Mary’s Message

Mary Kemper
Mary Kemper, President and CEO

Begin Again: Same Resolutions, New Strategies

Happy New Year!

For 2023, I imagine that many of your resolutions – like mine – look quite similar to last year’s. That’s okay. In some ways, it shows our continued commitment to our why. Whether it be family, faith, fitness or financial stewardship, being intentional matters.

Some of our organizations have been around for more than 150 years and, in some cases, their mission has remained relatively unchanged. If it is still on the mark and defines purpose, it may not need to change.

What must change, however, are our strategies for getting there. I am trying fresh approaches to my 2023 resolutions. You know best what works for you, but to start the year, I am sharing just a few ideas that I’ve gravitated toward this month:

Reflect: It’s a January tradition to take stock in the past year. As we look to reach new goals this year, it’s meaningful to take time to reflect on the where we’ve been and the blessings God has given us. It will fortify us for the journeys ahead.

Build and Break Connections: Throughout my life, I have moved frequently for various reasons. I enjoy meeting people and have been blessed to create wonderful new connections, especially with many of you. As colleagues and friends retire or move away, we must continue to build relationships. We also must learn when it may be time to let go of unhealthy bonds. Take steps to determine where to spend your energy with relationships.

Consider Incremental: Speaking of steps, if you’ve read past Mary Messages, you may know that there are 36 steps from our street to our house. Folks in the neighborhood frequently stop to ask how we get our groceries up the hill. Our response is “incrementally”. In life and work, some tasks can appear daunting. Reduce the weight of each bag and bring them up one by one or two by two. You’ll hardly notice.

Do Less: Recently, I’ve spoken with several friends and peers who have expressed being “flooded”. Some of my “to do” lists do that to me. A wise sage told me once, “do less.” This is not easy, but letting some projects or activities go can help us be present for, and truly enjoy, the others.

Partner: Find others who can share your passion and goals and work together. Collective efforts can make the results stronger and more fun.

Stretch yourself (and your opinions): In case you missed it, I recommend the UMA member Debbie Reed’s blog, “Making this a Season of Good Will” for the value of listening to different perspectives.

Know your limits: Along the way, my husband and I adopted an expression from our shopping excursions to avoid “one too many stores.” Whether it be organization initiatives, home improvement projects or even pets, know when to say stop. Sadly, our beta fish died last week. We learned that two cats are all we can handle.

Take Breaks: Two years ago at this very same time I talked about “stepping it up” and raising the bar. I still believe in that. What I’ve learned, though, is that there is truth to the economic principle, the law of diminishing returns. In running, I have learned that even a 30-second break each mile can help me run further. In work, even a 15-minute breaks can help us work better. (This one takes practice.)

Finish Something: This one may seem counter to some of my other suggestions, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Someone dear to me likes to take on a lot of initiatives. In a weak moment of frustration, I blurted out, “just finish something!” Who knew that this would become an inspirational motto for both of us!? Sometimes nothing feels more satisfying than checking something off your list. Big or small, try to finish something each day.

I hope you get some nuggets of inspiration from my honest personal reflections. I’d love to hear yours.

One of my repeat New Year’s resolutions is to connect with you more in the coming year both in person and virtually. I encourage you to reach out to me too to let me know how UMA can continue to support you. From all of us at UMA, we wish you peace and joy in 2023.