What if 2021 isn’t any better?

Ugh.

That should be the 2020 word of the year.

Covid-19. Ugh.

Shelter-in-place. Ugh.

Forced homeschool. It’s not really homeschool, but it’s homeschool. Ugh.

Working from home. Yay! Zoom meeting. Zoom meeting. Zoom meeting. Ugh.

Canceled events. Changed plans. Disappointment after disappointment. Ugh.

But for many, this year was more than just an inconvenience. It was tragic.

Lost jobs. Lost friendships. Lost lives. Tragic.

Religious tensions. Racial resentments. Political aggressions.

Tragically ugh!

I never would have thought that in a year when the entire world is experiencing the same crisis that we would be more divided than ever. Shared tragedies typically unify people. Think 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, and the third Matrix movie, for just a few recent examples.

But not in 2020. Oh, no! 2020 has been tragically ugh in almost every way, shape, and form.

I think we have all thought it and probably even said it a time or two: “I can’t wait until this year is over.” Need I remind you that this tragic ugh-ness didn’t start on January 1 and it won’t likely end on December 31.

Covid-19 doesn’t follow the annual calendar. Racial enmity is almost as old as Adam. And politics… Ugh!

We’re looking forward to 2021 like it’s going to be the dawn of the Messiah and all that’s wrong will be made right again. Yes, there’s a vaccine. There’s some hope. But even if Covid-19 went away tomorrow, we still have a long, deep pit to climb out of. Even so, there’s another hardship just waiting to take its place.

Tragedy is never convenient. Suffering is never fun. But it happens. Time and time again. Hate it as we might, it’s a constant in life.

Things have to get better in 2021. Right?

What if they don’t?

What if it’s just more of the same? Or even worse?

Or what if, perhaps most-tragically, things get better, but you don’t?

That would be the biggest ugh of all!

The truth is, 2021 may not be any better. But you can be.

Here are four ways to ensure that this year is better than the last.

1. Change your mindset

Our collective psyches took a beating in 2020.

Constant rule changes.

Continuous isolation.

Perpetual pivoting.

This year was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting, which left many of us feeling physically spent for the better half of 2020.

If that was you in 2020, the best thing you can do in 2021 is change your mindset.

Your mindset is your established thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their intelligence, talents, and abilities are fixed — they cannot be changed. So if you’re not good at something, you think you will never be good at it. If you always react in a certain way to certain circumstances, you think “that’s just who I am.” I always do this. I can’t do that. And there’s nothing I can do to change it.

Conversely, people with a growth mindset believe that their intelligence, talents, and abilities can grow and change through learning, experience, and determination. If people with a growth mindset aren’t good at something, they tend to think, “I just haven’t had enough practice or experience yet.” If they don’t like the way they typically react in certain situations, they set out to change it. People with a growth mindset use struggles and adversity to change them for the better, while people with a fixed mindset allow these same experiences to keep them fixed firmly in place.

So, let me ask you.

As we close out 2020, what is your mindset?

Have you allowed the difficulties of this past year to capture you or catapult you? Are you ending this year with a long list of alibis or a history of actions? Your struggles will either be your biggest obstacles or your greatest opportunities.

The only difference is your mindset.

If it is fixed, you will end 2021 with the same long list of excuses and regrets as 2020. If you have a growth mindset, you will look back a year from now with a proud smile on your face. Not because it was easy. But because it wasn’t. But you persevered. You grew. You changed. You took those hardships and you used them for healing. You took some hits, but you also hit some homers. You took the obstacles life threw in your path and you turned them into opportunities to grow, change, and become a better person.

If you want to have a better 2021, the best thing you can do is change your mindset.

2. Create clear goals

A goal is something you are looking forward to and moving toward.

We could all use something to look forward to right now. It’s what keeps us going when we don’t want to get out of bed. When we’re forced into isolation. When home + schooling + parenting = UGH! The goal is what reminds us of why we’re doing what we’re doing and motivates us to keep moving forward.

People who have goals are more likely to accomplish them. Duh! But did you know that people who have clear goals are more successful, have a greater sense of purpose, and (surprise, surprise) accomplish much more than those without goals? Furthermore, if you write your goals down, you are much more likely to accomplish them. And if you then share your goals with someone else, you are even more likely to be successful? Then if that person holds you accountable, you will have an even higher success rate!

