With the year rushing to a close, this seems like the right time to set goals for the year ahead. To pause and consider what next and make some personal promises.
The trouble is that the history of setting New Year Resolutions is littered with failures. It is so easy at this point in time to make commitments for change and then just a few weeks later to have forgotten what they were. Guilt sets in and what was a positive process now seems like an exercise in futility. By making a New Year’s Resolution we merely set ourselves up for an inevitable failure.
Change is by no means an easy process and it is one that surely begins with wanting to change. It is our desire to change combined with the pressure of the season that leads us to engage with this process of making a New Year's Resolution. But change requires so much more than desire and if we are resolving to change because it is “that time of year” there is a good chance we are not truly ready to commit to the change.
Understanding that change is a process and not a “resolution" allows you to approach it with a better understanding of what it will require. There is a definite benefit in knowing what it is you hope to achieve. If there is a common element in all of the “change manifestos” it is that a clear and powerful vision of the desired state post change is a critical first step.
It also needs to be a vision that is owned by the people who will be most impacted. In the case of a New Year’s Resolution those people are ‘you’. If the resolution you set is a response to what you think others believe you should do or be or become, then you are headed in the wrong direction. This is surely part of the reason why so many New Year’s Resolutions fail, the person making the resolution did not truly want the change, they merely wanted the approval that might have come from others had they achieved it. Once you realise that those you were planning to impress as a result of your new resolve are too caught up with their own issues to notice, you see how your efforts were for naught.
Should you arrive at that point of knowing what you truly hope to achieve and have a clear understanding of why it is of great personal significance, you are ready to start the process of changing. It is one thing to decide you want to climb a mountain; it is an entirely different task to actually do it. One requires an idea and a couch on which to have it, the other involves a whole lot of focused and persistent action.
At some point in the whole process of imaging a change you have to work out exactly what you need to do to achieve it. The mountaineer who only makes plans for how they will hang their flag on the summit will never get as far as the first camp. Success is only likely if you are clear on what you must do, what the first step is, the second and so on. It might be said that the journey of a a thousand miles begins with the first step, but the second and third and every subsequent is as important as the one which starts it all.
Now that you are on your way you will undoubtedly come up against more than a few roadblocks and speed bumps. No change that is worth something as lofty as a New Year’s Resolution can be achieved with ease. The greatest hurdle is likely to be that of habit. The way that we have always done things, the things we do and barely notice that we do them, the habits that are part of who we are become the biggest obstacle to change. Habit is also perhaps the best strategy with which to achieve your goals. Rather than leaving change to chance, make the little steps along the way to success a part of a new habit, one that precludes the old ways you are wanting to avoid. Spend too much time checking email in the morning, change your schedule to include a power walk, not just to clear the head but to get you away from the emails.
The choice to set a New Year’s Resolution should not be taken lightly and if you do and you want to succeed it at it you must commit to the journey. The choice you make on Monday night should be something that you are wanting to live with for a very long time, if not maybe just let New Year’s Eve be a chance to enjoy what might be best described as "scare the wits out of your dog day”.
By Nigel Coutts