Posts Tagged new year’s resolution
Traditionally, I start the new year off with a New Year’s resolution column, but I didn’t do it this year. Not that I don’t think resolutions aren’t important – it was a resolution that started this blog – it’s that very few people seem interested in those columns. Those that I’ve written rank near the bottom in page views by my readership. It seems that not many want to think about resolutions. Why’s that?
Resolutions reflect change, and that makes most of us very uncomfortable. Even though we know that we have room for growth, and most of want to grow, nearly all of us want to avoid the discomfort of change. This makes it difficult for us to even start the process of living up to our New Year’s resolutions. It’s like we’re standing at the base of a beautiful mountain that we’ve always wanted to climb, but fear of the journey keeps us from taking the first step.
I’ve found that the best way to motivate positive change is to project a year or so ahead. To follow the mountain analogy, picture yourself either at the top or nearing the top of the mountain. Then, picture yourself looking down at your former self who still hasn’t moved. While you might be sore and a little tired from the journey, your former self is in even worse condition – filled with envy and regret – seeing where he could have been if only he had started the journey.
Take that thought to your professional situation. Are you where you were last year, standing at the bottom of the mountain? Is it where you want to be? Is it where you want to be next year? For most of us, the answers to those questions are yes, no and no, but that reality is not easy to admit.
Every day, as a recruiter, I talk to people who are dishonest about their career satisfaction. Although employment surveys tell us that nearly half of all employees are considering a job change, few will admit to it and even fewer will pursue the change, because they don’t want to invite that discomfort into their lives. It’s a lot easier to stand at the bottom of the mountain and watch someone else put themselves through the discomfort of the climb. If they slip and fall, you can pat yourself on the back for standing still. The problem is: standing gets you nowhere.
We can choose comfort and regret or discomfort and growth in almost all aspects of our lives. For several years, I planned to join Toastmasters to work on my public speaking. Months and years passed with me standing at the bottom of the mountain before I sought out a club near my office. The pain of regret finally overtook the allure of comfort, and I decided to give up one lunch per week and the hours needed to prepare my speeches, in order to achieve the personal growth that I desired. Less than a year in, I was able to look down from that mountain and be thankful that I wasn’t still standing at the bottom.
Try that with something that you have been intending to do. Send a resume to that company you’ve admired for a position you’ve desired. Enroll in a college program that you know is key to your professional goals. Join a gym and start sculpting the body that you’ll be proud to see in the mirror. When next year comes, be standing ON the mountain, not at the bottom.
Note: This entry marks the sixth year of my commitment to writing a monthly blog. For 60 consecutive months, I’ve written at least one column, publishing it on the Monday closest to the 15th. I’ve truly enjoyed the exercise, and the encouragement that I get from readers keeps me banging away at the keyboard. Thanks for the support.
Did you already blow your New Year’s resolution? Didn’t even bother to make one this year? You’re not alone, but it’s not too late.
According to a study by the University of Scranton, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2014:
- 25% of people who make New Year’s resolutions maintain them less than one week
- another 4% make it just one more week
- by the end of the first month, 36% have given up
- at six months, just 46% are still adhering to the promises they made to themselves at the beginning of the year
- only 8 percent remain committed to their resolutions for the entire year.
Fewer than half of us even try.
If you have beaten the odds, and your resolution remains intact, congratulations! Don’t quit. If you haven’t made a resolution or it hasn’t worked out for you, hope is not lost, if you don’t let failure intimidate you into a resolution-free year.
While the beginning of the year is a good time to start a self-improvement mission, it’s not the only time, and just because you dropped the ball early, the game can continue, if you pick it back up. 300-plus days is too long to wait to try again.
First, we need to acknowledge that failure isn’t exclusive to us. The statistics above bear that out. When we try something that is new to us, like dieting or budgeting our money, we’re stepping away from the comfort of familiarity, we’re pushing our boundaries and we’re exposing ourselves to failure. These are good things, because they help us grow and enhance our experiences.
In strength-training parlance, this is called the last set (* explanation below), and I’ve been teaching my son about it. When you have pushed yourself hard in previous sets, it’s tempting to take it easy on the last set, which is exactly the wrong thing to do, because the last set is when the most development happens. The last set should have a success rate of less than 50%. This is when you add more weight than you know you can lift, and though you’ve never done it before, you convince yourself that you can lift it.
Patrick gets mad when he doesn’t get all the reps in his last set, but I assure him that he accomplished more by trying and failing than he would have by lifting a comfortable weight. Besides, he can try again during the next workout. When he does get all of the reps, the sense of accomplishment motivates future workouts. He experiences growth and success when he exposes himself to failure.
