Rebooting Your New Year’s Resolutions

2015, silhouette of a woman standing in the sunrise

At the end of the year, you may feel a little like Bill Murray’s character, Phil, in “Groundhog Day.” At one point in the movie he asks someone, “What… if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing you did mattered?”

If you feel this way now, or worry that you may feel this way at the end of 2015, I have a few suggestions for you::

1. Envision winning, for youDon’t make a resolution for something you’ll do anyway (i.e. “get more sleep”), and don’t set a goal that someone else wants you to do (i.e. “I should floss more”). Think about what you really want. What would mean the most to you in 2015 and make the biggest impact in your life? Is it repairing a relationship with a family member? Taking a great vacation? Whatever it is, envision what winning is for you, as vividly as possible. Taste it, imagine it, and then write it down in the most inspiring way possible. Simplifying the end state in a few powerful sentences may lead you to a couple of elegant 2015 resolutions that you can actually stick to for 12 months.

2. Take “baby steps.” Building on the Bill Murray theme, I think of his character, Bob, in “What About Bob?” Bob’s life is fraught with phobias, but he describes his progress in terms of “baby steps.” While you may not have the same set of challenges as Bob, breaking big goals into small, manageable ones is the only way to make change happen. These early wins can be enough to take the next step and the next one – baby-stepping, as it were. Think in milestones and knock them off a week at a time. Feedback from small victories can be enough to keep you going.

3. Swing at pitches in your strike zonePeter Drucker advised managers to build on their strengths and make their weaknesses irrelevant Picking objectives that are in your power alley allows you to reflect another of Drucker’s observations: “It takes far less energy to move from first-rate performance to excellence than it does to move from incompetence to mediocrity.” And it’s a lot more fun, too. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t swing for the fences – just make sure to swing right-handed if you’re a righty. Utilize your existing strengths to achieve what you want, rather than setting yourself up for failure by requiring a complete makeover in your personality.

4. Build in accountability. Set up time on your calendar, metrics on your progress and reports to significant others. Last year, as a fun group competition, our office set a goal of weekly improvement in “burpees” (a full-body aerobic exercise), ending up with more than 700 in a week. The idea was that there’s nothing like feedback, community support, peer pressure to keep things going. It worked (for most). If you go this route, be sure you’re striving for something you really want, lest whatever you select become a dreaded burden – a sort of peer-pressure hell.

5. Make sure they fit on one hand. I find that more than five resolutions (one hand) is usually the same as zero resolutions. Remember two things: 1) The word priority has no plural. Having six things in first place (i.e., six “priorities”) simply means none of them is a priority. 2) Using soft words like improve, restrict and encourage need a quantifiable measure around a specific result to create the sort of “win” that’ll keep you going. So rather than “improve the family culture,” I’ve committed to writing an email to my kids every weekend.

All of this said, be prepared to dust yourself off and get back up on the horse when you fall off. Setting goals should be fun. It should remind you that you’re on a wonderful journey to somewhere you want to go. And remember what the great philosopher Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

By Joel Peterson