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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

It's not surprising that only 8 per cent of us keep New Year's resolutions because making changes in our lives can feel like just another job we have to add to an already full to-do list. What if, instead of thinking of these intentions as tasks, we thought of them as opportunities to evolve into the person we wish to become? When we focus less on what we want to fix and more on the person we are striving to become in order to feel happier, be more productive, and feel more fulfilled, we're more motivated to make things happen. Since we become what we practice, here are five simple actions you can take to operate at your peak every day and thrive in your life and career.

Be grateful: See the glass a half full.

Action: Each night before you go to bed, take a few minutes and reflect on all you're grateful for: Your loved ones, the roof over your head, your friendships, having a job that supports you and your family, experiencing good health, and your opportunity to lead and influence others. Take a few moments to relish the feeling. Then think about three positive things that happened at work or with a family member today. In a notebook or your journal, take two minutes before drifting off to sleep and jot down what you're grateful for. When you have a challenging day, go back and review what you've written. This practice will help you stay focused on seeing the glass as half full instead of half empty, as well as offer many more physical, psychological and social benefits.

Be resilient: Take care of yourself to be your best for others.

Action: Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give someone else. When you're on an airplane you have to put your own mask on first before you can help your child. Think of self-care in the same way, as a selfless act. Each day, do something for yourself that helps you refill your own well so you can stay resilient. Take a walk, go for a run, watch an inspiring podcast, cook a healthy meal, buy yourself flowers, take a hot bath after the kids go to bed. Designate at least 10 minutes each day to do something that nurtures your body, mind, and spirit so you have something left over to give to those who depend on you most.

Be present: Tune in and be 100 per cent present for yourself and someone else.

Action: It's hard to be present with the constant barrage of social media, technology, and multitasking in our lives. Take a break from it all for at least 10 minutes each day and practise being present. This can be while you're eating a meal, helping your child with homework, participating in a conversation at work, leading a meeting, or even playing with your pet. Practise being present with those around you. Really be there. Listen to them without an agenda. Appreciate them for who they are, for how they make your world a better place. And let them know how much you value them. If you slow down long enough to really listen, you might even learn something new.

Move your body: Feel more connected to the magnificence of your body.

Action: Practice moving your body every day. This can take the form of stretching, gentle walking, to more vigorous exercise. Feel the power you have in your muscles and in every step you take. Feel how vibrant you are now, knowing you're getting even stronger with each movement. One simple action you can take every day is taking a walk, even if it's a walk to the cafeteria on your lunch break. Leave your phone behind, breathe in the air, notice the beauty around you, feel the power in your steps, feel your connection to the ground beneath your feet. In addition to the health benefits, realize and be thankful for the magnificence of your body to take you wherever you want to go.

Quiet your mind: Spend more time being and less time doing.

Action: We all have to hit the reset button on our phones and laptops periodically. Our brains need that, too. It's not that difficult to carve out a few minutes every day to stop "doing" and savour the silence. Practise getting up 5-10 minutes earlier than your normal wake-up time each day. This way, you aren't losing productive time, so you won't have an excuse not to do this. Sit up in bed with your back straight or in a chair where you won't be disturbed. Set a timer on your phone or on your alarm for 5 minutes then build from there. Close your eyes. Focus on breathing from your abdomen, rather than from your chest. Breathe in and out of your nose. Notice where you feel your breath most prominently on your inhale and your exhale. When your mind wanders, bring yourself back to your breathing by focusing on the sensation of your breath until your timer sounds. Hit the reset button on your inner hard drive at least once a day by focusing on your breathing rather than on all the things you have to do. Notice what you notice about the world when you're quiet and not caught up in the fray.

Pay it forward: Help someone else every day.

Action: Do something nice for someone that enables you to extend yourself to others without expecting something in return. Every day, practise delivering one act of kindness and notice how that makes you feel. For example, pay the road toll of the person behind you. Smile at strangers and watch them smile back at you. Hold the door open for someone else. Buy a colleague a cup of coffee. Let someone in front of you in your lane of traffic who wants to move over even when you're in a rush. Usually, when doing something nice for someone else, the person who benefits most is the giver.

Donna Stoneham, Ph.D, is president of Positive Impact, LLC in Pt. Richmond, CA. She is an executive coach, transformational leadership expert, speaker and author of Thriver's Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love and Lead.

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