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Zirpoli: Ten pieces of advice for 2020 and beyond

I’m old enough to have the presumption of understanding a few things about life, at least from my perspective. So I get to bore you with some advice for 2020 and beyond. Here is my top-10 list. Take it or leave it.

1. Life is about relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Living and working well with others is the key to successfully maintaining family bonds, keeping good friends, and succeeding on the job. The bottom line is this: How we interact and get along with others is key to a quality of life for ourselves and those around us.

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2. Number one above rests primarily on our ability to see the bigger picture and to act today for tomorrow’s benefit. Getting angry or venting our frustrations today may make us feel good for the moment, but we need to ask ourselves, what is our long-term strategy and how will our actions at this moment impact that long-term strategy? Our ability to think this way is a reflection of our personal maturity; some people achieve it and some people are in perpetual adolescence and need immediate gratification deep into adulthood.

3. Building relationships also rest on one’s ability to forgive and move forward. When we learn to forgive others, we will have better relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. I also believe that when we forgive others, we earn the forgiveness of others. And we all need the forgiveness of others.

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4. We always have choices when interacting with others. When we are positive it helps us feel more positive about life in general, even when things are not perfect. When people ask how we are doing, we should think about our response. I know someone who walks into a room always looking like he lost his best friend. When you ask him how he is doing you will hear, “OK, I guess.” Don’t be that person. We are not only bringing down those around us, but we are bringing down ourselves. Over time, we may even forget how to be positive or happy, even when life is going well. Practice being positive and save your most personal feelings for a select few.

5. Every family has challenges. You and your family are not alone or special. Sure, some families have extra special challenges. But we all have family issues. Remember, we can’t control the behavior of others. We need to focus on our own behavior, reinforce the positive behavior of others, and move on. If possible, avoid those who bring us down.

6. If we want a friend, we need to be a friend. We are all attracted to people who are kind to us and who help to build us up. So, be kind to others, build them up, and be a friend. Sometimes that means reaching out to others, even serving others. We will be rewarded with friends.

7. Say no to gossip. When we gossip, we will fail at number 1 and all the other items on this list. Stop. It does not build people up and it reflects poorly on us. Remember rule number 4 — we have a choice. Choose to be positive.

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8. Be a stronger parent to our children. Don’t try to be their friend. If we want an adult, long-term relationship with our children throughout our life, we need to be the strong parent they need today. So, we need to say what we mean and mean what we say. We need to have our rules and be consistent with enforcing them. They will love us for it. Trust me on this.

9. Many of us spend a lot of time at work. So, be a reinforcing co-worker. Be willing to reach out and help others. Let people know when they have done a good job. All of these things will build a positive work culture for you and for your co-workers. Remember, positive culture starts at the top. If your boss is unwilling or unable to build a positive workplace culture, it may be time to look for another job. We spend too much time on the job to tolerate a toxic work environment.

10. Evaluate social media habits. Posting personal issues and family concerns do not build positive relationships. Keep social media in its proper place and perspective.

As I said at the start, life is about relationships. If we work on building positive relationships with others, especially the important relationships in our lives, 2020 will be a better year than 2019.

Wishing you and your family a happy New Year. May 2020 bring us all love and peace.

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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