Breaking old habits and adopting new ones is hard. 41% of people make new years resolutions, but only 9.2% of those people report that they were successful in achieving their resolutions.
The beginning of a new year is a chance for a fresh start. It’s a great time to take stock of where we are in life, how that compares to where or who we want to be, and to take steps to close that gap.
A powerful way to improve your chances of success is to transform the typical resolution into a vow.
The first step is to understand the difference between means and ends, or an underlying vow and a primary vow. The way to do this is by using the “why” test. For each new resolution, ask yourself why achieving it is important to you. This process will help to reveal any vows of greater significance that the initial resolution is actually a means of supporting.
Here’s just one possible example of how this could work:
· Resolution: to exceed my yearly sales targets by 10%
· I vow to increase my earnings
· I vow to be a better provider for my family
· I vow to cultivate overall well-being and to set a good example for my children
· I vow to have a positive influence on my family and community that will continue to expand through space and time.
The above example illustrates the difference between what the Cambridge psychologist Brian Little refers to as the trivial pursuit versus the magnificent obsession. It also highlights the difference between manageable vows and meaningful vows, and the dilemma of choosing between them.
The initial resolution meets the S.M.A.R.T. criteria of goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound)
But its potential power to change behavior is weak without explicitly being linked to a larger vow of greater emotional or even spiritual significance. While the initial resolution reflects a focus on an extrinsic reward, the larger vow to which it can contribute reflects more of an intrinsic reward. Overall well-being and life satisfaction have been linked to intrinsic sources of satisfaction.
And while a meaningful vow is more inspiring, it’s too lofty and vague on its own to help tackle the practical steps that are required to actually make it a reality.
So to increase your chances of success in reaching your goals this year:
1. Set both a magnificent obsession vow and S.M.A.R.T. resolutions that will support, and help to actualize it.
2. Review and recite your vow each day to energize your motivation to change.
3. Plan, implement and track specific steps and results that relate to your S.M.A.R.T. resolutions to make sure that you’re getting traction and momentum.
For those wishing to go deeper, I recommend reading Jan Chozen Bays, MD’s book The Vow Powered Life.