The new year has rolled around, and with it the chance to create a new year’s resolution or two.
With the potential of a new year (and in this case, a new decade) comes a promise of a change for the better. An opportunity to break out of your rut.
It’s a noble mission. The thoughtful setting of goals is key to achieving success both at home and at work; in your day-job and for your long-term career development.
And yet, according to the Telegraph, nearly a quarter of people will give up their new year’s resolution after just one week – and less than ten per cent will make it to the end of the year.
So what is the secret to success? We offer three suggestions…
One: Look to the future, not the past
For many of us, it’s easy to know what we want to get away from; sometimes it is harder to create a vision of what we want to get to. The latter, however, can give us a direction and purpose that allows us to ensure our goal is actually what we want, plan the steps we need to take to get there, and give us the motivation to see it through.
Ask yourself: What will it be like when you get there? What will you see? Hear? Feel? What is you desired future state?
For example, thinking “I want to get away from my current line manager” may motivate you to find a new job, but not necessarily give you the best outcome. Thinking instead “I want to have more support to develop myself in my professional capacity” may lead to you, for example: research training opportunities, have informed discussions with your managers about how you see your role and career developing, or perhaps find a mentor elsewhere within the organisation who will be your cheerleader and give you the support you were looking for.
Two: Be self-aware
In order to make headway towards a goal, it is important to be have continual rapport with yourself. What progress have you achieved so far? Recognise and celebrate your success. If you have encountered barriers, what have you learned from that experience? If you don’t take time to actively think through these things, it’s easy to only focus on the roadblocks – with the result that it feels like you’ve made no progress.
Importantly, have compassion for yourself if you face difficulty or have a set-back. Giving yourself a break and finding time for some self-care will allow you to recharge your efficacy but also your resolve.
Potentially the most important part of self-awareness is understanding our ‘second nature’. This is the complex web of attitudes, beliefs, rules, habits and preferences which we have generated through our experiences, for the most part subconsciously. Understanding your patterns of thinking and how they drive you, for both good and bad will also help you manage your path. Which leads to our third tip…
Three: Be flexible
Understanding your own second nature is all very well but if you’re not prepared to be consciously flexible with it, your ingrained habits may be the biggest barrier to your progress. In any given situation on the path to achieving your goal, it is beneficial to have options about how you think and behave to fit that situation.
For example, say your goal is to lose a stone in weight this year. Does your second nature make you believe that to achieve this you must go big or go home? That if you’re not eating salads every night and running three times a week that you’re not ‘trying hard enough’? That having a cheeky take away has spoilt everything?
If so, then a new attitude might make it easier for you to achieve your goal. Rather than feeling like you’ve let yourself down every time you miss a run or get a takeaway, try allowing yourself some cheat days, recognising that if kept under control, they won’t put your goal under threat. Not only that, but the improvement in your own mood – as you let go of the guilt that high standards can bring on – will make it easier to stick to your goal.
The value of support
Perhaps the most important take home message here is that there’s no single magic bullet that makes your new year’s resolution stick. You can set yourself a great goal, but fail to achieve it because you can’t flex your thought processes and habits to set you up for success. On the other hand, you can have a flexible mindset, and never achieve your goal because it’s vague, and something that deep down you aren’t invested in.
Like most things in this life, when it comes to achieving goals success comes from a combination of factors. And it’s not always easy to get the combination right on your own. Its one of the reasons that coaching is such a powerful tool for helping individuals realise their potential – you have someone with you, asking the right questions to help you make the changes you want to make, in a way that will make them stick.
So, whether alone or with someone to support you, revisit your resolutions. Are they the right goals for you? Are they achievable, and are you inspired to make them happen? And if so, what are the things in your own character that might get in the way? How can you flex to avoid those obstacles?
If you can answer those questions, then you should be in great shape to make your new year’s resolutions into lasting habits – this year, and hopefully for many more to come…