by Marty Johnson
“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
New year’s resolutions often get a bad rap. In my experience, rarely do they last longer than a few days—a week or two at most if we go by my record. Their intentions are often pure(ish), and the initial momentum on January 1st (or January 2nd, because why start on a holiday?) fades fast as old habits creep back in, junk food starts appearing back in our pantries, and life resumes its full speed.
I’m not a huge believer in the resoluteness of run-of-the-mill new year’s resolutions, but I am a huge believer in the power of a changed attitude, the focus and resolve that comes through a clear vision of what one wants of the future, and the beautiful marriage of willpower and faith to make the seemingly impossible possible, the ostensibly insurmountable surmounted, and the supposedly adverse advantageous. I’ve experienced it. I’ve preached it. And I need a whole lot more of it.
The word “mindset” is currently being thrown around a lot in personal and business development seminars, publishing, and podcastdom. Like any trendy phrase-of-the-moment, it can be overused and its meaning therefore may get a little diluted. But, let’s think about the word for a second. A mindset, by definition, is “the establishment of attitudes held by someone.” Simply stated, a mindset is an attitude.
There are two common mindsets—or attitudes—that we, as fallible, imperfect, easily persuaded humans, gravitate toward. The first is the “I can’t because (insert excuse here)” mindset—an attitude through which we constantly make excuses and procrastinate. And the second is the “I will because I can” mindset—an attitude that allows us to do whatever we want because no one is telling us not to.
There’s also a third mindset that is less common, yet a tell-tale trait of some of the most successful, productive, and impactful humans I can think of. That mindset is one that helps us recognize the traps of the first two attitudes and use willpower to overcome them. It’s the “I can because I will” mindset.
Let’s explore these a little more. As we all know all too well, it’s human nature to make excuses—to say, “I can’t because…” We’re prone to have conversations with ourselves that may sound something like this:
“Should I finally reach out to a mentor and lay out a plan to get started on the next phase of my business development? No, I can’t because it’s just too much to think about right now.”
“Should I send a quick note to my old friend to let her know I’m thinking about her, even though we haven’t spoken in years? No, I can’t because she’d probably think it was weird.”
“Should I give a little extra to the local mission? No, I can’t because it’s not my responsibility. Besides, I dropped off a big bag of old clothes at the donation center last Christmas.”
It’s also very natural for us humans to just do whatever we want—to say, “I will because I can.” We end up sabotaging ourselves, and sometimes harming our health and taking quality away from our best years on this planet, simply because we say things to ourselves like:
“Should I skip the gym this morning and hit snooze for a fourth time instead? Sure! I will because I can.”
“Should I binge the entire next season of my favorite baking show instead of working on that project that’s been sitting on my desk for eight months? Sure! I will because I can.”
“Should I eat that whole box of donuts in one sitting? Sure! I will because I can.”
When no one’s stopping us, it’s in our nature—or at least it’s in mine—to just give in and do that thing we know we shouldn’t … just because we can.
But now let’s think about what would be possible if we changed our attitude; if we changed our mindset from the first two self-attacking ones into the third attitude—the healthy, forward-thinking, self-loving and others-loving mindset where we say, “I can because I will.” If we did that, our conversations with ourselves may instead go something like this:
“Should I finally reach out to a mentor and lay out a plan to get started on the next phase of my business development? Yes! I can do that because I will do that. All it takes five minutes to send an email.”
Then what happens? Maybe our mentor emails us back the next day and we set up a 15-minute call together for an evening the following week. On that call, she outlines a few steps to get us started and answers some of the questions we have with wisdom from her own experience.
Then what happens? We take the first few steps and start to see how not overwhelming they actually are when we take them one at a time. So, we take a few more, and within a few months we’ve laid the groundwork for the business expansion we’ve been dreaming of but back-burnering for years. It snowballs and, before we know it, a five-minute email has turned into a quality-of-life changing venture.
Let’s look at another example of what an attitude adjustment might do:
“Should I skip the gym this morning and hit snooze for a fourth time instead? No! I can get up because I will get up.
Then what happens? Maybe, as a result of that one simple change in attitude which led to that one simple decision, we find out that we have more energy that day. We’re more productive, less stressed, and end up going to bed at a more decent time that night so we can get up on time again the next day.
Then what happens? In a few weeks, what may have initially seemed like a huge burden has become a fueling, healthy habit. When we look in the mirror, we see a happier, healthier, more energetic reflection; we see someone who, in being more self-respecting, has become more others-respecting too.
I know this may sound all too simple, like a pie in the sky, but I promise it can be done. When I said that I’ve experienced it and proved it, but need a whole lot more of it, it’s the truth. I’ve been able to overcome quite a bit and grow both my business and my being as a result of simply having a positive, can-do attitude. And, in all transparency, there’s a lot more that I know I could realize if I could get my act together on more things; there are still quite a few snooze buttons that I need to stop hitting.
I write this as advice to myself as much as advice to my readers. I’d like us to all pause for a moment and think of what could be possible with a simple attitude shift. Maybe, instead of making our same old likely-to-fade new year’s resolutions—or new decade’s resolutions, as the case may be—we simply resolve to change our mindset; to change our attitude. Maybe we resolve to stop saying, “I can’t because…” and “I will because I can,” and we start saying, “I can because I will.”
Marty Johnson is an entrepreneur, writer, and business coach. He serves as ex officio Director of Communication and Advisor to the Board for the non-profit Association of Mail & Business Centers (AMBC) and is Editor of MBC Today, AMBC's industry-leading publication. Marty owns and operates Uncle Marty's Shipping Office in Ithaca, NY, where he's also Co-Founder of the Collegetown Small Business Alliance. Please visit him at askunclemarty.com. #AskUncleMarty
This essay was published on page 12 of MBC Today Volume 22, Issue 1 (January / February 2020). It was also published on the AMBC blog on December 20, 2019.