According to The University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology (1/1/2014) almost half of us – 45%- to be exact - will make resolutions as the New Year begins while only 8% will be successful. How come? Most of us will make plans to do something this year that we haven’t done before and are optimistic that this time we’ll make it happen. Many of us, however, will break resolutions as real life distractions or procrastination trump our positive change program. We are always positive that if we just put our minds to something we can get it done. And, there is something to that – it’s certainly better to be progressive with a positive outlook than paralyzed in the now. The issue then is not so much about positivity and “putting our minds to something” as it is with transforming that “something” into a well developed plan with identified and defined goals and committed to actions. Actions that are important enough to withstand challenge from our daily responsibilities and those crises that manage to suck time right out of a clock more often than one would like.
Some experts tell us to forget those less than successful attempts at keeping resolutions in the past and move forward with a positive attitude. I don’t disagree totally – positive progression is better than negative paralysis - but I believe that to make the most of the resolution process, it’s helpful to explore what happened to the ones that got away. Those things that did not previously work for us or simply could not be committed to are meaningful data to consider when you make your resolutions or develop your 2017 goals and objectives. What happens to us in the past informs our present and creates the awareness needed to decide what is important and will be accomplished going forward.
One way to use the past as a key to the future is by reference forecasting when designing actions and determining likely outcomes. Human judgment is often overly optimistic (think New Year’s resolution) which leads to overconfidence, underestimating degree of difficulty, relevancy, costs, well…you get the point. We tend to take an inside view or a view of the planned actions alone rather than in the context of what happened before - an actual result of a similar action that was completed. In its most simple form, the process of Reference Forecasting means asking yourself what similar actions have worked well (or not) for me? How can I use that information to make this new action work well or make it better? You may find these three basic steps helpful:
- Identify a reference – such as a past, similar goal, action or project
- Think about the outcome of the past project and how actions unfolded
- Compare old and new in order to establish the most likely outcome for your new goal, action or project
This will provide you with a baseline for using an effective, proven, methodology and successful integration of past and new actions to add value; exceed objectives and deliver on promises to yourself and others.
In terms of goal setting, a great framework to use is SMART. Sound familiar from Management 101 or from that note you get each year from your HR generalist? For my money, its simplicity is its beauty. When defining your goals, here’s how it works:
Goals should be SMART:
- Time Bound
When you develop number 3 – Achievable – stretch yourself. Studies indicate that those that set and achieve objectives that are difficult (not impossible – difficult) do better than those who achieve moderate objectives. Ask yourself: What more can I do? How will I do that? What makes that important? What is the wow factor? Get it down and move on to the next one.
The key takeaways are:
· It’s not productive to dwell on the past or live in the past.
· It is helpful to use past experiences in terms of how it informs us today and moving forward
· There are tools and models that can assist you as you develop your plans for the new year
· Optimism trumps pessimism every time. Use optimism as fuel to make progress not an accelerant to overconfidence.
Real Leadership Associates can help. I have Business Coaching and Mentoring offers that will help you determine goals and define actions that will help you succeed this year. Contact Beth
for more information.
This year is already filled with challenges and opportunities. Here's to a wonderful and prosperous 2017 for all of us. Stay warm!