The Resolution Motivation Dilemma
Growing up, New Year was always special for me. It didn't necessarily hold a particularly significant place in our family calendar, so I'm not exactly sure when or why this became the case, but I've always loved the idea of compartmentalising things down into time periods in my head; that was 2021, with it's ups and downs. It's done and in the books - now I'm focussed on 2022. Hogmanay (the Scottish name for New Year celebrations) seems to have lost its significance in the lives of a lot of my friends too. When I asked what their plans were, to arrange a get together of some kind, most came back and said they'd nothing planned and likely wouldn't stay up for the bells. To me, however, it still holds a magic, and as one calendar year ends and another begins, I gear up to go again, with renewed vigour and a refreshed set of goals and plans.
Many people still set New Years Resolutions, yet as we all know, few of those survive the first month of the year. Talking about setting powerful goals, and how to do it, is something I've seen done a lot - especially at this time of year, but let's take a different slant on it for a change, and think about how to make sure those goals are realised.
In coaching, I love supporting clients to dig deep and understand what it is they really want. They rummage around inside, sifting through and look past the stories they tell themselves, for an insight into what really matters to them. And from there, they craft a vision - a picture in their head of where they'd like to be, in whatever aspect of their life they deem valuable to focus on. Then they take that vision to pieces, unravelling the threads to understand what it will take to achieve it. If I want to get THERE, from HERE, what is it that I need to do now? What comes next?
In a film I have seen no less than thirty times, Frozen 2, Anna is stuck in a cave. Her sister has abandoned her, Olaf's snow has flurried away and she's now got a Louis Vuitton handbag with a pile of coal, two sticks and a carrot instead of a best friend. Things are bleak and she needs answers. So she does what all great Disney characters do; she sings her way through it. And the song she sings? Do the Next Right Thing. Thanks Anna - I'll take it from here!
In the time-tested pattern of Steven Covey, many of us Start with the End in Mind, and build out a plan to get there. And that's a great place to be; I've got a vision, I've got a plan to achieve the vision, I can get to work. But often, as with New Years Resolutions, people don't get to work. And there might be a lot of reasons why that is, but a common one, is that they're not committed to the action. They write it down because they felt they should write it down, not because they wanted to, nor because they actually intend to do it. And so they look at the list, and they tap the nib of their pen on the action and they say "nope." And that's it. In one tiny inaction, the vision dissolves and they never get any closer to it than they were when they crafted it.
So how do you overcome that, and why does it happen? Well it happens because it's possible to be committed to the VISION, without being committed to the ACTION. And while commitment to the vision is a great starting point for the plan, it's the commitment to the action that gets the wheels in motion. As a sports coach, I often ask my players his question: Do your habits match your expectations? Will the things that you do over and over, day after day, take you to the place you're trying to get to? Because if they don't, you've got two options; change your habits, or change your expectations. And for those young sportsmen, just as for us in our resolutions scenario, we need to take a look at those actions, or those habits, which we deem necessary to achieve our vision or deliver our expectation, and, one at a time, subject them to this assessment: on a scale of one to ten, how committed am I to carrying out this action?
Every action needs your commitment to complete it. So if that number is below an eight, it's time to go back to the drawing board and find another action, or set of actions, which will get you in the direction you want to go, and which you're committed to doing. If that is not the next right thing, what is? There is, I'm told, more than one way to skin a cat. Take the example of one of the great philosophers of the 1990s, Meatloaf, whose vision was to achieve Love. I can't categorically confirm that he used this simple scaling approach, but he did determine that while he would do ANYTHING for love, he wasn't willing to do THAT. And by having that realisation, and being honest with himself, he had built the groundwork to find another route to the Love that he desired. Did he find love in the end? I'm not sure - I can't remember how the rest of that song went, but I can tell you that Anna did find her way out of the cave, and Olaf did come back. And by reviewing your plans, you can find your way out of the cave and bring back your anthropomorphic snowman friend - or achieve whatever vision you've got laid out in your mind to make 2022 a special year!