The New Year is a time when most of us start thinking about habits we’d like to change. Maybe you’d like to drink more water, get up more often from your desk, eat more healthily and so on?

These kinds of things are important, but something which is often overlooked is the importance of developing new and better mindset habits. These will support you in achieving more concrete goals, and can make really big changes in your life and happiness.

1. Stop setting unrealistic goals.

Stop setting arbitrary and totally unrealistic goals, and then wondering why you haven’t achieved them. Even worse, then starting to beat yourself up for not having achieved them. Recognise that even very small changes, such as an extra 10 minutes of exercise a day, can have a huge impact over a year. So, when setting yourself goals for this year, think small and consistent.

2. Focus on what you can control.

Recognise that while planning can be very helpful, if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t control the future. Focus on what you can control, and stop trying to control what you can’t. This especially applies to what other people think and do.

3. Banish ‘should’.

Banish ‘should’ from your vocabulary. Should is about not taking responsibility for our actions. It’s a way of distancing ourselves from whatever it is, suggesting that other people think it’s a good idea. If you actually think it’s a good idea, do it. If not, don’t.

4. Celebrate small wins.

Get into the habit of regularly celebrating any small wins. We are wired up to take more notice of negative outcomes. That’s why we will always hold onto the one small piece of criticism in an otherwise glowing review. This makes sense in terms of survival, but it won’t make you feel good. I end every working week by noting down all my wins for the week, as well as what I can learn from what didn’t go as well.  

5. Re-think being productive.

Productivity isn’t about lashing yourself to your desk and working away for 12 hours at a time. If you want to be more producive, take more breaks. Longer ones, for sure. But five minute, or even 1-2 minute breaks are also really valuable. Just move about for 5 minutes, or even just sit and rest your eyes and breathe deeply. You’ll work much better afterwards.

6. Learn to recognise the Troll voice,

Get better at recognising the Troll voice. It often uses extreme language, such as ‘disaster’, ‘terrible’, ‘never’ ‘always’… and of course ‘should’. If you spot that voice, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if what it is saying is absolutely true. Is there any evidence? If not, then don’t pay interest on trouble you haven’t borrowed yet.

7. Don’t believe everything you think.

This is related to point 6. Don’t believe everything you think. We tend to assume that as intelligent, rational people that our thoughts are always intelligent and rational. But an awful lot of them come from the anxious, reactive, fearful part of the brain, and need a LARGE pinch of salt.

8. Don’t be afraid to change direction.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind or direction. The sunk cost fallacy is the natural tendency to continue with something which isn’t working because we have invested time and/or money into it. It’s a fallacy, because doing that usually makes things worse. Accept that sometimes we need to make mistakes to learn something valuable, and move on.

9. Accept and recognise your feelings.

Accept and recognise your feelings. Pretending you aren’t feeling something doesn’t make it go away, it just buries it deeper, where it can do more damage. Research shows that naming a feeling actually helps it dissipate. Negative feelings are simply signals that something is wrong.

10. Act with self-compassion.

Treat and talk to yourself the way you would your best friend. Offer support, be honest- but always kind. If you find this difficult, journaling can be a good way of developing this more self-compassionate inner talk.

Which of these mindset habits are you going to work on developing?