Updated: Dec 3, 2021
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A fascinating study of the top 10 Most Commonly Broken New Years goals reveals that 5, yes half, are directly related to work(!) and how your work balances against our life. As you begin to scrutinize these frequently-failed Resolutions just a bit deeper, you can start to feel in your gut. . .that the other 5 are related to WorkLife as well!! We won't be going into those here, today, but take a look towards the end. Do any surprise you? If you're in the office in 2021, how do you deal?? How does anyone! You could be dodging it or praying it away, but, for the moment, we’re not going into why it is that people run or freeze when confronted with a challenge, rather than focus and fight. When you consider the amount of evidence that points to the modern (pre-pandemic, even) workplace being an unhealthy gathering place for anyone involved, and review the documented response that our body and brain have towards some of these conditions, it's clear that the baggage is coming home with you.
Our spotlight for today, however, is on 5 commonly failed Resolutions, and action steps that anyone can take to either triage last year's res, or, to brace for and prepare to counter in 2022. So let's begin to examine each of the fails, look deeper into the "WHY" behind these breaking down (no surprise, they’re all related!) and lay out deliverables that YOU CAN COMPLETE to take you towards success of completing your 2022 New Year's Resolution.
#1 Learning something new
For me, a life-long learner/student, to see that one of the top 10 that people fail at is literally to try or learn something new, is an absolute heartbreaker. I hold as a fundamental truth that you can learn your way out of almost anything, any circumstance or condition, as long as you can honestly accept where you are, why you are there and what steps you need to move forward. I believe that the "plastic: part of our brains, that we observe in use in children most often (language, games, etc.) is always latent! So why do we stop ourselves from learning something new?? If it's because of lack of time taken by the demands of your small business or corporate position, work can be a leading factor. Further adding up, it can be because we’ll feel silly (silly isn’t exactly accurate terminology, it’s just a child-like association with "awkward," which is what we feel when we’re learning and stepping out of our comfort zone!). Final reasons include not being willing to invest in ourselves, unsure of how to gauge the return/ROI, or feeling like a failure (to whom?), and number among key reasons why we don’t go learn something new. Microgoal - find what your company will pay for, or has in the virtual learning queue. If you're the owner, calculate how many more customers you'd be able to serve with a new skill, and multiply by your rate.
#2 Get out of debt and save money
Most of what we spend discretionary cash on. . .unfortunately amounts to an escape from something, escapes which have varying costs associated with them as all habits do (healthy or otherwise). Like saving money, getting out of debt would be far simpler if not for the choices that we have to make to actually do it. Saving money and debt both require changing the mental mind-frame, perhaps our relationship with money (what does it cause you to feel?) and require finding alternatives and substitutes for those meaningless items or experiences, combined with good old fashioned discipline. Hard work? This notion is interesting because saving is actually a passive activity! Passive activities should never be conflated as hard work, as this would result in a very privileged viewpoint and could cause confusion. Fortunately, this Resolution is simple to accomplish when our reward system is reframed to reinforce the right behaviors around living simply, well within our means. We recommend a 30 – 50% of income savings rate, as well as ownership and investment to grow generational wealth. Microgoal - instead of trying to save an extra hundred bucks each pay period, try $20 for starters and grow it from there.
#3 Spend more time with family
I recently heard on a YouTube video by Jon Acuff that Americans spend on average 34 hours in front of media, so think TV as well as mobile devices, tablets, games, etc. This amounts to a full work week spent - maybe with family maybe not – accomplishing absolutely nothing. Safe to say this kind of time spent is NOT memorable, either, meaning that even if all 34 hours were spent in proximity of family, the simple fact that you’re not engaging each other, combined with the Groundhog Day effect, both result in that you do not get the sense that you’ve spent time with them.
It’s implied that we’re talking about quality time here, but any time will do, in some extreme cases, to satisfy this resolution. So what actually takes us away from family (outside of the 30 – 40 hours spent on Netflix or Hulu anyway)? Dedication to work via overdeveloped sense of obligation, rather than taking ownership. Want proof? If you're AT work right now, ask yourself this - the thing you’re supposed to be doing instead of reading this blog – will it actually materially contribute to your company’s bottom line? Does it reduce risk, expand your customer base (is it part of an actual acquisition plan) or increase client or employee satisfaction? If it doesn’t fall into one of those buckets, unfortunately for you if you’re being asked to pick it up, it is definitely taking time away from your family which can breed resentment or failed relationships. You know you're putting in more than is necessary to accomplish the task, so ask yourself, does this have long-term return value to my career and therefore my family, or am I just doing things the way I've always done them, refusing to change or do the difficult work to simplify my role? Your next step is clear based on how you answer. Microgoal #1: calendarize your next 6 Date Nights. Microgoal #2: write down the part of the job you know you spend too much time doing and address how you'll change it tomorrow morning.
