This time of year, we all want to see ourselves become better versions of ourselves.
We want to lose weight, connect more, lay off the drinking, go to sleep earlier, be a better boss – all with the goal of becoming a better “me”.
But with 80% of New Year’s Resolutions failing before mid-February, that New Me bit usually doesn’t last very long. We just can’t seem to make a change really stick.
We’ve tried accountability, but that only lasts as long as the other person’s will power.
We’ve tried making our goals visual, but that only lasts until you forget to track your activity so many days in a row – until you forget the goal altogether.
We’ve tried so many strategies to reinforce New Year’s Resolutions that the trend now is to forget Resolutions altogether, and go with “theme words”. Well, those fail, too.
The truth is that humans are not like computers or our phones, where we change one of the default settings and *poof* it’s automatically and forever different.
Changing our human default settings is an arduous process that takes dauntless focus.
Strategy 1: Keep the trigger, change the response
To change a default setting – which is what most of our New Year’s Resolutions or “Words of the Year” point to – we have to think through how our new default, our resolution, our one word theme will be brought into action in the contexts where we want change the most.
For example, I really want to commit to eating none of my allergy foods, but I’m allergic to several very common foods. My default setting at our favorite Mexican food restaurant is to gorge myself on chips and salsa.
But one of the foods I should not eat is tomatoes – which is the basis of restaurant salsa. The default trigger for me gorging on chips and salsa is the waitress plunking down a bowl of salsa and a basket of chips. My husband enjoys chips and salsa, so asking to not have them is off the table, so to speak…see what I did there?
So the real question is how to I think of the traditional salsa & chip plunking as a trigger for a different action?
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.Viktor Frankl
So if the stimulus is the chips & salsa plunking, and my default response is eating it all until they bring me some more, then can that become a trigger that signals that I need to use some space to choose a different response?
Here are some ideas for new-default responses that I want to try:
- I drink my glass of water plus a refill before I eat any chips & salsa
- I ask my table mates an interesting question and wait for a different topic to come up before I eat any chips & salsa
- I recite all the reasons & motivations I have for not eating the chips & salsa
Strategy 2: Plan, Prepare and have a Backup
Another example from my current work life involves changing the way I show up in meetings. I have a default tendency to work right up until the minute I need to leave for the meeting. Usually, this means I show up a little underprepared and tend to get taken off guard with what my colleagues want and need from me.
The result is that I get flustered, and that usually shows up with my voice getting higher and louder, and talking with my hands to the point of flapping around aimlessly – along with a long list of follow-ups to deliver things we already have developed, I just wasn’t prepared to bring those ideas to that particular meeting. This happens most when I’m meeting with people up my chain of command, not necessarily with my team.
So the real question is how I plan and prepare for meetings to get a different result.
- If I were to add some buffer time between that last work task and the meeting, I could prepare and plan.
- I could get into the right mindset for that meeting.
- I could show up the way I want to (which does not include shrill vocal responses and a lot of flapping).
- I could anticipate what questions and demands would surface, and proactively gather documentation and practice my responses to those questions.
Strategy 3: Reflect on the Journey
The third strategy to change the default setting on our human experiences in a way that leads to lasting change is reflection on success and failures.
Next time we go to a restaurant and I try one of the three chips & salsa strategies, I need to reflect on the level of success I had with those strategies once I get back in the car to head home. I need to celebrate success, and analyze the failures.
Too many times, one failure triggers a response of “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Let’s remember that the first time you were exposed to 7×8=56, you probably didn’t have that on lockdown. It took multiple exposures, multiple tests, multiple ways of using that fact before it became solid, reinforced, concrete.
I know that even with that multiplication fact, I have to double check myself – and I was math teacher for several years!
So give yourself some credit for trying and let the momentum of the try fuel your reflective analysis of what did work.
Figure out what does work for you.
The One failure you had doesn’t mean you will always fail – it means you failed this time.
With my meeting buffer strategy, I need to plan buffer time before to plan & prepare, and reflective time after to evaluate the success and failure of the meeting. I know that I won’t get it 100% right the first time.
And somehow, just knowing that helps me see these changes as a journey, not as a toggled state of being where “success” or “failure” are my only two options.
There is a gray area between those two extremes.
It’s called growth.
If you’re looking to grow unlock your team’s capacity using strategies that let the natural strengths of your team bubble up to the surface so you can leverage them to impact your bottom line, I have created a special workshop experience just for you and your team. Complete the web form here to let me know you are interested.