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Why are New Year’s Resolutions just so… hard to keep?


What is it about New Year’s resolutions?

Set with a full 12 months in front of us they are characteristically aspirational –  they speak to a wiser, calmer but also somehow more exciting us… the one that might be healthier, write a novel… have a very well organised second bedroom.

We make them in business too –  most businesses harbour ambitions of managing themselves better… of escaping the fire-fighting and January seems like a clean slate when fresh KPIs will forgive all.

So what’s standing in the way of our improving ourselves?

Everyday in all organisations we encounter skilled and intelligent individuals who for the most part understand the importance of good management, of targets, of goals, of innovation, of strategy.  They want to be improve themselves and their businesses but often there’s something getting in the way…

The simple truth is that, in business, as in all other areas of life adopting new habits requires us to do 3 things…

1. Take an honest look at ourselves

2. Make choices based on the facts

3. Take it one day at a time

Regardless of the resolution, more often than not it is a failure to do one or all of these three things that derails us…

So, whether you’re looking to drink less wine, more wine or even to buckle down on the 2014 strategy there are three habits that can get you off to a good start.

1. Take an honest look at how you need to improve.  Throughout the year we are often too busy with the day to day to really take stock of where improvements need to be made.  People tend to be poor at objectively diagnosing their own specific weaknesses – as the saying goes, they don’t know what they don’t know. Benchmarking yourself against others is important can help you to get a realistic picture of what needs to change.

2. Make decisions based on the evidence. We can often get distracted by our perception of situations.  Sticking to something requires knowing what you’ve committed to and what success looks like.   Next time you are trying to set out or measure your own progress – stop to consider: what does success really look like?

3. Avoid too many ‘just this once’ situations.  It’s tempting to defer your longer term goals in favour of short term gains.  And this isn’t just true of sneaky chocolate biscuits.  When faced with the choice of delegating or confronting difficult situations Irish mangers often choose a short-term solution – essentially sidestepping process altogether.   There will always be exceptions – but be wary of the long term effect of too many.

Maybe the thing about resolutions is how naggingly simple they seem.  So often though we’re concentrating on an activity in isolation rather than the skills we might need to acquire it. It’s important to remember that the challenge isn’t in the new habit itself but in mastering the behavioural change that will bring it about.  And of course, there’s always next year!

Eva Maguire is Head of Design & Innovation at IMI, a team of program designers and customer relationship managers that use industry insight and innovative learning methods and technology to create client solutions and experiences.  Her expertise is in strategic planning, research and innovation management.

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