Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

As we start to turn the page on 2017, I wanted to brainstorm some ideas for resolutions we can share as a community for 2018.

The new year is a time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to commit to new habits and practices moving forward. The start of a new year is a time of transition and an opportunity for intentionality. In this list of resolutions, I offer some thoughts on opportunities that we, as the community focused on improving the Chesapeake region, have together in 2018.

The thoughts I offer are meant to improve us as individuals, which will, in turn, improve our community and mission as a whole.

I have borrowed heavily from the author of Emergent Strategy, Adrienne Maree Brown. (I do hope you will check out her incredible book!). These ideas are meant to get you thinking, so fire up those neurons!

Change is constant, be like water. The work we all do in the Chesapeake Bay is change-making work. Cleaning water. Improving quality of life. Bringing unheard voices to the table. These are the types of change we can control. Then there are the changes we can’t control — politics, catastrophic natural disasters, all-day meetings, 500 unread email messages. There is no point in using precious energy to worry about these things. Your brain and heart power is better used elsewhere.

Because change is the only thing we can count on, we must build ourselves, our movements and our organizations as resilient entities — ones that can bend in a stiff breeze, but not break. To quote Bruce Lee, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

So, in 2018, focus on being like the resource we work so hard to protect — water. Focus on being shapeless and formless, on being adaptable and resilient. Focus on being flexible and ready for any change that may come your way.

Failures are bruises, not tattoos. Fall seven times, stand up eight. We’ve all heard this before, but it’s a challenge to put into practice sometimes. It’s easy to feel beaten down and defeated when something we’re passionate about isn’t moving forward, especially in our line of ever-challenging work. But this does not mean we can let up now! Remember all of the good work that’s been done to this point, then let that inspire you to get up and try again!

Move at the speed of trust. Together we need to spend more time building better relationships across different, diverse communities in 2018. It has become clear that our divisive culture is leading to a loosening of human ties — and sanity! This is an area where we need to make large, positive strides.

We all know that partnerships make us stronger, but when it comes to making it happen, we often get overrun with the everyday duties — emails, meetings, workshops, etc. — and forget that we are better when we work together.

Meet someone new! Invite them into your life. Think about ways you can work together to achieve both of your goals. Find a way to collaborate and create something new together!

Set your expectations with openness. When partnering with someone new, talk about expectations upfront and be clear on your needs. Be sure to listen to the other parties’ needs as well, to see how they might overlap with yours. Be real and honest with them about where you are and what you can commit to. Work together to divide and conquer the tasks ahead — and be sure to think about each side’s strengths and weaknesses.

Trust takes a long time to build — and can be destroyed in the blink of an eye. Work within the framework of truth and integrity; trust and the relationship will come naturally.

What you pay attention to, grows. So, pay attention to the things you want to grow! Let go of the things you wish would stop growing — emails, paperwork, burying your emotions, the fear of difficult conversations — and focus your energy on the things that make you thrive! Grow your creative side, or grow your knowledge level. Practice your public speaking skills or finally start that blog. Meet with the community you’ve been meaning to engage, or get involved in a group you’ve been interested in joining. Your future self, and our movement, will thank you!

Apply both/and thinking to problems. This is opposite of either/or thinking. It means you consider things positively together. Instead of having to choose between chocolate and vanilla, you choose both chocolate and vanilla! It can make the outcomes more positive and collaborative and lead to bigger opportunities together. Converting to this type of thinking allows for multiple parties to “be right,” and can help advance partnerships and relationships. So the next time someone tells you their way is the right way, think about applying “both/and” to the conversation and see where it takes you.

There are some large decisions being made as we turn the page on the year — issues around the Conowingo Dam, funding across different levels and how to account for climate change in future models. None of these decisions are made in a vacuum, and they demand hard negotiations with a lot at stake. I encourage you to adapt some of these principles to help you make yourself the best Chesapeake advocate you can be.

Best of luck, and cheers to clean water in the New Year!