Innovate You: 5 Tactics to Stretch Yourself and Grow in 2021

My life is innovation. If you don’t already know, my full-time job is Vice President of Innovation for a food manufacturing company.  My career has been spent leading teams of chefs and food scientists who put food on families’ tables, items in US retail grocery freezers and selections on restaurant menus.  After almost 20 years as a food scientist, I only recently realized that my entire life, personal and professional is innovation.  And yours is too! 

Our focus on work and education, whether that be for pay or not, changes as time goes on.  Jobs change, companies change, responsibilities in the home and the hobbies you partake in change over time.  In order to live your most fulfilled life and thrive you must learn how to adapt to this constant change.  All of this requires innovation. 

I’d like to challenge you to think about how you have innovated yourself in the past and determine what your next innovation will be to set new goals for 2021.  To get the creative, and innovative, juices flowing, I’ve pulled together a list of thought starters to consider in your effort to stretch this year. 

  1. IDENTIFY A PROJECT OR NEW HOBBY – Is there something you’ve been wanting to do and just haven’t started?  This could be a house improvement project, rebuilding a classic car or even starting your own new blog!  A past coworker and friend recently shared with me that she has been spending the time during Covid sewing, making quilts and holiday stockings. What has been rattling around in your head that you think you might want to try but just haven’t started to explore?  There is no better time than now. 
  2. COMMIT TO A GRATITUDE JOURNAL – I was introduced to this concept back in October through an accountability challenge and I have been amazed at how much I get from it.  You can purchase an actual journal, I have this one: Good Days Start with Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude Journal.  It is only $6.99 on Amazon.  You also can use a plain notebook and make entries.  Strive to record at least 3 things you are grateful for every day.  For bonus points, capture 3 items in the morning and 3 more at night.  I keep mine on my bedside table to help me remember when I wake and just before I go to sleep.  I have found this practice has started and ended my days on positive mental note and it is fun to look back on what you wrote over time.  These are also great gifts!
  3. MENTOR – I am passionate about this and I would not be where I am, both personally and professionally, without mentors in my network.  If you aren’t already mentoring others in your workplace or community, it is time to start.  Even if you feel you are too young, you can still help and mentor others in areas they do not have experience.  I have people in my network who are 10 and 15 years younger than me that I love to connect with on topics I am not as familiar with because of generational differences or their area of expertise.  Next, look for people you can learn from and become a mentee.    Look for mentors all around you, not just in the workplace.  I am not a fan of formal mentoring programs and the couple of times I’ve been part of them, the match never worked out and the relationship fizzled out quickly as the program waned.  When you get down to it, mentoring is networking and sharing expertise amidst that network.  It does not need to be formalized and you don’t need to go around asking people, “Will you be my mentor?”  Start conversations with people whom you admire and would like to learn more about.  They can be in the workplace, at your place of worship, maybe a leader at your child’s school or even people you meet in the community.  I want to challenge you to be courageous and reach out to someone you have been afraid to approach in the past.  The worst they can say is no, but what if they say yes?  Go for it. 
  4. SET NEW HEALTH & WELLNESS GOALS –  If you have struggled with this one in the past, this is your year!  Health and wellness goals are wide reaching and can be anything from eating healthier to accomplishing a major athletic feat – like running a marathon or completing an Ironman.  The key here is not to set goals to compete with others, but rather, what can you do that is achievable and IN COMPETITION WITH YOURSELF?  In order to be successful in this area, set measurable and achievable goals that stretch you a little bit.  Do not try to bite off too much at one time or you increase your likelihood of quitting.  I have found a few apps and approaches to help me in this area if they can help you as well. 
    1. Free Meal Tracking and Nutrition Analysis – My Fitness Pal App
    2. Free Walking/Running Tracking – Map My Run App (from Under Armor)
    3. Fitness Loon – Virtual, Live and Replay Workouts – Find a tribe of people who are committed to working out including private Facebook community to stay motivated.  Get your first week free to try it out, with no obligation.  https://fitnessloon.com/
  5. VOLUNTEER – I’ve had the privilege to be a member of a few organizations during my career.  My most lengthy membership is with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  I became a student member in college and have maintained membership throughout my career.  I believe keeping connected with these organizations is always a good idea for several reasons.  First, you get to network and meet other people from similar backgrounds and companies.  This networking has led to help in job searches, finding suppliers and even created long lasting friendships.  Another benefit is that you can practice valuable skills, in a less threatening environment than in your workplace where you may not want to practice in front of peers.  Examples of this might be leading meetings or special projects and public speaking.  You can get the practice and courage you need to then step up at work.  My ability to give back to IFT has ebbed and flowed over time.  When my kids were young and I was going back to school for my MBA, it was difficult to give much time to the organization but now that my kids are older, I have taken on leadership positions and am currently leading the regional Alamo IFT section.  It has been very rewarding and opened doors I would not have had otherwise.  There are also lots of volunteering opportunities in your community that can accomplish all the above.  What organizations can you join and become active with? 

I hope this short list of thought starters has inspired you to pick something fun for 2021.  Set some measurable goals with a time frame in mind.  If you are courageous enough, comment below on what you’re going to do in 2021 to stretch yourself and grow. 

~Natalie

13 thoughts on “Innovate You: 5 Tactics to Stretch Yourself and Grow in 2021”

  1. Thank you for the thought provoking ideas and recommendation on the Journal.
    It’s exactly what I have been looking for to kickstart my commitment to express my gratitude in 2021 not only to myself, but to my former associates, colleagues, family and friends. My order is placed on Amazon Smile to support my favorite NPO; Women Giving Back, based in Sterling, VA. I plan on writing to someone everyday with an upbeat expression on why I appreciate them being in my life. Life is too short not to enjoy it and put a smile on someone’s face.

  2. When I used to commute in Chicago, I kept a gratitude journal in my car. Helped to keep perspective while at a literal standstill. Now my husband and I verbalize gratitudes before meals. Sometime they are small observations, sometimes much bigger and impactful. All are helpful grounding.

    1. The hardest thing for me was all of the technical stuff. The writing and ideas have come pretty easily. The difficult part was starting a webpage, designing it in a way that was coherent and learning to use wordpress. I decided to do almost all of the work myself rather than hire someone because I knew gaining those skills would help me in the long run – not just for Pineapple Courage but at work too. I now have an appreciation for what website designers do and have even been able to apply it to the marketing role I’m leading at work. I’m guessing the technical side may be a bit more familiar for you.

      On the writing, I prepared about 6 blogs before I even launched. I did this so I never feel stressed out about writing. I write a new blog about every 10-14 days. I believe staying ahead of it and having a few blogs scheduled but not published yet keeps me from suffering from writers block or feeling like it’s a chore. I really enjoy the writing piece and have found it to be rewarding. If you’re thinking about it, I’d say go for it!

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