It’s been a long, long pandemic. And we’re not quite out of the woods yet in many parts of the world. But at the time of this writing, vaccines are being administered (I’m due for my second dose in a few days!), global COVID-19 cases are declining, and in most places, a relaxing or outright lifting of restrictions on businesses and gatherings feels like the gathering of light on the horizon before dawn. The end is in sight.
Very few of us will have come through the past year unchanged or unscathed, and our world has not either. For some, the knowledge that we’re emerging into a changed world is a frightening one. For others (including me), it’s exciting.
I believe that our attitudes towards our post-pandemic lives will shape our experiences of them. We’ve had a year to adapt to the insane new reality thrust on us; we’ve had a year to learn that we can adapt. With that knowledge, there are opportunities ahead to move in different directions than the ones we may have thought we’d travel before COVID changed everything—if our mindset will allow us to.
We’ve had a year to adapt to the new reality thrust on us and a year to learn we can adapt. With that knowledge, there are opportunities to move in different directions.
So if you’ve been dreaming of making some changes to your life, read on and see if these adjustments to your mindset and common thinking patterns can help!
1. Redefine Your Idea of Yourself
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our personalities are fixed and static, that “who I am” today is who I must always be. That isn’t true at all.
A much greater part of our identities is in our control than we may realize, and our internal narrative often creates limitations that we don’t realize are completely artificial. For example, when I described myself to myself as a person who “hates cleaning,” I actively avoided cleaning as much as possible. My living environment showed it. At some point, I began thinking of myself instead as a person who “loves having a clean house,” and now I clean more or less without complaint once a week. You can definitely tell if you come to my house.
The same principle can apply to almost anything. I went from thinking of myself as a person who hates exercise and therefore never does it, to a person who loves feeling stronger and fitter and therefore exercises regularly and enthusiastically. The idea here is to shift the focus from the task you dislike doing, to the result that you enjoy achieving. Make the results your identity, not your dread of the work it takes to get there.
Are there things you believe about yourself that are holding you back? We all face some concrete physical or logistical barriers in our lives, but we don’t have to add self-imposed mental barriers to our personal obstacle course through life. Spending some time observing your inner monologue and examining your beliefs about what you’re capable of can shed light on what you can do differently as you move forward.
2. Use Your Wishes to Set Your Goals
To dig deeper into what we’re truly capable of, we need to look at what we wish we were capable of.
Something I’ve heard often in conversations about skincare or writing or productivity or fitness with readers is: “I wish I could do that!” followed by:
“But Jude, I don’t have the time.”
“But Jude, I don’t have the energy.”
“But Jude, I don’t have the discipline.”
“But Jude, I just can’t.”
“But I really wish I could!”
As someone who used to struggle mightily with the gulf between who I perceived myself as and who I wished I was, I’m intimately familiar with dreaming of accomplishing certain things while letting the “but Jude” objection stand in my way. Luckily, I’m also now intimately familiar with turning the wish into reality.
The shift happened when I shifted my focus from the “but Jude” part to the “wish” part. The “but Jude” part is the self-limiting internal narrative that I talked about earlier. Working to rewrite that is one aspect of changing your mindset. Discovering your specific goals is another. That’s where the “wish” comes in.
I shifted my focus from the “but Jude” part to the “wish” part. The “but Jude” part is the self-limiting internal narrative. The “wish” part is discovering your goals.
I can’t speak for everyone on the planet, but I feel pretty confident that most of us have some outlandish secret wishes. It might seem ridiculous to put energy towards pursuing your wish to be a super secret MI6 agent, for example, but it isn’t ridiculous to put energy towards, say, traveling to the kinds of exotic destinations in which you might find a super secret MI6 agent plying their tradecraft, if the exotic locales are part of the fantasy for you.
Our wishes and daydreams are often the key to who we really want to be. And if our mind is powerful enough that a revision of our self-perception can unlock new possibilities, it’s a fairly short trip from rewriting “who I want to be” to “who I really am.”
If you wish you had the time for a skincare routine, that’s a sign that you would like to be the kind of person who makes time for a skincare routine (and achieves the visible results of that routine). If you wish you had the discipline for a consistent fitness routine, that’s a sign that you would like to be the kind of person who has a consistent fitness routine. Instead of thinking that you would like to be that person, change your mindset by telling yourself that you are that person, and find ways to make it true.
Day by day, the little choices you make—to put down the phone 15 minutes earlier at night so that you can wash your face and put on your skincare, to start your morning with a few minutes of stretches, to devote 20 minutes a few times a week to some short beginner workouts—will add up. Progress builds on progress, and one day you’ll look at yourself and realize you have become that person that you wished you were.
3. Ditch the All-or-Nothing Mentality
Progress builds on progress. Progress happens over time. And progress is not linear.
One of the most common ways that I’ve seen other people get in their own way (and one of the ways I’ve often gotten in my own way) is by equating anything less than instant, effortless mastery with total failure. Giving up on a workout as soon as my muscles start burning, giving up on fitness the first time I wake up sore the next day—reasons like these are why I didn’t get in shape until my late 30s. I think all of us do this to ourselves in some form, no matter what our goals are.
Struggle is a part of success. Challenge is critical to growth. The turning point for me, in fitness and in many other pursuits, came when I not only accepted the necessity of hard work, but embraced it. When your muscles burn, when you can’t hold a position without shaking at least a little, that discomfort is a signal that you’ve worked those muscles to fatigue. That’s what triggers growth. Internalizing that lesson flipped a switch in my mind. I seek out the burn now: It’s part of a satisfying workout for me.
The same applies to just about any other ambition you might have. We learn and grow stronger when we work at it. Sometimes we make mistakes and fall short of what we hoped to do. If we stop trying, we never get any farther. When we change our mindset and take struggles and setbacks as lessons on our path, we keep going and come closer and closer to our goals.
Success almost never happens overnight. It’s earned through diligence and consistency. And diligence and consistency aren’t fixed personality traits that we either do or don’t have. They’re qualities that we can choose to practice and develop. The rewards of that work are immense, whether you eventually achieve everything you hoped to or not.
Diligence and consistency aren’t fixed personality traits that we either do or don’t have. They’re qualities that we can choose to practice and develop.
These mindset adjustments aren’t a panacea, and I’m not promising success beyond your wildest dreams. That’s not the point.
In life, we all deal with some circumstances that are genuinely out of our control. I’m not here to say that there is absolutely nothing you can’t overcome. But I believe that just about all of us are in control of more than we think. Even major factors like geographical location are often changeable with patience and a deliberate, actionable plan.
Day to day, we can choose our responses to the challenges of life. Some of the most important choices we make will be our choices of how we think. Especially our choices of how we think about ourselves.
Start small. When you catch yourself thinking “I just don’t have it in me to do that” about something you wish you could do, reframe that thought. Look for ways to make it possible to do that thing. Be mindful of the ways you build mental barriers between yourself and your dreams. Start small, with one little change at a time, and build on that. Then check in with yourself a month or a year later and appreciate how much you’ve grown!
Do you need to change your mindset in order to grow? Share your struggles with us in the comments!