#4 Travel to new places
Travel is a fascinating topic because we ask: are we running from something or to something? Maybe neither. . .the experience of being somewhere you've only ever dreamed about is intoxicating, and under some circumstances can be the best experience of your life. True, some life-altering trips are difficult today with Covid, but no one should be denied something they've responsibly planned for that commemorates a passage of life (honeymoon, special anniversary, spreading of ashes, etc.) if you can still do it safely. No matter your reward motivator, travel requires a few things that the average person isn’t well cut out for, and can be difficult to see through to the end, resulting in a failed Resolution. Examples of derailers include difficulty with prior planning (a lot of it is needed in some cases), being willing to learn something new (see #1), having to save money or get out of debt (see #2), and have to be able to pack your kids and work with your spouse on what could be some high tension moments before you reach the (beach, theme park, casino, museum) and so forth (see #3!). For entrepreneurs - managing your client book, your social media funnel and staying on task with delivering each day can be a drain on planning exotic travel. Plus, who'll take over when your gone? You're as likely to give up as executives and mid-managers who are working hard rather than smart in their roles. Travel is more about the management of 1) time, 2) resources and 3) vision to create an experience and memories than just about any Resolution outside of spending time with family. Microgoals - set aside $50 extra bucks a check, take out a travel credit card, and put your Dream Destination up on your Vision Board.
Pause before we get to #5 – what do the above have in common? If you think you detected a whisper in your heart, that the denominator is nothing other than, our relationship with work and how we balance out our life, you are correct. All of these 5 particular Resolutions, unfortunately, break down shortly after the holiday season is over and reality of the kids going back to school puts us back on the grind. Trust me on this one - denial that you can't accomplish all your vacation plans, amongst other things, runs straight through President’s day! Want proof? Everyone I know that’s been to Disneyland recently has gone in February!
#5 Be less stressed
This Resolution is as common as they come. Regarding stress, just face it - some parts of the role you’re in, you will never master. You can be average at them, you might even be good, but nonetheless read on and don't get discouraged. Because the faster you accept this undeniable truth, the more you are able to do right now to account for your blind spots and learn how to keep an eye on them. Remember busy is not productive. Microgoal - Pareto principle applies here - identify the 20% of activities that bring you 80% of your max productivity goal. Following these steps ensures that you'll improve the return on the investments your making (in your top salesperson or by streamlining to trim back, etc.), while stopping your hair from graying and getting you a longer night's sleep.
Are you only ever working on closing your skill gaps? That’s great if you chose them! But if your boss did and you don’t agree you have some tough decisions to make, because you're stressing yourself out trying to figure out how to be a different person which by the way is not possible. FYI your manager is probably right about your top opportunities (unless you work for an emotional waffle or an agenda-driven narcissist. . .they most likely have the job you want because they've learned something you haven't - it'll come, hang in there) but unless you're open to feedback, you won’t realize it for yet another 5 years. Flip this on it's head - why do you continuously not invest in maximizing your strengths, to ensure you’re putting yourself in positions to crush it, especially during the high leverage moments that your job is affording you right now? Pick up a strategic skill (Negotiating Certificate, Programming Language, what about Excel for crying out loud). What a way to de-stress your life, so you can leave more at work while taking home less, and falling in love again with the person you need to become to crush your job!
Resolutions 7 - 10 are, in no particular order: Drink less, Quit smoking, Eat healthier and diet, and Lose weight and get fit. What brings these on? If any of the root causes of these Resolutions have accelerated since you accepted your current role, then it stands to reason you could need to address that, however, today’s post will not be accomplishing that. Comment below if you'd appreciate an article about how to change your Work Life with a Personal Wellness angle!
Seems like we left one out, right? It's semantics. . .philosophy really. . .if you're passionate about volunteering, there's nothing that's going to stand in you way of doing it - we already learned that, with the "missing" 34 hours each week disturbingly devoted to media. Passion is like water and it finds it's level. Nonetheless, the last of the 10 Most Commonly Broken New Year's Resolutions, is to Volunteer. So, is your 9 – 5 keeping you from being able to move the giving economy forward with your volunteerism, or any other of the most commonly broken Resolutions?
Let’s examine your time away from work – is that time allowing you connect with your family, any higher power you recognize and daydream to the point you’re imagining new memories you want to create? If your time away from your primary work role is essentially the 36 hours between the end of your Saturday schedule and Monday, you likely aren’t going to feel confident about tackling a New Year's Resolution to ring in 2022.
How to overcome the stacked odds against your 2022 resolution? Microgoals. Microgoals are exactly what they sound like the are, only way less hokey and optimistically inspire you to believe in the power of compound improvement. What you need is a resolution, only this year, a Resolution with smalls steps in front of the next, to guide you closer and closer to your endpoint. A microgoal is something you can accomplish at the moment you end this sentence. A microgoal is writing one page a day of the book you want to write, or one mile a day of the marathon you want to run. It's great if you think you don't need them! You may not today, but you may have to at some point when the novelty of you Resolution has worn off and the objective is simply to get out of bed an hour earlier - start with 15 minutes instead.
- Matt Holmes