3 New Year's Rituals for Nonprofit Professionals to Build Resilience | Beth's Blog

3 New Year’s Rituals for Nonprofit Professionals to Build Resilience


Flickr photo by Geoff Livingston

I wish you a very happy and healthy 2019!   I had a great holiday break, although unfortunately I got sick. And while illness isn’t the most energizing start of a new year, I kept replaying the words from the ballon song in the new Mary Poppins movie, “there is no place to go but up.”

Rituals are intentional small, tangible acts done routinely and carry meaning. Rituals have been performed for centuries and are an important part of human history.

Rituals can also be used by professionals to boost personal productivity because rituals capitalize on our brains’ ability to direct our behavior on autopilot, allowing us to reach our goals even when we are distracted or preoccupied with other things.

For over twenty years, I do several rituals that help me prepare for the year ahead because they help me to gain focus and clarity.  Here they are:

My Three Rituals

1) Review the Year: For as long as I can remember, I have kept an annual professional journal, using a variation of bullet journal technique. I call it my “To Do, To Done, Don’t Do, Reflection List.”  I use it for planning and goal setting as well as to reflect along the way. I also use it as a year in review tool.  At end of the year, I read through the journal and think about accomplishments:What gave me a sense of purpose and feeling of personal and professional fulfillment? What gave me joy?  What should I let go of?

Last year, I added another tool called the “Year Compass, a free downloadable booklet that provides a set of structured reflection questions that help you look back and ahead.  This year I was able to look at what I wrote last year.

2) Identify “My Three Themes”: I do a combination of Peter Bregman’s  theme for the year, and Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words.”  Chris Brogan’s ritual suggests selecting three words, but I modify it by articulating key themes. I use the themes to guide my professional work and writing. I’ve used Chris Brogan’s technique for over a decade and found it very helpful in keeping me focused.

3) Start A New Journal: There are many productivity planners, but I like to create my own. I use a large Moleskine (8 x 11.5) for my journal or my “To Do, To Done, Don’t Do, Reflection List.”  I create a few pages in the beginning to write about my themes, what makes me happy, what to improve, and major projects for the year.  I also include my list of work/life habits that I want to maintain or modify. I also use this tip from Sree about writing it in email dated 12/31/19 using FutureMe.Org

As the part of my monthly review,  I reflect on my themes and habits to improve.

Year in Review

Here’s what I learned from looking over my 2018 professional journal:

A great deal of my training work is done face-to-face. I know that might seem old fashioned, but being a trainer and facilitator and in the room with social change leaders is what inspires and energizes me. I made it to the 1000K level for United, in part, due to too many International trips, including teaching a master class and workshop session at the IFC-Asia in Bangkok, teaching a workshop in Brasil for Ford Motor Company Leadership Fellowship Program, and Tech2Empower in Peru.

I also expanded my practice to designing and facilitating internal meetings for nonprofits and foundations on a variety of topics, including activating a culture of wellbeing and innovation labs. I also did a far amount of virtual training, including developing a workshop on virtual facilitation and I also continued to create and share micro-learning courses with Nonprofit Ready on personal productivity and organizational culture topics.

I have continued my work as senior advisor to Lightful, a social media management tool for charities based in London.  I have been delivering virtual master classes and helping to develop their capacity building programs in digital skills.

And, of course, I continued working on a number of volunteer projects, including serving as a board member to NTEN, LLC and on the advisory committees for IFC-Asia, and NonprofitReady.

In order to accomplish as much as possible, I have lived many of the ideas around self-care that we wrote about in our book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit.  I have also continued to my commitment to walking 15,000 steps a day (when I’m not sick) and according to my fitbit dashboard I have walked a 12,430 miles, the length of walking from the North Pole to the South Pole.

My Three Themes: 

Resilience:  This relates to all the curriculum, writing, and teaching I do around The Happy Healthy Nonprofit and Leadership DevelopmentResilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is what allows you to recover from change or hardship, whether in the workplace or life in general. Personal resilience is a leadership competency based on cultivating skills around self-awareness, and relationship management.   Organizational resilience is about your organization’s work culture, specifically creating a positive one which includes being supportive, kind, and emphasizing meaningful work.   Above all, it is mitigating stress while effectively doing the work with great passion.

Digital Transformation: Digital transformation is about how nonprofits organizations and the way they work is being transformed by technology. It isn’t just about the tools, but about how people need to work and think differently.   In terms of content, I have one foot in the present and one foot in the future.  I will continue to write about and teach workshops on digital strategy. For 2019, I will be also focusing more on exploring the implications that artificial intelligence holds the social sector.

Facilitating Techniques and Design: As a trainer and facilitator, my learning areas included facilitation techniques and design for trainings and meetings, both face-to-face and virtual.  I’m currently working with the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy to deliver a train the trainers session. So, stay tuned for more on this topic from me in the coming months.

When I look back on 2018, it was a very rich and productive year – not without its sad moments.     And, I am excited about 2019.  What about you?  What will you accomplish in 2019? Do you have a special New Year’s ritual that sets you on the path for success?


2 Responses

  1. happy 2019!! You have done a great job for 2018 for sure.

    I would request you to write more on AI for social goods as that’s the need of the hour even if it is 2019..

    appreciate your thoughts on it.

  2. Beth Kanter says:

    Stephanie, stay tuned .. will be writing a lot about that over the next year.

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