As we’re busy making promises that we likely won’t keep, maybe the answer to a healthier, happier, and more successful 12 months ahead lies not in what we vow to do, but in what we’re willing to give up, says Melissa Mizer, founder of MoreSeekers, a life and business coaching firm. Sometimes, it’s best to shift the focus from what we haven’t done to those beliefs and actions that need to be released because they’re not doing us any good, she says.
"We have a tendency to focus on what we didn’t accomplish, and it’s so incredible to stop dwelling on the bad," she says. So, as you get ready to set your goals in the new year, think about giving up some of the things that might be holding you back.
It’s time to stop "feeding the always-on monster," says workplace and communication consultant Christopher G. Fox, founder of Kindness Communication, a firm that helps companies integrate more kindness into their operations. If you’re responding to email messages at midnight or 2:00 a.m., you’re training the people with whom you interact that they can encroach on your time—any time— Set reasonable boundaries with your technology to give yourself time to recharge.
You got fired the same week your college roommate got an eight-figure venture capital infusion for her startup. A big project didn’t go as planned and now you’re stuck in an "I suck" mindset. It’s enough, says Jan Spence, founder of business consultancy and coaching firm Jan Spence & Associates. When we’re so much harder on ourselves than on anyone else, we set unrealistic expectations that can never really be met, she says.
"You have to be willing to forgive yourself—to just be willing, personally and professionally, to go into that downward spiral and actually get back up on the horse and ride," she says. Even if you didn’t do your best this time, if you spend time and energy on berating yourself, you’re diverting those resources from being able to do your best the next time, she says.
Mizer says many of us have a tendency to focus on the negative. We look at what we didn’t accomplish, where we weren’t as productive as we could have been, or what we did wrong. In fact, a 2014 study by researchers at Vanderbilt and McGill Universities found that, while people lament the fact that headlines are dominated by "bad news," when given a choice, that’s what many people opt to read.
Drop the search for "what’s wrong" and instead try to find an "epic win" every day, she says. It’s a simple focus shift akin to a gratitude practice, and can make a big difference in how you see the world.
When you go into a meeting or negotiation thinking of outcomes in "either/or" terms, you’ve locked yourself into a confrontation, Fox says. Either the outcomes go your way or they don’t. Instead, try letting go of the limits on what could happen and approaching such situations more open to finding ways to collaborate and find solutions that benefit everyone. Give up the territorial, "I win/you lose" attitude to find new ways of doing things, he says.
"It’s a false way of looking at things. It’s not about achieving your end or making your point," he says. Instead, it’s about using the input of everyone involved to get to a better level of understanding. That works in business—such as when your cross-functional team shares information to come up with solutions that help each department—and in life, he says.
Sometimes, we’re so focused on the end-game where we’re comparing ourselves to some false perception of what we should have accomplished that we miss out on our lives, Mizer says. You don’t know all of the struggles, secrets or opportunities that others have—so why assume you are making accurate comparisons, anyway?
If you’re so busy building up accomplishments because they’re what you think you should be doing or focusing on the difference between what you have accomplished and what someone else has accomplished, you may miss key opportunities to move yourself to where you want to be, she says. Give up keeping up and move to your own groove, she says.
No one is good at everything, and we all have areas that challenge us. When you refuse to own up to any imperfections or areas where you need help, you not only won’t perform as well, but getting to the solution or outcome you want will often take longer, Fox says. When you hide your weaknesses, you’re immediately creating an environment of distrust, which can be a real obstacle when people are trying to collaborate, Fox says.