No more resolutions – 2023 is a year for real change

Column by Doug Strickel

A new year has always been a time for reflection, fresh starts, and New Year’s resolutions. I highly recommend taking time to reflect and taking advantage of fresh starts. I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions though. Far too many resolutions don’t get past the desire phase while others fail several weeks into the year. While a resolution starts with a desire and often progresses toward a goal, most will fail because they lack a well thought out plan or a solidifying purpose.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. A resolution without a foundational purpose is a good idea that never materializes into life change. Two of the more common resolutions involve some form personal health improvement or some form of financial change.

Many people will have resolutions around exercising more, eating healthier, saving money, or giving more to charitable organizations. Some will even take the next step (which is important) and set a goal such as working out three times a week, losing 20 pounds, limiting deserts to one a week, saving 5 percent of each paycheck, or giving 10 percent of their monthly income. Goals help clarify the resolution and provide a measurement basis for progress, but they are still not enough to drive real change.

How many people do you know that have lost the same ten pounds every six months? How many times have you set similar goals only to lose interest after a few weeks and gradually move on from the resolution by mid-February?

The key is to think identity change and not isolated resolution. Don’t get so caught up in what you are going to do, but rather focus on who you want to become. If we could focus on identity change and becoming the person we desire to be, our commitment level would take on an entirely different look. For instance, rather than just naming a resolution to lose 20 pounds, why not clarify the identity you want. Even at my age, I want the identity of an athlete. My foundational purpose is to live a healthy lifestyle. With that identity, I run because I have become a runner. I eat healthy because I have become a healthy eater. I train daily because I
have an identity as an athlete. I do those things (which are now habits) because that’s who I am.

I set specific goals each quarter to help me manage my training, measure my progress, and motivate my effort. You can take the same approach and move closer to the person you want to become. Some may say that they want to read more in 2023. If you want that to be your identity, then you want to become a reader. A reader prioritizes reading over other discretionary activities. Set a goal of reading for 15 minutes each day. Develop a plan that places your book next to your nightstand to make reading before bed an easy habit. Place your book on top of the remote so that you will read for 15 minutes prior to watching Netflix. Place your book next to the coffee pot or where you eat lunch every day to facilitate reading early in the morning at lunch. Just make it easy to
get started and to do it regularly. Increase the time after 15 minutes becomes a habit.

If you want to save or give more money each month, consider having it automatically deducted or drafted from you account each month. Be specific on the amount you want to save or give each month and tie it to a specific purpose. That purpose could be something you want to acquire, an investment level you want to achieve, or specific charitable need you want to meet.

A clear purpose with a detailed plan that is easy to execute and supported by specific short-term goals will increase your potential for lasting change. You don’t want to just save money; you want to become a saver. You don’t want to just give; you want to become a giver.

Just to recap:
1) Think broad change such as identity change and not just an isolated action.
2) Define a foundational purpose that provides lasting motivation for your identity change.
3) Develop a specific plan that is easy to execute and help you form a habit to support the
change. What do you need to start doing? What do you need to let go of?
4) Set short-term goals that will help you manage your actions, measure your progress, and
motivate your behavior. (Be specific with actions to take and timing to meet).
5) Write everything down and share it with others that will help hold you accountable.
The year 2023 can be a year of real change for each of us as we move closer to the person we
want to become. Take those desires and dreams that get caught up in New Year’s resolutions
and work through the progression above to make that move toward who you want to become in
2023. Don’t look back this time next year and see the same person.

Doug Strickel
Author of: People are the Plan – A Leadership Approach to Winning with People