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Your Resolutions are Not the Problem

[fa icon="calendar"] 1/4/23 8:55 AM / by Deb Cullerton

Bluish burst of fireworks inside reddish-yellow streaks from previous burst, off center

I've seen a multitude of blogs and articles citing the stat that the average duration of a new year’s resolution is 19 days.  The gist of most of them is to take the stat as a sign that resolutions are a waste of your time.  I disagree.  I think if you make a list of the most successful people you know and compared them to everyone else, you would find one critical difference.  Follow-through.


We all have great ideas.  We all have things that get us excited and make us feel passion that we don't feel about other topics.  But most of us stop short for a handful of key reasons. 

  • We lack confidence. 
  • We fear failure. 
  • We get overwhelmed. 
  • We lack focus.
  • We are shooting for balance.
  • We feel incompetent.

So what's the answer? 

  1. By all means, create the resolution --- the objective.  It's that high-level, mission driven statement.  "Get healthy" or "Get a degree" or "Drive for the promotion" might be your resolutions.
  2. Now craft a handful of goals that will be necessary to achieve the objective.  If the objective was "get healthy", it might be "lose weight" and "improve eating habits".
  3. SMARTen those goals up with the handy acronym:
    1. Specific
    2. Measurable
    3. Attainable
    4. Relevant (to mission or purpose)
    5. Trackable
Ex.  Lose 2 lbs per week until goal weight is achieved.


Now that the goals have been established successfully, the real question is how do we ensure follow-through?  After watching and coaching thousands of people who are trying to change their daily habits, I believe I have the answers.

  • Know the enemies of follow-through
  • Use your systems
  • Get help when needed

Let's establish two of the enemies to watch out for and to have a plan to combat.

1. Motivation for the goal, but not for the activities that help you achieve the goal.

No matter how motivated you are to achieve the goal, if you are not motivated for the actual steps it takes to achieve it, you will fail. 


Establish rewards for activities, not goal achievement.

I'm working on a goal of exercising more regularly this year and my motivation is high to lose weight and improve my health right now.  But that's useless without specific motivation to get up and get moving every day.  We are reward-seeking individuals and it's important to incorporate that into my activities if I want to stay activity-motivated.  For example, I love spending time in bookstores and libraries so twice a week I'm hiking a nice hike conveniently close to a bookstore I like.  Do the hike and then reward with bookstore time.


Use pre-applied pressure.

At work, I use pre-applied pressure to create some motivation.  For example, if I'm dragging my feet on a project, I might commit to a team review of the progress when I'm feeling strong.  Then later, I have the deadline pressure to motivate me even when I don't feel like working on it.


2. Not feeling competent at the activity.

It's often hard to admit (even to ourselves) that we don't feel good doing it because we're not good at it.  


Honestly assess your competence with the necessary activity.

A good friend got motivated to start attending the gym and work on his body a few months ago.  He's still going, but struggled a lot in the beginning with his motivation.  It took him a while to understand that feeling inferior around more experienced gym members was the primary cause of his lower motivation.  He felt silly at times, not know if he was using the equipment right or if his form was correct.  He combatted the problem with a few sessions from a trainer and spending time weekly on a plan to follow.  It gives him more purpose and more confidence, so his motivation is stronger.


Become an expert.  Own it.

If not feeling competent is the enemy, then commit to fixing that.  I work with many people who want to improve their productivity at work, yet not really understanding their systems (like Outlook, OneNote, Teams) stops them from implementing the tips and tricks for managing their workload more effectively.  Once we build their confidence that they won't "blow it up" or "lose everything", mastering the process is simple and achieving their productivity goals becomes highly attainable.


On our team, we call it "deep diving".  Digging in and mastering a piece of software or diving into a subject we feel is necessary to achieving a bigger goal. 

Deep dive ideas: 

  • Magazines and books on the topic
  • YouTube videos on the topic
  • LinkedIn groups
  • Meetups focused on your topic of choice
  • A night of random web-surfing on the topic

If you've been foiled by not following through in the past, let this be the year that you teach yourself how to beat those demons.  And let's make January 20th a day of celebration when you look up and realize you're still highly motivated and moving forward on your new year’s resolution this year!

Topics: Organizational &Talent Development, All About Teams, HR Executives

Deb Cullerton

Written by Deb Cullerton

Managing Partner at PMA and passionate about developing leaders