Seven Sure-Fire Steps from Resolutions to Results
By Sue Edwards, ACC, CHRP.
What would January be without personal commitments for change? It’s a chance for a fresh start! With the promise of a new year before us, we believe that anything is possible. Yet, all too often February can bring a familiar refrain of resolutions not kept and promises broken.
What can you do this year to change this pattern and ensure your resolutions have staying power?
Here’s my list of 7 Sure-Fire Steps to take you from Resolutions to the Results you desire…
- You’ve Got To Want To
- See the Outcome as Real
- Break it Down
- Put Some Skin in the Game
- Create Accountability
- Have a Cheering Section
- If You Fall Off… Get Back On
Let’s have a closer look at each step:
1. You’ve Got To Want To
Resolutions that are going to take hold and bring you the results you are seeking need to be those that are truly important to you. Choosing a resolution because it’s something you think you “should do” or because someone else told you it was a great idea, has a minimal likelihood of lasting success.
This is the most critical step on which to spend some solid reflection time. Resolutions that bring results are those that touch a personal core value. In my coaching practice, I have seen that the people who are most likely to achieve lasting results are those that identify a “hook” for their resolution that is highly meaningful to them and spurs them on. It makes them truly hunger for the outcome.
For example, as entrepreneur and mother of a 5 and 7 year-old, it’s a lot easier for me to set aside exercise time in my busy day when I see that by putting myself first for one hour a day, I am able to be more fully present with my family and not resent my various responsibilities. For my children, I am also modelling the importance of putting a priority on health and self-respect.
In reframing my exercise time from being a self-focused indulgence to being an initiative that reinforces my family values, I am much more likely to stick to a regular program. It gives me a hook.
So, before you move onto Step #2 take some quiet time and have a hard look at your list. Which of your resolutions are genuinely YOURS that you care deeply about and are committed to? What’s great about this change? Toss out the resolutions that feel like a burden from the get-go. None of us needs fodder to reprimand ourselves for what we didn’t accomplish come February.
2. See the Outcome as Real
As with many self-improvement strategies, visualization is a powerful way to help pull you toward your desired future. With resolutions, having a crystal clear image of what it will be like when your resolution has delivered results, is a key next step.
Since many resolutions are about goals for positive personal change, looking ahead to the outcome can take you out of a not-so-great present into the alluring future. If we are talking about weight loss, for example, rather than focusing on how you feel about yourself right now with the extra weight you are carrying, focus on the fantastic feeling you will have when you are carrying 10 to 20 less pounds (or whatever your goal might be). Picture yourself at this desired weight… perhaps in a new outfit, enjoying an energetic activity and feeling confident. The clearer you can be with your visualization, the stronger the impact of this step.
Try making your outcome real by writing it down, mind-mapping or sketching it out. Your resolution and desired outcome will then stare back at you and challenge you to bring it to life.
If you meditate, you might incorporate visualizing or experiencing the successful outcome into your meditation. My husband, for example, draws on all of his senses, and incorporates smells, tastes, sounds, images and touch, when focusing on future achievement of a goal.
3. Break it Down
Many resolutions involve significant behavioural change. This mountain of desired change can seem so large that it appears almost impossible to scale, which discourages many people from getting any traction. I’ve noticed that when people break their resolutions down into manageable pieces, and then literally put one foot in front of the other… they tend to have more long-term success.
What are the achievable steps for you? Over what time-frame?
To return to the weight loss example… rather than focusing on a goal of 20 pounds, breaking your target into 2 pounds a week for 10 weeks is a much more achievable way of ensuring you will reach your goal.
As another example, how could you break-down your resolution to “get organized” into bite-sized pieces? One of my clients decided to start by focusing on better management of her email. She learned how to set-up folders to stream her incoming emails and to use flags for follow-up items. The result? She was able to reduce her inbox from a regular level of over 500 emails to less than 30.
4. Put Some Skin in the Game
In creating New Year’s resolutions, many of us list several things that we want to change. Yet, even though we have a desire to achieve all of these things, if we don’t commit any energy or resources against them, they simply don’t come to fruition.
There’s something about the power of investing in the change that gets many people over their initial inertia and sets them up to create a return on their investment.
As a Coach, I’ve observed that people who are willing to commit financial resources to making change happen, for example, are more willing to dig in and do the work necessary to bring about their desired change. When they commit to invest in themselves, they practically guarantee that they will deliver the outcome.
A few years ago when I hired my own coach, she helped me through the initial investment by asking me how many clients I would need to attract to make the investment worthwhile and grow my business. Of course, it was then in my interest to make darn sure that I did attract this many clients and more.
Financial investment isn’t the only way to put “skin in the game”. For many people there is nothing more precious than time. When you deliberately carve out time in your calendar and book appointments related to your resolution, all the while choosing to make trade-offs, you are making an investment in the change. For example, people who want to become more organized who actually build organizing time into their day are choosing to make this resolution a priority.
5. Create Accountability
This is an important step for “getting real”. It’s one thing to have a private list of resolutions that we don’t share with anyone else. This way, no one needs to know if we don’t follow through. For many of us, it is easier to let ourselves down than someone else whose respect is important to us.
Research shows that when you declare your intention aloud to at least one other person, you are twice as likely to follow-through. Furthermore, studies show that when you declare your intention to accomplish something at work to your boss, specifically, you are seven times more likely to create this result. Powerful!
Have a look at each of your resolutions and determine who would be your optimal accountability partner?
For others, writing it down might be all it takes to create accountability. For some highly results-focused entrepreneurs I know, as soon as they commit themselves to a written plan, particularly one with measurable outcomes, this document creates accountability for them.
How do you best create accountability for personal changes? Look at changes that have been successful for you in the past to discover your own formula for success.
6. Have a Cheering Section
We all need supporters to cheer us on. People who best encourage us may be very different from those with whom you create accountability. These are the people who pick you up when you are discouraged. They remind you of how great you are. They remind you of what you’ve done well already. A cheering section includes people in your life who simply say…”I’m here for you and I believe in you.”
For some people, a highly successful strategy is to leverage the power of groups to help with follow-through on resolutions. Finding a group of people who are committed to a similar resolution can be a great way of having a ready-made cheering section.
7. If You Fall Off… Get Back On
It’s my experience that change that lasts over the longer-term rarely takes place in one step. It’s often a dance of three steps forward and one back. I think of long-term change as happening in upward spiral over time. We are climbing ever higher; yet, we are not moving in a purely linear one-dimensional direction.
As children, when we learn to walk, we rarely walk from the first step. We try a couple steps, fall down, dust ourselves off and try again. Eventually our deliberate, awkward movements become more fluid and unconscious. And so it goes with resolutions for behavioural change.
When we falter, it’s a great opportunity to recalibrate our approach and look at what’s working and what’s not. Then, when we get back up, we are more sure-footed and we make more progress. After all, this is what growth is all about.
Have a great New Year!
Sue Edwards, ACC, CHRP, is President of Development by Design www.development-by-design.com. She is a business coach who works with entrepreneurs who are eager to grow their businesses through innovative alliances. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.