A Batchelor’s Dog, by C.M Coolidge
This cosy little fella above looks relaxed but may need to make some New Year’s Resolutions…. maybe.
Yes, I have heard the one liner about resolutions. “Mine is to break them” or “mine is not to make them in the first place”. The doggie looks like he is in deep but there is hope!
My friend Ann laughs every Christmas when I mention my New Year’s Resolutions. “What punishment have you set up for yourself this year?”, she asks. My answer is always that they need not be punishing and are in many ways exciting. The challenge is to make them as easy as possible to achieve. People love making them in the dark days of late December as it makes them feel good and upbeat for the new year. They are a waste of time unless approached correctly though.
By the time March comes around how many are sticking to them anyway? Resolutions are largely about embedding behavioural change. Few people achieve lasting behavioural change because it is hard.
In my work as a Financial and Career Coach behavioural change is at the heart of much of what I do.
I read two excellent and readable books recently. “Triggers”, by Marshall Goldsmith and “Stick With It” by Sean D. Young. They both address how we best achieve goals, achieve lasting change and program ourselves to do it repeatedly. Change is ongoing, exciting, rewarding, scary and unknown. Many seek change but never get to where they are going. What is stopping us?
For lasting behavioural change to occur it needs to be treated like an elusive thing to be monitored, revisited and shared to ensure commitment. When you are not moving towards your goal you are not exposing yourself to the triggers that will help you elicit behavioural change.
Goldsmith writes that behavioural triggers are identified through feedback loops; those which reinforce behaviour after the trigger has been identified. For example, being skilled at something is motivating; a good feedback loop. We get good and we want more. We have more enthusiasm. Low skill and low enthusiasm go hand in hand. So, if you are looking to change, for example, your fitness, set the steps that you can achieve, get better at and the feedback loop (more energy, admiring comments from friends, sleep better, weight loss) will motivate you. This creates its own momentum. Apply to all behaviour.
Goldsmith asks one to identify the behavioural triggers that are encouraging or otherwise, productive or otherwise, conscious or subconscious, anticipated or unexpected, internal or external and direct or indirect. Knowing these will make you aware of how to achieve what you want. Seek out the triggers that will move you towards your goal.
To elicit positive change within teams or individuals, behaviours could to be eliminated, kept, added or accepted. These guidelines will break down behaviours to what is needed or missing or unwanted.
In “Stick with It”, Sean D. Young bases the book around process change to elicit behavioural change. While all the “rules” he outlines are relatable ones, the ones that grab me include breaking habit change into steps, making it easy and captivating, getting help in community support and pinpointing the personal importance of the habit change for everyone.
Look no further to these books to help make a New Year’s Resolution. Some tips below may help.
- Be Honest with yourself
Resolutions are not something to brag about, so you can make yourself feel good, but not do. They are personal and daunting but will only work if you are honest about what you want to achieve. Don’t take on too much. If you are satisfied with one resolution and this is achievable then stay with it. It is not the time to overload yourselves with gyms, diets, spending plans and whatever else you are having. If you really want to achieve one thing then think carefully and focus on how you are going to do it. If the task or change is daunting why not bring it back to smaller steps. Achieving these will give confidence and a desire to move to the next stage. Weight loss is the obvious quantifiable change you can monitor and achieve in bite size chunks (sorry!)
- Do you own the goal?
Why is it important for you to achieve this? Ask what your life will be like if you do so. What are the benefits to you? Are they strong enough reasons to commit? What are your internal motivating factors to carry this out? Are you doing it for yourself or for someone else? For example, if your spouse or partner tells you that your spending is mismanaged, and you form a resolution on the back of it, is it really what you want or is it to please your partner? Be clear what you will gain and if it is important.
- Become accountable
Tell people you are going to do something and how. Tell as many people as possible and tell the people who matter. This will focus you and “lock you in” to the resolution more. The great success in “Operation Transformation”, the Irish weight loss tv programme, comes from contestants becoming accountable and drawing strength from community support.
- Position yourself properly
Surround yourself with the people that can help. Join others in doing the same thing. The power of groups delivers the strength and the community cohesion needed to stay with something. They will spur you on and they are a great source of camaraderie and fun. Nobody will want to let the group down. Think of running groups, motivational weight management groups as mentioned, public speaking groups. They hold the glue to keep you on track.
- Be clear
SMART goals are a way to focus on what you want to achieve. The goal must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and with a time frame attached. Write down your realistic goal also! For example, “I will do a 5Km run in two months in under 30 minutes. I will run with a friend twice per week and will post my time each week on Facebook to keep me accountable. I will do a Park Run every Saturday morning and keep track of times, increasing each time” That is a good SMART goal and more likely to work than “I must try to get to a point where I can run 5km”
- Don’t overcomplicate things
Make it easy as possible to achieve the behaviour/goal. Don’t put barriers in your way. For example, if you plan to eliminate your credit card debt or spending, take it out of your wallet and put it away. Put something on a recurring list or reminder to get you to act. Looking to get fit? Join a gym close by so you don’t have to travel too far. Make it easy on yourself.
Remember you will more than likely falter in the achievement of your goal, but this doesn’t mean complete failure. There will be a natural tendency to become a bit discouraged with this and to lose enthusiasm. You may overspend, over eat, not take the exercise you planned. This is to be expected and prepare yourself for this. It is never too late to get back on track. Maybe review your “why” and the barriers in your way. Bring back focus.
So, on January 1:
- Pick goal or change and write down why
- Write down what you will feel like if you achieve it
- Write down the goal in SMART terms
- Get help or join a group looking to achieve something similar
- Tell those important to you what your goal is and what you want to achieve and by when
- Look at things that will make this harder-eliminate or accept
- Look at things that will make this easier-keep or add to
- Monitor and revisit
- Prepare yourself for a rocky road (not a square of “Rocky Road”)