The most-common method of goal-setting is the S.M.A.R.T. method.

Specific – Your goals should be clear and concise. (What will you accomplish?)

Measurable – Your goals should have a means to be tracked and measured. (How will you know you have accomplished it?)

Achievable – Your goals should be realistic. (Is this something that you can accomplish given your time, talent, and resources?)

Relevant – Your goals should be applicable to your organization, position, role, etc. (Is this compatible with the broader goals of my organization, family, etc.?)

Timely – Your goals should have a deadline. (When will you accomplish it by?)

Write your goals down using the above criteria, share them with someone else, and ask that person to check in with you regularly to hold you accountable.

Keep this in mind when it comes to setting goals:

Start with the end in mind.

Instead of thinking, what do I want to accomplish this year? Think, who do I want to BE at the end of this year? Then make a list of the things you need to do now so you can be that kind of person then. For instance, instead of setting a goal to run three times a week, make your goal to be a healthier person (but be specific as to what this means). Then running becomes a means and measurement of accomplishing your goal of being physically more healthy.

Now that you know who you want to be at the end of the year, the how of getting there becomes much clearer.

3. Chart your course

Here is where we often focus on establishing a routine (i.e. I will run every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning). Routines are good, but life usually conspires against us to break and destroy them. That’s why the majority of people give up on their New Year’s resolutions before the end of January. We oversleep, work late, catch a cold, get snowed in, etc. And suddenly, we are out of our routine and we struggle to find our way back.

Here’s the remedy.

Instead of trying to establish a routine, focus on building a habit.

Whereas, a routine focuses on the action, a habit focuses on your mindset. If you focus on building healthy habits (like daily exercise) rather than just a routine (like running 3x/week), you are much more likely to achieve your goal of being a healthier person because you are not just changing your body, you are changing your mind. A winter storm will ruin your running routine, but it cannot break your healthy habit.

It is almost impossible to maintain a consistent routine, but a good habit can pivot, adapt, and change as needed.

4. Cultivate your soul

My friend, Tim Rygh, who tragically passed away from Covid-19 complications just a few days ago, was fond of asking, “How’s your soul?” He was often unimpressed as people listed off their accomplishments, or detailed their problems. Not that he wasn’t encouraging or empathetic. He was very much so! But he would often say something like, “I get all of this that’s going on ‘out here’ (he’d say making a circular motion with his hands), but what I want to know is how are you doing ‘in there’ (pointing at your heart)?”

Our souls are the life-spring of who we are. We can starve that spring and let it dry up until we’re just an empty shell. Or we can feed the spring with life-giving activities, attitudes, and relationships that overflow into the lives of others.

Jesus famously asked, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul” (Mark 8:36, NLT)? In other words, it’s a net loss if you accomplish all of your goals to the detriment of your soul.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as this tragically ugh year draws to a merciful close:

  1. Which relationships are life-giving for me that I need more of in my life? Which relationships are soul-crushing that I need less of in 2021?
  2. What activities fill my tank and bring me joy? (Put a bunch of them on the calendar right now)
  3. How is my relationship with God? Have I ever been more in love with God than I am right now?

The answers to these questions and subsequent actions will ensure you feed your soul as you pursue your goals.

Your path to personal transformation

Do you have big dreams, but you’re not exactly sure how you’re going to accomplish them?

Do you often start the year strong and then fizzle out down the stretch?

Do you need external motivation? Inspiration? Accountability? Encouragement?

We all do.

I struggled for far too many years to accomplish my goals and reach my potential. I would finish up every year feeling more like a failure than a success… Until I finally took the plunge to invest in myself by hiring a personal coach. Wow!!! That was one of the best decision I have ever made! Seriously. In fact, it has impacted my life so much that I wanted to become a Leadership Coach so that I could impact and influence others the same way I have been transformed by coaching.

This isn’t a sales pitch. Personal coaching is widely regarded as the most successful method of helping people grow, change, accomplish their goals, and reach their potential. It can turn your tragic ugh into a JOYFUL YES!

Are you ready to make 2021 the best year of your life?

Contact me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute coaching session to experience firsthand the transformative power of coaching.

Be sure to also check out my John Maxwell Team page: https://www.johncmaxwellgroup.com/jeffgauss/

Even if 2021 isn’t any better than 2020, YOU can be.

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