IF YOU’RE setting out to make New Year’s resolutions, this is probably not the first time you have done so. It’s easy to get discouraged as one’s memory sometimes brings to mind past failures. But with a little discipline, perhaps we can recall instead many more successes than setbacks we have had in achieving goals set over the years.
Psychological research has established the innate desire we humans have to grow, to learn, to succeed. It’s just how we are designed. See the baby lying in a crib, continually looking about, drawing things closer as she seeks to explore the world about her.
So, it follows that a desire for growth explains a lot of the motivated drives we experience. When we channel that natural source of energy, great things can happen, including keeping New Year’s resolutions. To successfully tap into this very natural self-motivation, an eye must keep focused on the nutrients that lead to intrinsic motivation. Here are a few ideas:
1. Become the primary source of your motivation.
Too many people start off the resolution process on the wrong foot. If you dig beneath the surface of what is driving them to undertake significant changes in their lives, it will likely become apparent it was someone else who really had the idea. For example, the person’s physician encouraging weight loss, or a spouse pressing the need for better conditioning, etc. There is nothing wrong with input from significant others, of course, provided your judgment is the deciding factor.
2. Set achievable goals …with some stretch in them.
We like to be challenged, but not overly so (due to fear of failure or becoming overwhelmed by nonrealistic expectations). Set specific targets and monitor your progress toward those goals. For example, if weight loss, record progress on a calendar. If you find yourself easily surpassing your goals, adjust them. If your plan entails conditioning, establish time and pace goals. Celebrate significant milestones. If you fail or have a setback, dust yourself off and get back to the task at hand. Most achievements that really matter will require endurance and persistence.
3. Partner with a trusted friend.
This can provide the much-needed encouragement to overcome obstacles or procrastination. Years ago, my tennis partner and I were running on a track on New Year’s Day. When our conversation came around to careers — yet again — we decided to do something more than complain about the woes of working in Corporate America at the time. We both had enjoyed our experiences in higher education and determined to seek out positions in that field. We shook hands and consistently followed up with each other on what steps we were taking. By the summer, we both had secured positions in leading universities. There was a lot of caring that went on as we shared progress and frustrations with each other.
Chances are that you have achieved quite a lot in your lifetime. Treat these resolutions as just more of the same — only a bit more intentional, perhaps.
Happy New Year!