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Rethinking Resolutions

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, which means many people are starting to think about New Year’s resolutions. As popular as this tradition may be, it seems like it’s become more about complaining about how these resolutions never last. We start off January 1st so excited, but slowly that motivation dwindles and our resolutions fall to the wayside. I experienced this firsthand when I worked the front desk at a gym. Every January, the gym would suddenly be more crowded and filled with unfamiliar faces, but come February it was back to our crowd of regulars. Because of this trend, I never really participated or set resolutions for myself. However, that all changed a few years ago when I began to think about New Year’s resolutions in a completely different way.

For starters, I started referring to them simply as “resolutions”. The phrase “New Year’s resolution” implies that you can only start at the beginning of a new year. It doesn’t leave much room to consider restarting if you fall off track, adjusting or amending your resolution after you’ve started, or picking up a new resolution later. It was a simple thing, but it actually gave me more flexibility to be successful. 

Then, I decided I needed some sort of structure or timeline. I opened up the calendar app on my computer and set a “revisit resolutions” reminder for the first of every month. I would start my resolutions on January 1st just like everyone else, but I only had to make it to my first check-in in February instead of the end of the year. On February 1st I got my first notification and I was really excited. I opened the document on my computer where I had typed my resolutions the month before and I went through them one by one. I reflected on how I was doing with each resolution, how I could adjust them to make them more appropriate for the next month, and added any new resolutions I wanted to work towards.

Afterwards, I felt re-energized and ready to continue working towards my goals for another month. I continued this process for the rest of the year, pausing each month to think about my resolutions and adjust as necessary. If I fell off the wagon with some, I would restart and try again. If some were becoming too easy or too challenging, I would adjust them. If some lost their value I would take them off my list, and if others popped up that I wanted to adopt I would add them. This continuous reflection and evaluation allowed me to stay accountable to my resolutions in a simple way throughout the year.

Simple because it was easy, but also because it follows Torbin Rick’s 6-step model of SIMPLE accountability:

The first step in SIMPLE is to Set Expectations. I did this by writing down the resolutions that I expected myself to follow for at least the next month.

The next step is to Invite Commitment. Usually this refers to inviting others to commit to a collective goal that you will be mutually accountable for. For me inviting commitment was thinking about why I had chosen those resolutions and then committing to and being motivated by that purpose.

The third step is to Measure Progress. That is exactly what I did every month when I would revisit my resolutions.

This step is followed by Providing Feedback. My feedback was adjusting, editing or changing my resolutions if I needed to based on my progress from the previous month.

The next step is to Link to Consequences (or rewards). For me, consequences and rewards helped motivate me to get through to the next month, knowing that I would be measuring my progress again.

The final step is to Evaluate Effectiveness. Evaluating effectiveness was examining my process to see if really worked for me and my lifestyle. I found it to be very effective, which is why I am sharing and writing about it now. I also identified ways that I could make it even better, which is why I have continued to tweak and adjust it over time. For example, this process is particularly effective with “smart” resolutions. By that, I mean the resolutions follow the SMART guidelines for goal setting.

Resolutions are basically just personal goals, and applying the criteria for SMART goals can make them stronger. Often times people try to make their resolutions so big and lofty that they end up being oversimplified and hard to clearly define. For instance, I’ve set resolutions before like “get more fit”. A good idea, but not very easy to define or evaluate as a goal. Luckily, all we have to do is apply the idea of SMART goals to make it a better resolution for 2019.

To make the goal more Specific, I am going to focus specifically on running rather than just the broad idea of “getting fit”. To make it Measurable I am going to start by resolving to run twice a week. This will be a good start and when I re-evaluate on February 1st I will likely amend my resolution to run maybe 3 or 4 times a week. I can also quantify how long or far I will run in order to make it even more specific and measurable. This helps keep my resolution Attainable. By increasing the difficulty slowly over time, I am constantly pushing myself but also setting myself up to be successful with smaller, more achievable steps. This goal is also Relevant to me because running is an activity that I enjoy and something that I find important in my life. Finally, the resolution is Timely because I can set monthly mini-deadlines for myself.

Both of these acronyms have helped me rethink my resolutions and work towards them in a more productive and realistic way. Hopefully others who try these ideas find them helpful as well. If you choose to make resolutions this New Year’s, just remember to make them SMART and keep them SIMPLE.

*Leadership Lesson*

Get ready to write some resolutions!

  • Write your first draft of all of your resolutions – maybe you want to read more, save money or travel.
  • Then, use the SMART goals criteria to revise and edit your goals so that they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
  • If you can, have someone else edit them for you too!
  • Once your resolutions are finalized, set yourself up for success with the SIMPLE model for accountability.
    • How are you going to measure your progress?
    • How will you gather and act on feedback?
    • What are your consequences and rewards?
    • How will you evaluate your effectiveness?
  • Get started on January 1st! Be fair to yourself and have fun making positive changes in your life!


*Meet the Author*

Morgan has been working with Leadership Inspirations for three years. He is a graduate of Chapman University with a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies working towards his M.A. in Leadership Development. When he’s not at school, you can find him at Disneyland, at the beach, or hanging out with friends around LA and OC.