Resolve to Approach the New Year with Balance
At the start of a New Year, people often set out to make changes in their personal or professional lives by reflecting on the past and considering how tomorrow might be better. This can be a valuable ritual if done well, but it is too often a mindless exercise in listing glib “resolutions” that are rapidly discarded, or can even promote negative outcomes if individuals set themselves up to fail with unrealistic goals.
Making resolutions is not a bad idea, but one that should be approached with balance. Too often we spend the start of the year reflecting only on our personal shortcomings and criticizing ourselves for what we feel we haven’t accomplished. The mental frame around our “resolution setting” is all about how we are failing in our goals for health, family, prosperity, whatever. We think: “I am fat and lazy, so this year I am going to exercise every day,” or “My children are drifting away from me, so I resolve to spend more time with my children,” or “My father still doesn’t think I have what it takes to run the sales department, so I will land three new accounts each month.”
While these are all worthy goals, what is troubling is that they are “failure” driven and much too vague. There is something in one’s life that is causing distress and the “resolution” is oriented around making the pain go away. Because we may not really be deeply committed to addressing this change (fixing a negative is far less inspiring that seeking a positive) – we do not take the time to build a realistic strategy around succeeding in this goal, and we set ourselves up to fail. If we want to increase our sales by “X percent” that is nice, but HOW? What are the specific steps we will take this week, next month, at the next prospect meeting? Without specifics, our resolution is just an empty statement. When year after year we fail to live up to our “resolutions,” this contributes to a negative self-image and may lead us to believe we are hopeless and unworthy.
The start of a New Year is just that, a new year – not a new life. Believing one can accomplish a wholesale alteration of “self” only because there is a change on the calendar is unrealistic and a recipe for failure. In order to set positive goals you need to first engage in self-reflection, consider the journey you have taken to date. What have you accomplished? Of what are you most proud? Be grateful for the health you do have, the family ties you find strong, loyal employees who have stuck with you in this difficult year. Spending some time reflecting on the positives will help you map out a realistic strategy that builds on the strengths you have to make the coming year even better.
In addition to considering and appreciating the positives, spend some time reflecting on what it is YOU want to ensure that you are setting goals to which you have a deep commitment. Too often we focus on goals that we think we “should” have – or on goals that others have for us. These will never drive the sustained motivation needed for change. Once you have clarified the resolutions you want to make – make them well. Map out a realistic long-term strategy for effecting the change you are considering. Break the goal into smaller components, and define interim outcomes so you can track your progress. While you must cut yourself some slack if change is not a linear road (there are always stumbles along the road to meaningful change), you must also make the true commitment for follow-through that is needed.
Authentic goals that build on your strengths and are driven by your priorities will enable you to grow in positive directions through 2010 and beyond. Here’s to your many successes, past and future!
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