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Little girl looking through binoculars

A new year.

A blank slate to write on, experiment with, screw up, laugh about, and grow with.

An open space within which to wander and dream.

Why waste it on resolutions that don’t reflect those dreams? Instead, why not shift your focus on where you’d like your LIS career to grow in 2016. What do your career dreams look like? This coming year is the perfect time to start moving toward their realization.

A great way to do that is to reflect, explore, plan, and act on those plans. So set aside some quiet time, grab your notebook or journal or laptop, find a comfy spot to settle in, and realize that for this moment, you’re the most important person in your life. You deserve to take time to create your intentions, those actions that will carry your toward your dreams in the coming year.

Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand.
Only dreams give birth to change.
– Sarah Ban Breathnach

Set Your Dreams Up for Success

How do you create those intentions? Try the following steps, which are small, doable, and will give you an opportunity to experience ongoing ‘wins’ for your LIS career dreams. And being reality-based, these steps won’t leave you beating yourself up for all the moments that life is going to intervene to hijack any hard-and-fast resolutions you may have made for the coming year.

First, applause! At the end of any year, you’ve gained roughly 365 days’ worth of new knowledge. Some of it will be hard-won wisdom, some of it will be how to use new technology, some of it will be what never to do again, and perhaps some of it will be self-discovery that’s become the basis of new dreams. The reality is that you’ve most probably grown as a professional and as a human being in the past year – now is the time to recognize the work that you did, regardless of the outcomes. You tried, and by doing so you probably grew into a deeper, wiser, more knowledgeable version of yourself.

Second, identify what you’ve learned. The probably in that previous sentence is based on whether or not you take the time to reflect on and learn from your experience. If not, now’s a great time to start doing so. Think about the previous year: what did you try that worked, what not so much? What would you do more of, or differently, next time? What did you learn about yourself from those experiences? Growing in self-knowledge is one of the most powerful outcomes to shoot for in your career.

Third, really connect with your dreams. My favorite Zora Neale Hurston quote is “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” Similarly, some years are perfect for big career dreams, others for more modest goals. Carve out that quiet interlude Breathnach describes and think about your career dreams for the coming year, those areas where you want to focus additional time and energy to grow your career in the direction you’re dreaming of. The great thing about setting these sorts of stretch goals for yourself is that once you’ve done this, you’ll probably encounter multiple opportunities throughout the year to make that career investment because you’ve now made a commitment to grow in this direction. And if those opportunities don’t present themselves? Challenge yourself to seek out ways to create them.

Last, make a plan. Say your stretch goal is to do more public speaking because your career dream is to become a sought-after workshop leader in your LIS area of expertise. What will it take for you to make that happen in a way that fits your personality? For example, you may want to start small by presenting to a familiar group, say your book club. Or perhaps you’d prefer to learn some baseline skills and increase your confidence level by attending a local Toastmaster’s group. Another option would be spending one lunch hour a week watching different TED talks to learn from expert presenters. Or, if you learn better by reading rather than watching, you might want to check out a great book on public speaking like Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (Carmine Gallo, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015). Whichever options you choose, you’ll want to create an action plan that you can return to for updating, additional ideas, etc. as you move toward your dreams. (A journal can be very effective for this, whether you use it for writing, drawing, mapping, cutting and pasting, or any other ways to engage with your plans.) Then start following your plan!

Set Yourself Up for Happiness

Resolutions generally focus on fixing a negative – changing a behavior, disciplining yourself to stop doing something or start doing something else. They almost never take, setting you up for a sense of failure and defeat. The reality is, however, wrecked resolutions aren’t really your fault. Turns out that the human psyche and our lives in general really aren’t set up for the unwavering focus and self-discipline it takes to easily, permanently change a behavior. (Think positive habits and sustainable environments rather than resolutions when you are ready to change a behavior.)

On the other hand, dreams can inspire and motivate us to steer a steady course in their direction despite setbacks and obstacles. Think progress, not perfection; small steps rather than giant leaps. Set yourself up for happiness by making 2016 the year you begin working toward your LIS career dreams, knowing that if you’re headed in the right direction all steps forward will eventually get you there.