Resolution 2015: Shape up Your Mental Muscle

Written by Paul Marchildon, on December 30, 2014.

Resolution Ah yes, New Year’s Eve. Champagne and resolutions–usually focused on physical “personal bests”. But diet and exercise are child’s play in comparison to getting mentally sharp and focused for the year ahead. It takes real work, dedication – and Ace bandages. What’s your mental fitness plan? And why should you bother with one at all?

Don’t Work Harder

North Americans cannot work any harder. We just can’t. During the economic downturn, employees picked up the slack, maintaining productivity despite layoffs and decreases. We’ve become like rubber bands stretched too far. We’re going to snap. Unless we figure out ways to work smarter and more efficiently. Not harder. Not more. Better.

To do that, we have to stay mentally fit. What can we plan in December to set ourselves up for success in January, for the entire year, and beyond?

A Personal Plan For Mental Fitness

Let’s ditch the traditional resolutions this year. Let’s make a plan. Start with this: What are your goals and objectives? I try to take a holistic view: it’s not just fitness, not just diet, not just work, not just personal. I include goals that, when accomplished, will set me up to successfully integrate work and life more seamlessly.

Like what? An example from my list: read six books – really solid books that will make a difference in my life. I’m more of an article/short story/tweet guy, so for me, this was something to reach for! The Alchemist was one of these, and it changed the way I look at life for the better.

Another: I am back on a yoga spree. Anytime you have a great instructor, it’s as rewarding mentally as it is physically. By the time you leave, you feel completely renewed–and there is something to be said for a rejuvenated spirit.

Actually, there’s a lot to be said about it. Practicing gratitude, for instance, not only renews the mind – it benefits the body. Drs. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, for example, conducted a study in which they asked participants to write a few sentences each week:
• Group 1 wrote about things they were grateful for.
• Group 2 wrote about things that had irritated or displeased them.
• Group 3 wrote about events, with no negative or positive spin.

The results: after 10 weeks, those who “had” to write about gratitude felt more optimistic and happier about their lives. They also exercised more and went to the doctor less than those who focused on irritations.

Another study uncovered a link between manager gratitude and employee performance. While not everyone finds the idea of practicing gratitude palatable, certainly they would find enhanced productivity and profitability worth a (sincere) “Thank you” here and there!

Get A Second Set Of Eyes On Your Plan

I have a personal coach. Everyone should! Last year, we reviewed my progress. I was nervous, thinking I had bombed! But when we sat down, she helped me realize that I’d met or exceeded 11 of 12 goals. The 12th, in which I hadn’t been as successful as I’d wanted, was all that I thought about, forgetting that I nailed the other 11.

This is just one reason why it’s a great idea to share and review your goals, whether it’s a friend, coworker, spouse, or coach. They can add their own perspective and help you become accountable to someone else – which can help on those days when you’re feeling too lazy/uninspired to put your plan into action!

How Can You Help Your Employees?

What if you, as a manager, provide tools for your people that would enable them to create a plan and implement action steps? What kind of framework could you provide? The “Why” is easy: when they’re mentally fit, you benefit from increased motivation, engagement, and productivity. The “How” though? Try a professionally-facilitated employee session to help your people set themselves up for success in the New Year. A great tool in working smarter is work/life integration. We know we need measurable work objectives for success—the same applies to creating measurable wins in life (and leisure).

Remember, success is holistic: Be sure they integrate their physical, mental, spiritual, recreational, and family fitness!

Another avenue that you could pursue is your office environment. What could you do so that when people show up on January 2, they feel invigorated and excited to start the year? How can you make it fresh and new? It could be as simple as an office clean up, ensuring everything is less cluttered. Maybe you add a poster of 2015’s inspiring mantra to the wall or put a small inspirational gift on their desks to surprise and welcome them.

It doesn’t have to be huge or earth-shattering, but it can set the tone and fuel a sense of renewal – like a new cup of freshly-sharpened pencils on the first day of school. What better time for that boost than January?

I jest and take a jovial tone, but the need to support your own mental fitness and help your people do the same is pressing. We can’t do more with less or work any harder. We have to put something back in. If it takes a drill instructor to give us the kick we need, well, no. I won’t go that far! But a sound plan and some support implementing it will prepare you for a stellar year of work and life.

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.