The year is finally rounding off. Many people have had a tough time; most at least a discomforting one. Your plans may have been canceled or postponed, and you may not have achieved everything that you hoped you would. So the new year seems daunting.
If you’re anything like me, these unexpected events might have knocked your confidence slightly, and maybe you don’t quite feel like your best self. So yes, we’re turning over a new leaf; but you might not feel particularly optimistic that things will improve. It feels a little bittersweet.
Well, I for one don’t want to start the year on a bitter note. I want the 1st of January 2021 to feel ‘sweet sweet’. So to all of those pointless, negative thoughts that cloud my mind at night like dirt to bathwater — I’m pulling the plug. Out with the old and in with the new.
Here are 5 things you can do to start the year with positive energy, and a greater semblance of control that will ease your new-year-anxiety.
1. Tie Up Loose Ends And Shift Your Focus
The New Year is just a few days away, so realistically; you don’t have much time for a big win. There are a few more things I would have liked to achieve this year. I could spend my holidays working, and attempt to achieve them; but what good would this do?
The truth is that I’d be doing this exclusively for myself; to silence my own sense of guilt for not achieving those goals. They’re goals that I set for myself; no one else. Nobody else cares whether or not I attain them; nobody else is at all affected by my success. So I’m not going to miss the rare opportunity to spend a week with my family just because I need to hit an arbitrary self-imposed deadline. Today, I’m tying up loose ends and shifting any ‘undones’ to January’s ‘to-dos’.
If this year has taught us one thing, it’s to not take our relationships for granted; they’re not a given. You have a few days left to enjoy with those closest to you. Be as proactive about enjoying these days with your family as you are with your work. Make this your last achievement for 2020.
2. Plan Days Off At The Start of 2021
This may bode better for some people than others. If you’re someone who, like me, tends to feel guilty when they’re not busy, be strict about planning days off at the start of 2021. This guilt that you feel is actually one of the ways in which the impostor syndrome manifests, according to Dr. Valerie Young. She calls it ‘the superman/superwoman’, and it’s often people like us who experience burnout because we over-work ourselves.
Luckily, the 2nd and 3rd of January fall on a weekend, so planning some free time shouldn’t be too difficult to do. Giving yourself three full days off at the start of the year helps to let the prospect of 2021 sink in. Get a feel for your surroundings and mentally prepare before you take action.
As he watched me fail to build an Ikea chair because I hadn’t read the instructions, my Dad taught me a lesson — in a somewhat politically incorrect way — but important nevertheless. He said that, when he was studying architecture at university, his professor told the class that:
“The Spanish rush to build, but get it wrong; the Germans take time to think before they build, but get it right”.
1) This is obviously not actually true; and
2) I can’t imagine a Spanish person rushing — unless they’re late for something (I’m Spanish, so it’s cool, I can say it…).
Anyway, I looked into it, and apparently, there is a German expression — ‘Bald reif hält nicht steif’ — which means ‘quickly ripened doesn’t hold stiff’. Whether it was intended to apply only to fruit or not, I’m rolling with it. I think there’s a definite benefit to be derived from holding back to assess how you feel at the start of the New Year and think about what you want to do, before you start.
3. List Your Accomplishments
It’s easy to focus on the bad; we tend to notice our mistakes more than our accomplishments. But according to psychologists, we should be doing the opposite; because:
“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run. … everyday progress — even a small win — can make all the difference in how people feel and perform.”— Amabile & Kramer
So when you get a moment, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and list your achievements. In doing so, you’ll be able to recognize the progress you’ve made in 2020 and feel better about the advent of 2021. It can help boost your motivation and give you a better chance of performing at your best in the New Year.
If you’re struggling to think of things to list, ask your family or a friend to help. Other people often find it easier than we do to identify our wins. But remember that ‘success’ is whatever it means to you, so ultimately, you decide. Even if they’re minor, and don’t mean much to someone else, list them; celebrate your small wins too.
4. Give Yourself An Early-Easy Win
In line with the above, planning to make one easy win at the start of the year can provide the encouragement you need. If you only focus on the ‘big wins’, those which typically require more time, it’s easier to become demoralized.
When you don’t see results, you don’t see progress, and it’s easier to become demotivated — perhaps even give up. So set yourself some short-term goals and celebrate the small wins too.
5. Plan A Few Exciting Things
If all you can see are more clouds, and all you can feel is nerves, you need to give yourself something to look forward to. Why? Because you can turn nerves into excitement.
During the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Simon Sinek realized that the journalists kept asking the Athletes “are you nervous”. A question to which the athletes would consistently respond — “No, I was excited.”
What are the physiological signs of nervousness? Your heart starts racing, you visualize the future, your hands get clammy. What are the signs of excitement? Your heart starts racing, you visualize the future, your hands get clammy. These elite athletes had trained themselves to interpret what their body was telling them was nerves, as excitement.
So by planning a few events that you can get excited about, every time you feel yourself getting nervous or anxious by the prospect of 2021, think of the things you’re excited about. Embrace those butterflies in your stomach, because now, they’re excitement, not nerves.
It’s been a weird year guys, I get it.
To everyone who has supported me, I thank you!
To everyone reading this, I wish you the best for the New Year!
And to whoever feels overwhelmed by the prospect of 2021, I hope this advice helps!
Happy New Year everyone!