1. a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Truth time. I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe it’s my past experience and a number of epic fails that got me asking myself ‘how’s that been working for you?’
Well, frankly, what didn’t work for me was my thinking around them. I’d make a firm decision to do or not do something - usually something big…like give up sugar…because it’s a RESOLUTION, right? I’d stick to it strictly for the first few days or weeks and then inevitably slip up when circumstances got tricky. Then I’d figure since I ‘blew it’, I might as well just quit.
Resolutions feel a bit black or white to me. You either keep them or you fail.
Or so I thought…
Until I started working on adopting more of a growth mindset. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, writes that someone with a “growth mindset,” thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence or inability but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.
My New Year’s ‘Resolutions’ have since morphed into Past Year Reflections and an annual check in of: what’s going well, what am I struggling with and how can I be just a bit better?
Identifying what’s gone well is a form of gratitude or looking for the bright spots or silver linings. And then taking a look at those things to identify what role we played in those things going well. And then setting an intention and creating an action plan to do more of that.
When we look at what we’re struggling with I find it is most successful when we look at it through a lens of self-compassion and an opportunity for growth.
I’ve written a lot about the 3 steps of mindful compassion outlined by Kristen Neff, however, I think they are always worth repeating.
1. Mindful Awareness: Being aware that we are struggling or suffering. Acknowledging what’s not going well and the feelings that accompany it. Often, it’s a bit of an ‘aha’ for most of us. ‘Oh…so I’m really disappointed that I am struggling with my sugar cravings’.
2. Common Humanity: Next, acknowledging that we are not alone in our struggles. I know, it may feel like it sometimes. However, it’s big world out there…and many of us struggle with the same things – food, fitness, relationships, parenting, to name a few.
3. Self-Compassion: Extending the same loving kindness to ourselves as we would a dear friend. Acknowledging that this is hard and it’s okay not to feel okay.
Once we’ve looked at those things, it’s much easier to wipe the slate clean, quiet our inner critics and take the next positive step forward towards doing just a little bit better. That piece of ‘doing just a little bit better’ is magical. Small steps are less daunting than large ones. And success breeds success.
Wiping the slate clean and doing a little bit better over the long term far outweighs ‘perfect’ over the short term.
"The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it,
even (or especially) when it’s not going well,
is the hallmark of the growth mindset.
This is the mindset that allows people to thrive
during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
So…what do we do when we aren’t sure what just a little bit better looks like?
There is an exercise I do with my clients called, ‘The Pillars of Health and Vitality’ which is helpful for checking in to see how we are doing in each area of health and looking ahead to see where we want to be. There are 6 pillars of health and vitality (based on Precision Nutrition’s Six Dimensions of Deep Health): physical, mental, emotional, existential, relational and environmental.
I take clients through each pillar and have them score each one on a scale of 0 to 10. 0 being off limits or broken and 10 being the ‘ideal’ for that person. I then have them describe why – what makes it an x/10 and what’s missing?
After we go through each pillar, I ask them to pick one pillar to focus on for the coaching call - not necessarily the one with the lowest score, but one that speaks to them and that they want to devote some time and energy to improving over the next number of weeks, months or sessions.
Clients then ‘blue sky’ the pillar and describe what a 10/10 would look like to them if there were no obstacles. What are they doing? Who are they doing it with? How do they feel? In as much detail as possible, noting what really lights them up when they are describing it.
Once that is complete, I remind clients of their score they gave me today and ask them what ½ point more would look like? And then from there I coach clients to come up with an action plan to get there.
We dive into some of the things that might get in the way and how to overcome them. We talk about resources and accountability and how I can support them in their endeavours.
This is an exercise I do for myself. And, yes, I have a coach to help increase my self-awareness, identify my obstacles, quiet my inner critics and create action plans to move forward.
That all being said, I do have some things I am working on in each pillar…trying to do more of what’s been working and sticking with ‘the grind’ or trying new tactics for things I typically struggle with.
I tried a couple of new things this year that I discovered that I really love. And…luckily…they have been life giving and accessible during COVID: Stand-Up Paddleboarding and Snowshoeing. Season and weather permitting, I have plans to do more of both. Luckily, I have built in accountability partners…a husband and a dog. We haven’t taught Emmy to SUP yet but that could be a goal for the summer.
Now, the great thing about these two activities is they cross all of the pillars – physical, mental, emotional, relational, existential, and environmental.
I am curious what you will choose to work on this year.
What will you try to do more of?
The great thing about the “growth mindset” is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.
This is wonderful news for those of us who hustle for approval. We can top hustling and start practicing, failing, learning, growing and blooming.
Tell me…what will you try to be just a little bit better this year?