New Year’s Resolutions – And Why they Fail

I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions in quite a while. But that’s about to change. In fact, I have firmly decided to make a resolution by the time I finish this post. (I’ll share it with you at the end.) But first, let me explain the two reasons why I have skipped resolutions before—maybe you have been feeling the same way.

#1 My existing commitments were already too big

Why make a resolution that I know I can’t (or won’t) keep?

Several years ago, external demands had built up to the point that I had no mental or physical margin for setting any new goals. I had my hands full managing the follow-through on past decisions (like going back to school to get a PhD) and the challenges of launching a new university in Africa.

The thought of adding something on top of that seemed unrealistic.

Not that I am a realist.

I much prefer to boldly envision the future and encourage others toward it. I can usually see my imagined future so well that I may even underestimate obstacles. But after running into those obstacles several times, I became much more cautious. I held back from setting goals. I let the urge to make new resolutions pass.

And that hasn’t felt right at all.

#2 My vision was unclear

More recently, my work demands have been much more manageable. I’ve had mental margin to think and process. I could have made some ambitious resolutions. But something else was missing—I did not have a clear vision of what I wanted to accomplish.

I don’t know what fuels your motivation, but my engine runs on vision. Without it, I may cruise along just fine, but I don’t have a passing gear for leaping ahead.

[As a coach, I am well aware of the need for vision clarity, and I regularly help leaders get it. I know what it looks like, because I’ve had it before. But I also know how it feels to trudge through with a stubborn lack of clarity.]

The thought of making a lot of effort to fulfill a resolution seemed hollow without a compelling vision.

Why start again now? (and how?)

There is something about the freshness of a new calendar that stirs my thinking about what could be different. I suspect that you can recognize elements of my experience in your own history.

Resolution-killer #1 is having too much on your plate. Resolution-killer #2 is not having a clear and compelling vision. Either one (or both) can block you from doing anything different this year…which means that you can expect the same results you got last year.

There are ways to deal with both problems. You can work through them on your own, or you can hire a coach to speed up the process.

But either way, there is still one more element required to break through old patterns. Jim Collins calls it “Fierce Resolve,” and he says that all Level 5 leaders in the Good to Great companies had it.

Resolve means determination, firmness or fixedness of purpose. The words resolve and resolution come from the same root, so it’s not surprising that you would need resolve to successfully make a resolution. Without genuine resolve, making New Year’s resolutions is a waste of time, and by the way, so are any business goals you may have for 2016.

So what are my resolutions this year?

It’s simple, I have decided to decide. I have determined to be determined. I have resolved to resolve. By nature, I like to keep my options open (and that can be a strength in some situations), but open-endedness does not accomplish anything. Fierce resolve does.

At its core, resolve is a character trait. And it’s the one I am determined to pursue this year.

What are you resolved to do?

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