Every January I, like many of us, resolve to lose weight. I don’t need to lose much – about 10 pounds - to get back down to my “fighting weight” so I can keep one leg up on my middle schooler when we play one-on-one basketball. While I manage to lose the holiday weight by the time Spring rolls around every time, it seems a harder task to accomplish year after year.
That same sense of ever-increasing difficulty might plague many of us when it comes to our work resolutions. According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, only eight percent of people who set a New Year’s resolution achieve their goal. Even worse, a full quarter of us who pledge to “this being the year I will (fill in the blank)” don’t even get past the first week in January without our resolutions going by the wayside. And while not losing a few extra pounds may make us feel a little self-conscious on the beach in Destin this summer, not fulfilling our work resolutions this year could have a detrimental effect on our careers.
To help us stick to our work resolution at just the time when many of us have already given up, I enlisted the help of several local experts in the fields of the top five resolutions. We’ll examine the top two this week and then take a look at the remaining three next Sunday.
The furious five
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Harris Poll, on behalf of CareerBuilder — the global leader in human capital solutions — conducted a national online survey from November 16, 2016 to December 6, 2016, that included a representative sample of 3,411 workers across industries. They found that, aside from finding a new job, (35 percent of workers are actively searching for a new job at any given time) the top five work resolutions are as follows:
1. Save more of my pay: 49 percent (vs. 38 percent last year)
2. Be less stressed: 38 percent (vs. 28 percent last year)
3. Get a raise or promotion: 30 percent (vs. 26 percent last year)
4. Eat healthier at work: 28 percent (vs. 19 percent last year)
5. Learn something new (take more courses, training, seminars): 26 percent (vs. 17 percent last year)
Money and stress
If you’re looking to save some more green this year, then hopefully you read the, “Money for nothing in 2017” article in this column back on Jan 1. In it, Craig C. Rogers, President/CEO of Rogers Wealth Group, a wealth management firm based in Fort Worth, highlighted several important pieces of the savings puzzle including making absolutely certain to maximize our employer’s match and to, beyond that, save, save, save on our own. “Let’s assume the employee earns $75,000 per year, and starts deferring 5 percent of pay starting at age 30. That employee does not change that deferral amount, nor do they get raises, and they defer their $3,750 [annually] until they are 65. Assuming a 6 percent rate of return, they will have a balance of $417,880. While that might seem nice, it’s probably not quite enough to maintain their standard of living throughout retirement, even when combined with Social Security. However, if we look at the same worker and change the savings rate from 5 percent to 10 percent keeping all other variables the same, they would amass $835,760 (exactly twice the amount). When you combine $835,760 with Social Security, then this employee has a much better chance of maintaining the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed without razor-tight margins,” said Rogers.
If you’re resolution is to be less stressed at work, then our favorite local Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. Natosha K. Monroe might just have your prescription. “The average American worker is expected to produce sometimes unrealistic results while being given less time off than essentially all other economically competitive countries. This is the recipe for disaster when it comes to stress,” said Monroe.
When we do get time off, we tend to do the wrong things in terms of decreasing our stress levels. “Spending hours vegging out on the couch binging on Netflix might appear to be “relaxation” but from a brain perspective it truly doesn’t do much to address stress build-up over time. Or if you’re staying up until midnight and pounding coffee from 6:00 am until noon the next day, that doesn’t exactly help stress either,” said Monroe. Beyond having a solid foundation of good food, hydration, amount of sleep, and physical activity that are essential to maximize your body’s ability to handle stress, Monroe also highlights the need to change our perspective. “I once had a client who felt undervalued, disrespected, and bored at work to the point of wanting to quit,” said Monroe. “In session, I asked her why she hadn’t yet left the job. She admitted loving her co-workers, her short commute, and great benefits. A few weeks of purposefully redirecting her thoughts to focus on the positive realities allowed her to mood to lift. She soon started to see her downtime at work as a unique opportunity to research different angles of the company’s marketing strategies. Several months later an opportunity opened up and she was promoted, largely in part to input she had thanks to that research.”
The underlying problem with a negative perspective is that it limits us. And putting a limit on our potential, especially when it comes from within, can be a huge cause of stress. “To put it bluntly, we as Americans tend to be rather reactive and rigid in our thought processing,” said Monroe. “We make absolute statements such as “I hate my job” or “this job is awful” or “my boss is a jerk” which completely eliminate any possible positives. And guess what? When we look at things in this negative way, our brain listens and these become fixed thoughts. The danger in that? It’s limiting. We miss out on the ever-as-realistic alternatives and positives, which can equate solution and innovation in the workplace. Studies and reports that include the UN’s World Happiness Report cites Denmark as one of the “happiest” nations today. No, the Danes are not Pollyanna optimists who see life as rainbows and butterflies. But a Dane would be much more likely to downplay the negatives while an American is more likely to downplay the positives.”
Beyond changing our perspective from negative to positive, Monroe also gave us some good advice about what we can and can’t control as contributing factors to our stress levels. “It has been said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This holds some degree of merit. Look at what you are stressed about. What’s your part in it? What can you do to change things? As I tell my clients, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” We can’t always change what life brings us, but we can control our outlook on it,” said Monroe.