Lewis: New Year’s directions
In our household, we practice a number of traditional holiday celebrations. My wife is Jewish, so we always host a Hanukkah celebration with homemade latkes and Katz’s Deli flown in directly from New York City. Christmas Eve is prime rib night with family and friends. The presents never last unopened past Christmas Eve.
An annual poker game with a group of my closest friends from high school is one of my favorite traditions. I have been doing this for over 40 years, and it is as much of a tradition as Christmas trees and eggnog martinis for me. This tradition has been such a significant part of my life I even included it as a central part of my first novel, “Snowcapped.”
The holiday season is a time when many of us reflect on the previous year and consider personal improvements for the upcoming one. Consequently, New Year’s resolutions are a common tradition but they are something I avoid. Maybe it is more accurate to say that I have tweaked the process a bit.
The problem with most New Year’s resolutions (and why more than 80% fail) is that they require us to make significant and immediate changes effective Jan. 1. The most common resolution is the “Gym Rush” where there is a surge of new gym memberships in January yet, by February, 50% have already canceled.
Instead of setting dramatic resolutions, one thing to consider is to start by establishing a new direction for your life. With that new direction in mind, your chances of success improve when you set reasonable short-term goals and modify them when needed.
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Making any significant change is fundamentally difficult, so the best way I have found to achieve anything big is to focus on the small. If, for example, becoming healthier is the goal, most of us will fail if on Jan. 1 we embark on working out every day and start an entirely new diet plan. It’s better to start small and make incremental changes.
While we often view success as some kind of binary result, it rarely happens that way. Success in any endeavor happens with hundreds if not thousands of small steps along the way. This will likely include some missteps (failures) as well. Achieving small steps reinforces your motivation and belief that the goal is possible while small failures seem more manageable and are less likely to derail your desire to accomplish your overall objective.
Most successful businesses use this approach as a matter of course. They start by defining an overall vision and strategy but understand that achieving that vision never happens in a single step. Tactics and short-term objectives that advance them toward their vision are established, tracked, measured and evaluated.
Making a significant change in a company or in an individual is like turning a ship. If you try to do it too quickly, things tend to break. The optimal success comes from being able to make the change as rapidly as possible but not breaking the company (or yourself) in the process.
Behavioral scientist Richard Thaler wrote an interesting book called “Nudge” that describes how we are all subject to the effects of status quo bias which is, as it sounds, the concept that people tend to avoid changing their current behavior, even when there are clearly better options.
The common euphemism is that people are “set in their ways.” This can probably be said for most of us for certain things. Similar to setting small goals, a good way to move people from their status quo is not to try to force a singular major change but to “nudge” them to make small changes.
Change is hard but always possible. The key to success is the right process. So, if you are looking to make a big New Year’s resolution, consider setting a New Year’s direction instead with a small steps plan to help you achieve your goal.
Mark Lewis, a Colorado native, had a long career in technology, including serving as the CEO of several tech companies. He retired from technology last year and is now writing thriller novels. Mark and his wife, Lisa, and their two Australian Shepherds — Kismet and Cowboy, reside in Edwards.