I’m with Jimmy Buffett: my New Year’s resolution is to quit making resolutions. I am tired of this nonsense. Of the scores of resolutions I have made over the years, you can count on one hand (with fingers left over) the number that I accomplished. Usually, by February, I cannot even recall what I said I would accomplish. It’s hard to be serious about real change when one is wearing a sparkly hat, holding a glass of cheap champagne and blowing into a paper noisemaker. But, if it works for you, who am I to judge?
Here is my evidence that most New Years resolutions crash and burn fairly quickly. Every year, on New Years day, my local gym is absolutely saturated with people; most of whom I have never seen. The spin classes, aerobics, body sculpting and boot camp classes are all full. Every treadmill is on full speed and there isn’t a weight to be found. The owner of the gym loves this time of year…membership sales go through the roof. This situation lasts about three weeks. I would get annoyed and even consider finding a bigger gym, but I have learned that this situation is temporary.
After about three weeks, the crowd starts to thin. Those of us who are yearlong regulars chuckle at the slow and steady pace of disappearances. After about six weeks, the gym returns to normal. The “resolutioners” are gone, just like the holidays that inspired them.
I’ve also noticed that all of the major companies focused on diet and weight loss pummel the airwaves with television commercials and special deals on purchasing a weight loss program during the month of January, almost after the last chorus of Auld Lang Syne fades into the dawn of the new year. This isn’t an accident, it’s marketing to resolutions.
A resolution does not mean a commitment. I think of resolutions more like wishes. Wishes and hope are wonderful things and our life would not be complete without them. However, I am not so sure that any plan of action should be based on a wish or on hope. Maybe it’s just me, but placing everything on a wish never seems to pan out so well. If it did, I would have won the lottery by now.
But, I will admit, that the premise of resolutions is a good one. Each year, we take stock of our personal or professional situations and think about things we would like to change for the coming year. So how do you actually get a resolution to stick?
For me, it was very simple, although it took me most of my life to figure out. But with age comes wisdom and the need to adopt a high fiber diet . . .but I digress. It finally occurred to me that I could get a resolution to stick if I applied the very same principles that allow organizations to improve and advance.
Two years ago, there were a number of things that I wanted to accomplish personally and professionally. Over the holidays and near the New Year, I began a discussion with my son about personal goal setting and realized that I was parceling advice that I didn’t take myself. This eureka moment inspired me to take action that I had not taken before with my resolution routines.
First, I wrote down everything I wanted to accomplish. I had personal fitness goals, financial goals, business development goals, income goals, and professional goals. All of my goals seemed unreachable in the next 365 days. But, I wrote them down and read them back to myself. I decided that everything on the list was important and resolution-worthy.
As crazy as this sounds, I then wrote an action plan for each one of these goals. I determined what needed to happen, when it needed to happen, how it was going to happen, any cost or resource associated with it happening and how the results would be measured. Most people would never do this, heck, I never did. But it occurred to me that in my professional life, we rely heavily on action plans and key performance indicators. Why then would I not apply the same thinking to my personal goals? And why did it take me all of these years to figure this out. I probably should have paid more attention to Tony Robbins.
I carried my goals with me as a list on my cell phone and would never lose sight of what it was that I wanted to accomplish. I also initiated the action plans. I took the necessary action and worked toward the goals. For the first time, resolutions were becoming reality. One by one, I checked off the action steps and developed mid-course corrections when things didn’t go as planned. I kept my focus on the goals and the vision of how things would be if and when all of these goals were accomplished.
That first year, I accomplished the goals I set. I created a business plan and launched a business, and, met initial income goals. Each year since, I have met the financial goals of the company. No monies are borrowed and all expenses are paid in cash. I restructured debt for a house that wouldn’t sell, invested what needed to be done to sell the home, sold the home and paid off the debt and recovered the investment. I successfully completed a draft of a book proposal that was accepted. (That book was published on December 1, 2015). I hired a personal trainer, changed exercise and eating habits and met my weight loss goals (and two years later, continue to keep those goals).
I restructured our family finances to ensure that necessary funds for emergencies were set aside; something we talked about for 30 years but never did. I assisted my son with his educational, career and business goals and he now is meeting the goals he established for himself. I followed through on the promises made to my wife about travel and home improvements…things that we always talked about but never did. We created a plan to reinvest in us. Finally, we did them. And most importantly, I finally think I might have my priorities straight about what is most important in this short life loaned to each of us.
Most of us suffer from some sort of anxiety albeit at different levels. Most anxiety stems from worry and worry usually stems from the unknown. Finding and facing answers to tough questions and situations actually relieves worry and anxiety and provides the motivation to continue to pursue ones goals. Worrying about how we will find the money for a new furnace or what we will do if the car breaks down are typical, every day stressors, that, when attached to a plan of action, no longer are stressors. It matters not what your station in life may be, it only matters that you visualize where you want to be and then develop a plan to get there. The visualization and even the writing down of goals motivate us to actually move toward them. The fog of wishes gives way to positive reality and results.
The celebration that usually comes at the end of this system is the best feeling in the world. Whatever your goals, when you achieve them, celebrate! You deserve it.
For me, the answer is simple: Lead myself in a manner that I would lead others or any organization. It worked. As I sit here on New Years Eve, I have already started the process again; bigger and better goals for 2016. Positive forward momentum to those that will take time and the satisfaction of knowing that progress is occurring.
“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.”
– Melody Beattie
Happy New Year! Here’s to accomplishing your resolutions, whatever they may be!