it’s natural to look to the future with anticipation, and undoubtedly there’s much of 2020 that we want to leave behind. Yet, how much of what we’ve learned and experienced will carry forward, influencing trends, beliefs, habits and policies? What can we expect from 2021 and more importantly, how can we direct the course of our own actions?
The key word that comes to mind is alignment. Whether we’re focused on teams, patients, students, our families, or ourselves, there is an overwhelming sense that in 2021, we are seeking the steadiness that often follows times of great resilience. While it might feel comforting to imagine this steadiness as a return to the old normal, the growth and innovation which also marked 2020 activates a greenfield of opportunities to enrich our work and livelihood – some of which may have already become habitual.
To truly direct the course of our own actions, invite in new habits, or decide to leave some of 2020 in the past, the alignment we seek should serve a greater purpose. And when it does, we feel the relief of things falling into place. More than a goal or benchmark, this purpose is our personal or professional mission statement: our answer to Simon Sinek’s “why.”
What’s needed in order to align ourselves or others around this greater purpose? We need answers. Often in times of indecision, creation, or reinvention, questions take over. This can be extremely positive and helpful, particularly when those questions lead us into action.
Our answers need to satisfy three key components – head, heart, and habits – in order for alignment to take place. To satisfy our head, we need to acknowledge the barriers and invite creative solutions. Start by making a list of everything standing in your way, all the reasons not to act, all the hurdles, red-tape, opposition, or obstacles. This will declutter our mind and allow those “what if” ideas to take shape. Once those are on paper, take a “so what, now what” approach and begin entertaining creative solutions. This process is iterative, and you might find yourself testing multiple pathways. Keep going.
To satisfy our heart, we need to visualize our impact. According to the Harvard Business Review, more than nine out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. And interestingly, there’s reciprocity here: Employees who find work meaningful experience significantly greater job satisfaction, which means increased productivity and retained talent for their employers.
Whether as individuals or organizations, acting on our own behalf or on behalf of clients, finding the “why” and visualizing the impact will have far-reaching effects on happiness, productivity, and engagement. Consider composing a written statement or mood board that can be displayed in a prominent location to keep this visualization exercise front and center. As a statement, this can be a powerful way to start every meeting, or if you are embarking on a personal journey, consider this the mantra that starts your day.
Finally, to satisfy our habits, we need to make meaningful connections and reinforce them with actions. Start by identifying the chain of events that unfolds when habits we would like to change, take over. Then, thinking back to the impact we would like to have, ask what new connections we would like to make instead and identify an action that supports our vision. Believe in your ability to accomplish this, even among setbacks. Habits are only challenging to redirect until their sequence is revealed. Once we see a new possibility that aligns with our purpose, forming new habits is much easier.
As we ring in 2021, consider not just making resolutions, but identifying a purpose that brings alignment to our work and lives. From all of us at the Construction Institute, we wish you a Happy New Year!