Baggage weighing you down? Start the new year light as a feather.
What if you had made that one career move you’ve always wondered about? Spoken up more at last week’s meeting? Been less critical on that first date? Waited for him to initiate the relationship talk?
Like many people, you may be familiar with several nagging what-ifs. Sometimes, they may even seem to run like a soundtrack through the back of your mind, never letting you fully relax into your true self.
It’s time to let them go — now, for 2021. To help you, I’m blogging on the top things that I find hold my clients back, sharing powerful techniques to help you break through your roadblocks in your career and your relationships so you can hit the ground running in the new year.
So, here’s what you should let go of in 2021…
1. Grudges at the Office
Your office may be full of opportunities to get ahead, but conflicts can hold you back. Try to let go of even the biggest grudges. However, if the grudge arose due to a serious violation of your trust, you may want to ensure you maintain better boundaries with the person as you move forward.
For example, if you’re holding a grudge because someone forgot your birthday last year, it’s time to forgive and forget. On the other hand, if you’re holding a grudge because someone stole one of your ideas and presented it as their own, then perhaps a cordial-yet-reserved approach will serve you best.
In either case, remember that it takes more energy to maintain anger than to find peace…. with the caveat that you don’t let yourself become a doormat.
2. A Fear of Exploring All Your Career Options
If you’ve secretly been daydreaming about going to grad school or changing jobs for a while now, it’s time to tackle your career options head-on.
You can start small, by challenging yourself to browse LinkedIn job profiles and let yourself mentally “try them on for size.” If you feel inspired, you can take it a step further by messaging certain people to see if they’d give you an informational interview.
To take it even further, ask a coach, head hunter, or your alumni career services center to review your resume… and whenever you feel ready, just hit “send” on a few application buttons!
Keeping a proactive mindset where you recognize the myriad options available will help boost your confidence and increase your sense of control.
3. The Idea That Certain Traits Can’t Be Changed
Have you “always” had a fear of public speaking? “Always” been late? Has this caused you to believe there’s just “something in your blood” that makes you this way? Research suggests it may be beneficial to you to reconsider this belief.
Psychologists have long studied “Entity” and “Incremental” mindsets (Dweck, 1999). In the “entity” mindset, people believe that their characteristics are simply part of them as an entity rather than nuanced qualities that can change and grow over time; whereas in the “incremental” mindset people feel these qualities can be developed. Research shows that people with the entity mindset are less likely to try self-improvement, since they don’t believe it’s possible — yet studies also show that people are actually able to build or develop many different traits.
The bottom line is that if you want to change a lifelong pattern of being late or fearing public speaking, you’re better off saying, “I’ve always been afraid of X, but I’m now interested in building some skills to change that.” It may seem subtle, but this slight reframing can be powerful!
4. A Potentially Outdated Professional Image
If your personal style is stuck in the last decade, it could be compromising your success. Is it time to invest in yourself?
As a psychologist, I often think of a person’s clothing and grooming as an extended form of body language. The way we dress and groom reflects self-care, and it often relates to self-esteem. It actually also pertains to our sense of empathy — by dressing appropriately for whatever circumstance we’re in, we signal awareness of the situation to those around us.
If you’ve been reluctant to invest in your professional image because it seems frivolous, remember that it’s an investment in your career and yourself. If your concerns are financial, consider thrift stores… when I was first starting my practice many years ago as a recent graduate student on a shoestring budget, I actually bought most of my professional wardrobe on eBay. If you need help, try creating or browsing Pinterest boards of looks you like or ask a friend with style to help. Once you know the basic pieces you need, finding them on thrift is much easier to do.
5. Exclusively Dating Before an Actual Commitment
Many people are so focused on building a solid, exclusive relationship that they jump right into exclusivity before it’s even been discussed. While this may feel good in the short term, it can lead to heartache down the road: When you become “exclusive by default” without ever having clarity that your partner is doing the same, you put yourself at risk of becoming more attached to someone who may not be ready for the relationship you’re imagining.
Even if your partner does express a desire for exclusivity, it’s important to understand why they want it before you agree. For example, they may just enjoy monogamous sex or the convenience of a steady date on Saturday nights… whereas perhaps you’re viewing exclusivity as a step towards potentially getting engaged, marrying, and having kids. Do you now see why it’s important to not only understand that you are exclusive, but also why you’re exclusive?
If putting a fine point on the reason for exclusivity before you’ll agree to it feels intimidating, read the next tip.
6. Hiding Your Desire for a Long-Term Relationship
Do you sometimes pretend you don’t want a long-term relationship that badly so that you won’t come off as desperate? Here’s why you shouldn’t.
If acknowledging a desire for a long-term relationship (perhaps one that has the potential for marriage if that’s your goal) worries you because you’re afraid it will “scare people away,” then you may want to consider that ridding yourself of people who’d be “scared” or “turned off” by this would actually be a good thing for you. Why waste your time with people who aren’t even on the same page as you in terms of relationship goals?
If you’re afraid it will seem desperate to acknowledge your desires, remember that you’re actually the one who is rejecting dates who don’t share your standards of seeking a long term relationship. This is the opposite of desperate: You’re actually being choosy by refusing to commit unless someone can give you a good reason that matches your goals.
7. Not Dating When You Actually Want a Relationship
Sometimes, we can get stuck on dating because we think it’s supposed to “just happen naturally.” This is fine, if it’s working for you… but if you haven’t dated in months and you’d actually like to have a partner, you may want to be a bit more proactive. There’s no shame in taking steps towards your goal, such as signing up for a few dating sites and/or other strategies to find dates (my dating book is full of those, by the way). Sometimes, just giving yourself permission to claim your goal rather than pretending it’s not important is all we need to get moving in a positive direction.
Whether you’re seeking to move forward from old habits in your work or personal life, the new year can be a great time to find inspiration. New beginnings, clean slates, and fresh starts abound this time of year. Even if you try a new approach that doesn’t take you exactly where you wanted, at least you’re still being proactive and learning more about how to tweak your future approaches. The key is to stay engaged and remember that you’re in control. Give yourself a chance by identifying what you’d like to improve, and then taking your best shot!