Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja

Resolutions Can Set You Up For Failure
Mick Ukleja

December 17th, 2013 - CAUTION!! You are about to enter the time-to-take-action zone. It’s an annual sojourn that usually starts right after the Thanksgiving holidays. They are called resolutions. You have a healthy desire to improve on your life. You would like to delete some behaviors and a­dd others.

A resolution is a decision to a future action; an idea of what you would like to accomplish. The problem is the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. We have great things in mind come January 1. But the gap sets us up for failure. Whether the resolution is to get in shape, learn a new skill, start a new business or develop a positive habit, the gap enables us to postpone the new behavior for several weeks. And what do we do during this gap? We indulge in certain counter-productive behaviors with the idea that we will change come January 1.

We put on those extra pounds, postpone those business decisions and develop more obstacles to learning new skills and habits. The result? We start the New Year with an even greater deficit. That in turn lowers our motivation to achieve our desired goal.

Here’s another catch. A resolution gives you an idea of what you want to accomplish, but it doesn’t provide the roadmap to get there. Without this roadmap you will not be able to overcome the forces that work to slow you down or even stop your progress. Like anchors thrown overboard, old habits drag bottom and make the journey even more difficult.

The good news is that good habits can be developed. As you become more proficient with your new behaviors you’ll discover that they take less energy and effort. As Max Dupree says, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” For starters, here are 7 guidelines.

Be clear on your intention. What is it you want to create in 2014? What will it look like when it’s achieved? What would you like to accomplish? Is it vocational? Is it health related? Does it have a spiritual dimension?

Write down specific goals. Research has shown that written down goals have a 35 percent to 40 percent better chance of becoming reality. Consider this: only 5 percent of Americans have written down goals. Write them down.

Make them time-bound. Establish a realistic timeframe with a little bit of margin built in. Fail to do this and your resolution will be dead on arrival. You want to lose 15 pounds . . . by next week? I don’t think so. How about 2-5 pounds per week for 3 weeks. You can always evaluate your plan and determine whether or not it’s aggressive enough. You are in control of the process. Goals without deadlines are illusions.

Get accountable. Who are your allies? One of the missing factors in resolutions is the lack of a partner, teammate or mutual supporter. Get an action partner. You don’t have to have the same plan to become accountable to one another. Accountability energizes behavior.

List the barriers to achieving this goal. This is powerful. Once you’ve identified the barriers, you’ve eliminated 50 percent of their power. It will still take work to face them, but there is a lower chance of derailment when you understand them. Is it a habit you can’t seem to shake? A skill you need to develop? List them honestly and clearly.

What’s your next step? If your goal is to get in shape, then one action plan might be to run. So a next step might be as simple as putting on your running shoes at a predetermined time. I have a friend that says 90 percent is showing up.

Celebrate your accomplishment. Don’t miss this! Stop long enough to acknowledge your progress – and then appreciate it. If you don’t appreciate your accomplishments, nobody else will. Our tendency is to live in a state of deficit – to live as though we are always behind. Take stock in your accomplishments and be surprised by your progress.

The gap between what you want and when you start causes most resolutions to be left on the cutting floor. This chasm between the goal and real time is working against you. The bigger the gap, the tougher the leap to the other side.

Put these 7 steps in practice today and get a head start on 2014.

(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)