The holiday season is upon us! Family get-togethers, giving thanks, fresh-baked cookies, holiday shopping and cups of pumpkin spice lattes abound.
First responders enjoy all of this, but it is harder with juggling shift work, dealing with the problems and crises of others, probably shopping online during a break between calls and occasionally grabbing bargain-basement coffee to stay warm while working wintery days and nights. We have all heard or endured the rants of defunding or unfunding, along with social media blasts. So even a small break from patrol with that pumpkin spice latte, parked at a lake, bay, park or campus with the fresh snap of winter air, offers a moment to think of the future.
Tradition dictates that every 365 days, we try to kick bad habits and start our lives anew. This tradition dates back to 153 BC during the time of the Roman Empire, and yet we still have trouble achieving our resolutions.
If you fell off the resolution wagon last year — let us regroup and start the process over fresh.
Fast forward to today. Every first responder will echo that the holiday season means more, not less work. Across the nation, law enforcers are being challenged. It is also a time when the police become an even more important thin blue line of stability in a time of citizens under increased stress and crisis. So maybe our collective resolutions are even more important this year.
The annual task of creating your list of resolutions can be a cleansing process. This simple act can be a time to de-stress as well as to look forward to resetting our positive view of life, family and career. A resolution means a change of behavior, which requires willpower. It requires a plan, so let us push forward.
If you fell off the resolution wagon last year, let us regroup and start the process over fresh. Mental health professionals tell us that setting goals can give us direction and boost our mood when we achieve a goal. Even a small goal achieved from your list of resolutions is a success.
Here is my top 10 list of resolutions for family and career. They are bite-sized, and I hope achievable:
- Find or create quality family time, even if the job competes
- Be happier, even if you must force it
- Tell your significant other and family you love them often
- Put the cell phone down so you can plug into family
- Walk, live the moment, share a sunset, a sunrise, a moment in a park
- Shed the crime-fighter mask at your door, or better yet, leave it in the locker at the agency
- Connect with the community off duty
- Find a hobby and involve your family
- Drink more … water (hydrate!)
- Lose the gut to live longer
- Be even safer — watch your six — and plan “what if” as an officer safety tactic every day
- Grow your empathy for those in need
- Survive to arrive at every call
- Be early to shift changes and briefings — come prepared
- Find your zen moment to kick off every shift — have your “game face” on and be focused
- Take ownership of your morale — fight the negatives that you cannot control
- Workout, relax and rest up — it truly is about officer safety
- Practice proactive funda-mentals daily: handcuffing, searches, cover/contact and de-escalation
- Invest in your future through training, education and career planning
- Look in the mirror and evaluate if that image is the professional you should be or could be
Just like Santa, make your list and check it twice. Post it in your locker and read it, commit to it and follow through. According to most experts, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February! Be part of the winning 20% and follow through.
Sound too cheesy? Or maybe all of us crime fighters need to decelerate occasionally. In past years, I have committed to working out, spending more quality time with family, helping others, paying it forward and getting organized. So far, the working out has dropped off as the number of meetings in my life has grown. I am working on family time, my debt has dropped and time off is incredibly valuable. In the long run, I am doing better than many of my fellow resolution makers. Join me.
The passing of retired Secretary of State General Colin Powell this October gave me a moment of pause. Here is a leader who has collaborated with presidents, statesmen, world leaders, military commanders and other notables. Yet, in his last interview, when asked who the greatest person was he had ever known, General Powell, without hesitation, named his wife, Alma Powell. He said, “She put up with a lot. She took care of the kids when I was running around. And she was always there for me.”
At the end of our shift, assignment and career, we all want that Alma or the many other Connie’s, Mary’s, Bill’s, Bob’s or Jim’s to be there for us. Maybe that is the greatest New Year’s resolution of all. Happy holidays to all!