This is a great time to clean out mental closets! Instead of reciting the same old resolutions for the New Year, let’s chuck nonproductive habits and toss out thought patterns and behaviors that no longer serve us. For example, we might decide to scrap:
1. Non-productive worry.
There are two types of outcomes that we worry about: (1) those we can (and probably should) do something about, and/or (2) those we cannot influence. The first should move us to action. But we cannot influence whether a plane goes down, whether our boss will appreciate the extra hours we put in, or how far the Ebola strain will spread. We can buy flight insurance, spend the extra hours at work wisely, and avoid travel to certain areas of the world. After doing all we can, however, further anxiety is of no value to anyone.
How can we stop obsessive worrying about things we cannot control? We can ask ourselves what would happen if our greatest fears came true or, conversely, if the best possible outcome happened – and then remember that about 90 percent of the time, reality will fall right in the middle of those extreme fears or hopes. Worrying won’t change the odds or outcome; it will only drain us of energy we need to cope with any result.
2. Non-specific goals.
Instead of resolving to learn Photoshop this year, I might vow to sign up for a Photoshop class by June 1. That way of thinking will carry me the furthest distance in the quickest amount of time. The more we can break down professional and personal goals into attainable steps paired with deadlines, the more likely we are to follow through. Let’s replace “I will do this general thing in 2015” with “By this date I will (describe steps we want to take).”
3. The belief that we have all the time in the world.
There was no preamble, no warning the day I was told I had breast cancer, or the day my son died. A brother died unexpectedly, too. There was no warning that life as I knew it was over. Before the next shoe falls in our lives, let’s communicate our needs and desires, take responsibility for our professional success, update Facebook messages for friends, remember birthdays, dine out with family and (in my case) send a weekly postcard to young grandchildren! Accepting that we can only bank on this moment leads to a true appreciation that this moment counts.
Hey, my list is not necessarily your list. Maybe you would benefit from letting go of anger, or to abandon the wait for someone else to rescue you from a bad job or relationship. Maybe you want to stop being your own worst enemy or critic, or realize you could dial down the sarcasm a notch or two. We all have things we could work on, if only we’d take the time to note the voice in our heads and check those habits against the outcomes we so desperately want for ourselves.
Sound like a plan? Then let’s set a deadline and do it!