Test your 2010 resolutions

Are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions or have you already broken them?

A friend of mine laughed at herself the week before New Year. Two days before, she had sent two mails. Mail number one at 10.23am was a query about créme brûlée as the dessert for a New Year’s Eve dinner. Mail number two at 10.29am was asking me to send her information on detox diets.

She resolved to start the detox on January 3 when the festive season feasting would be over.

Resolve? What is the secret to the successful resolution?

I don’t know any foolproof recipe. But what I do know from coaching is that there are some approaches to setting oneself up for success that work better than others.

Many business people use SMART which stands for:

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Attainable;
  • Realistic; and
  • Timebound.

Google “goal-setting” and you will find a host of other tools.

My favourite is the Well-Formed Outcome. Meta-coach Tim Good­enough introduced me to this and my clients have found it effective. It’s from the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) school of coaching. They explore goal-setting from different angles to help you discover whether you have done enough to make success likely.

Bavister and Vickers in Teach Yourself NLP provide instructions/questions for you to follow:
Be specific: A woolly, airy-fairy goal is not likely to get off the ground. Such as: “I’d like to be a successful social entrepreneur.” It’s aspirational but so vague. The more specific you are, the easier it is to design a way forward.

State your intention in positive terms: The emphasis here is to harness the energy of the positive, rather than the negative energy of talking oneself down and self-bullying. “I want to be slender” works better for many than “I don’t want to be fat”.

Consider the context: Does your intention involve others? Where, when and with whom would you want to be pursuing your goal? If others are involved, you need their buy-in. A former colleague wanted to retry her banking exams. We explored the reasons for failure the first time. She realised she hadn’t asked her husband and teenagers to take on household chores to free up her time for studying.

Do you have access to the resources you need? Here we’re not just talking finances. It may be the practical and emotional support mentioned above. It may be networks.

To what extent is the outcome within your control? A friend wanted a promotion. That’s a goal for which the decision-making is ultimately out of your hands. True, you can identify those involved and you might strategise about what you can do to make sure you’re on the decision-makers’ radar screen, but being aware that it’s not wholly in your control is healthy.

Cost and time — is it worth it? This is especially true for studies that you have to self-finance. They’re likely to create competing demands on your time and possibly impair the quality of relationships you have with family and friends.

What will you stand to lose as well as gain if you achieve the outcome? Be clear for yourself that the possible positive consequences might outweigh the possible negative consequences.

Sense of self: Does the outcome fit with your sense of who you really are and how you want to shape your life going forward? This question proves fruitful when people are searching for new jobs. How well does any new possibility align with your core sense of self?

Sensory-based success: Use all of your senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory and gustatory. Imagine you see yourself walking across the stage, opening the pay cheque, signing the bond agreement — is there applause? Are champagne corks popping? Will there be a celebratory meal? What can you smell? What’s tingling your taste buds?

Is the outcome ecologically sound? Ecological here is your own holistic self-ecology rather than the environmental sense of this word. The question is: “If you had it, would you really want it?”

In the film Brick Lane, the heroine spends 16 years dreaming of returning to India. When the possibility finally materialises she realises she has changed; what she once wanted so badly is no longer true.

And then what?

There’s one more step I add in; it’s called “feed forward”.

Feed forward is about sharing your intentions with others who can support you and commit to helping you hold yourself accountable — at your invitation.

The feed-forward strategy is powerful and we don’t make enough use of it. It’s easier when it’s something visible, that is, the person who decides to give up smoking asking for help from friends and family including that they don’t smoke in their presence.

At a more difficult level a client of mine knows he doesn’t always listen well to other points of view. He wants this to change but is not always aware of when he’s doing it.

Now a colleague has agreed to signal him in meetings when it’s happening.

So those New Year’s resolutions: put them to the test.

Use the instructions of the Well-Formed Outcome. If there’s a gap, redesign your plan and enhance your chances of success.

Helena Dolny can be reached at [email protected]

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