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Elizabeth Hiza: Mindfulness and those New Year’s resolutions

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Like anything that involves human behavior, New Year’s resolutions draw their share of doubt and many jokes about their lasting – or not-so-lasting – impact. Some humorists call resolutions a “to-do list” for the first week of January.

February is month two of resolutions, and it can be a trial as the hard work sets in. The most frequent resolutions – exercise, save more, eat healthier, and lose weight – are challenging. Many people are probably wondering why they made the resolutions in the first place.

But there are practices that can help along the way. New Year’s resolutions looked at more deeply are closely linked to the desire for personal growth.

Mindfulness – being aware of our thoughts, feelings and surrounding environment, and not being judgmental about them – has become widely familiar to millions of American in all walks of life, including the business world. Mindfulness places us “in the moment,” not fretting about past mistakes or worrying about some potential future challenge.

Being mindful does not mean we are inactive, however; far from it. Mindfulness can help us build a path to growth that will help us achieve our resolutions.

Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University pioneered the research into “growth mindset” and its opposite, a fixed mindset. She sums up the findings of her in-depth research in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”

It’s an enlightening read. On the one side, character traits we are supposedly born with can dominate and find expression in laments such as “I am not very athletic” or “I wish I were a creative type.”

In contrast, at its peak, a person with a growth mindset sees their potential as limitless. We are all human, and attaining that invaluable growth mindset can be an effort.

The two biggest revelations that I got from my own research and Dr. Dweck’s findings are that people with a growth mindset are more successful, and that our brains are malleable, meaning that with time — and, yes, effort — we can learn new skills at any age.

A Desire to Grow 

Circling back, New Year’s resolutions reflect a desire to grow, to do better for ourselves and also for others – family, friends, and colleagues. Imposing limitations on ourselves undercuts our potential. Having a growth mindset can help us to learn more from others, and to be willing to listen.

I love the feeling of renewal that comes with closing out a year and beginning a new one. I take a sense of satisfaction when reflecting upon what went well and what I would have liked to have gone better.

Of course, this exercise is only effective if you are honest with yourself and have a high level of accountability, meaning you take ownership of your life and actions vs. playing victim to what life throws at you. This accountability mindset gives me a sense of control of the results in my life; I understand that I can make the changes necessary to reach my desired success level.

Dedication with a Price 

Typically, I love to “goal stack.” I will list out 8-10 goals that I want to accomplish through the year. Included will be everything from doing more yoga, how much I want to add into my savings account, more date nights with my husband, taking a vacation and a variety of professional goals.

My goals/wants come to me easily, and I love attacking them head on. I write them everywhere, so they are constantly in front of me, and I reassess them often. Being goal-focused, I am proud to say that it is very rare that I miss one.

This dedication comes with a price, however. I am working constantly towards these goals with an almost obsessive mindset about achieving them. My linear focus towards achievement makes me blind to everything else that is going on in the world.

2020 was a year for the books no doubt, and my biggest takeaway is that it is a very big world and I am a small part of it. I feel that I want to contribute more towards the bigger picture vs. my needs. I resolve to be more present and focused on how I can contribute to the world around me.

Elizabeth Hiza is the chief marketing officer for the Barnum Financial Group in Shelton, Connecticut, with offices in five states and nationwide services. She has spoken on mindfulness and the benefits of a growth mindset to industry groups and companies, and has contributed to national and local publications. 

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