How to Begin the New Year with a Positive Focus and Strong Mental Health

By The Mental Hygiene Project January 15th, 2021

Note from Captive Resources (CRI): At CRI, we provide strategic consulting services to 40 group captives comprised of roughly 5,000 member-companies. As part of our services, we work with member-companies to help make their workplaces safer and their employees healthier — both physically and mentally. To jumpstart 2021 on the right mental health track, we worked with our friends at the Mental Hygiene Project to bring you some helpful tips.

As we continue to navigate the worldwide pandemic, many workers feel stressed out, burned out, and maxed out from the unprecedented year we had in 2020, which we can all agree was incredibly stressful. Many Americans continue to feel fatigued and may have lost hope for a happy and healthy New Year, which could have significant human and financial impacts if not addressed and managed.

It’s vital that we build momentum and propel into a New Year with Optimism, a focus on Mental Health, and a growth mindset that can provide composure, adaptability, and sustainability as we recover and grow from COVID-19. While it would be nice if the New Year came with “terms and conditions," that simply isn’t realistic; however, if we move into 2021 with optimism, strong self-care, good mental hygiene, and we embrace a positive mindset, we can and will find opportunity, sustainability, and growth both personally and professionally.

To get both you and your team the right mindset for success in 2021, here’s a directive to remember:

Aim, Ready, Fire.

You may be thinking, “Did the authors mean to type “Aim, Ready, Fire?” The answer is. Yep, we sure did.

If we want to have a stronger focus, positive mental health, and a mindset that can lead us through the year ahead, we have to be off-balance and on purpose. Having said that, there are three zones of performance:

  • The Comfort Zone
  • The Performance Zone
  • The Panic Zone

If we choose to live only in the Comfort Zone for 2021, we won’t leverage what we’ve learned this past year, nor will we allow ourselves to grow. If we choose to focus on what we don’t have or didn’t accomplish, that will put us in the Panic Zone — frequently unfocused and scattered while not consistently achieving our goals.

To achieve growth and release our potential, it takes choosing to live in the Performance Zone. This is where we are a little off-balance and not entirely comfortable, and yet we are learning, growing, and tapping into potential we may not have even known we had.

Thriving in the performance zone requires thinking and behaving differently. Traditionally, one may say “Ready, Aim, Fire,” but do you really know what you’re preparing for in every aspect of your life? Do you know what specific outcomes you want to achieve? What exactly are you getting “ready” for if you don’t see where you’re aiming?

If we want to begin and end 2021 with more clarity, purpose, confidence, and success, we first have to know what we’re aiming for in all the meaningful areas of our lives. When we choose first to Aim, we center our attention on what is most important both personally and professionally for the next year and beyond.

A strong Aim helps us understand our desires, needs, and wants by developing specific and measurable results that will inspire, motivate, and allow us to achieve our goals. After we have visualized our path forward, we need to begin thinking of the next step in reaching our goals.

As we move into the Ready phase, you should prepare, develop, and organize your thoughts, mind, heart, and soul to achieving your desired goals that you have set out to reach. While last year was undoubtedly challenging and rapidly-evolving, we have to be optimistic and believe that this year will be better.

Getting Ready means that you’re establishing and maintaining a growth mindset where you believe anything that happens will happen “for” you, rather than “to” you. Trying to balance assertiveness and helpfulness will allow you to be a mutual helper of yourself and others. It will also develop your accountability and sustainability as you set out for a happy and healthy New Year.

The final step to unlocking your potential is to let go of the uncontrollables and focus on the controllables. You can control your mindset, attitude, adaptability, composure, and happiness. It’s only after releasing the uncontrollables, can you FIRE and begin to propel into the year with a new level of optimism, focus, and mental hygiene that will lead you to a bigger and brighter year than the one before.

Here are five strategies to Aim, Ready, Fire:

Establish and Maintain Awareness

Establishing and maintaining self-awareness is vital to being happy and healthy. We can easily get buried in the non-essentials of life and lose track of what is essential. It’s hard to manage what you don’t understand. When we choose not to maintain awareness or have attentiveness to our journey of life, we can drift into complacency, which has unintended consequences. It can leave us feeling out of control in our lives.

Practicing mindfulness is one method to address your thoughts and explore your mind on a consistent basis. It allows you to be more situationally aware and present with your current state of mind, health, and overall well-being.

Mindfulness is a method of always allowing yourself to be “in the moment” with a focused awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and whatever your current situation might be. It allows you to be “present” in an intentional and non-judgmental way, whether a circumstance is negative or positive.

