It is January and a brand new year has begun. This is a time that often prompts reflection and for many an annual rite of passage known as New Year’s resolutions begins. What happens to those resolutions in approximately 8 to 10 weeks? They often start to fade and when they are no longer prominent in our thoughts it is easy to go back to our usual routines and old habits. What causes this point of disengagement? When “new” resolutions don’t provide immediate results or produce significant changes within a short period of time.
The challenge for New Year’s resolutions is that this is a deficit-based approach. These are “new” plans and any prior or old strategies are discounted. For example, starting a new diet or searching for a new job. When you take this approach you are starting on a path with a primary goal focused on creating something new. That creates a problem because you are immediately held to the responsibility of finding a solution for something “new” and experiencing results that are immediately visible.
Build Upon Your Strengths
At the heart of any resolution is change. That’s what is associated with the start of any new year. But instead of a New Year resolution, set a goal for an improved year resolution. Focus on creating goals that allow you to change aspects of your life or career and make it better. For example, if you want to start a new diet transform that statement into: “I want to improve my health” or “I want to improve my appearance”. As another example, change the phrase “I want to look for a new job” into “I want to improve my career”. What you are doing is building upon an existing foundation instead of undergoing a complete reconstruction. You are building on your strengths rather than focusing on your deficits or areas of weakness.
Proactive Instead of Deficit-Based
When you take a proactive approach, instead of a deficit-based approach, it reduces the need for instant gratification. As an example, if you make a statement that you want to improve your health you can then look for information or sources to support those improvements. You can build from this statement and instead of looking for a completely new method of eating you will consider how to make changes with the foods that you do like. You will be more successful if you make gradual changes instead of initiating a complete overhaul. This allows you to build momentum and as it continues you are better able to sustain it, which is the typical drop off point for new resolutions.
Doing Something Completely Different
Of course if you find that it is necessary for any reason to take an approach that involves doing something completely different, use the word “transform” to build from your strengths. Instead of stating that you are going to start a new job, you can say “I want to transform my career and utilize my existing skills”. When you create a resume you will then highlight existing skills you’ve acquired throughout your career that are relevant and transferable to this new job – even if it is a new job or career path that you have never worked with before.
Starting an Improvement Process
To be successful this year don’t just look for or plan for something new and as an alternative, aim for enhancements because anything can be changed through a focused improvement process. It is generally a new outcome that is being sought when a new year begins and as you start 2014, list the areas or aspects you want to improve. Then consider the current outcomes you experience in those areas because that is usually the driving force that prompts a desire for change. Chart a course for your plan of action so that you can build momentum and then sustain it over time. To accomplish these goals you will find it helpful to initiate improvements through a process of steps, and assess the resources and support you’ll need to be successful throughout the year.
To make changes this year create a new script so that you can practice starting an improved life. The starting point is where you are at now and the outcomes you experience, followed by a list of your skills or qualities that can be built upon. Next, determine what you are going to improve this year and the steps to be followed. Finally, consider how you will support your progress along the way so that you create and sustain lasting changes. Don’t just start another new year, create improvements and make it a better year.
Dr. Bruce Johnson has had a life-long love of learning and throughout his entire career he has been involved in many forms of adult education through his work as an educator, trainer, career coach, and mentor. Dr. J has completed a Master in Business Administration (MBA) and a PhD in Education, with a specialization in Postsecondary and Adult Education.
Presently Dr. J works as an online college professor, faculty developmental workshop facilitator, faculty mentor, faculty peer reviewer, and professional writer. Dr. J’s first eBook, APPRECIATIVE ANDRAGOGY: TAKING the Distance Out of Distance Learning, is available for sale now in paperback, and also available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo devices. Learn more by visiting