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How A Growth Mindset Can Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

February 23, 2016

                By Audrey Berger, Ph.D., Psychologist & Life Coach
At New Year’s, people sometimes think about resolutions they made but didn’t keep the year before, and wonder whether they will keep their resolutions this year. If this sounds like you, keep in mind that a simple shift in how you think may greatly increase the odds that you will keep your New Year’s resolutions: the key here is to use a growth mindset. Although we discussed the general concept of a growth mindset last year (“Developing a Growth Mindset”), it is well worth revisiting this concept for any 2016 New Year’s resolutions you’ve made.

To establish a growth mindset, begin by considering how you view yourself, your abilities and/or your potential. If your tendency is to believe that your intelligence, aptitude, or any other aspect of yourself is set in stone, then you may well believe that you really can’t improve significantly in that area no matter what you do. This is called a “fixed mindset.”  If you have a fixed mindset in one or more areas of your life, you may brood over what you see as your shortcomings, and you may tend to feel defeated in the face of setbacks and obstacles. Having a fixed mindset about any aspect of yourself makes it more likely that you will eventually give up on goals related to that attribute. Consequently, a fixed mindset can interfere with your efforts to keep your New Year’s resolutions, and can unnecessarily constrain you from pursuing things that you’re capable of achieving.

On the other hand, a growth mindset enables you to recognize that you can make choices which will allow you to learn, grow and move beyond your current circumstances. This mindset can help you to reach your goals no matter what changes you desire. With a growth mindset, you focus on learning and improving, rather than concerning yourself with doing things well from the start. Ironically, it turns out that being able to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and even fail, is important for success and growth. In fact, studies have found that people who do give themselves permission to make mistakes are much less likely to end up actually making them. So, when you begin something new or challenging, it’s important to anticipate that you will make mistakes. You need to remember that mistakes and setbacks are not only acceptable, but that they may actually be necessary to your ultimate success.

As you tackle your New Year’s resolutions, accepting the inevitability of obstacles and mistakes makes it less likely that you will feel anxious, overwhelmed or defeated when you encounter difficulties. When you do make a mistake or have a setback of some sort, instead of concluding that you’re a failure, ask yourself what went wrong, what went right, and what you can learn from this experience. Then, using your answers to those questions, adjust your approach going forward.

If you are trying to do something you’ve never done before, remind yourself that you will need time to get really comfortable with it.  Also, if you find that you’re trying to prove to yourself and others that you are smart enough, talented enough, or good enough (much like Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley), try instead to view the process of pursuing your goals as an opportunity to learn new things and develop new skills. Then, make a plan for how you will go about getting whatever knowledge, skills or assistance you may need.

If you catch yourself starting to compare your performance with that of others, or if you find yourself starting to doubt your ability to reach your goal, refocus your attention on the progress you’ve made so far and on your ability to continue growing. It can also be useful to have a strategy or two in the wings for those times when you feel yourself returning to fixed mindset thinking, such as a mantra or an inspirational quote designed to quickly guide you back to growth mindset thinking. And, most of all, remember that every achievement is really a series of smaller successes, so be sure to give yourself credit for each step you take as you move forward toward your larger goal. Here’s to your growth and success in 2016 and beyond!
LEARN MORE ABOUT AUDREY BERGER, PhD AND TURNING POINT LIFE COACHING: Audrey has been a life coach, psychologist and psychotherapist for 35 years. In her life coaching practice, she specializes in mid and later life transitions such as retirement, empty nest, midlife transition, positive aging in general, and living well in the face of life challenges such as chronic illness or creating a new life after divorce/loss or breast cancer treatment. She also works with an array of other issues and goals, including helping couples to create the relationship they want. Since coaching can readily take place on the phone, you can coach with Audrey no matter where you are located. You can learn more about Audrey’s coaching services, and arrange for your complimentary coaching consultation with Audrey, by going to She can also be reached by email at or by phone at (585) 292-0095.
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