Careers

4 mental exercises for resetting your career over Thanksgiving weekend

After you spend time with your family or friends for Thanksgiving dinner and celebrations, you'll probably have a good amount of down time to relax over the holiday weekend.

While you may be tempted to simply catch up on sleep, this free time is great opportunity to sit down and think about your career and how you can make the most of it. Doing a few mental exercises could help you see your work life more clearly and boost your motivation.

Here are four mental exercises to do over Thanksgiving weekend that will help you reset your career:

1. Adopt a growth mindset

Carol Dweck, esteemed researcher from Stanford University and author of "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success," has spent the majority of her career studying why and how people are able to accomplish their goals.

The key to success, she says, is how you approach obstacles.

If you're feeling stuck, try to move away from what Dweck calls a "fixed mindset," or thinking that you can't change your situation or your future.

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Instead, spend more time nurturing a "growth mindset," a way of thinking where you believe you can create a better future for yourself. For example, instead of thinking, "I'm not good at this part of my job," try wondering, "How can I improve in this area?"

Instead of saying to yourself, "I'll never land a job as a [insert dream role]," try "What projects can I start at my current job to help me gain useful experience?"

These small changes to the way we think, Dweck says, add up.

"We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us," she writes. "We don't like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary."

2. Draw a mind map

Former Google career coach and careers author Jenny Blake helped more than a thousand people improve their work lives while working at the tech giant.

From her experience, she found that one visual exercise helped many people turn their personal and work lives around. She calls it a "mind map," or a visual diagram of your interests and goals.

To make one, write the year at the center of a piece of paper, and then draw spokes with different themes that are important to you. For example, your spokes could be business, personal life, health and fitness, fun or skill building.

From each of those themes, draw an additional spoke for each way you want to improve in that area, says Blake, author of "Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One."

"The goal is to break out of linear thinking," Blake said in a 2016 interview. "Go broad. Go big."

3. Make to-do lists to follow up on your goals

It's no secret that making and keeping a to-do list can help you be much more productive. It keeps you accountable and organized.

Billionaire Richard Branson swears by lists, saying that he uses them to keep track of his big goals as well as his daily tasks.

"I make lists — lots of them," he writes on his blog. His lists range from people to call during the day to new ventures he wants to start.

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While it's tempting to keep lists on your phone, try jotting them down in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Psychologists have found that writing things down on paper helps people remember things better than if they keep lists digitally.

Once you create a list of things to do, revisit it every day so that you stay motivated.

4. Contemplate the big picture 

If you don't know where you're headed, take a step back and try figuring out what motivates you, says Simon Sinek, a bestselling author whose 2009 TED Talk on finding your purpose has garnered more than 34 million views.

"Very few of us can clearly know why we do what we do," Sinek told CNBC Make It.

It's one of the reasons why so many people feel stuck.

To figure out what motivates you, find a conversation partner like a friend or sibling. Ideally, Sinek says, this partner shouldn't be someone who's extremely close to you, such as your boyfriend or girlfriend, because they may already have preconceived ideas about your career.

You and your partner should separately jot down a list of five to 10 stories of important moments in your life, both high points and low points.

If you're having trouble recalling stories, Sinek suggests answering a few prompt questions, such as, "At school, what was an experience you loved?" or "What happened that changed the way you think about the world and your role in it?"

From those stories you write down, pick your top three and share them with the other person. When your conversation partner is speaking, take notes on themes you notice from their stories as well as details that stuck out to you.

When you are both done talking, share what you observed from hearing the other person's stories. This will hopefully help you figure out what excites you and motivates you.

"What I learned is all those people who know why they do what they do," he says, "have an unbalanced amount of success."

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