New Year, New Mindset

Four ways to make peace with 2020.

Posted Dec 29, 2020

We’ve endured perhaps one of the most trying years in recent human history. The initial shock lasted a few months and many gradually developed a negative mindset where they expect bad things to happen to them. They worry about an unending list of what-if scenarios and detach from the here and now. It is understandable. We are living with a tremendous amount of uncertainty. And it has been mostly impossible to participate in our typical routines that we count on for bringing joy and fulfillment. We’ve had to work harder than ever at keeping our lives together, our jobs functioning, and our children learning. We have endured the risk of becoming ill, watched loved ones become sick or even lose their lives to the virus. Over time it becomes easier and easier to fall into defeatist or even downright hopeless thinking.

Research shows, however, that the more we engage a negative mindset the more negative, anxiety-ridden, and depressing our lives become. As we embark on the new year, it is time to start making peace with 2020 so we can shed the coronavirus mindset and start a more fulfilling path for 2021. Here are four ways to build a new mindset in the new year:

1. Consider how you’ve changed: Good or bad we were forced this year to make changes, huge changes. Whether working from home, working less, working more, being teachers as well as employees, seeing your kids all of the time, wearing a mask, social distancing, working out in your bedroom as opposed to the gym, not traveling, seeing your friends only on an outside basis… the list is long and coping with it has changed you. You’ve likely also had to adjust to having less novelty in your life and less to look forward to. Take a moment to reflect and consider how from March 2020 until this moment you changed to accommodate all that changed for the world Consider how your routine is different, how your interaction with others is different or how you spend your time is different? Are you more flexible with yourself? Are you less booked? Are you more focused or less focused? How did you surprise yourself this year with your ability to adjust?

2. Consider what you’ve gained: Hardship most always brings growth—this is a universal reality. You’ve seen you can adjust. What did you gain from this experience? Recognize your resilience for adjusting and getting out of your comfort zone. What did you learn about yourself as a result? Did you find you could be more flexible than you thought? Did you find that your close friends and family became even closer or that you recognized what you value and what you take for granted? Did you find out you need people more than you realized or perhaps you are more independent than you ever knew you could be? Did you become closer to your family, your partner, your children? Make a list of how you’ve grown as a person. I know for me if someone told me in February of 2020 that in a month’s time, I would transfer my entire practice to Zoom, and my kids would be doing online schooling from my dining room table, I would have been entirely horrified. It takes courage to make these kinds of changes, but you did it.

3. Develop new goals based on #1 and #2: With all of the agony the pandemic has brought, it has also brought a giant time out. A time to reconsider who you are, what you need, and how you can form a more peaceful and contented life. If COVID never happened, perhaps you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn how you could grow on such a level and also better learn what you need for a contented and peaceful life. For example, I know personally being less scheduled with kids and family activities has been a wonderful addition to my life and in many ways has freed my family to be more present and connected with one another. Consider what you want to let go of and what you want to take with you into 2021. Consider what is most significant to you and what you have spent time and energy on that is useless and meaningless in the big scheme of your life.

4. Use what we’ve seen this year to live your best life: Maybe you’ve been watching the hardship of so many on the news or maybe you are someone who has been directly impacted by COVID, either way we’ve seen how fleeting and fragile life can be. These experiences can be heartbreakingly sad. Consider now intentionally moving yourself along in the grief process by using the sadness to inspire you to live your best life. If you let it defeat you and get you down then you are wasting precious time. You have to live the life you choose right now. As sad as it all is, can you use this experience to inspire yourself in 2021 to take on a mindset that will bring you happiness this new year. Some examples include: a new more positive attitude, showering loved ones with love, developing deeper friendships, finding greater meaning in your life, increasing self-care, connecting with nature on a regular basis, working with passion, finding what deeply engages you, or being a fully present and loving friend and partner. Make a list of what you want and what perhaps you thought you could never get. Now is your chance. For more on building self-esteem, check out my book Building Self-Esteem 5 Steps.