A slightly different perspective on ‘resolutions’

Right now, thousands of people are sitting down in a reflective space and asking themselves what their resolutions for 2013 will be.

Typically, a resolution is a repetitive behaviour that will, in the mind of the resolver, lead to some kind of positive outcome – OK, a goal – that may, or may not, be defined as part of the resolution too. Lots of peoples’ resolutions end up looking something like this:

  • “I will eat smaller portions.”
  • “I will budget every month.”
  • “I will re-read my emails before I send them – to correct the grammar and check that the meaning is clear.”
  • “I will exercise at least three times a week for 40 minutes.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of these. They are aimed at lifestyle change and there’s probably good reasons behind each, but they don’t inspire you and the reward isn’t a part of the ‘vision’, so they soon become a drudge.

The purpose of ‘resolutions’ is for us to become a different person – albeit in tiny ways sometimes.

According to recent research, there are three things that lead us to do more of something, and that give greater personal satisfaction. By embracing these in your resolutions there’s a far higher chance of you fulfilling the ultimate goal that they were directed towards.

The three factors are:

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

Autonomy is about doing something that YOU want to do – not something that has been imposed on you by others. So, give a bit of thought to your resolutions. Are you doing these because they will please someone else? If so, do YOU want to do them? If not, is there something that YOU DO want to do that might have the same effect, but be more about YOU and less about THEM?

Mastery is around improving your ability to your satisfaction. This is why many runners monitor their ‘PB’ – their Personal Best. But performance, and mastery of something, go far beyond the simple statistics. It is about becoming your own expert on something. If your resolutions include repetitive actions, consider turning these into some aspect of mastery.

Purpose involves going beyond yourself. Most resolutions revolve around the individual, but we will see them through if we have a bigger, a transcendent, purpose. So… rather than setting a load of little repetitive changes to your behaviour, try seeing them as stepping stones to a bigger goal and say WHY you are doing them.

I apply the same principles when helping a new senior executive getting themselves ready for their “first 100 days” in a new role. There will be a load of things that they believe they are EXPECTED to do without necessarily believing that they are worthwhile. There will be plenty that are repetitive but don’t lead to any IMPROVEMENT. Frequently, they have inherited an organisation that has lost its sense of PURPOSE. We draw up a plan that aims to address each of these for both the executive and their team.

As to the four examples above, which arose in conversations with friends and colleagues over the last couple of weeks before Christmas….

  • “I am going to write an e-book ‘Great food for the busy executive’.”
  • “I am going to offer a mentoring service online for people who want to tackle their debt.”
  • “I am going to qualify as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language.”
  • “I am going to enter a long distance sponsored cycle ride and raise funds for Macmillan.”

Give it a try, and why not share the result here? (If you struggle give me a call.)

Best wishes

Graham Wilson

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