Be Successful in Your New Year Resolutions

December 29, 2021

As we approach the end of one year and the start of a new one, we often have thoughts of change. Perhaps you are a person who sets targets for yourself – professionally and/or personally – for the new year ahead. The fact is, despite our good intentions, our delivery on these “new year resolutions” sometimes falls short. There are many reasons new year resolutions fail. If you’re in the process of setting goals for the upcoming 2022, here are just a few ideas which may help

1. Know the difference between short-term and long-term goals

There’s a place for both short-term as well as long-term resolutions. But, it is important to know the difference.

A short-term goal is something that has a fixed endpoint. Learning a particular skill or getting a degree or certification are examples of short-term goals. Once completed, they are done.

Long-term goals lack an endpoint. Losing weight, for example, has to be a long-term goal because we don’t stop losing or gaining once our short-term target is complete. Long-term goals, goals that do not have a firm endpoint, differ from short-term goals because they require the creation of long-term habits and/or lifestyle changes. When we confuse the two, we run a high risk of failure.

Let’s stick with that example of losing weight. When we falsely see losing weight as a short-term rather than long-term goal, the result is that we go on a “diet.” While we might lose weight temporarily, in the end, we’re very likely to gain the weight back because our mindset is wrong. To “permanently” lose weight, we need to view the change as the creation of a habit and make lifestyle changes that can/will be sustained for the long haul.

As you review your goals for 2022, are they short-term goals or long-term goals? Do they have fixed endpoints? Or do you need to change your mindset to see them as long-term lifestyle changes?

2. Be Realistic

While there is certainly merit in embracing a philosophy of shooting for the stars to at least hit the moon, one of the primary reasons our goals fail is that we are not realistic. I recall conversations with executive coaching clients who, for example, suggested they wanted to spend 10 hours a week in competency development learning something new. When I challenged these targets with queries around what might be more realistic, these individuals ultimately landed on plans around 30 minutes to 1 hour a week. It may seem self-motivating to set challenging targets; but when we overdo it, we usually end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

Many individuals, for example, set exercise targets in the new year. Rather than being realistic and setting a target of say, 5 days a week with 2 days kept as a buffer, many people tell themselves they are going to exercise daily. It is extremely difficult to execute anything every single day without a buffer. Life happens. When we fail to integrate realism into our goals, the tendency is to ultimately give up. It’s much better in the long run to have a less challenging goal that you execute successfully than to set an overly optimistic goal that you execute for a few weeks before quitting.

So, as you review your goals for 2022, are they realistic? Have you integrated buffers into your goals to increase your chances of success?

3. Replacement rather than addition

Successful people typically have full plates. In general, the reward for success is that we are given more. When we think about our personal and professional goals, it is not unusual to consider adding more to our plates.

There are three common approaches:

  • We can add the task to our existing list of commitments.
  • We could become more efficient at some of our existing tasks to create time for the new task.
  • We can delegate or hire someone to do more of our existing tasks to again create time for the new task.

If you’ve been doing this for a while, chances are the first option is difficult. You might already be maxed out in your commitments.

The time you might additionally gain through increased efficiency might also be limited at this point, particularly if you’ve been working on your efficiency for a long time.

Delegation is certainly an option, but we should not forget that delegation only works if we’re willing to invest time in training. The rule is we have to “invest in” before we can “exit out.” Delegation without adequate training almost always backfires and results in much more time spent cleaning up a mess.

What I’d like to highlight here is a fourth option which is often overlooked. One of the keys to adding anything new, especially later in life, is to learn to delete something in order to add something new. When our calendar is already full, we’ve already become quite efficient, and delegation is less of an option (particularly for individual goals), sometimes the key is to identify lower priority things to delete in order to create space for whatever it is we want to add new.

Is there something that you want to begin new in the coming year? What might you be able to cut out to make time in your calendar for whatever it is that you’d like to do new?

Don’t miss future insights. Get The Wire delivered straight to your inbox.