How well did you do on last year’s resolutions? What are your resolutions for the coming year?   

A new year is an opportunity to reflect on what we learned in the past and make resolutions for the coming year. Whether you start with the winter solstice and the beginning of the sun’s slow return to the northern latitudes or the change of the calendar from December to January now is the time to adjust. 

I would suggest that the best resolutions are those focused on outcomes and not activities. Weight loss is a good example of an outcome-focused resolution.  “Exercise more” is activity based. The activity may be a step toward better outcomes but it is not the end. 

Associating tasks with an outcome focused resolution can help promote progress.  For example, a resolution to lose twenty pounds may have some dependent tasks such as exercise thirty minutes at least four times a week, weigh yourself once a week or change your diet. Coupling the “what” with the “how” promotes your chances of success. The resolution is brought alive by thinking through how you are going to accomplish it.   

When you decide on your resolutions, determine why you are pursuing them. Do I want to save money for retirement? Education? Vacation? Write down what the benefit of delivering this outcome. Picture yourself at a lower weight being able to walk or run easier, having a lower pulse and blood pressure. Reducing chances of diabetes or joint disease. Think about what it will be like having money in reserve in your accounts, the way you feel when you have mounting progress toward retirement, vacation or education. Make the resolution a value proposition where the cost and ongoing continuance of the supporting habits you develop tip in the favor of putting in the effort. 

Another key to successful resolutions is to keep them focused. It is better to have three to five resolutions that really mean something to you that to have a laundry list that confuses overwhelms and eventually discourages you. You should be able to rattle off your resolutions without much thought. For example having resolutions to read fifty books, save 10% of your income and lose twenty pounds are three things that could be transformational for you in the short and long term.   

Once you have defined your focus outcomes, determined how you will accomplish them and developed a value statement for accomplishing them, figure out how you will check and progress and make adjustments. Is it reasonable to check weight once a day? Would you change what you were doing after just a week? Setting up official check in times helps you see progress that might otherwise be covered by background noise.  Weight may be recorded once a week and changes to how you are losing weight may be considered once a month if needed. 

Finally, from the beginning, think about how you can make your resolutions an ongoing part of your life. Adopting changes that you can live with means that this year’s resolution is next year’s habit. That opens up your list to add new resolutions in coming years instead of repeating the same ones while expecting different outcomes. Avoid gimmick approaches that may generate short-term gain at the expense of a high fatigue factor. It is better to modify the goals into a sustainable effort accomplished over time than get into an up down cycle of manic effort alternating with despondent backsliding. 

Happy New Year! May the new year bring better outcomes for you in all your righteous endeavors.

Joe Thompson

© 2016 Differentiating Strategies, LLC