Happy 2019! Time to stop using 2018 when you fill in dates. With 2018 in the rearview mirror, I believe that many of us have made New Year’s resolutions in a bid for self-improvement. This tradition dates back at least 4000 years, as the Ancient Babylonians celebrated Akitu, a festival where the King would commit to a list of things to do to improve his country. To seal the deal, the high priest of Babylon will slap the King so hard that he would tear. These tears were a symbol of his commitment and a reminder to stay humble.
Before I delved deep into how to make better resolutions, making and sticking to them was a struggle. I would commit to going to learning the bass guitar, going all the way to buy it and sign up for classes. However, this enthusiasm would not last as the bass guitar I bought ended up being sold on Carousell.
I’m sure you can relate, as a study conducted on a group of Americans in 2018 found that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. In general, people hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to resolutions but struggle to even start on their goals not to mention keeping to it long term. I’m sure that deep down you would want to improve yourself and fulfill your potential. So here are some of my thoughts and proven strategies you can implement to make lasting changes to improve yourself.
Link Resolutions to Value
As much of a cliche it is, every person is different. But when it comes to making goals, people tend to take mental shortcuts and make resolutions that are vague and not very purposeful. For me, I had little drive to work towards my resolution as it was not a very purposeful pursuit that was linked to what I value.
Studies have found that making purposeful resolutions and linking them to your values and what you treasure makes it more powerful. For example, instead of just making the vague resolution to lose weight, the resolution will be more effective if it resonates with your values or is something you treasure. It could be anything, perhaps you are someone who loves the environment; going on a diet and eating less meat will lower your carbon footprint. Maybe your son or daughter was just born, and you are committing to losing weight because you want to live a long healthy life to see your children grow up.
Before you embark on the next round of resolution setting, ask yourself these questions.
- What is important to you?
- What are your values (beliefs and philosophies that are important to you)?
- What are the reasons for wanting to achieve this goal?
- How can you link the goal to something you really care about?
Keep Your Resolutions a Secret
It may seem strange and counterintuitive but don’t tell people about your resolutions. You may think that you are making a public commitment and your friends and family will hold you accountable and give you support. However, this often leads to guilt and makes you less motivated. I learned this the hard way when I told my friends that I wanted to learn the bass guitar and my friends were very encouraging. Although I felt motivated at the start, this motivation did not last as it gave me a premature sense of achievement.
Research from Peter Gollwitzer, a German professor of psychology in the Psychology Department at New York University backs this up as well. 163 people were made to make goals, half of them publicly announced their goals and the other half was kept silent. After making the goals they were given 45 minutes to do something to work towards them. Those who made the public announcement and received verbal validation gave up after an average of 33 minutes. In contrast, most of the people who kept silent used the full 45 minutes, and some of them remarked that there was a lot more work to be done.
The public verbal encouragement that you get might delude your brain into thinking that you are getting work done on the resolution or goal. So the next time you make a resolution, don’t tell anyone!
Following Parkinson’s Law
For the unfamiliar, Parkinson’s Law is the saying and concept popularized by Cyril Northcote Parkinson by his essay in The Economist. The law states that:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”
Like ideal gases that expand to fit the volume allotted, you may have noticed this interesting trend that people tend to use all the time allocated to perform a task. For many large projects, finishing work early is not the norm, causing headaches for Project managers who would testify about project overruns and cost overshoots. Professors at universities will warn you about the tendency of students to submit assignments on the due date or later. People, in general, tend to fall in these two categories. The first group will make a bit of effort at the start and do last minute work to complete the project. The second group will complete everything at the start and spend needless time in the end even though the project is already finished.
Here’s how you can avoid this pitfall. Instead of making yearly resolutions, break them up to quarterly resolutions. When push comes to shove, you might surprise yourself at how you are able to achieve your goal at a faster rate. This shorter deadline is beneficial as even if you do not complete your goal in time you would have made much more progress if you were following the yearly timeline. For example, you might want to learn a new language in a year. Instead of just trying to commit to it for the whole year, break it up and commit to reaching a new level of proficiency every quarter. You’ll surprise yourself at what you can do.
Overcoming Setbacks With The Growth Mindset
As renowned American country music singer Jimmy Dean once said: “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” Simple as the quote was, this was quite impactful for me as the perspective change helped me deal with setbacks better.
On the road to success, it is unavoidable that you are met with setbacks. This is something that happens to anyone and everyone. The key difference is how you view that setback. People who are successful do not lead perfect smooth sailing lives. Look at how many tries it took to invent the lightbulb, think about how many publishers rejected J.K. Rowling before Harry Potter was published. Instead, they view their challenges as temporary setbacks and not view it as a sign that they will never succeed. A friend of mine resolved to quit smoking, a habit he picked up since secondary school. After many failed attempts to stop smoking, he was genetically predisposed to smoking and he could never stop.
People like Jimmy Dean has what Stanford University Professor deems as a growth mindset. The belief people have that “their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”
Take some time to think about what kind of mindset you possess. Does this mindset help with you achieving success or are you setting yourself up for self-sabotage.
Anyone can make a New Year’s Resolution, but I found from personal experience and empirical evidence that it takes grit to follow through. But by linking resolutions to value, keeping it a secret, being aware of Parkinson’s Law and adapting the growth mindset; it will be that bit easier to persevere with your resolutions. After all, it is worth it when you meet your goals and elevate your life.
Here at IUIGA, these principles help us make better business decisions. The goals and KPIs we set, are linked to the values of the company where we are all about transparency and providing the best value for our customers. We are also well aware of Parkison’s Law and with the growth mindset, we aim to keep going and improving to serve you better.
If this appeals to you head on over to IUIGA to register for an account to access our full range of premium quality home and lifestyle essentials without the premium price tags!