Making resolutions stick

05 January, 2015

Good intentions aren’t good enough - let’s get practical

Last week, I had written to you about reflecting on the year gone by with your family and/or friends. I hope that some of you were able to try it out. Aaron also sent me a great article on reflections that I want to share with you. See the link below. Do read it when you get a chance:

As I mentioned last week, I have not been a big fan of new year’s resolutions. What I found is that after a good start for a few weeks, by the time February used to roll in, my motivation to continue seemed to wane and the resolutions used to get forgotten and abandoned. If you are like me and have struggled to keep up with your resolutions, fear not – you are most certainly not alone. In fact, research indicates that a paltry 8 percent of those who make resolutions stick to them.

So, why does this happen? Is it unrealistic optimism, lack of commitment, not enough will power, or just inertia? In fact, there has been a lot of research done by clinical psychologists and behavioural scientists on why new year’s resolutions are hard to keep. But rather than get into the details of the reasons, I want to focus on whether something can be done differently.

Now, is there any real reason to make resolutions only in January? Not really, but it is usually acknowledged that the beginning of a new year, like a birthday, can be a good time to renew commitments, refocus and sometimes even start afresh. Resolutions can be a great way to pause and make some longer term goals, instead of getting consumed by day-to-day fire fighting.

Therefore, rather than giving up on making resolutions, I want to advocate that perhaps we need to approach this differently.

Like with any other major project that we would commit to on the work front, resolutions too need a system to monitor and sustain them.

Here are ten practical tips that could help us keep our resolutions:

1. Write them down

Start here. Putting your resolutions down on paper makes them real.

2. Pick a few resolutions

Once you have listed down all your resolutions, select the few that you actually want to carry through with. Don’t have a laundry list or something completely unrealistic. Stick with only the important ones.

3. Pair your resolutions

Think about having your resolutions in pairs, because complimentary goals can help you achieve more overall. For example, if you decide to exercise more, then eating healthier as well can help boost the overall impact.

4. Have something fun

Most resolutions usually end up being ‘corrective’ so it always helps to have something a little fun on your list, which you will actually enjoy doing and look forward to, like a new hobby.

5. Identify specific steps

Like you would with any large goal, break your resolutions down into smaller, more manageable chunks – the specific steps that you need to take. This will help you monitor your progress better and also make the overall goal seem less daunting.

The ’30 Day Challenge’ is a great way to start. If there is something you have always wanted to do, but haven’t had the chance to or just didn’t make the effort to, try giving it a shot now for just 30 days to see how it feels. You can decide on whether or not to continue with it post that. When you get a chance, watch this TED talk by Matt Cutts, where he talks about this idea and puts a lighthearted spin on how to make and achieve your goals :

6. Calendar in time

Once you have decided on your resolutions and the specific actions, put down time on your calendar for it. Allocating specific time will help you work the rest of your schedule in line with these priorities.

7. Go public

Share your resolutions with your family, friends and colleagues. Making them public and soliciting help and reminders from people around you when you stray, helps keep commitments on track. You could also have a buddy system for some of your goals. Choose an ‘accountability partner’, where you make a resolution with someone else and then the two of you buddy each other through it.

And so, in this spirit of sharing, a few of my resolutions include: becoming more digitally adept, dedicating time to do at least 4 service/volunteering projects along with my wife and kids and limiting checking emails/messages during meetings (and please feel free to remind me in case you see me slipping on this one :)).

8. Chart progress

The biggest challenge with resolutions is sticking to them beyond a couple of months. You need to keep them fresh in your mind throughout the year. One way to do it is to put the list up in a prominent place where you will be able to see it regularly. Perhaps somewhere in your office? This will serve as a constant reminder on how you are progressing.

9. Use technology

Given how much time we spend on our laptops and phones, an app can be a great way to track progress on our resolutions. I have heard good things about Stickk, Beeminder and Habit Streak, though I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet. And for those of us for who dabbling more in technology is a goal in itself, this is a good combination. Give it a shot.

10. Don’t give up easily

Sometimes people give up at the first sign of floundering. But don’t let go that easily. Course correct and if needed, scale down your goals a bit. Give it your best shot. And even if you are to fail after that, it’s ok. Being aware is sometimes equally important.

If you are looking for ideas of what to include in your list of resolutions, I want to offer a few suggestions:

  1. Take on mentoring a couple of people. You will find this extremely fulfilling personally along with helping these individuals grow
  2. Find a good mentor for yourself. Mentoring can be very helpful in making you a better leader. Find someone who cares about you and can guide you in your leadership journey
  3. Become a more inclusive leader. I wrote about the importance of this a couple of weeks back. Commit to increase the diversity in your team
  4. Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Along with giving back to your community, it will add a new dimension to your leadership journey that work cannot

If you have any ideas on how we can make resolutions more effective, or would like any support for your resolutions, I would love to hear from you. And of course, if you feel comfortable sharing your resolutions with the rest of the leadership team, well, that would be super!

Happy New Year!


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