5 Ways To Start The New Year In A Positive Mindset
The countdown to the new year is about to begin and while many of us are more than ready to say goodbye to 2020, it’s also difficult to find the right mindset to go into 2021. We’re grieving, we’re worried, we’re anxious, and we’re stressed. We might find it difficult to find optimism in a year that kept kicking us while we were down. But that makes finding the right mindset even more important. Here are five ways to reflect on 2020 while strengthening our mindset for our goals in 2021.
1- Outline your accomplishments and successes
When we think about what we want in the new year, we tend to focus on the things we didn’t do or achieve in the previous one. This is the year we get that promotion or learn that hobby or lose that weight. It may not seem like focusing on the things we want is starting in a negative mindset, but when we think about what the new year can bring that the current one didn’t, we’re actually focusing on failure instead of success.
Instead, take time to focus on every single accomplishment and success we’ve had throughout the year. No success is too small for this list. Write down personal accomplishments and professional achievements. Did we give a roll of toilet paper to the neighbor? Write it down. Helped keep our kids on track during Zoom class? Write it down.
By focusing on our successes, we are reminding ourselves of every positive event we achieved. This triggers the reward system in our brain, triggering the release of feel-good hormones. Success is addicting for exactly this reason, and thinking about the new year while feeling as much optimism and joy regarding the previous one is paramount for continued success.
2- Internalize lessons learned
While we’re riding the joy of success, this is the time to reflect on what didn’t work. This may seem like following our positive thought process with a negative one, but we don’t want to simply list our failures. Instead, we want to think about what didn’t work and why.
Emily Fletcher from Ziva Meditation encourages us to change the question, “Why is this happening to me?” to “Why is this happening for me?”. It’s changing one word, but that word changes our mindset from a negative to a positive. It isn’t the event that matters, but what lessons we can learn from it.
Our brain doesn’t like an open loop. If we ask ourselves why things happen to us, it will seek out examples of how we were wronged. So by changing the question, our brain then starts to seek out examples of what we can learn and gain from each event. It’s a small distinction that makes a huge difference in how we process events in our lives. There’s always a lesson in every event, both the good and the bad. By focusing on those instead of the events themselves, we can change our mindsets from always seeing the downside to always seeking opportunities.
3- Write down the possibilities
This is where we open our dreams and put them on paper. Write down everything we want to accomplish. Again, this list isn’t limited to things we think are possible or realistic. This is a list of every single thing we want for the year. Focusing on a long list of potential may feel overwhelming, but if we open ourselves to exploring what we want without limit, we may end up being surprised what lands on that list.
Often, we choose goals that we think are achievable or that we think others want us to achieve. These aren’t bad goals, but they may not be the right goals for us. A goal should make us nervous. It should make us a little afraid because that’s when our brain goes out of the comfortable habit loop and becomes active. When we write down all of our possibilities, we will know what stands out, what makes us nervous, what we really want. And those are the goals we should focus on for the new year.
4- Make a plan
It’s normal to think of setting a goal as a finite thing. We want to lose weight, so we’ll go on a diet and go to the gym every day. We want to learn a foreign language, so we’ll buy a program and practice every day while we commute. We want to write a book, so we’ll sit down and write 1,000 words every day. Sound familiar?
Knowing what we want and what we need to do to get there is only part of making a plan. The other part is planning for everything else. What happens when we have a bad day or a bad week? What do we do when we feel stuck or unmotivated? How will we work through any obstacles that come up? Can we think of what those might be?
Making a plan for success is trying to answer as many questions as we can about the reality of executing our goal. We should have small goals to mark success, a list of people we can turn to for advice or motivation when things get hard, and understanding of what tools and resources we will need as we make progress, and an idea of what we think is going to happen as we work towards our goal.
5- Be flexible
Part of getting in the right mindset is also knowing that things will go wrong. No matter how well we plan, or how achievable our goals may seem, things will go wrong. We will hit roadblocks and obstacles. There will be tough days and rough weeks where we doubt and question if we can reach our goal. But if we know that this is normal, we can prepare for these hard times in advance.
Flexibility also means being aware that our goal may shift or change as we progress. Maybe the thing we set out to do isn’t feasible anymore in terms of getting us to our longer-term goals. Or perhaps a new opportunity arises that makes more sense. Knowing that goals shift and change happens helps us adjust our mindset well in advance.
Setting a goal or resolution isn’t a set it and forget it process. It requires getting into the right mindset by adjusting how we look at difficulties and obstacles while preparing rock-solid plans to achieve our goals.