I spent most of Wednesday in midtown Manhattan meeting with clients and strategic partners. It was the first time I felt like a 1 Percenter—i.e. in the small minority of people actually trying to work. It was an unseasonably warm work day in mid-November, but you would have thought it was the week before Christmas based on the frantic energy and size of the crowds perusing the display windows at Macy’s, skating at Bryant Park or clogging the rails of Rockefeller Center.
Researchsuggests that approximately half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions yet only one out of twelve of them (8%) actually achieve them. We all know behavior modification is hard, whether you’re trying to lose weight, get organized, get published, revamp your IT processes or make your website mobile friendly. Experts say we also tend to set the bar too high and then beat ourselves up when we don’t reach it. But there has to be more to the high rate of Resolution Failure.
Dr. Paul Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Workspecializes in the area of behavior modification and motivation. Marciano’s book offers seven key pieces of advice.
1. Clearly define your goals. Many people in the spirit of New Year’s loudly proclaim, “This is the year I’m going to finally get in shape.” But what does that mean? Do you intend to lose a certain number of pounds? Reach a body-fat percentage goal? Run three miles without rest? Bang out 10 pull-ups? Marciano advocates SMART goals—objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. In other words “own it” and be accountable.
2. Track your progress. Countless studies show that individuals, teams and organizations are much more likely to reach a goal (and stay with it) if progress can be measured along the way. Experts such as Marciano say measurement can also help you and your team identify bottlenecks in your progress.
3. Have patience. OK. I admit this isn’t my strong suit, but experts say must set realistic goals and realize that progress is never linear. Sometimes you experience rapid gains only to hit resistance later. Other times, initial progress may be painfully slow but then they suddenly achieve rapid breakthroughs. Making lasting changes takes time.
4. Publicize your goals to friends, family and co-workers. This is about “owning it.” High performing sports teams, companies and military units understand this. You can too. Don’t be shy about announcing your specific resolution to the world, but support from colleagues, friends and family members is key.
5. Put resolutions on your schedule. That’s another flavor of “owning it.” How often do you hear people say they can’t “find the time” to do something? Experts argue that nobody finds time to do something. We all choose to spend our time the way we do—whether that’s eating junk food, binging on NetFlix shows or hitting the gym. Make your new goals a priority and actually schedule them into your calendar. If you want to declutter you office, schedule time to clean out your files, desk and online calendar in the evening or on weekends when you’re not at the beck and call of clients. Think of these “time blocks” as important appointments with yourself—and make sure you’re penalized for cancelling on short notice.
6. Stop “all or nothing” thinking; it’s better do something than nothing. I admit I’m often guilty of “all or nothing” thinking? For instance, “I didn’t get my proposal in on time, so I might as well forget about landing that client.” Or, “I might as well have a couple more beers and some fries since I blew my diet last night.” The difference between doing something rather than nothing is huge. If you don’t have a full hour to workout at the gym, just decide to make it the best 20-minutes you can. If you have a slight cold or minor injury, decide to just walk the track for a couple miles. If a client has a financial emergency and can’t save the usual 10 percent this month, just tell them to save what you can. Any effort towards your goal is better than no effort.
7. Get up, when you slip up. None of us are perfect. As the football coaching legend Vince Lombardi famously said, “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” Resiliency is the key. Don’t turn relapses or temporary failures into total meltdowns or excuses for giving up. Instead, just acknowledge the mistake and recommit to the path.