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Self-Help for the New Year

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Have new year’s resolutions gone out of fashion? Let’s take a quick look at the research.

[Photo of Fireworks]An experiment conducted by Richard Wiseman— psychology professor and author of Quirkology: the Curious Science of Everyday Life—posted a day-one confidence level among new year’s resolutionists of only 52% and a dismal end-of-year success rate of 12%.

If only 52% believe they’ll keep it and only 12% actually end up doing so, that means 88% end up abandoning their promises, 48% lose the game on day one, and 40% drop the ball on one of the 364 days in between!

If, like me, these stats make you feel a little bit guilty, don’t fret. Penitence is at hand! And here’s how we can turn this year into the year we finally make and meet our new year’s day promises.

Failure in the Making

Here’s a list of the most common new year’s resolutions for people the world over: lose weight, get fit, eat right, tame the bulge, pay off debts, save money, spend less, get a better job, get a better education, quit smoking, drink less, get organized, go on holiday, enjoy life more, de-stress, volunteer, help others, spend more time with family and friends, and so on.

What’s wrong with these types of resolutions? They’re nice-sounding, but they are also indefinite goals. After all, how exactly does one “enjoy life more” or “help others” or “get fit”? Wiseman admonishes, “Think through exactly what you are going to do, where you are going to do it, and at what time. Vague plans fail.”

Remember 48% lose the game on day one, which means if you really want to make a new year’s resolution stick, you’ve got to pay it forward; build execution into your plan. You cannot succeed in execution without first PLANNING for execution.

Tai Chi Blunder

So, let’s say I want to “tame the bulge,” I’d have to come up with a concrete plan. I’ll join the local community club’s Sunday tai chi sessions for a year, missing no more than two sessions per quarter. “This is wonderful,” I tell myself. “Definitely ticks all the boxes! Definitely SMART!” Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-based.

The first two months of the year pass without a hitch. So do the third, fourth, and fifth months. Then, during a trip to my folks’ place for lunch, a tactless aunt, who happens to be there for a visit, calls attention to my noticeably healthier waistline. This throws me off completely. “Were those five long and good months all for naught,” I panic. “Why is my weekly tai chi routine not helping?” Eventually, I quit.

Resolutions in a Box

The reality is we aren’t all experts in getting what we want. What’s more, we tend to assume or act as if we’re always in the planning phase! When we stop believing our plan will get us what we want, we quit. So, when five months’ worth of tai chi appeared ineffective (as my beloved aunt’s pointed comment showed), I could no longer see the point of continuing on for the rest of the year.

An easy way out of investing in plans that don’t work is self-improvement in a box via the following bestsellers. Personal and professional effectiveness experts such as Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (dubbed the number one most influential business book of the 20th century), as well as Jim Loehr and Jack Groppel, co-founders of the Human Performance Institute and authors of the books The Power of Full Engagement and The Corporate Athlete, have some of the world’s leading companies for clients. If these programs work for executives at Estee Lauder, PepsiCo and Merrill Lynch, might they not work for you too?

But don’t limit yourself to these gurus, popular as they may be. Know your need then find the right program for you. Help may come in the form of a book, a workshop, or even one-on-one time with an executive coach. For great (and free) advice on finding an executive coach, visit 50topcoaches.com.

Then what? Well, go execute! (Oh and, by the way, Happy New Year!)

Print ed: 01/09


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