Second, we need to accept that failure isn’t synonymous with defeat. Famous inventor Thomas Edison was fond of saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If you didn’t exercise three times per week, like you said you would at the beginning of the year, don’t give up. Just figure out why you didn’t exercise as consistently as you would like. Do you need to do a better job of scheduling your time? Do you need to go to bed earlier? Do you need to work on your motivation? Repeat the cycle of planning, trying, evaluating and trying again, until you are successful.
Lastly, find some way of optimizing accountability. Many of us find it much easier to make excuses to ourselves than to make them to others. I’m guilty of this one, so I tell my wife what I have resolved to do, and you better believe that she holds me accountable. Not only will she quiz me about my progress toward my goals, she has trained our kids to do it too. I often write, even when I don’t feel like it, because I know that someone is going to ask me about it during dinner that night, and it’s a lot more pleasant to talk about progress than it is to make excuses.
If you are more comfortable keeping your resolutions private, it’s still important to optimize accountability. Writing down your goals and tracking your progress in writing is a very good way to do this, and my good friend Jeff Beals has some excellent advice to help with this, in his recent column, This Is Why You Don’t Accomplish All Your Goals.
New Year’s resolutions have helped many achieve goals that were previously out of their reach and to achieve them more quickly than they otherwise would have. The self-improvement opportunity that a resolution provides is much too powerful to limit to an annual event or to abandon because of an early mistake. Make this year as good as it can possibly be by resolving to do something that you know you need to do.
* Most strength-training sessions consist of sets of repetitions of a particular exercise, with short rests between. As an example, an athlete might do two sets of ten repetitions of a leg press, i.e. he does ten leg presses followed by a break, followed by ten more leg presses.
Drag racing is an incredible sensory sport. You not only see the race, you feel it, hear it, taste it and smell it. This is especially true when the most powerful cars – those burning nitromethane rather than gasoline – prepare for their runs.
Drag racers prepare for their quarter-mile runs by staging burn-outs at the starting line. Revving their engines and spinning their tires, they put on a spectacular show for their fans, but the smoke, noise and vibration have a practical purpose too. It gives the crews a last chance to make sure that everything is connected and responding properly, and just as importantly, that the tires have enough traction – stick – to transform torque into speed. If a dragster attempted his run with cold tires that hadn’t been heated by spinning at the starting line, his tires would slip when he jammed on the accelerator, and his opponent would leave him in the dust.
A similar thing often happens with New Year’s resolutions. We come to the starting line with cold tires, jam on the accelerator, and our best intentions get us nowhere. We create a lot of noise and smoke, but we don’t reach our goals, because we didn’t properly prepare ourselves.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Research shows that, though nearly half of us set New Year’s resolutions, only 8-12% succeed.
Reasons for failure are many. Some people have yet to develop the discipline to stick to a goal. Yet others set unrealistic goals, while still others set proper goals, but fail to plan properly for their execution.
I believe that many fail, because they get discouraged when they sense failure and recognize that as the beginning of the end of yet another resolution. After all, most of us fail most of the time when attempting a resolution. If this happens to us every year, we have to do something different to give ourselves a better chance of success.
This year, consider starting your New Year’s resolution in the last month or so of the year. Think of it as heating your tires before officially arriving at the starting line. When you wake up on New Year’s Day, you’ll be more prepared than ever to finally achieve a New Year’s resolution.
As an example, consider what is likely the most common resolution set at the beginning of the year, losing weight. Instead of waiting, like most people do until they’re bloated from overeating during the holidays, start your diet on Thanksgiving Day. Sure, dieting during the holidays isn’t easy, but if you are to achieve your goal by December 31 of the next year, you are going to have to learn to moderate intake during that time anyway. Imagine the confidence you’ll gain if you prove to yourself that you can diet during the holidays. January and February will fly by, and when the holidays roll around at the end of the next year, you will know how to avoid temptations.
Of course, many of us will fail early during the resolution period. Get that out of the way in the last few weeks of the year. Think of it like the drag racer staging before he inches up to the starting line. It’s far better to discover a lose cable in the moments before the race than after the green flag drops.
My resolution for 2014 is to write more consistently, at least one page per day. It’s not all that hard when I have a nice quiet day in the office and write consistently over the weekend. Unfortunately, I rarely have a nice quiet day in the office, and writing rarely wiggles into my weekend. To get seven pages per week, I have to track my pace and plan accordingly.
Because I want to start 2014 on pace and with a plan, I started working on the resolution during the last two weeks of October. I created a spreadsheet with an inventory of the writing projects I have underway. On each line is also the page count and date of the last time I spent time working on the project. The spreadsheet keeps an automatic tally of my output each time I update the day’s work.
I am not on the page-per-day pace yet, but I’m a lot closer than I was a few weeks ago, and I’m completing projects more quickly, because I’m organized and my pace is improving. When January 1 rolls around, I will have positioned myself for success. Will you?