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Making New Year Resolutions Work

Maree Harris

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Why have so many of us become disillusioned with New Year resolutions and setting goals? Because after a few months we find we are no longer acting on them. Somehow other things assume a higher priority in our life. What does that mean? Were those resolutions and goals not important in the first place? Yes, they were. So what happened?

Vision First, Goals Second. We are more likely to commit to working on our goals until we achieve them if they grow out of a VISION we have for our lives, something that we really want, that has an enduring quality about it that will have a long lasting impact if we live it out. Visions are closely related to values and what we hold important. There is usually an emotional dimension to visions. They inspire commitment and passion in bringing them to reality. Once we have our vision clear, we can then ask ourselves how we are going to live out that vision in our personal and/or business and professional lives. That's where setting the goals for how to do it comes in.

Let's take an example: After a hectic year in 2007, where you missed many of your children's school functions, your sister's 40th birthday celebration, went to sleep on the couch immediately after dinner on the odd nights you were home in the evening, caught up with friends rarely and had a wake up call when one had a heart attack and died, promised your son you'd be there for his basketball grand final but forgot to diary it (even though he reminded you that morning and plenty of times during the week before), you decide you do not want to live your life that way. As well, you are overweight, never exercise, eat on the run and all the wrong foods. Many of us have been there. What do we do?

Create a Vision Statement.

A Vision Statement for someone like this may be:
I want a life that is balanced. I want my partner, my children, my family and friends to know that they are the most important things in my life. While my work is also important to me I want to organise it in such a way that it respects that fact. I want to live to see my children grow up and to be part of the life of their children as well so I want to become fit and healthy. I am committed to setting goals that will help me create that life.

The challenge is making that happen. How do you do it?

  • Stop! Slow down and take some time out to reflect on what is most important to you. Take a holiday or a few days off work. Go fishing and think. Or what about camping? You can't do this type of reflecting from within the hurly-burly of corporate or business life.
  • Create a vision for how you want your life to be, not just this year, but from now on. What do you value most and want to preserve or maintain? What would you miss most if you lost it? Work on a vision of your ideal life-style for this point in your life then go back and tweak it with reality and what is possible. But don't place too many limitations on what is possible! When we ask visionary questions some things become possible that we thought were impossible.
  • Determine what the challenges and threats would be to you living that life? What would be the benefits, rewards and opportunities such a life-style would offer you? Do some deep reflection by yourself and with your partner and weigh up the challenges and threats against the benefits, rewards and opportunities.
  • Set goals for how you can achieve this life-style and overcome the challenges and threats. Write this all down.
  • Make yourself accountable to someone by sharing your vision and your goals for making it a reality - your partner, business associates, your work team, for example. That makes it much more difficult for you to renege on them.
  • When your goals are challenged by some supposedly very important other priority, return to your vision. What “price" will I pay if I compromise on this vision? Work out a creative way to handle that “other" priority while still remaining committed to your vision.
  • Revisit this vision and your goals every week for at least two months and then every fortnight after that. Rework and reshape them to ensure you are implementing your vision. If you find yourself reneging on them, focus yourself and get back on track. If you are finding that difficult, and you begin to abandon your vision in favour of other people's priorities, get yourself a coach or mentor who can keep you committed and accountable to your vision and your goals.

What's the Outcome from This?

  • You have a sense that YOU are in control of your life, not someone or something else.
  • You feel much more together as a person, more integrated, more grounded.
  • Who you are, what is important to you and what you want to be is aligned. What you do and how you do it is aligned to that. There is no sense of incongruence.
  • There are less tensions and distractions in your life. You can actually experience a sense of peace and joy.
  • You are much more productive because you are more focussed.
  • You experience a great sense of achievement, purpose and meaning in both your personal and professional life.

Support Essential - Where Can You Get It?

I don't want to pretend this is easy to achieve. It's not. Most people need support to do it and maintain it because the challenges today are considerable. This support can come from a number of places.

  • Make this process a “joint venture" with your partner, with the two of you making sure you both stay with it.
  • Alternatively, go through this process with a work colleague, your small executive team, or a cross company group of 3-4 colleagues. Meet once a week for an hour to keep one another accountable and to help one another creatively and proactively handle the obstacles when they present. The Australian Business Women's Network has a very well organised program of Goals Groups for women members across Australia that meet in groups of 3-4 once a week at 7 a. m. for 1-1½ hours to do this. It even provides a 3 hour training session to help women to use the time productively and successfully.
  • Get yourself a mentor within or outside your organisation to journey with you on this.
  • Invest in a coach who not only can support you to stay with your vision, and overcome all the challenges to it along the way, but who can also inspire you to take it further, to take risks, to be creative and innovative and to achieve far more than you ever thought was possible.

Maree Harris PhD, is a coach and workshop facilitator who is committed to empowering people to create the personal and professional lives they desire. Visit her website at and subscribe to her leadership newsletter.


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