Vanessa is originally from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and has her M.A.Ed. in Student Affairs and Higher Education from Western Kentucky University. She currently works in Fraternity & Sorority Life in California, and she absolutely loves working with students. She is also passionate about traveling, living your values, wellness, and fitness.
At the start of every New Year, you always hear the same cliché statements: “New Year, New Me”, “This will be my year”, “This will finally be the year I ____________“, and so on and so forth. Let me just say, I think those phrases are amazing. It doesn’t really matter if they’re overused, they show that someone has a goal to work towards and positivity for themselves in the year that lies ahead. It shows a sign of hope. A New Year can truly be a fresh slate for someone who needs it. For some, 2016 could have been a year of heartache, trials, and tribulations. 2017 can be THEIR year. A year full of success, reaching goals, and strong growth and development. Here is MY 2017 statement: “2017 will be my year. I am going to lose weight, be healthier, and live a happier lifestyle. This year, I will find new opportunities to help me develop, grow and learn more about myself.”
2016 may easily have been the most difficult year I’ve had in my 26 years of life. It hit me with financial heartache, the end of a long-term relationship, working two positions at my job, and weight gain from the stress/depression of it all. In all honesty, I started 2017 the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life. Stepping on the scale and coming to that realization was my first big moment of 2017. My first thought was: “This isn’t me, it can’t be.” Through high school and most of college, I was always a little bit overweight. However four years ago as a senior in college, I lost 48 pounds and was the smallest I’d been since I was 14. I was maintaining my weight, working for WeightWatchers, and so happy with all of the personal growth that came with healthy change. But after moving cross-country to California for my first post-master’s job, and with everything life threw at me in 2016, I came to see something important: it’s hard to lose weight, but it’s even harder to maintain it. So, with January and the promise of a New Year smiling down, I vow for this year to be the year that knocks me off my feet with joy, that brings me more peace within myself, that brings me new experiences within my career, and that I go out and do things that will make me learn and grow more personally and professionally. And while I’m searching for all of these things in 2017, I’ll be hoping that you all find them too! My main thing is my weight, but everyone “main thing” is different, and 2017 can be the year to achieve it.
Here are a few of my simple, but important, tips to develop both personally and professionally in 2017:
1.) Pursue being your own version of healthy: One thing I’ve learned with my own journey and in working for Weight Watchers, is that everyone’s “healthy” looks a little different. For some it may be significant weight loss, for others, it may be having the ability to run a full mile. It could be dropping fast food from your diet, or lowering your blood pressure. No matter what it is, plan steps to help you reach that goal. Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Make manageable goals, find ways to keep yourself motivated, and don’t give up. Give yourself rewards for reaching milestones, and find others who are working to achieve the same goal as you so you can be a support system for each other and hold each other accountable. Keep thinking about the end result, how much happier and better you’ll feel, and I promise you’ll learn so much about yourself in the process. Only you are in your way of getting there!
2.) Plan a trip somewhere new, and maybe even go by yourself: Yes, I’m definitely recommending some type of “Eat, Pray, Love” voodoo with this tip, but it’s honestly my favorite one. There is a rewarding amount of personal development that comes with experiencing a new place. You’re able to open your eyes and see another culture, acknowledge the differences in your life versus others in the world. Should you go on this journey alone, you can pursue exactly what you want to get out of your experience, leaving time for self-meditation and reflection. Be it a long weekend to the next state over, or a couple of weeks in another country, whatever works for you to get a little bit outside your comfort zone. In June, I will be the Maid of Honor in my lifelong best friend’s wedding in Iceland, after the wedding, I am planning to travel England, Scotland, and Ireland: three countries I have been dying to get to for most of my life. And with the financial tribulations of 2016, I didn’t know if I could make this dream a reality, but I’m planning and will find a way to make this happen. There are many ways to travel cheaply in today’s world, you just have to go out and research them! This may even be a solo trip for me (my first one ever), and the prospect of that makes this trip even more of a mystery. One thing’s for sure though, I know it will be one to remember!
3.) Go to a professional conference you’ve never been to before: This is an amazing way to develop and grow within your profession, all while meeting new people and learning about a different area of your field. It’s easy to enjoy going to the same conference year after year, but are you still learning from it? Are you still meeting new colleagues every year? I challenge you to try one new conference this year and try to do it for as many years as your professional development budget allows. If you have the time, get involved with these new conferences and learn as much as you can from them. Use what you’ve learned to help strengthen you in your role and in your leadership.
4.) Do something new that is also something for yourself: This can be something new professionally, personally, spiritually, physically, or any combination of those four! Everyone can get comfortable in their day-to-day activities, but to keep developing and to give your life more variation, it’s important to try a little something new! This can simply be something that helps you take care of you: something like making sure to get a massage once a month for reflection and relaxation. It could be joining a book club (keep an eye out for Make Your Own Awesome’s Book Club Launch) and expose yourself to new literature. It could be that you get yourself involved with new committees at work that will help you grow within your job. There are so many possibilities under the sun, and each new experience is a new way for you to grow and learn more about yourself. YOU are the most important person in your life.
5.) (And for all the single people out there) Understand that you don’t need someone to be extraordinary on your own: You always hear that “You can’t fully love someone else until you fully love yourself first”, and in the past few months I have come to realize how true that statement is. A common resolution is to find love at some point in the year, but my advice would be to only do that if you are happy with yourself and if you know who you are as a person. You should try and have the ability to be self-sufficient because that’s an important trait to have. I feel like I have a lot of self-reflection and discovery to do this year, and I’m not going to go searching for love. If it somehow comes at me, great – I’m sure it will be wonderful. But I feel it is one of the most important personal developments to make in your life that you come to love yourself and to be happy and proud of who you are. “If you truly want to be respected by people you love, you must prove you can survive without them.” – Michael Bassey Johnson
It’s 2017, this is YOUR time, this is YOUR year. You can make anything you want of it, and I hope that you do make set some New Year’s resolutions or goals for yourself because it means that you have a year of development and happiness ahead of you. And even if you slip up at some point along the way, you can make July 1st New Year’s Resolutions, or resolutions for November 28th, timing doesn’t matter. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of life and pursue it, because that’s when you’ll become the happiest version of yourself. What’s led you up to today is a part of your past, so now take 2017 and run with it!