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How to cultivate a new year

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Renea Morris

Renea Morris

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I recently read an article written by Holocaust survivor, psychologist, and New York Times best-selling author of “The Choice: Embrace the Possible,” Dr. Edith Eger. She has found a full life despite her past, and has helped others find ways to move beyond their problems as well. She holds a faculty appointment at UC San Diego and gave a TEDx Talk a few months ago entitled “The Journey of Grieving, Feeling and Healing,” which was apropos for our current times. With all of the high hopes and dreams that the new year would bring, I began thinking about my first blog post for 2021 weeks ago. Like many of my family members and colleagues, the actions of January 6 left me feeling extremely deflated and I needed to step back and rethink my strategy for how to approach the new year. Upon reading countless statements from leaders around the world, including a letter responding to the recent events from our very own Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, I began equipping myself with ways to keep my hope alive. However, it wasn’t until I listened to Dr. Eger’s TEDx San Diego talk that I was able to put words to my feelings and embrace choices for my next steps.

Being on the cusp of so much change at the University and within the MarComm team since this summer, in the midst of the new realities we’ve been facing with the pandemic, has put strain and stress in every area. As a leader, it is so important to self-lead first, and I believe the transition to a new year provides an opportunity to use hindsight and foresight in powerful ways.

Five years ago, I stopped creating resolutions. I embraced the idea of adopting One Word for the year. My first word was “vitality.” I loved the freedom of the focus. Having something to shape the next 12 months without boxing me in to a set of specific actions would be life-changing. During the past few years, I’ve learned more about my motivations and how I make decisions. My annual One Word has helped me to find my center while embracing my capacity for embracing others. Last year’s word was “flourish.” The experiences of 2020 and my limited understanding of the word made me think that for the first time since embracing this process, I had failed. Thankfully, after reading about the research of Morgridge College of Education Professor Jesse Owen, I discovered that I was able to enjoy many moments of flourishing, despite the grief, loss, and pain that defined so much of 2020. Once the winter edition of the University of Denver Magazine is published later this month, you can check out my letter and read about Professor Owen’s research. Be sure to bookmark the website and check back at the end of the month.

One thing that is clear from listening to 92-year-old Dr. Eger, who has given many lectures and interviews, is that heading into 2021, we should ask ourselves "What now?" and "What changes am I going to make to forge a path forward?” The limits of this pandemic may have caused tremendous setbacks, but we determine what’s next, we have the power to break down the mental blocks we’ve set in our own minds and turn that uncertainty into productivity. The new year will be a rebirth for manya rebirth of happiness, healing, and hope for the future. These words of experience will stick with me well past 2021 and seem to be an appropriate preamble for my one word for this year: cultivate. I’m excited about the possibilities—for me, the MarComm team, and all the lives I’m seeded with to touch this year.