If you are experiencing an adverse, uncontrollable circumstance, being mindful allows you to feel emotions at the point of contact, even if they are difficult. This avoids pushing feelings aside or burying them deep in your psyche. People who do that end up finding out that things can bubble up over time, like a pressure cooker. Suppressed negative emotions can end up having unintended consequences months or years later.

Being mindful allows you to feel and deal with emotions when they occur and realize that that situation will not last forever. Conversely, when you are experiencing joy or happiness, you want to allow yourself to be completely present in a non-judgmental way in those instances as well. Sometimes people are so focused on “what’s next” or thinking that they “don’t deserve” to be joyful during a time of happiness that they miss the opportunity to really, truly experience that joyous moment.

Understand that neither negative nor positive situations will last. If we allow ourselves to be present with our emotions at all times and understand that moments in life can be fleeting, we don’t bottle up the negative, and we get the full experience of the positive snapshots in time as well.

Practice Self-Care

One of the greatest tools you can take on for this New Year is the exercise of self-care. This vital practice is as essential as oxygen. If you have ever been on a commercial flight, you have heard the safety briefing: “Should the cabin lose pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from overhead. Please place the mask over your mouth and nose and begin breathing normally. If you’re traveling with small children or someone that needs assistance, please place your mask on first before helping others.”

There are multiple aspects of self-care, such as: Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Behavioral, and Relational. You can identify where your most-urgent needs are and adjust accordingly. For instance, you may need to focus more time on “physical” self-care by increasing aerobic activity or being more mindful of what you eat. Having good mental hygiene requires centering on every aspect of self-care.

Make sure to stay connected to others and do not allow yourself to be or feel isolated. Human beings need to interact with others as it enhances purpose, which provides passion and focus in life. Making an effort to engage with other people who have similar interests helps promote self-care and provides resources for building strong relationships. This organically grows a support network that opens the door for people to take care of themselves while supporting others at the same time.

Focus on a Healthy Mindset

“It’s important to manage your mind; otherwise, your mind may begin to manage you.”
– Ryan S. Gallik

Our mind is incredibly powerful, and we must choose a mindset that promotes well-being, resilience, happiness, and overall wellness. When one chooses a “fixed” mindset, that person tends to be static with their thinking and believe “things are the way they are,” which leads to adopting a “victim” mentality.

When we choose to have a “growth” mindset, we take on the belief that things are happening “for” us rather than “to” us. The growth mindset focuses on positivity, adaptability, and composure. Once a person chooses to have a growth mindset, they select to look at adversities through a different lens and change the state of their mind by embracing one of the following mindsets:

  • Gratitude – finding things to be thankful for in life.
  • Support – seeking to support others.
  • Time – being present with each moment.
  • Balanced – balancing your life with work and personal time.
  • Spiritual – being centered and finding peace.
  • Momentum – taking action to be your best.

Choosing the right mindset will get you in the right frame of mind to achieve what you can and should do, no matter what set of circumstances you’re in right now.

Create a Goal Board and Vision Board

The goal board is designed to create a realistic image of what you want to achieve daily, weekly, and monthly. Specifically, the goals on this board should have detailed results or outcomes. It is different than a “to-do list” because the traditional “to-do list” focuses only on actions instead of specific results or outcomes.

A vision board is something you can create that gives you an overall vision of what you want to achieve in your life. It’s made up of photos, images, words, phrases, and quotes that focus on a higher-level view than specific goals. A vision board looks at the kind of person you aspire to be, where you want to go, things you may want to have in life, and what you want to achieve 3-5 years from now and beyond in your life.

If you utilize a goal board and vision board, make sure to put them side-by-side somewhere in your home where you can see them every day in the morning and evening.

Give Back to the World in Some Way

Make a point to help other people and give back to the world through your time and talent. When people help, support, encourage, and lift others, it has a remarkable positive effect on them as an individual as well. There are many ways to give back. Most of the time, the opportunities to give back to our community are right around the corner.

Spend some time thinking about what you can do to help others. It does not need to be a grandiose undertaking because even the smallest volunteer opportunity or an “above and beyond act of kindness” can help and influence others in a positive way. The irony of making a point to give back to others in some way is that you personally receive a tremendous reward of satisfaction and gratification. Personal gain should not be the reason we do things for others, and yet, by default, there is a positive effect that we experience when doing good things even when we don’t have to do them or when nobody is looking.

When we seek to engage in something that helps others, no matter how small that act of kindness or volunteering or support might be, it helps us grow and provides positive “mental deposits.” These are there for us to withdraw when we need some good thoughts or encouragement of our own. Giving back takes attention off of ourselves and also allows us to grow at the same time.

Michael L. Stahl and Ryan S. Gallik

Co-Founders of The Mental Hygiene Project

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