Instead of new resolutions, what if you established a new mindset for the year?
The mindset or framework we hold in life will influence how we interact with our children, loved ones, co-workers and friends.In his therapeutic work, therapist Edwin Friedman coined the phrase, “self-defining, non-anxious, presence.” This three part phrase can provide a good framework for how we might approach the New Year in our homes, workplace and community.
Our life’s search for a place of belonging, we start with the notion that in order to truly belong, we must first be true to our self. It is important to share our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and preferences in a kind and confident manner without conveying any sense of judgment or harm to others. This will mean that most of our statements start with “I”. “I” statements convey our experience in life without contrasting that experience with someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or point of view. Being self-defining is the best way to claim and display that you are a person who values themselves and that you have something to offer to others.
In truth, it’s nearly impossible to remain non-anxious, so let’s use mildly anxious. Whenever we declare our truth and state our position, a certain degree of anxiety will often follow, especially in the presence of those important to us. Whenever we make ourselves vulnerable, we risk disapproval or rejection. But if we can remain calm and non-reactive, we increase the likelihood that others will also remain calm. If we get anxious or defensive, others most likely do, too, and this is when things can get heated or hurtful. By managing our anxiety and reactivity, we stay connected and stand a better chance of following through on our intentions to start the year in a new way.
In our culture today, we often hear about the importance of being “present” and “living in the moment”. These goals lead to a state where our presence is available and we are aware of our own needs and those of others. In the face of rising anxiety, it is difficult to remain a calm, engaged presence with others. Our first impulse is to react in ways we did while growing up. Sometimes we react with anger, aggression or tears. Sometimes we withdraw to our room or plug into the TV or Facebook or whatever provides a way of escaping the anxiety and discomfort we experience. By staying fully present, we can avoid becoming aggressive or withdrawing from loved ones and, instead, remain responsive to them. This intention creates the best opportunity for a sense of connection and belonging.
As we begin the New Year, let us resolve to maintain this new mindset that will help empower us to be true to our own sense of self, while also remaining kind and engaged with all whom we encounter.