As the dust settles on the start of a new decade, I thought I would kick proceedings off with a little missive about a topic that we all love to hate at this time of year. The resolution to change our lives in some way.
So, here we are, three days into a brand new decade and if like many, you have stuck with the time-honored tradition of creating a raft of new year's resolutions you have probably already set yourself up to fail.
So why do so many of us continue to make the same resolutions and commitments to change year in and year out safe in the knowledge that we are going to break them a within a few short days, weeks or at best a few months down the line?
The short answer is sustainability. So, let's delve into the detail a little more and discover not only why we fail when it comes to new resolutions for change but more importantly what we can do to stop that continual and largely predictable cycle in its tracks.
I can only speak from my own experience when it comes to making significant personal and or professional changes and Your circumstances may be very different. When I look back at the enthusiastic promises and commitments I have made and broken over the years; it quickly becomes apparent that several commonalities can be found hard at work behind the scenes. I'm sure several of these will also resonate with you.
Commonality #1. The most unsuccessful commitments and resolutions I have made in the past are those that I thought I should be making rather than ones that would bring real purpose and meaning to my life. In short, I didn't care half as much about the resolutions I was making as other people did. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon, follow the crowd or get sucked into the latest trends, expectations or priorities of others. A mistake I have most definitely rectified since.
Commonality #2. Most of my failed resolutions lacked priority, importance and significance. What difference were they going to make to me, those around me or the wider world? It's easy to give up on a project when you feel that your wasting time, effort and money for little or no purposeful return. I now make sure that all my personal and professional projects have adequate priority, importance and significance before I start. This ensures that I only work on projects that have purpose and in doing so keeps momentum and motivation high enough to see them through.
Commonality #3.When I analyse my own failed Commitments, they typically involve doing things, making sacrifices or changes that I really didn't want to make. One of the most valuable things I have learnt in life is this. No one gets successful by doing stuff they hate doing. Despite what the so called "experts and gurus" will tell you, if you hate doing something at the beginning of the process chances are you're not going to truly learn to love it nearly enough to maintain momentum and sustainability in the long term. I made a lifelong commitment to myself some years ago to minimise the time spent doing anything I did not enjoy. I made this commitment alongside its opposite number of maximising the time spent doing what I love doing most. I have learnt to say no even when I know the eventual outcome has its benefits. This decision quickly saw my rates of success improve dramatically.
Commonality #4. One of the most significant causes of failing to reach the desired outcome is this. Fundamental changes often rely somewhat upon a big bang approach to be successful. You want results, and you want them now. I get that; we are all very transactional in this respect. When it comes to making commitments and taking the necessary action relating to significant personal change, us flawed humans do three things that are guaranteed to scupper our progress and results.
Firstly, we have no patience. We want fast results, and we want them now and all while investing the least amount of effort needed to achieve them. That approach is based on event thinking. Discussing event-based thinking in detail is beyond the scope of this post and certainly a topic I will be covering in a future post, but at a high level, it's a condition whereby you become fixated on the outcome rather than the process and work needed to achieve it. This "success" for free or for minimal effort is an epidemic that's quickly spreading throughout our modern society and one that will quickly see your results falter. You cannot just focus on the outcome and results, the icing on the cake, so to speak. That's only 50% of what creates successful achievement. It's the process and mechanics of how you are going to achieve something that really counts. Once you have defined the process and action that process consistently, results tend to take care of themselves.
Secondly, we tend to over-commit and in doing so, take on way too much. Over-committing is a human compulsion that many find difficult to control. We want to make progress, impress our peers and make progress, but over committing is not going to help the cause. Bottom line, your projects must be achievable to be successful.
Thirdly, we commit to doing it all too soon. Even for the hardiest, most enthusiastic and committed change advocate, attempting to do too much too soon with expectations of fast results is a heady mix that's going to thwart your motivation and progress quickly.
So, what's the answer? How can we meet our commitments, reach our goals and make the personal and professional changes we desire a reality? Find out in part two.
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