The New Year symbolizes a new beginning. Even though nothing has actually changed: Thursday follows Wednesday just as in any other week. But the New Year can motivate each of us to make needed changes in our lives. Without this perceived change we would lack that motivation.
New Year’s resolutions date back to Roman times, when vows were made to the god Janus (January’s namesake) to be kinder to others, in return for success in the coming year. I am not aware of how well this worked. Some say the origin of making New Year’s resolutions rests with the Babylonians, who reportedly made promises to the gods in hopes they’d earn good favor in the coming year. They often resolved to get out of debt (sound familiar?).
In America, the Puritans encouraged their children to skip the parties and spend their time reflecting on the old year and contemplating the new year. Like the Romans, the resolutions were mostly of a moral nature. This habit became engrained in American tradition, particularly the Protestant ethic, and survives to this day. However, the nature of the resolutions has changed over the years.
I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. The general attitude is that they are made just to be broken, and what’s the sense in that? In January, the gyms are full for a few weeks, then the crowds taper off. In like manner, the restaurants with good salad bars are also crowded in January. People desire to make the desired changes, but lack the willpower to continue once the original motivation fades.
My habit has been to set goals around my birthday each year (another somewhat arbitrary change that we measure) and review and revise them at New Years. That has worked best for me.
I recently ran across a blog post from Chris Taylor, entitled Planning to Plan. Chris has successfully used his “Annual Planning Review” for a number of years. You can link to it through his post, which you will find at http://www.actionablebooks.com/en-ca/blog/planning-to-plan/ . I feel that this is one of the best descriptions I have seen on how to set goals for personal improvement. And it applies to business and other goals as well.
Chris breaks the process down into three steps: 1) Reflect; 2) Visualize; and 3) Plan. Then he discusses the “what” and “why” of each step.
Of course, this requires some time: ideally some quiet time. That isn’t always easy to find. But look at it this way: every investment has a cost; that cannot be avoided. Setting goals is an investment in yourself. With the investment of a little time on a regular basis, you can put yourself on the path to achieving your goals and dreams. And when you reevaluate, you can make sure you are still on the right path.
Stephen Covey’s seventh habit is Sharpening the Saw. He explained that as we renew ourselves, we create growth and change in our lives, and increase our capacity to cope with the challenges that confront us. So skip a bowl game and do something will provide a greater benefit to you. Honestly, six months from now will it make a difference that you watched the Cheapo Depot Consolation Bowl and Half-Time Show on January 2nd?
As a leader, your greatest asset is you. If you won’t invest in yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. Make time for self-evaluation and self-improvement. It doesn’t matter when you reflect, visualize, and plan; what matters is that you do it consistently.