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A Recipe to Keep your New Year’s Resolutions
Hello and a happy and prosperous 2013 to all! For many, January is the month of so-called “resolutions”. And yet, I just read that one in four New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first week, that is to say 7 days – at most – since they were made. Impressive! That is to say: impressively depressing!
So how can one do better and keep to more New Year’s resolutions in 2013 of course but also for the following years? Here is a small recipe with just three ingredients that will allow you to make the right New Year’s resolutions for you and to stick with them. I have been using it for years so I know it works!
Ingredient No1: A large dose of honesty
Quite simply: don’t set for yourself goals which don’t really appeal. If you decide to stop smoking or to lose weight due to social pressure but your heart is not really in it, I am happy to take a bet that you will end the year cigarette in mouth. Neither will you fitting into that smaller size dress you bought. What happens is that, if your resolutions are in fact others’ resolutions for you, their hopes, their expectations, the probability that you will in fact manage to fulfill these other people’s dreams for you is very slim.
And that’s because achieving goals, keeping to your New Year’s resolutions takes effort. For the large majority of us, making an effort is not something we enjoy. We resist effort. To overcome this natural resistance to effort, we must have a d**n good reason otherwise our will is sure to vanish. We achieve our goals only when those are truly personally-resonant.
It’s the same when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions dealing with work. For instance, your boss wants you to take on your first management responsibility: you feel pressured to accept because it’s a positive development in your career but, at heart, you have no interest in managing folks. What to do? This kind of dilemna about what you think you ought to be or do and what you are naturally inclined towards is frequent.
And how about the resolution to stay with your employer, or to remain in your present role? When was the last time you took a moment to honestly reflect on your job satisfaction? Have others been discouraging you to explore other avenues because it’s risky in the current environment? Isn’t it time you admitted to yourself that you’re bored, or over-worked (or both) or that you simply can’t take company culture anymore?
As you read this article, take a pause and be honest with yourself: which of your goals for 2013 are really meaningful to you? If you don’t really want to stop smoking, the best goal to set yourself is to investigate what it might take for you to stop smoking. Then you can have a good reason to make the effort required to stop smoking in 2014. If you don’t really want to manage folks, make the resolution to engage your boss in a dialogue about the kind of career upside someone with no management responsibilities can hope for in your company. And if you are ready to leave this job, let one of your 2013 objectives be to revamp your CV and explore new opportunities.
Ingredient No2: A dash of courage
Indeed, courage! First the courage NOT to take on someone else’s New Year’s resolution for you. The courage to tell your friends that you are not ready to quit smoking despite all their admonitions. The courage to tell your boss that you do not wish to follow the usual career path. The courage to tell your family that you cannot continue to play it safe and must dare to find a role which fulfils you more even in a challenging economic environment.
But also the courage to stick with those (fewer) resolutions which are indeed personally-meaningful. The courage to resist lighting that cigarette after lunch, a tough habit to break. The courage to take a hard look at your achievements and capabilities and dare to put your best foot forward and apply for new roles which appeal.
The courage to look at your skill set at work and make a commitment to be more assertive, to build up your self-confidence, to develop your ability to develop better relationships in the office, to speak up more, whether it’s during meetings or simply to stand by your opinion. The courage to enrol in training if you have a skill gap to address. The courage to do whatever it takes.
Ingredient No3: A good helping of strength
So what am I advocating so far? That you about choosing and setting goals for yourself by honestly identifying those which speak to you and then to courageously stick to those few New Year’s resolutions you committed to.
With this third ingredient, let me tackle another issue with goals. Not only is it very hard to achieve goals which are not personally-meaningful but it is also hard to build on weakness. What I mean here is that most of our objectives are about breaking a bad habit or closing a capability gap, which means we focus on things we DON’T have or CANNOT do. We focus on our weaknesses.
Positive psychology – which is not about putting on a pair of glasses with pink-tinted lenses – tells us that people rarely succeed when their goals are grounded in weakness. There is research-based evidence for this which I will skip here in the interest of space but my encouragement to you is that, even when considering an area of weakness you want to remedy, you
- consider which among your strengths you could leverage to address this development area,
- if you are unsure, think about what strength might be useful to tackle this issue and, once identified, set about development that strength in yourself – yes it is possible!
When we play to our strengths, we don’t need to change, to think differently. Using one’s strengths feels natural. We feel less stressed about what we need to do. We feel more confident and resilient. In fact, using one’s strengths is pretty close to effortless.
There you have it: a simple but I am hoping helpful and powerful approach to picking the right New year’s resolutions for you so you increase your chances of actually achieving them.
I’d love to hear what you thought of the role of honesty, courage and strengths in setting goals. How do you currently go about identifying objectives, whether at work or at home? What works well? What is the most challenging aspect of making New Year’s resolutions for you?
© Coaching For Inspiration, 2013