10 Ways to Be a Better You at Work in 2024 New Year's resolutions already petering out? One way to break this cycle is to shift from extrinsic goals to intrinsic ones. Here are ten that will help you grow this year.
- Shifting from extrinsic to intrinsic goals leads to interior growth and brings durable rewards.
- Constant learning, aligning with the company's core mission and mentorship are crucial for growth within the workplace.
- Communication with conviction, embracing challenging roles and leading with love are effective strategies for making a positive impact professionally and personally.
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Many of us struggle with the start of the new year. We reflect on the year past and set resolutions for the year ahead. Usually, we associate both with feelings of falling short.
One way to break this cycle is to shift from extrinsic goals to intrinsic ones.
You will probably devote at least 2,000 hours to your job this year. It's tempting to link this effort to extrinsic motivations: better titles, higher pay, industry awards and so on. Yet doing so can leave us stripped of agency and purpose. First, it yokes us to the perception and action of others. Second, it can cause structural misalignment. The satisfaction of a promotion, for example, is surprisingly fleeting — especially if we were chasing prestige instead of deeper engagement.
Intrinsic goals, on the other hand, reflect our identity, not our ambitions. Instead of outward signs of status, they point us toward interior growth. Intrinsic goals are entirely within our control, and reaching them brings durable rewards.
In the workplace, an extrinsic goal might be "Grow my income 20% this year." An intrinsic goal might be "Show more gratitude to my colleagues."
In this spirit, I want to offer ten intrinsic resolutions that will help you grow in 2024. These reflect timeless insights my mentors have shared with me, as well as hard lessons I've learned throughout my career.
Resolution 1: Don't stay in the same role for more than a year
This does not mean striving for a promotion or jumping ship to a new company. Instead, embrace a mindset of constant learning so that the role you're in is always presenting new challenges and opportunities.
What new skills have you learned this past year?
Have you expanded your perimeter of influence?
Have you stretched your portfolio?
Are you staying in the comfort zone of your strengths, or are you attacking your weaknesses?
If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. Start small, but start. You'll be amazed at the opportunities that flow from this growth mindset.
Resolution 2: If you don't feel the company's mission in your gut, something's wrong
When looking for jobs, many of us prioritize three Ps: pay, prestige and product. That's a trap. Two different Ps are the ones that matter: purpose and people. The rewards of pay and prestige are fleeting. Products evolve. The quality of our relationships with colleagues and the rationale for exerting our time and energy, on the other hand, are central to our job — and life — satisfaction.
Do you wake up every morning fired up about the mission and purpose of your company? (I sure do!)
Do the people in your company inspire you to be a better professional and person?
Do you have a burning desire to hone the skills that your company is teaching you?
Resolution 3: How many mentors do you have at your current company?
If you haven't explicitly asked a colleague to play this role, chances are the answer is zero.
Mentorship is not a one-time pep talk or an ad hoc introduction to an influential figure. It's an ongoing commitment to personal and professional growth — which means it's more than ego-stroking. If your mentor hasn't held you accountable or offered constructive feedback, you might need to rethink the relationship.
The best time to find an internal mentor is even before you start. Yes, it's a big ask, but it's also a big investment. Don't be shy. Share your ambitions and ask for help.
Resolution 4: Every organization has a core. To maximize your growth, get as close to the core as possible.
How does your current job role connect to your employer's core?
How can you reskill or upskill to get even closer to the core?
Resolution 5: Don't undermine your value with hedging language
This resolution is for everyone but is especially important for professional women.
Examples: "I'm new here, so…," "As the least technical person in the room…," "I think…," "I just…," "I could be wrong, but…"
Yes, nuance and precision matter, as do relevant qualifiers. But more often than not, people will remember your caveat, not your point.
Relatedly, resist the temptation to explain to your audience who you are as a person. "I'm still new here, so I still have a lot to learn…" or "I haven't spent a lot of time with X or Y team, so could be wrong, but…" and so on. Allow colleagues to see you based on your actions, not your words telling them how to think about you.
Don't be put off or intimidated by people who like to hear themselves speak or act like the smartest person in the room. Volume and frequency are terrible predictors of business wisdom. So, speak when it counts and do it with conviction.
Resolution 6: Don't settle for the job for which you're already fully qualified
Go for the larger role. Push yourself out there, even if it makes you slightly uncomfortable. Actually, do it because it makes you uncomfortable. That's how we grow.
Resolution 7: Pose the best questions, not the best answers
In a world that prizes witty talking points, what we crave at work are honest questions.
Think about the last time a colleague or manager took the time to ask you thoughtful questions. How did it make you feel? And how did it make you feel about them and the company? Aspire to be the teammate or team leader who brings relentless curiosity to the task.
Resolution 8: Kick ass without being an ass
Hopefully, this one doesn't need much explanation. In all the companies I've helped lead, we've followed a "no assholes" hiring policy, and it's served us very well. I look for ambitious, goals-driven candidates who are unafraid to tackle hard problems — and who do so respectfully, which includes enjoying opportunities to share credit and celebrate teammates' successes when relevant.
Resolution 9: Grab the mic
Look for ways to be an ambassador for your brand. This doesn't require a keynote presentation at a prestigious conference. Volunteer to onboard your next cohort of interns. Give talks at your local high school or community college. Host an employee resource group. Be an active mentor to your network on LinkedIn.
Resolution 10: Lead with love
This is hopefully the whole point of your professional development and ambition: so you can scale love.
Let's face it. Jobs are hard. Stressful. Even scary sometimes. Yet they are also a profound opportunity to bring out our best — and, importantly, the best in others.
As David Brooks has noted, people won't review your resume at your funeral. They'll discuss your virtues. Your impact on others. Your service to the world.
Your job is a powerful instrument to express your character. What impression are you making?
I'd like to close with a personal note of gratitude to my most important mentor: my mother.
I saw her in action on a daily basis, building a business with my father from nothing into a thriving architectural firm that still exists today. As one of a handful of women who graduated from MIT's Architecture program in the 1950s, she was the "RBG" of the architecture world. Her ability to be a shrewd, strategically-minded businesswoman despite all of the odds stacked against her as a one-eyed woman (she lost her eye in a childhood accident) in a man's world was impressive enough.
More importantly, she had love coursing through her veins with everything she touched.
By the time she died, she left a legacy of dozens of buildings she and my father designed and hundreds of students whom she taught at a local architecture program who showed up in strength at her funeral to underscore their love for her. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for her.