As we step into February already, it’s time to check in on those New Year’s resolutions we all set. If you’re still going strong, awesome! Keep up the good work! If you failed your resolution, keep reading…
For those of us who might have hit a bump or two in our pursuit of perfection, don’t be too hard on yourself. Setting goals can be a bit tricky, and the way we phrase them can sometimes make or break success. Consistently achieving our personal goals is not only about identifying what we want and using it as motivation; it’s also about how we put ourselves in a position where we can succeed.
Have you ever noticed how some goals sound a bit like ultimatums? “I will do this,” or “I won’t do that.” Life, however, rarely works in such black and white terms. So, if your goal felt like a tightrope with no safety net, maybe it’s simply the wording that’s the problem, not you. One slip-up can make you feel like you’ve totally failed your resolution, and that can be enough to derail you from trying altogether.
We keep using that word, but we’re actually not big believers in New Year’s resolutions at Flynn Barrett Consulting. We think real self-improvement comes when you’re genuinely ready, not just because the calendar says so. Most New Year’s resolutions are tied to a superficial tradition of a “fresh start” and require a major life overhaul. Actual self improvement is more nuanced and requires more complex and personalized goals, driven by motives and discipline which an annual holiday simply can’t provide.
So let’s look at self-improvement in a new way. Instead of focusing completely on the end goal, let’s focus on the journey and what it will take to get there. In this approach, regular activities are the key. By making small, intentional choices every day, you create habits that become your helpers in making you better at anything you set your mind to. It’s not just about reaching a goal quickly; it’s about making a lifestyle that naturally takes you closer to what you want. If you’ve failed your resolution before, let’s change the game and make self-improvement about forming habits and turning your everyday actions into a path of consistent and incremental success.
Goal Setting with Purpose
Rather than dumping all of your goals into one long and disorganized list, we prefer to categorize our intentions based on these activities. Your goals can be narrow or specific, as long as they’re in line with your intentions and aspirations. In other words, instead of thinking about what you should do, consider some regular activities that you need to be doing or are getting in the way of what you really want to accomplish.
We find it incredibly helpful to group these activities into the Start/Stop/More/Less framework:
- What you are going to start doing?
- What you are going to stop doing?
- What you are going to do more of?
- What you are going to do less of?
Let’s explore one at a time:
This category is self-explanatory, but can prove challenging. Starting something new is much harder than scaling up or down the things we’re already doing. Think carefully about what you want to “start” and don’t shy away from a goal just because it’s outside of your comfort zone! Maybe you want to become a better manager. Well, that may start by speaking more positively about your accomplishments, to both yourself and others. Starting something new is always a leap of faith. But by taking the time to intentionally decide what you want to start doing and by committing to do that one activity on a regular basis, you’ll dramatically improve your chances of success.
When you think about the “stop” category, consider activities you do that distract you or even directly impede you from getting to what’s important. For example, we love networking. It’s a great use of our time, which allows us to meet new people and learn about the different problems people face. However, they can be a significant drain on that precious time resource, and so we have decided to stop saying “yes” to every networking event that comes along. Instead, we will deliberately choose to attend those which are relevant and likely to be rewarding.
Do more of…
This is a slightly different take on starting something completely new. Take a look at what you already do that’s working well for you. Are there things you do once in a while that would be beneficial to do everyday? Let’s say you want to get a promotion at work. Well, what are some activities that you could do more of that would improve your professional skills and get your initiative noticed? Maybe you can offer your ideas more readily at meetings. Perhaps you volunteer to do more presentations. These activities don’t have to be monumental to be impactful. Pinpoint a couple of things you already do, and seek out ways to do them more often.
Do less of…
Similar to the “Do more of” category, what are some existing habits that might behoove you to scale back? Maybe it’s about how you structure your day, like taking too many coffee breaks or how much time you spend on your phone. Identifying and acknowledging a habit that’s detrimental to your self-improvement is the first step to turning things around. But remember, this category is “less” not “cold turkey.” Setting an intention to do something less frequently is far easier to achieve than a vow to swear off something entirely. When you swear off eating pizza for good, you’ve basically failed your resolution before you even got started. If you set out to eat less of it, you have a great chance of succeeding.
Playing the Long Game
And there you have it – a foolproof blueprint for purposeful progress! (As long as you actually follow through)
Here’s the real trick though: This isn’t a pass/fail game. It’s a continuous journey of self-improvement.
A few tips to help ensure your success:
- Only choose one or two activities for each category at a time.
- Put your list somewhere you can’t help but look at it on a daily basis.
- Seek out opportunities to do your Stop/Start/More/Less everyday.
- Take a moment to recognize every time you succeed.
- Don’t sweat it when you slip up.
When something does feel tough, take a moment to figure out why. Instead of thinking “you failed your resolution”, change it up. You’re on a journey to a lifestyle that fits your needs and enables you to grow. Life changes a lot over the course of a year, so let your priorities change too. Keep going – your journey to positive change is just getting started!
When you finally feel like you have conquered a goal and it’s become a beneficial habit, don’t forget to celebrate your triumph! Remind yourself that you set out to do something and you achieved it! This is crucial to developing the mindset and the confidence to do it again and again.
Which brings up one more thing… When you do check a goal off your list, it’s time to add a new one. Sorry, but there is no happy ending here, just an endless cycle of making yourself better and becoming who you want to be.
Applying Stop/Start/More/Less to Your Business
The Stop/Start/More/Less framework is incredibly powerful, but it’s not just for personal development. It can also be a great tool for helping teams come together to focus on the most important priorities. If you want some help applying this and other HR strategies in your company, give us a shout. With a little elbow grease and some collaboration, we can help get your organizational goals back on track.