Labor Day weekend: we host lazy afternoon barbeques, kids play frisbee or a game of softball out on the lawn, or we soak up those last golden rays out on the lake. We say goodbye to the sweltering summer heat, and await the gradual coming of a new season.

New Beginnings

Autumn is sometimes thought of as a time of new beginnings – the new school year brings new classmates, new friends, new challenges, and new opportunities to learn. Even for those who don’t have children in school, we all have our own childhood memories of Labor Days past. While many schools open in mid-August, Labor Day still represents that unmistakable demarcation between Summer and Autumn. There is something about this particular transition that carries with it a sense of possibility, as though it were ushered in on a cool gust of wind. We take a collective breath of anticipation, allow ourselves to entertain new hopes, and take first steps towards new ambitions.

Time only becomes the enemy when we refuse to use it wisely.

Time to Reflect

There is perhaps no better time of year to reflect on our lives and implement changes for the better. Why wait for New Year’s resolutions? Those are often quickly discarded… but why? Is it because we feel pressured to make them? Is it because our goals are too lofty? Although there is a sense of newness permeating Autumn, there is also an equal and opposing sense of groundedness that is perhaps missing in the din of Auld Lang Syne. We rather abruptly drop summer’s frivolity and take on serious business. We get to work; we ready ourselves for the dark, cold days ahead. If you’re feeling a bit depressed about those thoughts, you shouldn’t be. There is beauty in being grounded – in seeing the world (ourselves included) how it truly is. Reality is beautiful, and is also always the best teacher.

Change for the Better

“How can we make changes for the better?” you might ask. I would suggest two things that you can start right now. First, get quiet. Take a few moments to step away from your phone, computer, or tablet, and from socializing with others in order to tune into that voice within you. And then, listen to it. Pay attention to your actions, to the work you do day in and day out. When you do this, an amazing thing starts to happen. You notice more. You come alive. You pay more attention to others. You have a greater capacity to see and appreciate the reality all around you.

Start Small

The other suggestion: start small. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day. Small steps yield huge results in time. The other day I was drinking a cup of tea, and a quote by Lao Tzu was printed on the paper tag: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Time only becomes the enemy when we refuse to use it wisely, but using it wisely doesn’t necessarily mean cramming everything we possibly can into our sixteen or eighteen waking hours a day. Don’t hurry. Take your time. Focus on the project at hand, or on the customer at the other end of the line. Take the time to genuinely appreciate the people around you.  Ask them about how their kids are doing, or the weather in their part of the country. I guarantee you it will mean more to them than anything else said in the conversation.

Workplace Goals

This time of transition can be a great opportunity to make some goals for positive change in your workplace. Start by picking just one on the list below, and focus completely on it. Then, try adding more.

Show greater appreciation to those around you.

Complimenting your team members on their work will not only make them smile, but will extend beyond to create a more positive atmosphere in the whole office.  Try Terryberry’s free iRecognize app to send appreciation ecards to your coworkers.

Take some time to get to know your co-workers as people.

Everyone has a life outside of the office. Find out what make them tick. Maybe you will find a shared interest or hobby – something you can look forward to talk about while getting coffee in the break room. It will make the workday entirely more pleasant.

Start one healthy habit that you can fit into your workday.

Bring a large water canteen to keep on your desk. The extra hydration, especially if it’s in lieu of sugary and caffeinated sodas, will likely help you feel more revived. Or, start making your own salads at home to bring to work for lunch. Include some healthy fats like those found in nuts and seeds, and some beans for fiber to help you feel more satiated. For the base, don’t just stick to plain iceberg lettuce – spice it up with peppery mustard greens or Swiss chard. Be adventurous and expand your palette. Want to get others involved in creating a healthier workplace? Check out this whitepaper for 6 Steps to Start an Employee Wellness Program in your organization.

Learn a new skill.

Oftentimes, we get stuck into a routine. We know how to do our jobs and we use the same skills or techniques over and over. This is not necessarily a bad thing; being proficient is definitely good. However, it can cause us to put up blinders that we may not even be aware of. There may be a better way to do a task that can even increase your efficiency and save time, which we all know is our most precious resource. It does take an initial investment of time to learn something new, but once we have the skill down, it will be another tool in our repertoire.

So this Labor Day, soak in those late summer rays, sink your toes in the grass, and feel the icy drops of water beading up on your cool drink. And then, embrace what comes next.