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

5 New Year’s Rituals for Nonprofit Professionals to Build Personal Resilience

Happy Healthy Nonprofit, Personal Productivity, Resilience

Rituals are intentional small, tangible acts done routinely and carry meaning.  Our family has several New Year’s rituals, including a nature hike.  This year we hiked by Pacific Ocean near Moss Bay.(Pictured above)

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 allow me to gain focus and clarity.  Here they are:


1) Review the Year:  I use tool called the “Year Compass, a free downloadable booklet that provides a set of structured reflection questions that help you look back and ahead.  Since I do this every year, I also look at what I wrote the previous year.

2) Start A New Professional Journal: 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 annual planning and goal setting.

I also use it as a reflection as the year progresses. I fill out weekly and monthly pages, not just tasks. I look at my themes for the year and habits to improve.

3) Update & Review My Personal Resilience Plan:   In my workshops on resilience, I help nonprofits improve their personal resilience through life-work balance and self-care.  I use my own self-care plan template to write down what I will do.  This year one thing I am doing for myself is exploring fountain pens and working on calligraphy.

4) 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 technique is select 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.

5) Send Myself A FutureMe Email:  I use a site called “FutureMe” to write an email to myself post dated a year from now, a practice I’ve been doing for a few years now.   I just received my email dated from last year and I was happy to see that I accomplished most of my goals!

Year in Review

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

  • The Happy Healthy Nonprofit:   I published “The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact without Burnout,” with co-author Aliza Sherman in 2016. The book was well received and was #1 on Amazon’s Nonprofit Books many times.  I’ve continued to do conference keynotes, workshops and facilitate staff retreats about activating a culture of wellbeing.  All in all, I presented or facilitated over 50 keynotes, workshops, and webinars on the topic.
  • Artificial Intelligence for Social Good:   Allison Fine and I have been actively researching, writing, and presenting about AI for Social Good.   We wrote a paper about Nonprofits and Machine Learning for NTEN and wrapping a research paper for the Gates Foundation on how these new technologies might scale generosity and the challenges.
  • Training & Facilitation:  Workshops, Master Classes and Conference Keynotes: I presented and facilitated numerous engagements including keynotes, panel sessions, webinars, master classes, innovation labs, and workshops for nonprofits and foundations in the area of digital strategy and transformation, virtual meeting facilitation, resilience, training trainers and facilitators, and other topics.  The highlights being the facilitator for the Gates Foundation Greater Giving Summit, designing and facilitating a train the trainers and workshops for the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, and co-leading the plenary session at the Italian Fundraising Festival with Marcelo Iniarra which included wearing an astronaut costume.
  • Writing and Blogging: I’ve been writing Beth’s blog since 2004 and on this updated wordpress blog since 2010.  That’s a long time.   This past year, I found myself writing less on this blog.  I have plans for a makeover, both is look and feel and content.  So stay tuned.   I wrote guest posts for many nonprofit publications and blogs.

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 trips to London and Croatia. This year, I will do master classes in London, Croatia, and Poland.

I also continue to expand 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 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 and LLC.

In order to accomplish as much as possible, I have lived many of the idea around personal resilience in my 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 2020, I will continue to explore the implications that artificial intelligence holds the social sector.

Facilitating Techniques and Design: As a trainer and facilitator, my learning areas include facilitation techniques and design for trainings and meetings, both face-to-face and virtual.   Skills in this area I want to deepen are reflection and creativity.

When I look back on 2019, it was a good year both professionally and personally.  What about you? What will you accomplish in 2020? Do you have a special New Year’s ritual that sets you on the path for success?

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