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Why your New Year’s Resolutions have already failed (for you and your business)

The Christmas and New Year break is always a reflective time. In amongst the festivities and fixtures, there’s a natural pause to take stock. This fresh perspective makes you wonder. Is your life turning out as you’d hoped? Is your business heading in the right direction? Do changes need to be made? So you set some resolutions and set off into January with a new sense of resolve.

Fast forward by a month, and this reflection is a distant memory. You’ve been swept into the maelstrom once again and are no further forward with your resolutions. Why does this always happen? From my own experience and that of my clients, here’s why I think New Year’s Resolutions fail.

    You don’t have a personal plan.

    I’ve yet to meet a successful CEO who doesn’t have a personal plan for their life. This is often inextricably linked to their business plan. There’s a mindset at play here. A way that they think about their business that’s tied up with their personal objectives. 

    So how about you? Do you have a life plan? We get all our clients to do a One-Page Personal Plan (OPPP) when they start working with us. This is designed to make you feel uncomfortable about where you are in your life. Are you healthy enough? Do you have the relationships you’d like? Are you as successful as you’d hoped you’d be by now? 

    I like to get clients to write their eulogies, thinking about the legacy they will be remembered for. A tricky exercise that forces people to be honest about what they want to achieve: then I help them set targets for ten or twenty-five years out. Once we have these, we work back to the next year and the next 90 days, setting personal objectives that will take them towards these goals.

    Your mindset needs to shift.

    Some of the things in the OPPP are around re-framing. I listened to a great story over Christmas about Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel Corporation, that illustrates this beautifully. In his well-regarded business book, ‘High Output Management,’ he talks about how Intel didn’t start making CPU chips. Initially, they were memory manufacturers. But he and his team realised they needed to make the switch. 

    So Andy and his number two agreed to walk out of the front door of their building. When they walked back in, they agreed that Intel would be a chip manufacturer. So many things in your life and your business are about switching your mindset. Re-framing and moving forward from that place. 

    Imagine you’re in the same position. What do you need to leave behind as you walk out of that theoretical front door? And what mindset will you inhabit when you step back in?

    You’re thinking incrementally instead of exponentially.

    There’s a new book out by Dan Sullivan that’s well worth a read. Entitled ‘10x is easier than 2x’, he talks about the power of exponential thinking. When you try to be incremental with your life or business goals, you can get easily bogged down with all of today’s realities. When clients have completed their OPPP, we say, ‘Great. So now you have a ten-year plan. But what do you need to do to get there in six months?’

    Instead of always looking at the next 12 months for your business plan, look at a three-year horizon. What will be the profit and turnover at that point? How many people will you employ? What customers will you serve, and what problems will you be fixing for them? Three years is sufficiently far away to avoid getting bogged down in what’s happening today. 

    Look into the future and imagine what that might look like. Then work back from that point to work out how to get there. By anchoring yourself in the future in this way, you can step back and look objectively at what needs to change in the immediate 90 days.

    You’re not being objective.

    Being objective is difficult when you’re carrying your own personal set of baggage. So unburden yourself of the things you know. What if you were replaced tomorrow? What would a new CEO do in the next 90 days? 

    Imagine that person unencumbered by all the things stopping you from doing what you know are important. Sure, these are things that you’re an expert in. But this new CEO would behave differently. Your expertise may well get in the way of delegation. Perhaps, it’s stopping you from hiring someone that’s better than you in that area. The new CEO may well see opportunities that are invisible to you because of your previous knowledge. 

    There’s no future state that you’re aiming for

    If you want to change, you need to be drawn towards something rather than away. This is why New Year’s Resolutions have such a poor success rate. They’re all focused on your past state rather than your future. Purpose is everything here.

    Your future state needs to excite you. Why? Because change is hard. It will take willpower and determination to get there; you need to want it! It’s like losing weight. If you tell yourself you want to lose 15 pounds, you’re unlikely to succeed. But if you’re drawn towards something that losing that weight will enable you to do, like playing football with your kids, you’re much more likely to get there. 

    80% of heart attack victims don’t change their diets even though they’ve been given advice and recommendations following the event. 80%! You’d think the threat of another heart attack would motivate them but no. 

    Purpose is in my mind when I’m interviewing candidates to work for my coaching business. I want to know if they genuinely think this job is a good fit for them. If I ask, ‘Do you think this role will suit you?’ they’re going to say, ‘Yes – I applied, didn’t I?’ So instead, I say, ‘Money is no object; what’s your perfect job?’

    They look at me and then realise I’m not trying to trip them up. I want to know what they would do if they had all the time and money in the world. What is their desire? Once they’ve told me, I say, ‘OK – how will this job get you there?’ They have an exciting future state that we can aim towards.

    You’re not time-blocking and establishing lasting habits.

    If you’re working towards a future state, you need to break it down into manageable chunks. And then, put these chunks in your diary. One of the questions I’ve been asking clients recently is, ‘Who are the 25 people that could most impact your business in the next 12 months?’ These can be people that they already know or have never met. The next question? ‘Have you put meetings with all of them in your diary?’ 

    If you were to meet 25 influential people and there are 52 weeks in a year, that’s roughly once a fortnight. If you think you need to speak to them more often, you need more diarised meetings. So what would you need to stop doing to make this happen? 

    We all get overwhelmed by the sheer amount we have to do. The key to any change is to break it down into small, manageable steps that collectively result in a shift. This is something suggested by James Clear in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ where he demonstrates how small, incremental, everyday routines compound into massive, positive change.

    So don’t tell yourself you’re going to the gym. Just put your gym gear in the car and make sure you drive past it on your way to work. Nine times out of ten, you will probably stop the car, get out and do your workout.

    Overcome the challenges stopping you from reaching your full potential. Learn more about...
    • NAVIGATING AND COMMUNICATING CHANGE
    • BUILDING COMPANY CULTURE
    • CHOOSING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES
    • ORGANISING YOUR A-TEAM

    Written by business growth coach Dominic Monkhouse. Find out more about his work here. Read his new book, ‘Mind Your F**king Business’ here.

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