A New Year: we enter it full of new beginnings and hope, often in the form of resolutions, whether written down or not. Yet few resolutions are achieved (less than 8% of those written down), with most putting failure down to circumstances beyond their control. But, as Stephen Covey says, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
In an article a few weeks ago, I looked at how to make resolutions that are more likely to stick, simply by making them more realistic, focused and backed by planning and accountability.
However, it goes deeper than that once the new year gets going, and much of this is down to human nature…
Firstly, we’re hard-wired to look at the negative side of things – that’s what’s helped the human race to survive, after all: expecting the worst and getting ready for it. Psychologists back this up, suggested that, as Dr Roy Baumeister puts it, “Bad is stronger than Good” and we tend to remember the bad things far more vividly, and for longer, than the good ones as this helps us avoid repetitions of the bad.
What we need to do is rephrase things where we’re not achieving the goals we set – instead of asking ourselves, “What is the problem, and how can I fix it” we can rather ask ourselves what’s working and how can we do more of this.
If we’ve set a daily goal, for example, that we’re only achieving on some (few) days, we shouldn’t look at the days we’ve failed, but at the days where we’ve succeeded and what’s different about them. Is it because we’re starting earlier, without interruptions? Could it be that our open-door policy is working against us, and we need to block some “do not disturb” periods during the day when we can focus on the task/s we’ve set ourselves? Or is it simply that we’re too busy – not delegating enough, attending too many meetings, and not really leading?
These are all classic cases where we might believe that we’re failing to achieve our resolutions and goals because of circumstances, when in reality we’re doing so because of the decisions we’ve made about our time and focus while at work. These three posts might help you reframe this:
Another common reason for failing to achieve our goals is that we’re simply trying to make too many changes at once. Change is exhausting, and by trying to take on too much, we tire quickly and so simply give up. Remember, we’ve all been through enormous changes since the start of the pandemic three years ago – and these forced changes come on top of the voluntary ones we’ve embarked on for ourselves in the form of our resolutions.
By forming our resolutions in a way that enables us to make one change at a time, we’re less likely to feel that exhaustion, and more likely to feel exhilaration as we see the change starting to take shape…
…And the best way to do this is turn the one change we’re working on into a habit. If we can take this approach, and really turn it into a habit, it no longer becomes an issue of self-control, but rather becomes almost automatic, so doesn’t burn emotional energy, so making it much more likely that you will achieve the goal behind this change and so experience the satisfaction of doing so.
What’s more, if we can link the action in question to another, already established, habit, the chances of success are very much higher – perhaps starting immediately after the first cup of coffee at your desk, if it’s an activity at work, or straight after our morning rising routine, if it is a more personal change we’re making. These are often called “action triggers.”
By focusing on one change at a time and making it a habit – preferably attached to an action trigger – and then reframing our language when we’re starting to move off the track of achieving that change / goal, we’re very much more likely to succeed.
It really is about the decisions we make, and not about circumstance, as Covey said.
Following a career spanning nearly 50 years in the technology industry across three continents, with three decades in CxO roles leading significant, sustained growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with successful owner-led businesses to further enhance their growth, profitability and business value.
If you’d like to discuss your business goals, or anything else related to your business, book a confidential, free 30-minute call with me here.
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If you’d like to learn more, these related posts might help:
- Start the New Year Strong: 5 Tips to Make Your Business Resolutions Stick!
- 4 Ways Your Strategy Plans Could Be Derailed Next Year
- “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” – Zig Ziglar
- “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight Eisenhower
- CEOs – 6 Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Next Year
- “Don’t should all over yourself” – Tony Robbins
- Looking at Time Differently To Boost Productivity
- Time Management for Busy Executives
- Are You Running Your Business or Leading It?
You might also find this Harvard Business Review article worth reading: Managers, What Are You Doing About Change Exhaustion?