new years resolution

A Working Father’s Formula For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

By David Mizne

Life as I once knew it is now over.

Oh it’s not as terrible as it sounds. Veteran parents will scare the newly initiated with horror stories of dirty diapers and sleepless nights (all of which are true). But those challenges are coupled with a renewed sense of purpose and a whole lot of love and cuteness.

Despite the new constraints on my time, I am still far more productive than I have ever been. How did I do this? I have restructured my life by setting daily goals that include time for self care, rejuvenation, and personal development (and bath time, baby massage…etc…)

Below is my formula for not only making it through the next 365 days, but for thriving through (almost) every one of them. Even if you don’t have young children, these principles for self review and improvement are incredibly valuable for accomplishing your goals and finding balance this next year.

Start by going within…

Set an intention (the resolution part comes later)

If you look up the etymology of the word intention, it has roots in Old French, Latin, and Middle English. Intention was birthed from concepts like mind, will, desire, heart, and purpose.

What does your heart desire most this year? Your emotional connection to your future best self and the motivations behind the transformation you are undertaking are the necessary foundations of successful action. Several weeks from now when you start to make excuses for keeping your commitments, reconnecting with the outcome you deeply desire can renew your determination.

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Consider the phrase, his heart just wasn’t in it, a comment that is likely a reaction to person who performed mediocre work, or gave up on their commitments. Those individuals who consistently contribute something valuable and live up to their commitments do so because they feel inspired, open-hearted, and on purpose.

It turns out that following your heart and your will towards purpose has measurable impacts. According to renowned financial advisor Oliver Pursche, purpose-driven companies are smart investments. He cited this research from the EY Bacon Institute: “Purpose-led brands are more successful in acquiring and retaining customers. This may make intuitive sense, but it is also backed up by behavioral science: people buy things that make them feel good about themselves. And people do business with those they trust.”

Trust. That takes us to the next part of the formula…

Develop your personal integrity

Personal integrity is based on one principle – do what you say you will do. All too often in business we say yes to things because we feel pressured by others or because we feel that we need to contribute to the team’s efforts. We want to be seen as “dependable”, but it’s importance to learn how to say no.

Practice saying no to choices that deplete you or are a waste of time, and practice  saying yes to choices that are in service to you becoming your highest self. Now here’s the catch. Once you say yes, breaking that commitment can quickly deteriorate your character.

“Without being a man or woman of integrity you can forget about being a leader. And, being a person of integrity is a never‑ending endeavor. Being a person of integrity is a mountain with no top – you have to learn to love the climb.”

~ Werner Erhard

The easy path is to lie to yourself and others, but that is the path to failure. Learn to be impeccable with your word. That necessarily comes with speaking many more no‘s.

According to 15Five CEO, David Hassell, “a lukewarm ‘yes’ can hurt more than a polite, but firm ‘no’ — saying it and hearing it. A hurried acceptance of a project will likely lead to a hurried execution. A refusal of a project or task allows for a reevaluation of priorities.”

As a new father, for the first time in my life, I have responsibility that I can’t walk away from. When my child needs to be rocked to sleep for an hour, I hold her despite the ache in my back or shoulders. The principle of this must be done, I have learned to apply to other areas of my life such as my professional commitments.

This experience has changed what I say “yes” to and what I say “no” to. I can now count my priorities on one hand; 1) my family, 2) my work, 3) my health, 4) my novel, and 5) my community. Those are the things I say “yes” to, and everything else is a firm but polite, “no”.

Now it’s time for new year’s resolutions

In contrast to setting new year’s intentions, the heart of transformation, new year’s resolutions are more about the science. The etymology of resolution is Old French for “breaking into parts” which comes from the Latin for “process of reducing things into simpler forms”. Alright then, let’s break this down.

1) Set realistic goals. I would love for this to be the year I finally learn carpentry, but I don’t have any of the equipment, no room for a shop, I work full time, and have a 2 month old.  Unless my desire is incredibly powerful here, I should probably consider setting a different goal.

This also includes being realistic with your schedule. There are ways to find more time in your day, which involves trimming the fat and setting priorities. But if you aren’t honest about what you can accomplish in a day, you are setting your self up to fail.

2) Break up your goals into smaller ones. Author and entrepreneur James Clear advocates for starting with incredibly small actions and building consistency. James advises using the 2-Minute Rule to get started with setting goals and following the Seinfeld Strategy to maintain consistency.

According to James, these small actions are small votes for the identity you are adopting. Are you the type of person who never misses a workout? Prove it!

3) Find an accountability buddy.  It can be hard to hold yourself accountable. Even those of us who try to honor our word at all costs, can fail. That’s why integrity is a mountain with no top. According to Werner Erhard, everyone fails to keep their word at one time or another. It’s how we take responsibility and clean up our messes that matters.

Don’t underestimate the leverage of social pressure to keep us responsible and accountable. (Note: Social pressure is not the same as shame, which is to be avoided. See #4 below.) For better goal management, start an email thread with 1-3 people and have everyone check in every day or every week about their progress. Encourage successes and failures with equal fervor.

4) Plan your recovery plan. We all drop the ball on our new year’s resolutions. What happened afterwards? How did you feel?

It’s often the shame or guilt we feel that creates a downward spiral and we soon give up altogether. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t let yourself off the hook either. If you really need a cheat day on your diet, take it. It’s alright to skip a class because of overwhelm or unexpected circumstance. Take it easy on the self-judgment, return to the deep desire, remember your word, and get back to it!

5) Start today. Whether you are reading this post at the end of December or in early March, it’s never too late or too early to begin the process of transformation. January 1 seems like the best time for setting goals, but that date is as arbitrary as any other. We imbue it with the power to create transformation because it’s technically Day One, but day one doesn’t even have to have any 1’s in it.

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago (if you’re into that sort of thing). The second best time is right now… or as soon as I finish changing this diaper.

David Mizne is Content Manager at 15Five, lightweight performance management software that includes continuous feedback, objective (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and reviews. David’s articles on talent management have appeared in The Next Web, TalentCulture, and Follow him @davidmizne.

Image Credit: Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

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