How to (finally) stick to your resolutions?
“Procrastination is not laziness. We don’t postpone tasks to avoid working. We do it to avoid unpleasant emotions.” — Adam Grant
Here is a new year that begins and, like every year, many of us make “good resolutions for the year”: quit smoking, lose weight, get back to sport, go to bed earlier, make an appointment with the dentist, tidy up the attic, stop getting angry, work less on weekends, read more, etc.
However, by the end of the year, how many of those resolutions will we have actually kept? In fact, they don’t really have an extraordinary success rate: 80% fail by the first week of February!
Here are some ideas below that may help you see things more clearly. Let’s start with a few mistakes to avoid:
Mistake n°1: Making resolutions that are too ambitious
The number one reason resolutions don’t last long is that they’re too ambitious. You tend to want to make too big and drastic changes, and the effort it takes is not sustainable over time.
And then after the few days of Christmas and New Year’s rest, life, work, old habits quickly take over.
You then start to make some concessions: instead of 1 hour of gym every day you go to 1/2 hour; instead of going to bed at 10 a.m., you tell yourself that 11 a.m. is already early enough, etc. And this is how, little by little, the great resolutions diminish every day until they disappear completely.
But this is exactly the opposite of what should be done.
James Clear explains why small habits make a big difference. A 1% improvement isn’t particularly noticeable – sometimes it isn’t even – but it can be much more significant, in the long run. Do the math: 1% per week = 67% at the end of the year!
This is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult to create lasting habits. People make a few small changes, see no tangible results and decide to quit (James CLEAR – Atomic Habits –2018).
Mistake n°2: Wanting to start implementing all intentions in January
The change of year has been a good time for you to take stock of the past year, list your bad habits, and give yourself goals for the one that is starting. It’s a bit like a life-saving step, a way of affirming your desire for change for the months to come. However, is it necessary to start immediately with all the changes? Is it to convince oneself that “this time is the right one”?
As a leader, aren’t you a strategic planner? What would you recommend to your colleagues, if they wanted to make big changes in their department? It’s the same here, you have to plan. A suggestion would be to choose only one resolution per month for example, no more.
Mistake nº3: not being convinced of the validity of the intentions
By the way, what is the real motivation for these resolutions? Why take them precisely in January? Is it to do like everyone else? Do you think taking them early in the year will give you a better chance of getting there? Is it out of bad conscience? Perhaps you’ve read a book on the habits of leaders, and want to do the same?
In fact: are you really convinced of the merits of these resolutions, are they really necessary?
Before undertaking the difficult task of changing your life, it is important to ask yourself the question about the deep motivations, to know what the planned changes will bring, for your well-being. Ask yourself “Why?” “, consecutively, and repeatedly, until you are sure that it is really something you want to do and that you are convinced of the beneficial consequences of the result.
How to empower yourself to succeed
It is important above all to differentiate between the resolutions concerning the habits you want to change, adopt or lose (get back to sport for example, or spend more time with your family), specific results you want to obtain (tidy up the garage , make an appointment with the dentist).
In the first case, it is a change of lifestyle for which a strategy must be put in place. In the second, it is a question of procrastination.
It is not easy to change or adopt a habit, it is even difficult, but not impossible. We must first understand that these are necessary for the functioning of our brain. Habits allow it to rest from time to time by putting our actions in automatic mode.
That’s why we don’t need to consciously think about our every action, including things like walking, breathing, eating, etc. As a result, our brain can keep its vigor for more important tasks.
According to Charles Duhigg, habits follow a 3-step cycle: signal-behaviour-reward (Charles DUHIGG – The Power of Habit – 2013), so you have to act on these three steps to get results.
My piano teacher, to whom I explained that I had not been able to do the daily exercises that she had left me, always told me “willing is power”. Unfortunately it’s not that simple, and procrastination is certainly as difficult to understand and solve as changing habits. In this Ted Talk, Tim URBAN explains very simply, and with humor, the mechanism: it’s as if an inner voice, “the monkey of instant gratification”, invites you not to do what another voice, that of the “rational decision-maker” asks you to do. It is therefore a question of understanding the motivations of the “monkey”, then sending it for a walk or giving it another function…
Here are some suggestions for making and keeping your New Year’s resolutions:
Track nº1: establish what you want to obtain in the year: choose a theme
Once you really know why you want to undertake a resolution (see error nº3) it will be easy for you to define the theme of the year. For example, if your intention is to return to sport and/or lose weight (they often come together…), your theme for the year could be “physical well-being” or “health”. Preferably choose a short word or phrase.
From there, all the new actions you take during the year must be aligned with this annual macro objective.
Track 2: be SMART, make an action plan
SMART goals are one of the best methods for setting goals and maximizing the chances of success. The acronym means that the objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (for more information: consult the internet…).
Once defined, draw up an action plan, month by month, by planning the schedules on your calendar. If your intention is to spend more time with your family, block out the schedule!
Track 3: Join a think tank to truly engage with other leaders.
Co-Reflection circles are privileged meeting places for the business world. Forged around confidentiality and through the dynamics of coaching, they ensure the effectiveness of meetings. By joining a Circle of Co-Reflection you benefit from the exchange and advice of a panel of leaders selected to measure to avoid conflicts of interest. It proposes concrete actions that benefit all participants, based on real issues brought forward by one of the members of the circle.
Personal behavior, habits, procrastination, are recurring subjects which are treated in the circles, and whose solutions brought by the members benefit everyone.
Track nº4: Get accompanied by an International Executive Coach
Whether it’s habits or procrastination, we’re dealing with unconscious actions your brain takes to save energy. This is why you will need to do real awareness work in order to fully understand the processes.
It will then be necessary for you to inform yourself, to learn from researchers who have studied these questions for years, in order to fully understand the mechanisms of both habit formation and procrastination. We mention a few authors above.
You can then choose which path to take, in all conscience. Decide if you really want to change this behavior, or not, and what is the well-being that you will obtain.
This approach: become aware – understand – choose, is the one that the Executive Coach expert in CO-CREATiVE Communication® helps you to do, by accompanying you with his knowledge and his experience. Such a coach will help you as much in the choice of your resolutions as in the process of achieving them.
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Jean-François Levy, International Executive Coach cICF certified at PCC level, specializes in Collaborative Leadership. He accompanies the manager internationally "Becoming aware of your talents as a springboard for your personal and professional development..."
Franco-Mexican by birth, he has developed expertise in the organizational development of SMEs and family businesses in Mexico, where he has resided since 2000. Previously, he held executive positions in large companies in England, France and in Brazil, then as director of operations in a family-run SME.
With more than 30 years of experience in intercultural management and mastery of Co-CREATiVE Communication®, he allows leaders to express their personal leadership style while adapting it to the cultural situation of their organization.