Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Chances are good you and I will be making some New Year’s resolutions this year, and they’ll most likely follow along three general themes: fitness, relationships, and finances. Chances are also excellent that by March those resolutions will be little more than embarrassing memories of January’s hopefulness and naiveté.

Why do we break these resolutions? At the risk of oversimplifying a complex topic, it’s because human beings (that’s us) by nature avoid hard work when we can, cater to our impulses at the expense of our judgment, and think mostly of the short-term consequences of our actions. If you’re the exception to the rule, then I congratulate you. As for me, I’ve been known to choose the nap instead of the workout and the dessert tray over the salad bar. I thought only of how good that nap would feel and how good that dessert would taste rather than thinking of how difficult it would be to work off.

Avoiding New Year’s Dissolutions

I’ve been researching ways to maintain personal resolve and found that Lee Dye, writing for and drawing on a new study by psychologists at the University of Washington, had five “simple” suggestions for making resolutions stick:

  • Make only one or two resolutions.

  • Choose resolutions that you’ve been thinking about for some time.
  • Choose to adopt a new good behavior rather than trying to shake an ingrained bad habit.
  • Choose realistic goals that you feel confident you can meet.
  • If you don’t succeed, determine the barriers that blocked you and try again.

I’d like to add two of my own:

  • Anchor your resolution in something you can envision and remind yourself of the long-term consequences.

  • Overestimate the amount of time and work it will take.

Keeping Resolutions for Your Business

I’ve written many columns about the principles of reaching your goals and meeting your objectives for improving your return on investment (ROI). You probably know of my fondness for announcing clearly articulated measurable goals and meeting or exceeding them by a specified date. You already know it takes careful planning to pull it off.

Here are your seven tips to making business resolutions work:

  • Don’t overreach. A truly worthwhile goal is wonderful to accomplish. Accomplishing even one goal is something of which you can be proud.

  • Don’t get wrapped up in some salesperson’s pitch. If it wasn’t a priority before, it’s unlikely you will feel it’s a priority later on. Check your impulsiveness.
  • Ben Franklin said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” We generally need an outsider to help us uncover our own insanity.
  • You can always raise the bar later on. Set realistic goals, and you’ll make success a habit.
  • If you don’t establish a measurable goal and the methodology you will use to attain it, then you are bound to fail. Don’t become a victim of “bubblegum marketing.”
  • Once you’ve determined how you will measure success, plan concretely how you will celebrate it. Make the celebration part of your plan.
  • Have some patience. It’s especially difficult in today’s instant-gratification marketplace, but rest assured gimmicks don’t work in the end. Only hard work works in the end.

Ask a Different Question

If this year’s issues are an awful lot like last year’s issues, perhaps you’re asking the wrong questions.

Perhaps you’re thinking of mean values and not end values. Mean values are things such as gross sales or qualified traffic. End values involve more long-term goals. For example, you might want to focus on delighting customers instead of just on gross sales. You might want to create a Web site architecture that’s persuasive to as many visitors as possible rather than just aiming to attract transactional clients.

Don’t you think delighting customers will bring them back, generate referrals, and increase gross sales overall? Isn’t it obvious learning what is relevant to your visitors will be more fruitful than just trying to attract that visitor who’s about to make a transaction?

See how framing your questions differently can help you get better answers? If you don’t have your questions clearly defined, then all your resolutions will be little more than wishes. Are you too tightly wrapped up in your own box to ask the right questions?

My brother and I wish you and yours the very best of health, wealth, and happiness in 2003.

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