If you make and then rarely keep New Year’s resolutions, you are not alone. Research shows hardly anyone sticks with them long, if at all. One study, in fact, found that only 9% of us stick with a resolution more than a month.
So why don’t we take a different approach, one that might actually work? Drop the term “resolution,” and instead make our lives a little better, personally and professionally, by taking a series of small steps, bite-size changes that are easier to swallow and involve a specific action?
Here are a few ideas for small steps meeting professionals can take for a better 2024.
Take a look at how you travel.
Many resolutions center on physical and mental health. And as much fun as travel can be, it makes demands on body and mind. Meeting professionals travel a lot, so if trips are wearing you down, evaluate what specifically makes them difficult or stressful. It could be as simple as getting new gear. I used to have a rolling bag that fell over constantly — it was quite frustrating. Simple solution? Buy a better — and lighter — bag. Even an inexpensive investment like a travel blanket or silk eye mask can make travel more enjoyable.
If you always feel anxious when you get to the airport, commit to arriving 30 minutes earlier so you have time to breathe. And speaking of breathing, hop online and learn about simple breathing techniques that can take your stress level down. Try the Indiana University medical school’s eight-minute YouTube video on belly breathing exercises to calm body and mind.
Let resolutions guide meeting design.
Resolutions most often focus on mental health, fitness, diet and weight. You can help attendees attain those resolutions through your meeting content. For example, add a session on a mental health topics. For ideas, look to mental health conferences like the Low Country Mental Health Association’s conference. When it meets in July in Charleston, South Carolina, country singer Chase Bryant will be a speaker, discussing how depression impacted his life. Help attendees who have resolved to eat more healthfully by working with caterers that focus on fresh and healthy foods. Check out meal suggestions offered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (eatright.org) and other organizations. For those who’ve resolved to exercise more, offer early morning group yoga, walks or spin classes or organize a flag football game (a new Olympic sport, by the way) or pickleball tourney. Physical activity has added bonuses for meeting attendees — it improves mood, increases alertness, and when done as a group, builds connections and friendships.
Make a resolution to seek help.
Do our resolutions include asking others for their advice or assistance? Probably not, but they should, because going it alone is not healthy or fun. Getting help from others can ease burdens and help prevent burnout. Connecting with peers is a good way to start. Meeting professionals have many professional organizations to choose from: MPI, ASAE and PCMA, as starters. There also are more targeted organizations for college event planners, tradeshow professionals, wedding planners, Black (NCBMP) and Hispanic (IAHMP) meeting professionals and others. Many have state or local chapters. Or you could create your own informal group by meeting with planners and suppliers in your area for lunch or dinner. Peers are the best resource for fresh and effective ways to tackle tasks and challenges. Other ideas for assistance? Ask your board or volunteers to pitch in and help more. And always take advantage of convention and meeting services offered by CVBs and DMOs in meeting destinations.
Hone your home life.
A lack of balance in professional and personal life is a problem for many working people. Achieving it can be especially hard for women, who often bear most of the load at home. One way to feel less stress at home is to literally buy free time by hiring others to do things — house cleaning and lawn care are naturals, but there are others like using grocery delivery services and buying homemade, premade meals from local chefs. If you haven’t already, set up all your bills for automatic payment so you aren’t spending time each week wrangling bills. Take the free time you create and invest it in yourself — join a book club, learn how to do something new or simply schedule a weekly night out with friends.
Evaluate your kids’ activities: Does your daughter really need to play baseball, take violin lessons and be a Girl Scout? Aiming for a home-cooked meal every night is admirable, but is there any harm in designating one night “Hooray for Take Away?” If you can figure out how to get 45 minutes of free time back each day, at the end of the week, you’ll have gained about five hours for yourself.
Make yourself uncomfortable.
Resolutions focus on changes we want to make in ourselves — giving up smoking, losing 20 pounds, working out. But if we’re honest, they can sometimes seem like punishment. What if we find a new way to approach change that challenges us as it changes us? Take some cues from the “Seek Discomfort” movement (but skip the T-shirts and other marketing hoopla). The idea is to get out of your comfort zones regularly to build confidence and resilience. So make a pledge to do something that scares you a bit: Try out for a play, go to a community meeting where you know no one, take a hike with complete strangers, join a choir, make a speech. Discomfort doesn’t feel good in the moment, but it will, over time, better equip us for daily life, which loves to throw curve balls and put potholes in our path. As one writer put it, instead of “standing on the sidelines of life,” by seeking discomfort, we meet new people, have new experiences, learn something new and feel a sense of achievement. Studies show that stepping out of our comfort zones also makes us more creative problem-solvers and more willing to listen to and learn about others’ views.