January 9, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions are generally defined as a tradition in which a person sets goals for self-improvement or good service for the next year. Sounds all noble and fine, right? And yet, one university study suggests that of the roughly 45% of people who set resolutions, only 8% succeed. Interestingly, most cite “unrealistic expectations” as the reason for failure.

Let’s be candid with ourselves about these messy New Year’s Resolutions. We are too busy to make lists of resolutions and invest the time it requires to check them all off by December. Or, we are overwhelmed and immobilized by the audaciousness of our goals. And possibly – if we’re being honest with ourselves – we are unfocused or undisciplined regarding the true effort necessary for success. Quite literally, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

However, not all hope is lost; perhaps a change in perspective is in order. What if it were less about lists of things we resolve to do over the next 12 months and more about one thing – just one thing – we wanted to accomplish? What if we were to invest our focus, preparation, diligence, time, money, and effort into making that one thing happen? Our rate of success would likely improve dramatically.

It appears there may be historical precedence for making one resolution:

  • The ancient Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.
  • In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Current business thought leaders show us the value of this type of focus. Verne Harnish (owner of Gazelles, Inc., founder of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization and best-selling author) says “make the main thing, THE main thing.” Jack Welch, when working with his Executive MBA faculty in the Jack Welch Management Institute, remains consistently focused on “what will make the student experience in the classroom more useful for them in their places of work?” He never loses sight of this focus and is diligent in bringing others back to this one important value.

Last year, I shifted my own perspective on New Year’s Resolutions and set just one goal – to publish. It worked for me. This year, I have decided on a new goal worthy of my efforts – to play. Not solely, but to remain steadfast in seizing opportunities to experience more fun and travel, even while working. Perhaps this is my yin-and-yang… this year balancing out last year. I have every expectation I will be successful.

Good luck as you find YOUR main thing.