This seems an appropriate time and place in my soon-to-expire presidency to dispense what may possibly pass for wise parting advice. First, however, consider this informed consent warning: Readers will want to carefully and objectively weigh the merit of said advice before acting on it. When I told my spouse the proposed content of this message, she tactlessly reasserted her long held perspective that a very fine line exists between becoming deeply involved in the governance of the American Psychological Association and serious mental disturbance.
Accumulated wisdom I could have used earlier
During my six years as a member of APA's Council of Representatives and the 12 years I have served on APA's Board of Directors, including my year as president, I did acquire considerable experience. Not all of the experience was acquired voluntarily. Of course, after acquiring said experience I realized that it really would have helped to have had it earlier. Many species of birds and mammals have the well documented capacity to benefit from observational learning (per Tinbergen, Lorenz and Bandura), and humans who have attained concrete operation reasoning capabilities (usually by about age seven, writes Piaget) can generally incorporate and benefit from the experiences of others, as reported to them verbally. In that context, I now share the accumulated wisdom in summary form.
Resolutions for improved personal, universal well-being
So here goes. I offer you five New Year's resolutions for psychologists that have the potential to bring about both significant personal satisfaction and perhaps a better world.
1.) Connect to an organization in your community where your expertise will advance the public interest. Share your psychological knowledge, join the board, donate time, help raise money, and make a difference at the local level.
2.) Mentor a colleague or a student. Take personal responsibility to seek out and engage a peer or member of the next generation who might benefit from your knowledge and hard-won expertise.
3.) Join a division of APA, a state (or provincial or territorial) psychological association, or preferably both. Make the connection to your profession more personal by linking up with others who share your vocational or scientific interests. Making such connections can help increase your career success, personal satisfaction, and ability to make a difference. You'll meet lots of new and interesting colleagues too. One word of caution: Most psychologists seem normal enough until you actually get to know them, but by then you'll have had lots of opportunities for clinical observations and collected many amusing anecdotes to tell your non-psychologist friends (perhaps even material for a best-seller; just ask Jonathan Kellerman).
4.) Get to know an elected official. Try to get to know at least one elected official who represents you at the state and federal levels. Let them know the salient issues for you, your profession and your community. This relationship will become very important down the road when a critical legislative or executive decision you hope to influence hangs in the balance.
5.) Take care of yourself! Psychology affords many rewards as a career, but also includes many stresses. Too often, worry about the others we serve and the pressures of the workplace combine to impair personal functioning. Seek to retain your emotional balance by remaining mindful of your own needs and well-being so that you can continue the important work you do. Focus on the matters most important and most satisfying to you. Finally, in the words of Pliny the Elder, remember, "Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit."
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