A New Perspective for the New Year

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A few years ago, I came across an interesting quote by the late Wayne Dyer. He said ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at begin to change.’ Although I liked the sound of this, I was unsure how to actually go about changing the way I looked at something that was causing me stress. As we mark the beginning of 2020, I’ll share two practices that have helped me shift my perspective.

Before trying these techniques, it’s important to first identify the thing you’d like to shift your perspective on. It could be a person, a situation, a task, or maybe your work in general.

TECHNIQUE 1: IN SEARCH OF POSITIVE ASPECTS

Now that you’ve identified the issue you’d like to work on, hold an image of the stressful task, situation, person or whatever it is in your mind, and – as challenging as this may be – begin to list its positive aspects.

If it is a person, what are their positive qualities? What do you admire about them? What is their backstory and what factors may be informing their perspective? If it is a situation, what are the potential benefits that you could gain by going through this? What have you learned from the situation?

If it is a task, in what ways have you already made progress? How will completing the task benefit you? If the stress is in relation to your work or the job itself, what aspects of your work do you enjoy? In what ways is it actually going well for you? What does it allow you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do?

Keep doing this on a daily basis and notice if you experience any shifts. If searching for positive aspects feels too challenging, try the technique below.

TECHNIQUE 2: PUTTING STRESS IN CONTEXT

The second technique is to get your attention off of the thing that is causing you stress. Remember that what you focus on tends to grow, so if you are primarily focusing on this issue, person, task or challenge, it’ll start to consume other areas of your life.

In order to shift your focus off of the topic, keep a daily gratitude journal and take note of what else in your life is going well. Challenge yourself to make a note of at least 3 new things each day. Take time to sit with those things and really appreciate them. Even if it doesn’t alleviate your underlying stress, if you practice this technique consistently, you’ll find that it does minimize the extent to which the issue occupies you. As a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology  reveals, there is now scientific evidence in support of developing a daily gratitude practice.

While experimenting with these techniques, the most important ingredient to ensuring their effectiveness is a willingness to see things another way. When we become stuck on a particular story or viewpoint, it closes off the possibility of seeing things any other way.

You may be wondering how something as simple as the above techniques could allow you to change the way you look at things, however, it is very often through small steps like this that major shifts can happen.

As we embark on 2020, challenge yourself to adopt a new perspective for the new year. Try one of these practices consistently for 10 to 14 days, perhaps as one of your new year’s resolutions and then re-evaluate whether your perspective has changed in any way.

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Setting Goals and Shifting Expectations

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For many people, the start of January is a time for taking stock and setting goals for the year ahead. So, what are your goals for 2019?

I’ve come to learn what a powerful role our words play when it comes to setting goals. For instance, whenever I set the goal of writing a ‘chapter’, my inner perfectionist automatically goes into high gear and starts to take over. I instantly feel the weight of what I’m working on and the expectations surrounding it. Who is going to read it? What if it isn’t any good? Why am I bothering with this in the first place? This is how I talk myself out of doing things before I’ve even started.

In order to quiet my inner perfectionist, one technique I’ve started to employ is to soften the language I use surrounding a specific task. So, whether it’s a lecture I’m preparing or a chapter I’m writing, I almost always refer to it as a ‘sketch’, outline’ or even a ‘blueprint’ and I preface whatever I produce as ‘preliminary.’ While it can feel heavy to expect myself to produce a full chapter, writing a preliminary sketch is something I can do.

With this very subtle shift in language, I begin to alleviate any pressure and anxiety associated with the task. It’s a way of tricking my mind into relaxing while I move closer to reaching my goal and in this way, the seemingly impossible task I would otherwise worry about gets completed without me really noticing.

As you start to plan for 2019, ask yourself whether you can shift the language around any of your goals for the year ahead.

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