Is it too late in January to talk about New Year’s Resolutions? Because, strangely, I don’t recall hearing much from friends or social media feeds about any of it, did you? January seemed to just slip into 2018 unobtrusively. I investigated news sources citing “New Year’s Resolutions” for a more statistical snapshot, and looky there, a decline indeed!
Maybe all the obvious and tremendous work to be done in the world is too overwhelming. Is there a list even capable of containing it? The very concept of a list — resolution, checklist, done, contained, control – feels inadequate in the face of such chaos. We should learn better that our work here is never done.
In the spirit of one of those new year’s articles, I too am doing away with resolutions, preferring to work where I am with what I’ve got. What I’ve got is a need for perpetual action. Revolutions, if you will, marked by a sense of continuity, evolving, moving, growing. Where what counts is not volume amassed, nor time spent, but meaningful motion. A way to keep going through the change I wish to see in the world, and through the inevitable blocks that judgement and insecurity so often bring. While it may frustrate me and bore you to repeatedly use these path-finding, me-centering approaches to problem-solving, repetition plays an important part in my New Year’s revolution.
In my early library days, when introversion prevailed, I habitually avoided eye contact and small talk. Strangers, acquaintances, colleagues, it didn’t matter. Better, I thought, just to keep my head down. Sometimes, I’d vary it by looking over at something that [hadn’t] distracted me just then, or up as if trying to remember something I’d [not really] forgotten. Always with a twinge of guilty knowing. For the sake of professional collegiality and my actual desire to make new friends, I gradually chipped away at this habit through repetition. I still do avoid sometimes, and then I remember to begin again. One step at a time. That kind repetition led to other, larger personal growth in my work. This year’s revolution takes that growth to places and relationships in my life that need work. The revolution comes by recognizing work-life balance as in motion, arriving, and moving again.
This year both my father and mother experienced serious health events, throwing me way off balance. This meant gathering siblings, uncomfortable conversations, and a lot of travel. Just as in work (e.g. meetings, uncomfortable conversations, and conference travel), I’ve struggled to navigate the boundaries of our respective competing needs, expectations, and disappointments. Moving through this new reality has meant accepting each of my parents where they are (which I’m pretty good at), and also staying regularly connected with them (which I’m not really good at). When I slow down my thinking of the ends, and go through the process of the means, as I often do at work, I find that I’m actually quite good at connection. For me, the focus on initiation is what unlocks the door to connection. When I apply my strengths as an activator with individualization to this more personal context, it allows me to examine my own expectations and ask, “What is enough for me?” That revelation clears the way for initiating those connections each time, and time again.
There remains a necessary element in this, which is more physical at its core. This year’s resurgence of two movements, #MeToo and The Body is not an Apology, have a hand in my thinking on this. So, too, did seeing my father, once a tall, towering cowboy, confined to the limited view and mobility of a wheel chair. As my own body grows old, I’m also confronted with physical realities that no longer respond to introverted solutions of my youth. In fact, those solutions manifest all manner of outward, physical ailments. No surprise, as New Year’s resolutions go; this requires more moving of my body. My advice for revolutionizing exercise comes down to — you guessed it — initiating. Finding physical continuity, less in regularity than in ongoing beginnings. Each time you stop, start again. Initiate more physical connections with friends, family, and colleagues, whether in something as small as a touch of hand in greeting or conversation, to something as large as a constant, even pestering, persistence to schedule a meal with friends at my actual dinner table (rather than Instagram).
Bringing this around full circle to my library, its current strategic areas of focus share a need for acts of initiation. It only just occurs to me, the intention for calling this a strategic focus map (not a strategic plan) carries that revolutionary quality of shifting in and out, adjusting, and constant motion. Hidden within these focus areas, I see specific calls for my own initiation. While I often talk about better communication, collaboration, and the breaking down of silos in the library, my experience shows individual initiation more powerfully connects people and ideas together. Initiating these kinds of connections in very real, physical space and time serves not only this strategic work, but creates relationships of trust, well being, and workplaces that continue growing.