It’s that time of year again—the time many of us say “I don’t really do resolutions” and yet can’t help thinking about what we might wish for on this next trip around the sun. At work, it's review season, and we’re busy reflecting on our professional accomplishments, areas for improvement, and development goals for the coming period. So, amidst all of this reflection and looking ahead, we at Starling wanted to offer our take on some really great goals to pursue in 2024.
A quick note: Many of us are used to “destination” goals, like climb a mountain or lose ten pounds. The suggestions below are intended to be more about the journey—or developing an ongoing habit—as opposed to aiming toward a single accomplishment. Just as you can head east, but never really reach it, these goals are intended to get you moving in the right direction long-term. They are also goals that we consider to be useful in many areas of life, both personal and professional.
1: Grow Your Self-awareness
Studies show that self-awareness is one of the best indicators of success in leaders. It’s also critical for building strong relationships and designing a fulfilling life. That said, many of us don’t take the time to do things like identify our values, examine our personal histories, synthesize our results across different personality assessments, or map our identities. Understanding who we are helps us show up as our best selves in different situations.
So...consider developing a habit of self-awareness with a series of exploratory activities (or join Starling and follow the Knowing Yourself curriculum). Establish a rhythm of reflection and journaling. Find an accountability buddy to complete specific activities with. Or work on a personal user manual that can be shared with others to help them get to know you better.
2: Improve Your Thinking Skills
Throughout our lives, we are implicitly and indirectly taught to think, but there’s value in making that learning much more explicit and direct. Critical thinking is among the skills most sought after by employers, but when's the last time you took a training on it? All areas of our lives can all benefit from understanding how our brains work and actively cultivating all kinds of thinking skills like metacognition, creative thinking, cognitive flexibility, and more.
So...consider adopting a practice regimen that targets one or more of these skills. Pick up a book on critical thinking or creativity. Download a brain games app like Peak Brain Training. Set aside time to debrief decisions you made and problems you solved (or didn’t). Or join us at Starling and work through the Thinking Differently course.
3: Expand Your Reading Horizons
Reading is an excellent way to gain new insights and see the world from a different perspective (that includes both fiction and nonfiction, by the way). Reading outside of your comfort zone—whether that’s exploring an unfamiliar discipline or picking up works by authors with different identities than your own—gives you information that you may be able to use in your own context, as well as a glimpse into how other people think. Some of the greatest inventions and innovations have come from someone pulling concepts from a different discipline into their own, and empathy comes from seeing the world through other people's eyes.
So...consider creating a reading list of books and websites on topics unrelated to your professional focus and unlike the things you already read for fun. Free-write a reflection on what you learned when you’re done. Share interesting factoids on social media to really make them stick in your own head. Start a book club to discuss.
4: Diversify Your Network
Our networks tend toward homogeneity. We are innately drawn to people who are like us in some way, we like to read content by people we share opinions with, and we connect with a lot of people in our own fields. But exposure to a diversity of thought and perspective helps us build empathy and think more critically. It helps us interrupt our biases and avoid our echo chambers. And it shouldn't just happen when you're suddenly in need—it should be an ongoing pursuit.
So...consider setting a goal to meet one new person each week. LinkedIn is a great place to find people. Or communities like ours at Starling. Ask people you know to connect you to someone you don’t. Then, explore your similarities and your differences. Listen to their life story. To the point of goal #3 above, check out the resources they recommend. And consider how you might help each other.
5: Learn to Ask Good Questions
Asking good questions is a super skill. It’s a great way to build relationships and improve your abilities to make good decisions and solve complex problems. When we’re toddlers, we ask our caregivers hundreds of questions each day. By middle school that drops off dramatically. We’re not incentivized to ask questions at school and we’re certainly not directly taught how to ask them. It’s a shame, because they are incredibly valuable.
So...consider creating your own study plan on questions. We really like Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question and James E. Ryan’s Wait, What?, among others. While you’re at it, check out the Right Question Institute. Set up practice sessions with friends. Watch interviews on TV and analyze the questions asked. Reflect, reflect, reflect.
6: Improve Your Written Communication Skills
IBM’s AI chief recently shared that language and creative thinking skills are essential for anyone hoping for a job in tech. We could not agree more. One key to using AI effectively is being able to author the right prompt—something clear, precise, descriptive, and direct. AI aside, written communication is a critical business skill that is used in everything from emails and documents to social media posts and performance reviews. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t communicate them to other people, they will be worthless.
So...consider signing up for a writing class. Create a habit of daily journaling or posting on LinkedIn. Learn about language and precise communication. Set aside time to review things you’ve written and give yourself feedback. Start a writing club and give each other feedback.
January often brings a spirit of reflection and looking ahead. We at Starling applaud you for your commitment to continuous improvement and growth, whatever time of year it may happen. Our advice to you is to consider mixing in “journey” goals with your “destination” ones.
So...run that half marathon if you want to, and seek to build a habit that will benefit you for life.