You made it to 2022! The past year has been a challenge for everyone. We’ve all experienced positive and negative life changes, and here we are preparing to repeat the cycle once again. Have you thought about what you want 2022 to look like? For some, the end of the year is the time when New Year’s resolutions abound and the promise of change feels palpable. For others, resolutions feel cheesy and unfruitful. The idea of becoming a “new you” can feel daunting, and we sometimes stifle our own ability to change. But what if you shifted your focus from a “new you” to a new mindset? Let’s explore some ways to reinvigorate your views on change.
Goals vs. Systems
“Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
In this quote, James Clear summarizes his view on goals and systems. We are all very familiar with goals, and typically set new ones around this time. Those goals could be better health, increased happiness, improved finances, and so on. However, we typically operate with the goal as a far-off point and adapt only as far as to obtain the goal. Then, once we achieve it, we tend to slack off and find ourselves back to our former circumstances. Do you know why this is? Often, we aren’t prepared for true change because we haven’t altered our systems. Your system is your process for not only obtaining goals, but for restructuring your daily life and routine to make the goal a part of your lifestyle. For example, your goal may be to save a set amount of money, and you may be able to sacrifice for a few months to reach that goal. But afterwards, do you maintain your saving habits? Or do you return to the habits that led to financial discomfort? Instead of focusing on the goal of saving a set amount of money, focus on changes to your financial habits for continuous long-term improvement.
Fixed vs. Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset is one wherein we view our lives and circumstances as immovable. Things will “always be as they are” or we are “incapable of change”. This can easily be a comfortable mindset to adopt, as it requires little change on our part. We see ourselves as limited in our ability to confront whatever challenge we face. For example, when a child says they are bad at math, that may trigger a belief that there’s little they can do to improve because it’s just who they are. On the other hand, a growth mindset is one wherein we believe things can be improved, developed, or worked on to change our circumstances. So instead of a child viewing themselves as “bad at math”, they may identify math as a challenge that can be overcome. Then, they feel emboldened to find ways to overcome the challenge, instead of shrinking in the face of it. Take a moment to honestly reflect – do you utilize a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?
Optimism, Realism, and Pessimism
When I was younger, I used to consider myself a “realist”. I prided myself on taking a realistic view on life, which would be a balance between optimism and pessimism. In reality, I saw the world in a very negative light and felt a lot of anxiety about what was happening around me. Optimism sometimes gets a bad wrap and is seen as this bubbly, overly positive worldview. However, optimism is a necessary part of our reality, because life is not always 100% negative. It’s healthy to acknowledge that bad things can happen or bad things have happened. But pessimism does a great job of disguising itself as realism. Sometimes this includes our inward view of our ability to change. Be careful not to let pessimism taint the reality of your gifts and abilities. You may have fallen off in the past or may face a current hardship, but that doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to change or experience happiness in the future!
Effort vs. Outcome
When you look back over 2021, what are the things that you want to celebrate? When we started this year, there were likely a host of goals that you put in place. And there’s a chance you didn’t achieve all of them. But did you put forth effort? We are often geared to only praise ourselves when we achieve the desired outcomes, and we don’t stop to praise ourselves for the effort we put in along the way. Praising your effort over your outcome is not only a great way to boost your self-esteem, it’s a realistic way to acknowledge the impact you’ve made in your own life. As with systems change and a growth mindset, praising your effort is a strong way to build on your accomplishments and achieve long lasting change and confidence. Congratulate yourself for your hard work, even if you don’t see the results right away!
If you truly want a “new you”, examine your current mindset and do away with the parts that don’t align with the person you want to be. Think of it this way – would the person you want to be take a pessimistic view of themselves? Would the person you want to be belittle themselves or deny their ability to grow and change? Or would they acknowledge their strengths, efforts, and opportunities to make a difference in their lives? There will be challenges in the years to come, and there is nothing wrong with identifying those challenges and feeling overwhelmed. But take a look at all that you’ve done and all that you hope to do, and choose today to reinvent your mindset.
This blog was written by Imani Crawford, LCSWA