Are you sure about that New Years resolution?

I’ve done it.  You’ve done it.  We’ve all done it.

We’ve all made new years resolutions with good intentions, but somewhere around February (or earlier for some) our good intentions turn into bad behavior and we are right back where we started.  It’s well documented that many new years resolutions don’t work… the question is why?new-year

Lack of a plan – Often we enter into a new year with hope (faithful readers know my thoughts on that!) and visions of a better life.  Unfortunately, we rarely make a specific plan to improve or change what we do.  Resolving to change is part of the battle, but you have to know what it is you want to change and how you are going to do it to be successful.

At the beginning of 2007, Linda and I decided to try Nutri-System at the recommendation of my parents.  Our first order happened to coincide with early January, but this was not an official “resolution”.  Instead it was a decision, and with that decision came a plan.  With that plan came 40 pounds of weight loss!  A resolution comes with cookies and ice cream!

We’re rational – As human beings, we can think and rationalize and essentially make ourselves believe anything.  As George Costanza from Seinfeld says, “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”  This may explain why we wait until January 1st to potentially improve our lives.  The funny thing is that if we know there is something we need to do, why do we need an arbitrary date to start?  It’s because we allow ourselves to.  If we want to lose weight, and we know HOW to do it, what makes January any different from December… or June… or August.  Nothing.

In fact, November and December are the BEST times to start a weight loss regime.  This is when eating becomes a sport and if you aren’t comatose after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, something is wrong.  There are cakes and cookies and all sorts of treats to tempt you.  If you can control your portions and make good eating decisions at this time of year, the other 10 months will be a piece of cake (no pun intended).

So what do we do?  Don’t resolve, decide.  Make a choice and get some back-up.  Let someone else know what you are planning and ask them to help you remember what you want to do.  Remember that we can talk ourselves out of anything, but if we know someone else will be checking up on us, it increases our chances of following through.

If you need help with a plan or goal, try the SMART model.  If you haven’t heard of this, it goes like this:

Specific – what exactly do you want to do?  Be as targeted as possible.

Measurable – how will you know when you are done?  How will you measure your success?

Achievable – Can you do this, given your time and resources?  If not, rethink your original objective.

Relevant – how does this impact you?  Why is this important?

Timed – how much time will you spend, how often will you do it, and when will you do it?

I know I used a lot of examples around losing weight, but this concept really does translate to anything we do, or that we want to do.  My friend Ben from Funtown Splashtown in Saco, Maine has some great ideas about improving his park and his own leadership abilities in the coming year.  He has taken some very specific steps recently to get some information about how other parks run and to immerse himself in learning about how to be a better leader.

He started with resolve to do those things, and followed that up with action.  He didn’t even wait for January.

Happy New Year!


It’s not what you get…

This weekend we did a white elephant gift exchange with some friends and I got five boxes of garbage bags.  Unusual… until I tell you that we agreed to only spend $5 on each gift, and it had to come from a dollar store.  A few of us chose a hot_tamalestheme for our gifts… my theme was ‘hot’:  matches, a lighter, ‘Hot Tamales’, Cajun trail mix and some jalapeno cheese sauce.  Good times.

I really didn’t mind getting trash bags, (not only because we needed them) but because the season of giving has become just that for me – more about giving than receiving.  I’m not sure when it happened (that pesky adulthood) when I began getting more excited about others opening the gifts I got for them than the other way around.  But it happened, and now I have to deal with it.

I think good leaders probably spend more time giving than receiving as well.  You give of your time, your attention, your knowledge, your advise, and your expertise.  At times it can seem like there is no return on that investment, but continued effort in this arena does pay off.  How many times have you heard a friend or co-worker talk about how a previous boss or teacher impacted their life in a profound way, only to follow that up with, “I wish I could tell them how much they meant to me.”?

I think that’s why we say that we “give” feedback as well.  It’s a gift that we give our employees to reward or correct a behavior.  Of course, just like a real gift, feedback can be accepted or rejected (even without a receipt).  When it is rejected, it is easy for us to decide to stop giving it because we feel its not wanted and not being heard.  When it is accepted with open arms, like a holiday gift you put a lot of thought into, its almost magical.

Take an opportunity to give as much as you can muster this holiday season – and I don’t mean in store-bought gifts.  Give your time to your family, your attention to your friends and your gratitude to those who have helped you along the way.  Its amazing what you’ll get from all that giving!

Happy Holidays!!