It’s about time to start drafting that list of New Year’s resolutions you usually break by the second day of January. If you’re tired of setting yourself
up for failure, perhaps a different approach might be in order. This time, why not adopt a mindful approach to setting resolutions? By doing so, the
odds are in your favour that 2016 will be one of more balance, fulfilment and wellness.
Mindful resolutions focus on attitudes instead of outcomes and accomplishments. As Zig Ziglar put it, it is your attitude that determines your altitude.
The problem with outcomes is that you do not have absolute control over what eventually materialises. For example, you can work hard, but you may not
necessarily get that promotion, so resolving to get a promotion next year is risky business. However, you always have a choice regarding your attitude
– although if you don’t exercise this choice, someone or circumstances will determine it for you. So as William James put it: “My first act of free
will shall be to believe in free will.”
A beginner’s mind
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a key figure in contemporary mindfulness, refers frequently to a beginner’s mind as a fundamental attitude of mindfulness. Every moment
is a new moment, so instead of greeting someone with “Happy New Year”, how about changing it to “Happy New Moment”? Think back to previous years and
you might notice that the worries, expectations and storytelling of the future you carry into the New Year hardly ever come to fruition. All this mental
activity really just poisons your ability to live fully in the present moment. A conscious effort to bring a beginner’s mind to the present moment
moves you away from all this toxicity.
Think of a beginner’s mind as hitting a delete button on all your expectations and greeting the new moment as though you have no idea what it will hold.
Now that’s exciting! Why? Because you don’t know what it will hold. So start every moment with a clean slate and reboot your mental computer
to get rid of all the software that’s wasting your brain’s “RAM”.
Harvard professor Ellen Langer talks about applying this attitude by scheduling small chunks of time (e.g. 5 minutes) to paying attention to what’s new
around you, whether it is the manager you’re speaking with, the file you’re opening or the view outside your window. Every moment is bursting with
brand new sights, sounds and scents. See it as a challenge to see what new things you can spot in that 5 minutes, even within an old and familiar context.
Noticing them will make you more mindful and attuned to what is currently unfolding instead of what might (probably won’t) or should happen in an hour’s
If you resolve to strive less in 2016, you might end up achieving more. On top of this, you will likely find more mental space and energy to engage and
soak in all the awesome things happening in the present moment. The most precious things in life just happen, such as your breath. The moment you try
to cling and hold on, it slips away. It also begins with asking yourself what is truly within your sphere of control. Too often, we strive for things
that are ultimately beyond us and this causes unnecessary anxiety and sleepless nights. Can you really control what your boss thinks? Most likely,
you can control only how you respond to him or her. So why not accept what is, instead of feeling you have to do something about it.
Non-striving is counterintuitive, especially for the Western mind and our “overachieving” generation. This trend of striving to overachieve has become
so severe that an entire generation of corporate executives loses nearly 5 days a year to depression and has an extra 11.5 unproductive days on average.
Burning the candle at both ends simply doesn’t make the flame shine brighter. Job stress affects your creativity and focus, as well as suppressing
your managerial talents. Non-striving is an attitude that can clear your constantly buzzing mind into one of clarity and poise. Strive less by focusing
on the things you can control and letting the rest unfold over time.
As part of your resolutions, make a list of what it means to be successful. Odds are good that you’ll list a sky-high salary and that golden promotion
you’ve been hoping to get for years. Odds are also good that you won’t list serenity or happiness. If this is true for you, perhaps it’s time to rethink
what success is. Recognise the fact that you’re already a fantabulous person. You are good enough exactly as you are. Add a dash of self-love, a touch
of gratitude and a sprinkle of acceptance and you’ll be well on your way to a great 2016.
You’ll notice that most of the attitudes of mindfulness have a lot to do with keeping you in the here and now. Yes, it’s that simple. And yet, as the late
Steve Jobs said: “Simple can be harder than complex.” You don’t need to wear a halo or have a religion to gain from this practice. In fact, it takes
only 8 weeks of practice to start seeing real results as your brain function and mood refresh themselves. What better way to greet the New Year than
with a new you?