Managing New Year’s Resolutions

This time of year is a time of reflection and rebirth. We look critically at the year we are leaving behind, and face the upcoming one with an abundance of hope and a pinch of trepidation. Some of us make resolutions, intending to change some aspect of who we are, what we do, or what we have in the year to come.

I haven’t made a resolution in 20 years. I grew tired of making promises I didn’t or couldn’t keep, and even more tired of feeling like a failure every December 31. I recognize this is not a unique phenomenon. In fact, I’ve never known anyone—not one person—to make, declare, and keep a resolution. This year, I asked a group of senior managers, “What will be your professional or organizational resolutions for the upcoming year?” In their answers were varying degrees of pessimism, resignation, and despondency. Many were afraid to commit to anything, in fear of being viewed a failure. As they shared stories of their disappointments, the truth dawned on me:  The problem isn’t that we haven’t kept our resolutions. The problem is we haven’t set goals or created viable plans.

Resolution is defined (www.dictionary.com) as the act of determining an action or course of action, a firmness of purpose; a determination. The moment we state our intention and share it with the universe we are successful. “I’m going to build a strong, cohesive team of staff members.” Done!

Having a strong cohesive team is a wonderful vision. Unfortunately, it is hard to define and even more difficult to measure. You could work diligently all year and not know when—or if!—you have succeeded. In order to have any chance of making your resolution come to life, it must be accompanied by a goal that is specific and measurable. It should also outline an action plan that helps you to stay the course. From the resolution “build a strong cohesive team”, we can develop any of several worthy goals. “The team will accomplish 90% of all assigned tasks on time.” “My team will demonstrate cooperative behavior 100% of the time.” “The team will develop at least 3 innovative ventures this year.” The action plan might include training, opportunities to build cohesion (like team meetings and lunches). Your options abound. The more detailed and realistic your action plan, the more likely you will be to achieve your goal.

So go ahead. Make those resolutions for your life and your work. The intention, in and of itself, is an achievement. Then take the time to set a goal and make a plan. By December 2012 you will be excited to wave goodbye to a fruitful year and greet the new one. Happy New Year!

Robyn-Jay Bage is the CEO of a nonprofit human service organization, and an Assistant Professor at a community college.

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