Updated: Oct 20, 2020
As seen in the January 2020 issue of APeeling
According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is said to be about 80 percent, and most lose their resolve by mid-February. Here’s my view on why I think they fail:
New Year’s Resolutions are mostly an inefficient stereotype of wishful change. The main reason is that one is conditioning the change upon something else being needed to happen - in this case starting a new year. How come the decision to change comes in December? What if you decide to make a change in January - do you wait until next year’s January to start?
Moreover, accepting that change needs to have a condition other than your decision that you want to do it, will only make the conditioning even stronger. Next time you’re thinking of a change, you’ll probably look for another conditioning factor - I’ll do X when(meaning if) Y will happen. I’ll start a business when(equals if) I’ll have this amount of money. I’ll start eating healthier when(equals if) I’ll be more relaxed. I’ll go to the gym when(again if) I’ll have the time. And so on. Conditioning options never end.
This pattern can draw its power and at the same time reinforcing another unhealthy belief - that you are not enough to just make the change. That you need something else to happen for you to be enough/able/powerful enough to do it. It’s a lose-lose situation.
The decision and drive to change must come from within, from a strong will to become a better version of yourself. Only then, the changes you make can become healthy, sustainable habits. And you don’t need a new year to make that decision.
Setting goals is easy, anybody can do it. When you assess people at the start line, you can’t see any difference. Both future winners and losers have identical goals, they want to win the race.
What will make the difference is the capacity to implement the systems and processes needed to ensure sustainable progress that leads to achieving the goals. It’s the approach for everyday decisions, actions and habits that makes someone more likely to achieve the goals.
Contrary to popular belief, goals are the starting point, not the outcome. To make them meaningful, you need to have a plan, design systems and processes down to routines, habits and precise actions on a daily basis. If your focus is concentrated on goals, you won’t have any left for using on the daily activities needed to achieve the goals. Moreover, if you over-emphasize the importance of achieving the goal, once you achieve it, you may feel demotivated to go on, since the main driver to getting there is now gone.
Think of it this way: when you’re frequently catching a cold, you may take drugs and fix it, every time. However, you’re only treating the symptoms, not the root cause. In this case, the cause is probably a weak immune system. If you only focus on fixing the cold, but not figure out how to improve your overall health and immune system, you’ll have a recurring problem and not really sustainable progress.
Feedback or Feed-forward?
Some say it’s better to spend more time on planning in order to achieve better execution. That in a way, planning is more important than execution or that if you plan better, your execution would be better.
I believe they’re both interdependent and interconnected. If you have an exquisite plan but your execution is lacking precision and efficiency, the net outcome is less desirable. Viceversa is equally valid. What could adjust the two parts so that they work seamlessly together it’s an analysis-adjustment process loop. After each phase of the planning-execution cycle, you need to assess the results and go back to the planning phase to see what you can adjust based on the data you now have.
The usual method is to look for and process the feedback. Analyze what didn’t work, where mistakes have been made and try to fix them. A lot of time, energy and resources are spent on this approach. Sometimes it works, most of the time it’s quite low in terms of efficiency.
Feed-forward is in a way an evolved level of the feedback. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, who’s fault it is and other negative-charged perspectives, you work on identifying new ways to improve what went well and could be better.
Gabriel Rosentall is a business coach located in Vancouver, BC