Why most New Year’s Resolutions are already Toast

on March 20, 2018

Remember those resolutions you made back in January?

Are you the best “you” yet? Is 2018 the year that you finally stopped procrastinating? Have you finally started to meditate? Do you finally take time every day to be grateful?

Wait. I think I make those resolutions every year. Isn’t it March? Am I done yet?

Why don’t resolutions stick? Have resolutions ever been successful?

Yes. Last year I made a resolution. Not to diet, not to be a certain clothing size, not to hit a goal every day. Last year, I gave myself grace and I resolved to try to exercise four days a week. And it stuck. Why this time? Why this resolution? Well, here’s what we know.

1. Change is Emotional

Intellectually, I can know I need to lose weight, start exercising, stop smoking, etc., etc., etc., but I also have been unable to change for the long haul. Focusing on the negative and intellectual aspects of change only makes sustainability harder. Tapping into your personal positive energies and achievements will yield far greater effort and therefore better results.

2. Set SMART Goals

You are more likely to achieve your goals if they are “SMART” – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s revisit my resolution: “I resolve to try to exercise four days a week.”

  • Specific – Exercise is easy to define for me, personally – whether it be biking, walking the dog, or going to a yoga class.
  • Measurable – Four days per week is specific and able to be quantified.
  • Achievable – I set this resolution in terms of effort. I would try to exercise four days a week. Some weeks I didn’t do so well and some weeks I did. However, it’s achievable, by getting me to think about and structure my week differently to put in the effort.
  • Relevant – I made this resolution because I wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle in the long term. For years, I had tried resolutions related to a certain number on the scale or a certain clothing size, but was never successful. This year, the resolution wasn’t related to a milestone, but to a mindset shift of healthfulness and prioritization.
  • Time-bound – While not explicitly stated, this resolution was for 2017 with the hopes that it would become habit.

3. Celebrate Progress

It’s easy to celebrate or reward yourself when you achieve your goal. It takes work to celebrate the moments where you fail and try again. I chose to celebrate small moments throughout the year – when I couldn’t exercise, but would make a healthier lunch choice instead. I felt proud about that. When I couldn’t exercise, but would take the stairs rather than an elevator or walk to my airport terminal instead of taking the tram. All the small tweaks and adjustments made even when we might “fail” are just as important as when we actually succeed.

What does this have to do with business and change?

What are the expectations that we have as part of organizations going through change – big or small? That we will align, launch, and sustain. And we define sustainment as “stickiness,” “change,” “making it a part of standard work, operations, decision making, etc.”

I’m here to change what we mean by sustainment. We need to change the change process and allow the words “effort” and “try” into our vocabularies.

Try, Fail, and Change

Let’s launch organizational initiatives and measure effort first rather than results. Humans are imperfect by nature. Let them try. Let them fail. Encourage them to learn from – and praise – those failures. Let them take risks.

And give people grace. As humans, as employees with competing priorities, people forget, people get swamped, people get overburdened. But, let them. Then, gently redirect and remind them. Because, change doesn’t happen overnight. True change is in all those small moments where we catch ourselves falling into our old habits and adjust.

Above all else, appreciate your employees and celebrate progress. Value them for their effort, attitude, and contributions. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t be waiting until next January to talk about change.

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