Why You Should Rethink Your Approach To 2021

After getting through 2020, many of us may still feel like we're in survival mode. The idea of self-improvement in the new year may feel quaintly pre-pandemic; we're still in the midst of a global health crisis, after all, and political and economic upheaval is our everyday reality. But rather than merely enduring the current circumstances, what if we focused on making 2021 a year of growth?

In an interview with The List, entrepreneur and educator Summers McKay, who is CEO of The Optimist Daily, argued that these challenging times are exactly when we should be doubling down on positivity. "Even if we are all still shaking the dust off our shoulders from one doozy of a 2020, we are well on our way in the new year," she explained. "Many of us are just lifting our heads up from what has been a harrowing, intense, and exhausting previous 10 months since the pandemic began, politics exploded, and the economic and climate concerns of the world overwhelmed."

But finally, the darkness is beginning to lift. McKay said, "We are starting to see a brighter 2021, and now, it's our chance to step into that light and make sure we are part of the solutions! It's the season to consider resolutions or better yet, commitments to live better, grow more, do more, and give more in the coming year."

This is the mindset you need to achieve your goals

But, you're emotionally drained, and possibly physically exhausted, especially if you're trying to manage working from home while home-schooling, or, even worse, have become ill. Things haven't yet changed all that much compared to 2020, after all! But according to McKay, with the right mindset, you can achieve your goals; you just have to commit to them. "The psychology behind commitment is pretty clear," she explained. "When you commit to something, you are more likely to follow through, versus when you quit something."

McKay added that you'll have better luck if you focus on the positive end result you're hoping to achieve, and the actions needed to get you there, rather than on simply deciding that you have a problem you wish you could eliminate. "For example nail-biting instead of quitting nail-biting, commit to regular care of your hands, at-home manicures, and finding new ways to manage anxiety or stress," she explained. "Every day, remind yourself what you've decided to do differently whether it's a reminder on your phone, Post-It on your mirror, or note in your calendar, what are you doing to make 2021 a better year."

The best goals impact the people around you

The cliché New Year's resolution is to lose weight or start exercising, but 2021 doesn't have to be about self-improvement. In fact, there's never been a better time to think about making a difference within your family, your community, or society as a whole, according to McKay. In fact, sometimes these goals are easier to achieve. "Whether it be a family member or someone in your community that you'd like to impact in a positive way, when there is a real person who will be impacted by your efforts, you are more likely to follow through," she explained. "People matter!"

Not sure where to start? Think about the causes that matter to you most, McKay suggested. "If you are passionate about the environment and want to commit to eating local or reducing your use of plastics, identify someone in your world who will be positively impacted by your commitment," she said. "For me, it's my children. I know that by committing to reducing my ecological impact on the world, I am creating a better opportunity for them to have a healthy and spacious environment to grow."

Cultivating positivity is the perfect goal for 2021

One area where we all likely could improve is casting aside negative thoughts. "It's time to close the windows on the doom scrolling of 2020," McKay said. "We all did it, and we all were exhausted by it. Social media, Twitter rants, the dark days of disaster memes filled a certain part of our soul that was needed, simply to release so much of the tension and fear we felt at the beginning of this pandemic."

But, dwelling on this negativity isn't good for us in the long term, McKay noted. "The time has come for us all to move forward into positive. Seek out inspiring content, powerful stories, those who are doing good, and commit to reading something good every single day," she advised. "Surround yourself (virtually) with courageous people who are looking for ways to solve our world's challenges. Find the teachers, colleagues, poets, writers, journalists, leaders, mentors and entrepreneurs who are helping to build a better tomorrow and let them lift you up."

If you feel like you're already immersed in darkness, it's not too late to seek out positivity, McKay added. "You still can shift your mindset in 2021 and make it a better year!"