New Year’s Resolutions… some insights from coaching

Repeated surveys reveal different aspects of self-improvement to be amongst the most popular resolutions: exercise more; lose weight; get organized; learn a new skill; save more; change my job. All these are changes are within our direct control but interestingly need time and commitment to make a difference.

A fair amount of anecdotal commentary however, suggests that anything between 50% and 80% of our collective resolutions never get fulfilled raising the question why we bother at all. An article in the Journal of Clinical Psychology[1] though gives some cause for hope. Six months into the year, the researchers compared two groups, one of people with explicit new year resolutions and another of people with an interest in changing a problem but no explicit resolution to do so. Almost half of those with resolutions were still achieving by June, but only 4% of the ‘nonresolvers’ reported progress.

Thus it seems while there’s no guarantee of success, if it’s important, finding ways to get back on track is well worth a try.

So, to that Google search! Advice is plentiful, some of it useful but a surprising amount in the form of admonition: “No self monitoring”; “lack of planning”; “poor self discipline”; “you don’t believe in yourself”. A list of wider shortcomings is not exactly the encouragement or support that I could do with at this stage! Having read what’s out there I’m not surprised that much of the advice about how to keep resolutions doesn’t actually work.

Insights from coaching though can help, whether you’re looking to keep a resolution on track or at any other time, seeking support to make a significant change.

Coaching at its core is non-judgmental; it keeps the ‘shoulds’ in check and instead says ‘ok, let’s take a step back, breathe, reflect and re-group’. A coaching approach is all about unlocking a person’s potential and helping to build self-belief. It’s also about being trusted, taking a learning mindset to mistakes and looking for options to navigate risks and hurdles. At its heart coaching offers a positive and optimistic way to develop and change.

Here are some tips to self-coach your way to being a successful new year ‘resolver’. The questions are useful not just for January but at any point when you need to shift gear but are not sure how or what to do:

Start with some reflection, find time to think and if possible with someone to listen:

  • What’s gone well so far?
  • What’s gone less well?
  • What can I learn from my experience at this stage?
  • What realities have I encountered that perhaps I hadn’t envisaged?
  • What options do I have and what adjustments do I want to make to adapt to the shift in circumstances?

If you’re not clear on your goals:

  • What do I really want to achieve?
  • What barriers are in the way?
  • What can I do to break down my goal into smaller chunks?
  • What am I prepared to give up to reach my objectives?

And if you’re feeling really stuck, reflecting on these questions can often help:

  • Can you think of a time in the past when you started, faltered and got back on your feet? What did you personally do then that you could possibly draw on now to help?
  • On a scale of 1–10, where are you right now with your aspiration? What underlies your assessment, both the surplus and the deficit?
  • If you took only one step to move forward on the scale, what would it be?
  • What advice would you give a friend in your situation?
  • If you could imagine yourself a year from now having made real progress, what message would you give yourself now so early on in the year?

Goethe’s words seem particularly apt for a new year and a new decade: “Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it” — good luck to everyone with those resolutions!

[1] Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year’s Resolvers and Nonresolvers. John C Norcross; Marci S Mrykalo & Matthew D Blagys in Journal of Clinical Psychology 58(4) 397–405 April 2002

Praesta Partners LLP is a team of experienced senior executives offering bespoke executive coaching & consulting services to boards and professionals worldwide.

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Praesta Partners LLP

Praesta Partners LLP

Praesta Partners LLP is a team of experienced senior executives offering bespoke executive coaching & consulting services to boards and professionals worldwide.

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