Welp, here we are again. Another pass around the sun, another year here on planet Earth—and what a year it was. While I’m not here to dwell on the past, I can’t help but think how absurd the idea of planning out an entire year is, given what happened in 2020 (and what happened in just the first week of 2021).
There is a wide spectrum of how 2020 affected everyone across the world. Wherever you personally fall on the spectrum, I sincerely hope 2021 is a better year for you and the people you care about. As I thought about the new year, I decided to take a slightly different approach this time around with some mindset goals.
While it can be hard to see while you’re going through it, it really is the uncomfortable things that lead to the most growth in our lives. Especially if we face those discomforts along the way. This work is incredibly taxing, which is why it’s often easier to distract ourselves (The Twitch gets super intense during these times) so we don’t have to deal with the discomfort. Sometimes, we just need a distraction to get through it though, and that’s okay.
Facing My Own Discomfort
One of the bigger things I did last year on the topic of uncomfortable growth is I finally started sharing that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not the hyperactive variety, but Type-2, which is what used to be called just “ADD.”
I was diagnosed formally when I was eleven years old, when I literally failed all of my classes in 6th grade and my life dove into a tailspin. When I received the diagnosis, I thought something was horribly wrong with me. I thought I was broken, that my brain was bad, and that I wouldn’t be able to operate in the same way my friends did at school and elsewhere. And so, I effectively left that part out. It’s really the only way that I’ve lied to almost everyone in my life, including you. I simply omitted it.
The years passed, and now at 35, here we are. I wish I’d been ready earlier, as I’m sure it would have been helpful to many—but better now than never.
It was long overdue, but after a lot of personal work through 2020 (aka therapy) I decided it was important to start sharing this. It’s a big piece of what makes me, well, me—both good and bad. Omitting that (along with the clearly very personal reason of why the topic of “attention” is so incredibly important to me) would do us all a disservice. The encouragement from some good friends also helped immeasurably.
2020 brought a level of self-awareness that I never imagined, and did not expect. The pandemic and seemingly constant disasters forced me to turn inward and better understand the connection between what was going on in my mind and what unconscious actions I was taking (hello, Twitch). This internal work is central to what Break the Twitch is all about, so I’m grateful to be in a position to share more of that here.
After all this time of exploring minimalism, habits, and creative flow here on Break the Twitch, it’s wild to me how it was really about attention all along. While the three topics are effective tools for the process of owning your attention, I didn’t fully realize the underlying connection until now.
Our Collective Attention Is At Stake
In a lot of ways, I’m uniquely qualified for the work I’m doing here at Break the Twitch. With my neuro-atypicality, I’m not actually all that out of place in the world at this point. Everything’s getting faster, more distracting, and more demanding of our attention. Our collective attention is more scattered than ever, and is being threatened in the environment we’re in now (thanks to Bridget, one of our awesome Attention Collective members, for bringing the linked article to our attention!).
Economist and psychologist Herbert A. Simon, spoke to how “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” The real kicker is that he was talking about this, and the attention economy in 1971—nearly fifty years ago. Imagine how much has changed for better and worse since then. We’ve never had access to more information than we do now. Maybe we weren’t built to know everything in the world all at once.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. Just kidding. What a year it was, huh. Now that we have that context out of the way, here are the three mindset goals I’m focusing on for the new year.
3 Mindset Goals For The New Year
1 / One Thing At A Time Reduces Stress and Anxiety
This was a big realization after I heard Naval talk about how stress happens when something wants to be in two places at one time.
I thought it was a great analogy of what happens when our attention is split between multiple things and how that resulting stress can increase our feelings of anxiety. When we’re thinking about something else while working on a task, it only contributes to the painful feeling that we have too much to do. That we must do more than one thing at a time because there’s so much to do. This is an example of our brain and our body wanting to be in different places at one time. And multi-tasking, as we know, isn’t really effective.
So, first of the mindset goals for the new year is: one thing at a time—no matter what.
2 / When You Accept First, Change Comes Later
This next one was partly inspired by Kyle Cease, who I’ve been following on and off for a while, on something he shared on acceptance.
It struck me that to get where we want to go, we must accept where we are now. It’s embracing self-compassion for who we are and where we are in this moment. Learning to accept where you are doesn’t mean that you love where you are. It also doesn’t mean that you want to be where you are forever. It’s more about accepting where you are now and knowing you can grow from there.
When we accept where we are now, there’s an energy shift that’s more abundant and open. It enables you to see opportunities and have more energy to change things up. When we feel like we’re not okay, it contributes to the feeling that we’re not enough. Instead, we feel the need to be somewhere else rather than where we actually are. Operating from that place of lack and the feeling of “I’m not enough as I am” creates fear, anxiety, and low energy. It ironically also makes it harder to get the change we’re wanting.
So wildly butter on that self-compassion in moments of difficulty. Don’t tell me that self-compassion is for other people who actually deserve it (I’ve been there). Everyone needs and deserves self-compassion, yourself included. From my experience, embracing self-compassion in tough moments doesn’t let you off the hook, but rather, gets you back up and running again faster.
3 / Planning For A World We Do Not Yet Know
The final inspiration for my mindset goals came up when I was doing some morning journaling recently. If 2020 has taught us anything, we are making plans and creating for a world that we don’t yet know.
A lot of people have strong opinions about Elon Musk, who just became the richest man in the world. Ten years ago when he said he was going to Mars, many people thought he was crazy. The world as it existed back then didn’t have the capability to do that. He was starting on a goal that was not yet possible and wasn’t thought to be possible. As of today, he’s still working towards that goal, but the collective thinking around the possibility has shifted.
This illustrates that you can create and work towards goals beyond what your brain is telling you is possible. Because the goal isn’t for today as things stand now; the goal is for a year from now or sometime in the future. The best way to get to a big goal is to have very small, consistent actions that get to the goal over time.
So when it comes to setting goals, allow yourself to dream in a way that doesn’t reflect the limitations that may be currently in your brain. Be flexible in your planning—especially in the path of how and the timing of when the goal is realized. As we learned with the events of 2020, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted. All we can do is focus on what we can do today with what we have and continually adjust in the process of working on our goals.
I hope you find that these three mindset goals help you make 2021 a more peaceful year for you and your family.