It is that time of year again – after a bit of time away from the stresses of our working lives, we resolve that things need to change.
This is when the trouble starts
Looking back, have you ever made a resolution that you didn’t keep? It is highly likely that most readers will have done this at some point in their lives (and this doesn’t have to be restricted to New Year’s resolutions).
Part of the reason for this is that the goals we set ourselves are often too ambitious requiring a massive step change from where we are now. Sometimes the goals are too ambiguous, such as I’m going to travel. As management thinkers like Marshall Goldsmith will tell you resolutions (or goals) made with vague amorphous targets, attract marginal motivation because we underestimate how the quality of our goals affect our motivation. In other words, if you heart isn’t in a goal, you’ll not really commit to it.
Who are we doing it for?
People commit to resolutions because it is a bit of a social norm as something you ought to do. The media talk up concepts such as “New Year, new you”, so it is easy to get caught up in the flow. So, are you setting a resolution because you want sustained and lasting positive change, or are you doing it because you feel you must? Like amorphous goals, if we aren’t really resolving to change because of a string desire in ourselves, you’ll most likely fail. You simply become another one of those people who broke their resolve in the early part of January.
It gets harder when we have a goal
As Amy Cuddy says in her best selling book ‘Presence’, in respect of resolutions:
The goals are not generally designed in a way that actually allows us to build towards them.
In addition we are to ambitious and resolve to do things that are significantly different from what we have been doing before. From no exercise, we decide to go to the gym 3 days a week. People don’t generally think about how big a change this is – putting several hours gym work into an already crowded schedule. Then there is the fact that it’ll take time to get used to the exercise regime, your muscles will ache, you’ll get tired and then it is easier to miss a session. Consequently if people fail it further undermines their self-efficay, confidence, mood and motivation.
Of course not all goals are like this – some people pursue altruistic goals motivated by a deep desire to be a better person or hep the world amongst other things. This focus on the ‘outcome’ is what helps them to succeed. Sometimes it is simply a matter of some people being more driven and goal focused, so for them focus on delivering them is natural.
This is not a ‘goal’ problem – people are generally perfectly capable of hitting business or career goals working for other people. Yet they hold themselves back from using their personal drive and commitment in pursuit of things that could be a lot more fulfilling for themselves.
If you only make one resolution this year….
Before thinking about resolutions, reflect on something Marshall Goldsmith says in his book ‘Triggers‘:
If we are satisfied with our life – not necessarily happy or delighted that we’ve exceeded our wildest expectations, just satisfied, we yield to inertia. We continue doing what we’ve always done.
My advice – if you want to carry on doing what you have always done, don’t waste your time with resolutions. At the same time, acknowledge the risk that you will look back with regret, in the years to come, that you had an opportunity to do something different and chose to let inertia win (yes it is a choice).
If you genuinely want to change:
- Be specific about the goal.
- Ensure it is meaningful to you personally so that you will remain motivated to do it
Break the goal down into smaller steps – so that you can see that you are making progress, which in turn will positively improve your motivation.
- Think about the drawbacks and problems that you will encounter along the way and plan how you will overcome them. By anticipating the challenges they are much less likely to get in the way of you achieving your goal.
- Also remember – New Years resolutions tend to be opportunistic. If you really want to have the best life you can have, help people, succeed or whatever it is you want to achieve, you can create these goals at any time of the year.
If you need help with this, why not give me a call, together we can #Startsomething or #Changesomething.