I have made resolutions, even written them down (and occasionally accomplished them), but it hadn’t occurred to me to prepare by recapping the previous year. What Janus figured out is that humans are bound to keep making the same mistakes if we don’t spend some time thinking about how to avoid them. It’s not enough to look to the future, it’s important to learn from the past. The past can give us clues about how to be more successful, in the future.
Succeeding at resolutions:
1. “Begin with the end in mind” (Steven Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People)—that is, “What do you want the future to look like (large and small)?” Here's how:
Make a Keep, Start, Stop list:
- Ask yourself “What did I do last year that I want to “Keep” in my life because it worked really well?” Next ask, “What changes did I accomplish last year and what specific things did I do or were in place for me to make that sought-after change?”
- Next ask “What do I want to "Start" doing in my life that I’m currently not doing?” These should be things that mean something to you, not things others “shoulded” you into.
- Next ask “What do I want to "Stop" in my life?” These are derived from the look backward at the waning year, and should be things you are ready to change.
Analyze the steps you took in previous successes (on the Keep list) to see what supported your ability to make the change you desired. Add them as keeps or starts, e.g., if you started your regular exercise because this time you enlisted the help of a buddy, how can you use another support system to help you make the next change?
Prioritize the list in order of importance to you (1-10). Which are the heavy hitters (if accomplished would mean significant change)? Which are the deal breakers (really important to your health and well-being)? You can only make SO much change at once before you implode, so paring your list down increases your likelihood of success.
Increase success by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Using your pared-down list write some goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. The clearer you are with creating a picture of future success, the more likely you are to achieve the goal. Writing goals down increases your chance of achieving them. If you’ve never achieved one goal, don’t start with thirty-two. Start with one. Getting success to spur on more success is a strategic move. Some goals will be able to be SMARTer than others, "Complete a lighting class by March 1, 2010" is clearer and more measureable (thus easier to accomplish) than "Continue to work on forgiveness." That doesn't mean to leave out hard-to-nail goals, it just means you will have to monitor your progress more diligently.
2. Keep goals posted. Again, the chances of being successful are increased by keeping your vision in front of you. As with all things, they are forgotten if they are not competing for our time and attention, plus we love handling the urgent things and are likely to put important things on the back burner.
3. Be mindful of the cycle of change. My favorite change guru, Prochaska (Change for Good) has spent a life-time study people trying to change. He found that there are distinct stages of change humans experience. including a stage where we see no need for change. Most important is that going through the change cycle is predictable and spiral. We succeed, we fail. Sometimes we get discouraged and give up. We can’t give up. We have to go back to the plan and keep working it. Most everything we have to learn in this life is about how to manage ourselves.
4. Revisit, revamp, re-vitalize goals. I tack my list of goals to the bulletin board just above my computer screen in my office. I want them next to me so I can consult them in daily decisions. They are a silent partner, helping me spend my time as I intend, not as the rest of the world dictates. I recommend keeping your plan in front of you in a way that matches your lifestyle, with regular viewing and revamping required (e.g., monthly when paying bills). I look at my goals almost daily. I revamp unrealistic or unmanageable ones. I re-vitalize the process by replacing actuated goals with new ones. I am reaching more goals every year.
New Year's Resolutions, in practice, are a first quarter revamping of goals that carry over from the year before. For you proactives, hail Janus! Hail faces looking past and future. Hail an even better 2010.