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Good Intentions

Here comes February. Whatever happened to those New Year’s resolutions, asks management guru Abbie Tanner?abbietanner


I recently read a staggering statistic. Despite being created just one month ago, around 92% of all New Year’s resolutions have already failed. I find this shocking. So it got me thinking – where do people go wrong? And what makes a successful New Year’s resolution?

Apparently, around half of the UK population set resolutions for the coming year> But, as shown by the stats, very few are successful. So how about you and your business? Now that the festive glow has worn off, you’re back at work and the cold weather has set in, are you struggling to commit to your New Year’s resolutions? What can you do to buck the trend and make 2015 your best year yet?

 

How to Set Yourself Up to Fail

Firstly, let’s look at why resolutions fail in the first place. According to my research, you are setting yourself up for failure if you:

  •  Set unrealistic or unattainable goals. Often people set lofty, unreasonable or downright impossible resolutions. Then, when they don’t achieve the results they are after they berate themselves or – and possibly worse – they continue down the path they’ve always travelled and their life remains unchanged.
  •  Have vague aspirations rather than focused goals. A resolution like ‘I want to get fit and healthy’ is too vague. For each goal you need a specific target, which is to be achieved within a certain timeframe and ideally linked to a new habit. For example ‘To get fit, I will run 4 days per week for a minimum of 20 minutes’.
  •  Try to achieve too many goals. Focus is incredibly difficult when you attempt to achieve too many goals at once. A friend of mine rattled off ten resolutions when we caught up last January. Come December she had achieved just one. Rather than a reflection of her personality or lack of commitment (she is both incredibly motivated and successful), I fear she simply tried to achieve too much over the course of the year on top of her usual commitments.
  •  Don’t commit 100%. Achieving any goal takes time, energy and willpower. Often we pay lip-service to resolutions by jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else without truly committing to the end goal.
  •  Are too rigid. Not allowing any flexibility and creating a ‘win or lose’ sum game will set you up for failure. Life can – and will – get in the way at times. A rigid mind set makes it easier to give up rather than focus on getting back on track.
  •   Procrastinate. ‘Tomorrow I will start…’ or ‘when I have more time I’ll…’ or ‘when the weather gets warmer I will…’ <insert goal here>. Sound familiar? These are all excuses that rob you of the time you could be committing to achieving your goals. Start today, even if it means just taking the first initial step.
  •  Doing it for someone else. Self-motivation is key. You need to ‘own’ your resolutions and want to achieve them for you, nobody else. No matter how much the person you are doing it for means to you.
  •  Have no accountability. If you haven’t written your goals down or told anyone – friends, family or colleagues – you are not accountable for the outcome and therefore more likely to fail. Keep your resolutions visible throughout the year. Having them hidden away in your bottom draw will only surprise and remind you the next time you spring clean.

 

How to Set Yourself Up for Success in 2015

What can you do differently to give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals this year? Here are my seven steps to success (along with a few resources you can use):

1. Adopt an innovative mind set. Rather than taking your present situation as a given look for one (or more) ways to take a step back and see what you could do differently. The book Agile Innovation: The Revolutionary Approach to Accelerate Success, Inspire Engagement and Ignite Creativity encourages readers to create change by challenging conventional ways of thinking and looking for imaginative solutions.

2. Be realistic. Make sure your resolutions are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) and remember that change doesn’t happen overnight. You need focus. Set small, realistic and achievable goals then rinse and repeat. If you’re an app junky check out Goal tracker: SmartGoals Pro, an app designed to keep you on track irrespective of the goal(s) you’re seeking to achieve.

3. Create habits. I think this quote from Aristotle says it all: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. Once you have defined your goals, set about creating real change by establishing habits. For example, rather than ‘I will get healthy’, create a habit of substituting your daily morning pastry with a piece of fruit. If your goals are linked to new habits, you are 50% more likely to succeed. James Clear is a great resource for techniques to transform your habits.

4. Hone your focus. Professors at Stanford University have shown that setting too many goals can lead to ‘cognitive overload’. Pick just one or two goals that are most important to you, and psychologically you will be more likely to succeed. For inspiration check out the ITV social media campaign #ChangeOneThing – and then do just that.

5. Show commitment. People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them. Grab a pen (or electronic device) and write your goal(s) down. Share this information with those to whom you will be held accountable. A great app for creating lists and sharing them is Wunderlist (see below for how I’m using this app for my 2015 resolution).

6. Reward success. Set monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual targets. But don’t beat yourself up if you miss a target. Instead focus on rewarding success. Research shows that positive feedback and rewards increase your chance of success.

7. Show resilience. Don’t quit before you reach the finish line like the 92% who have already abandoned their resolutions before the start of February. If things get in your way, remember it shouldn’t be about the time it takes to reach your goal but about achieving the goal itself.

 

What I’ll Be Doing This Year

This year my resolution (note it’s a resolution and not resolutions – I’m taking my own advice and focusing on just one) is to foster happiness in my life – or, more specifically, to take measurable steps to improve my overall happiness and foster it in those around me. I’ve come to the realisation that happiness is something that you have to work at, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

Often in the daily grind, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Rather than big gestures, it’s the little things that can bring joy and colour to our day – which, when played out over a year and compounded, will lead to a happier life.

My very own happiness project has started with the support of a very good friend who will be on the journey with me, so we can hold each other accountable. Every two months we are creating a list of 11 Small Things we will both achieve independently, and then share on social media and via Wunderlist (this app has allowed us to share the list and timeframes allocated).

The 11 Small Things are not designed to be too challenging, but to push us outside of our comfort zone. For example our first list includes: #2 Visit an art gallery or museum alone, #6 Smile and say good morning to a barista, and #8 Read a novel recommended by the other person.

You can follow our happiness project on social media using #11SmallThings.

Changing your life requires that you first change your mind set. I hope the above points have encouraged you to think about things a little differently and to get back on track with your resolutions – setting 2015 up to be an awesome year. Best of luck!

 

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