Behavior change is hard. I’ve devoted my professional life to helping people change in ways that improve their life and work and my personal life trying to get better myself. I’ve learned a lot along the way. Tomorrow, January 1st, Resolution Day, is the Super Bowl of behavior change. The day that so many of us vow to do something different or new to more closely align our behavior with our values and goals. I hope the reflections that follow help you be more successful keeping the commitments to yourself that truly matter.
To resolve is to “firmly decide on a course of action.” Often it is to re-solve a problem we’ve tried to solve before. We commit to exercise more, save our money, spend time with our families, quit smoking, lose weight, get organized. These are promises we make to ourselves and sometimes to others that we haven’t kept in the past.
Most New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure for three reasons:
- Making a decision to act is different from action itself. Behavior change doesn’t happen overnight, even when that night is December 31st. It takes time and is a bumpy process.
- Resolutions aren’t failure-tolerant. Once we break a promise to ourselves, it’s easy to give up, especially if we haven’t followed through before.
- Most resolutions are declarations, not plans. If you want to make a change, you need a plan.