Ask Helen

This year, commit to changing one trait that impacts your life.

Dear Helen:

How can I make this year better than the last one? Mostly, I hate my job. But in general I feel: Stuck

Dear Stuck:

After the echoes of “Auld Lang Syne” have faded, any resolutions you may have made will sound a whole lot harder than they did with a brandied eggnog in your hand. As looming five-day workweeks cast shadows of winter gloom, you need to make only one clear resolution: use the next few months to transform something important about your life. To find out what’ll make you glow like a bright light in a dark world, read and actualize the steps below.

Think about the complex interactions of your “real” life, your work life and your “you-ness” – both inside and out. Question: What changes in each dimension will pay off? Answer: Any that inspires achievable goals and focuses your time and energy to make them happen. Assess. Commit. Act. Start with your inner self. Identify one character trait that bothers you and impacts your work life. This could be anything from excessive shyness (or boastfulness) to over- (or under-) committing yourself. Choose a trait that you’ve stumbled over before, but not something that’s so great a core issue that you want to weep when you think about confronting it. As you continue with your plan, keep this trait in your forebrain and tell yourself: This is the year that demon stops stopping me.

Identify a very specific, measurable career goal – anything from a higher monthly income by December to an entirely new job. Write down every characteristic you can think of that defines your goal. Be as detailed as possible – everything from job title to hourly pay, location and hours to your own skills and the type of folks you want to work with. Read this goal every day. Inventory the skills and knowledge you’ll need to get to goal. Think about the specific skills you have and those you don’t. Be honest, even ruthless, about what you’d bring to an interview for that job today, and how you’ll need to improve to get promoted or hired. Don’t go light in this assessment. You’ll be compared to folks with those skills and more experience. Find out where to acquire (or update) your missing or out-of-shape credentials. Enroll in a class or study online. Commit the time to study, even if it means tightening up your playtime schedule. Commit five minutes daily to thinking about how you’re moving (or not) toward realizing your goals, inner and outer. No matter how busy you think you are, create this time for yourself in a quiet room or even at night before you go to sleep. Speak your goals aloud and then say: I can do it.

It’s important to keep up your self-confidence. That may sound hard. In the beginning it might be, especially if you’re unused to the habits of change. But soon you’ll be learning something new and thinking of yourself happily on the cusp of better things. Your attitude and energy will both improve. After you get some momentum, the rush of I can do this! will make you start to glow. You’ll find it easier to change your personal habits as you get more enthused about your career future – and easier to focus on your career as your habits change. Your brain cells will say thank you, and other people will notice your energy and drive.

Be your own first priority this year. Use your time and energy to improve yourself by making changes that matter. If you do this consistently, you’ll have transformed yourself from the inside out and from the outside in. Invest in yourself for the next few months so you’ll be ready to launch the new and improved you into the opportunities that will follow.

A resident of Eugene since 1981, Helen is a member of Temple Beth Israel, where she studies and speaks on Torah. She claims to have black belts in schmoozing, problem-solving and chutzpah. She’s a writer and an artist ( Please email your questions to and check out the blog at


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