New Year’s is coming, and that means Resolutions.
The tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates back more than 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. Even then people were failing to turn intention into action.
Very few of the good intentions professed as a New Year’s Resolution will ever come to fruition. The goals are noble, but the choices are wrong.
For 2011, consider forgetting your typical resolutions and make this the year of better choices.
Why Choices Are Important
Choice determines focus, and focus drives action. Action repeated over time becomes habit, and habits determine our character. And as the philosopher Heraclites noted, “Character is destiny.”
Here are seven choices that will give you an edge in the new year:
1. Tell yourself the truth. Nothing ever changes until we tell ourselves the truth. Are you really overworked, or are you too unorganized to accomplish everything you need to do in the time allotted? Were you unfairly passed over for that promotion, or was the person hired actually a better candidate than you? Is the relationship with a family member bad because he/she is going through a phase, or might it have something to do with your choice not to spend time and openly communicate your concerns?
Telling the truth applies to companies as well. The reason no one is buying your product or service comes down to a few very simple possibilities: (a) your product or service stinks; (b) the price-to-value equation for your product or service is out of balance; (c) you are terrible at marketing, sales, and/or execution.
So which is it? Resolve to tell yourself the truth.
2. Focus your energy – make the main thing the main thing. I tell myself every year that I want to be a better golfer. But obviously, it isn’t really that important to me. Otherwise, I would dedicate more time to practice, budget money to pay for lessons, and actually play more rounds of golf.
I would like to be a better golfer the way that some people would like to run a marathon. The mental image of crossing the finish line is exhilarating. The commitment to training day after day is something altogether different.
That’s the way it is for most of us – we aren’t willing to focus our energy even after we tell ourselves the truth.
Our lives and our businesses are perfectly aligned to achieve the results we are achieving. Resolve to focus your energy on the main things. Everything else is secondary … and often a distraction.
3. Be too good to ignore. Charlie Rose asked Steve Martin about the secret to success: Martin’s response was a moment of pure genius that comes from decades of dedication: “The way you become a success is to be so good at what you do you become impossible to ignore.”
Yes, injustice exists and the world isn’t fair. We should all work to ensure justice for everyone, and in the meantime, control the things you can. Resolve to be, as Martin suggested, so good that you become impossible to ignore.
4. Be the partner you want others to be. Every accomplishment, from the most significant to the most mundane, occurs in the context of our relationships. In most cases, there is a direct correlation between the quality of our relationships and our results.
The secret to building better relationships is simple – be the partner you want others to be.
The relationship with your spouse will improve when you become a better spouse. The relationship with your boss will improve when you become a better employee.
Yes, some people are jerks and unworthy of a relationship. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate the arrangement.
Resolve to be a great partner and watch as your relationships flourish.
5. Learn something ever day. Leaders are learners. The ability to learn, grow, and adapt is the key to lasting success in every aspect of your life.
Books, seminars, and conferences are great, but why not begin with simply being aware of what’s happening in your daily routine and looking for opportunities to improve?
Resolve to learn something every day. You will be more effective today and better prepared for the future.
6. Be involved. The world is shaped and changed by those who participate. At the very least, educate yourself on the issues and vote. But beyond that, pick a cause about which you are passionate and be involved.
Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor in Germany during the 1930’s, eloquently stated the importance of being involved,
“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time, no one was left to speak up.”
Resolve to be involved in the decisions that affect us all.
7. Have the courage of accountability. You have limited or no control over the economy, the government, or even the behavior of others. You can only be accountable for your choices, actions, habits, and character.
And that is enough if you have the courage of accountability.
Resolve to stop blaming and start accepting responsibility. Resolve to stand up for the principles, issues, and relationships you value. Resolve to have the courage to say what needs to be said out of love, appreciation, and respect and not malice.
May your coming year be filled with the peace, prosperity, and results that come from making better choices.