Resolving to do better

This year I have firmly resolved not to make any more useless New Year resolutions. Surveys reveal that 32% of respondents say that their resolutions are usually broken by the end of January.

The writer broke a resolution before getting out of bed on 1st January one year. Our colleague Liz gave up chocolate for Lent some years ago; when found eating chocolate she simply explained that she meant she had ‘given up buying chocolate’ but gift chocolate was deemed to be acceptable!

New-Year-Resolutions 10Eighty top tips for setting goals

Steven Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” studied executives and found that the most successful wrote down their goals and reviewed them periodically.

Don’t focus too much on the endpoint as small changes can pave the way for bigger changes. Chunk the task down into achievable stepping stones and ask yourself, what is the smallest thing I can do today that helps me reach my goal?

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get it right first time, make like a Boy Scout, be prepared. Psychologists call this an if/then contingency plan, or “if this happens, then I’ll do that”; a mental plan for how to react to things that may confound your good intentions. It takes three weeks or more to make or break a habit so just resolve to try again.

Concentrate on setting SMART goals:

  • This is a goal which is SPECIFIC – be clear about what you want to achieve.
  • The goal needs to be MEASURABLE, demarcate a starting point from which to monitor progress.
  • Goals should be ACHIEVABLE, stretch goals can be useful but perhaps you need to take smaller steps to start with.
  • It also has to be REALISTIC – most things are possible if we set our minds to them and focus, but consider reasonable options and alternatives.
  • TIME BOUND provides a timescale for achieving your goals.

Get a traditional calendar, pin it where you can see it and at the end of each day mark a big black cross over the day if you kept your resolution. After a few days, you’ll have a row of crosses and won’t want to spoil the pattern, after a month, give yourself a gold star. After three months of rows of crosses give yourself a reward, just make sure it isn’t one that sabotages your resolution!

It’s good to reward yourself when you achieve your goal but beware of self-sabotage. Apparently, this is a big problem with those unused to regular exercise because they tend to be so pleased with their efforts that they over-compensate by rewarding themselves with food and rest!

Use self-affirmation – this involves thinking about something that is important to you, like friends, family or a higher ideal. Research suggests this can boost willpower, even when not connected to the habit you are trying to ingrain. When you feel your self-control ebbing away then think about what you most pride yourself on; think about the things you hold dear, it will help you find new reserves of determination.

Thomas Schelling of Harvard University looked at the ways in which we enforce rules on ourselves and recommends the “write it down” technique for two reasons: “One is precision: writing invites careful formulation of boundaries, exceptions, penalties and rewards. The other is ceremony: formalising the rule in writing, perhaps with witnesses, attaches moral authority and makes violation more threatening to one’s integrity, raising the stakes.”

Getting what you want is its own reward. Talk is cheap but at 10Eighty we believe that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Set a goal and aim for it.

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Michael Moran – CEO 10Eighty

A blog about career and talent management, things that might help you with your career and in your job.

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