“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw
If you’re reading this, give yourself a pat on the back because you survived 2020! No, really. If last year was a tough one for you, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
The isolation and stress related to the pandemic (among other issues) affected both the mental wellness of individuals and interpersonal connections. There were wildfires, riots, Covid-19, the presidential election, and last but not least – the murder hornets! During the unforgettable roller coaster ride we call “2020,” the recorded cases of distracted driving accidents, drug overdoses, and cases of clinical depression skyrocketed.
While we can finally put the infamous 2020 behind us, let’s not forget a major lesson from last year’s events: the importance of self-reliance. What better way to be more secure than to make the most of each one of your assets?
While it’s impossible to control the world around you (or turn straw into gold), it is possible to use your mindset as a tool to achieve your goals and create your happy place. Sound corny? Well, believe it or not, our beliefs and intentional positive outlooks influence decisions we make in our everyday lives.
So, first off…
What exactly is a mindset?
Our “mindset” encompasses our beliefs, views, and feelings towards the many aspects of our lives. According to Psychology Today, your mindset plays a role in how motivated you are to do something. You can become more ambitious or raise your self-esteem by simply making your mind your most powerful tool and greatest strength.
It is quite simple – a positive mindset is a strong mindset.
Establishing a more positive mindset is proven to lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, raise self-esteem, and improve your life overall. Using your mindset to visualize positive outcomes is practical and will help you stay focused on this year’s goals.
So how do you establish and keep a positive mindset? Here are some things to try:
1. Start by imagining your dream life. Think “big picture.” Then, narrow it down into parts. A dream can be broken down into a plan. A plan can be broken down into steps. These steps are short-term goals – stepping stones to your “big picture.” So, think big at first. Brainstorm. Get clear on what you really, really want before conjuring up a plan to get you to that finish line.
2. Second, envision yourself as your “best you” – the version of you that will make your dreams a reality. Here are a few questions to get you going:
- My top 4 values are ____, ____, ____, and ____.
- I wish I were more ____.
- My top 3 fears are ___, ___, and ___.
It’s essential to be clear on what you want, what your priorities are, and what fears hold you back from achieving success. It’s also important to be a little selfish… These are YOUR goals. YOUR dreams. You’re likely not going to please everyone. And, that’s okay. Because the ones worth “pleasing” are the ones that will support you no matter what. Which brings us to number 3…
3. Surround yourself with the right people. For the people you can’t please, it may be time to consider shuffling them towards your exit. It’s one thing for someone to give you an honest, caring opinion every now and again, but for those people who just seem impossible, who always make you feel down, or who have crossed a significant line of trust? Those are likely not the ones to feed your soul and help you achieve your dreams. When it comes to your mental health, the opinions of others don’t always matter. In other words, “Buh-bye.”
4. Consider what motivates you. Installing a hot tub on your deck? A vacation to Hawaii? Finally writing that book? Quitting your job and working for yourself? Whatever it is, hold onto that vision, and commit to it! Then, reinforce that positive mindset, which will carry you towards your goals. If I want to accomplish something, I usually say (and repeat) to myself “Positive Visualization,” and I’d say, 9.9 times out of 10, I make it happen. (There might be a little dirt and blood involved sometimes, but… I usually get the job done one way or another.)
5. Maintain a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. Let go of your outdated, limiting beliefs about yourself. Believe you can change. Know you can grow! Ever think to yourself, “I wish I could do that, but that’s just not me.” And, now I’m going to ask: “Why the HELL not?!” You. Can. Do. Anything. Just focus on changing one thing at a time, one day at a time. Before you know it, the little successes really add up, and they turn into big results! Rome truly wasn’t built in a day and neither are our lives and dreams. And, if fear is involved, take one step every day to overcome that fear. For instance, I’m trying to learn to sing, but I’m scared for people to hear me, soooo…. when I decide to practice, I sing a little louder each time, and reinforce the mindset of “Who cares if someone hears me?” It works.
5. Stay optimistic. This one can be tough at times, but it’s possible. Mind over matter. When you believe something is possible, it becomes possible. When you believe something is easy, it becomes easier than before. Setbacks are a part of life, so do not beat yourself up when things don’t go exactly as planned. The keyword to keep in mind is the word “yet.” If you did not get that raise yet, you did not get that raise yet. There will be other chances. Do not lose hope or give up. Keep going! One of the hardest things to do is sustain positive thinking when things aren’t going your way, but it’s possible. Trust me.
6. Accept Imperfection. This is another tough one… (Personally, I really struggled with this one and still do at times.) By having realistic expectations for ourselves and our futures, tasks and deadlines seem less daunting, which makes them more achievable and enjoyable. So, relax and enjoy the ride. Life is more than work, bills, and goal-setting. It’s more than keeping up with the Joneses. It is acceptable to make some mistakes. (The important thing is to learn from those mistakes!) AND, it is acceptable to allow yourself time to achieve a goal. Significant goals are likely going to take years, so get rid of that instant gratification expectation the world has set for us these days. Bottom line – you’ll have to work for it, be patient, and accept whatever comes along with the process. The best way to do that is to accept imperfection, and go with the flow!
7. Maintain a mindset of abundance. This is the part when you break up with old phrases like, “I’m poor,” “I can’t afford that,” “I wish I had that,” or “If I had this, I would be happier.” Why? Affirming negative, self-defeating beliefs only stifles your progress and makes you discouraged. Instead, try positive phrases like “I’m going to save my money for that.” Or, there’s always “That’s neat, but I don’t really need it.” Or, how about: “The Joneses can move on up, but I’m perfectly happy and peaceful right where I am.” (Now, if you can achieve that last one, give yourself a big ole high five because, in my humble opinion, THAT’S where it’s at!
8. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Multiple studies and health professionals confirm, keeping a regular rest-wake routine improves health overall. It helps you feel better, sharper, and focused during the day making the work towards achieving your goals more effective and efficient. Plus, being rested also helps reduce anxiety, which is always a good thing!
9. Make a vision board. (I did this in 2020, and it really helped!) This method provides a physical product to keep you focused and motivated. My advice is, keep it simple and organized. Use printable products, magazines, glitter, paints, google images… Whatever you want to represent your desires. Also, Pinterest is a great resource for inspiration. If making DIY project and vision boards out of craft materials and recyclables is not your thing, Pinterest is a free and easy place to create goal boards without a mess.
In the words of Walt Disney, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” One sure-fire way of doing the seemingly-impossible is to have a positive mindset and back that up with healthy lifestyle choices, such as a good diet, regular exercise, and consistent sleep.
Best wishes for a wonderful year, my friends! Stay positive, and make your mental health a priority!