I recently heard a quote on the local news that indicated less than 10% of Americans who make New Year's resolutions actually keep them. What was even more surprising was, for those who make resolutions, the majority have given up on them by January 20. It takes less than one month to give up on what we set out to achieve on January 1st. The same holds true for our personal goals and career objectives we set in a given year. Most of us approach our new goals enthusiastically yet, within a short period of time, only about half of us are still focused on the end result. The rest have given up. When looking into WHY this happens, the answer typically comes down to how meaningful the resolution or goal is to the individual. People who set objectives and goals that are intrinsically meaningful and motivating to them are much more likely to be successful than those who make resolutions or set objectives based on what others think they should do. A few months ago, I heard a story of a man who was a longtime cigarette smoker and had repeatedly tried to quit (unsuccessfully). He knew smoking was bad for him, had heard all the statistics, and was a smart man so he understood that he needed to stop smoking. He also knew how bad it made him feel physically and all the awful things smoking cigarettes was doing to his body. Yet, despite repeated efforts, he could not successfully quit; that is, until the day his mother was about to pass away from lung cancer. He promised her he would quit smoking and after he made that promise to his dying mother, he was able to stop cold turkey. Why was he suddenly successful? Because his heart was finally in the game. Without his heart in it, he was not able to successfully quit, but as soon as there was internal meaning (which was driven by his promise to his mother), he was motivated and able to be successful. The same applies with goals and objectives for our career. A client of mine was struggling to get her MBA while working full-time in a high level position at a large corporation. Through some coaching, we discovered obtaining an advanced degree was not something meaningful or motivating to her, but had been set forth as a "professional development goal" by her manager. Although she knew it was important to have an advanced degree and was grateful her company was paying for it, at this stage in her life (in a high-level position with three young children at home), it was not meaningful or motivating to her. In fact, it was de-motivating and creating a lot of stress in her life. This is the type of situation where individuals are not successful in reaching their goals. We often have work-related objectives that we are not overly enthusiastic about, but we also have opportunities to create our own professional and career objectives. These are the ones we want to make sure are intrinsically motivating and have meaning to us. It is when our resolutions and objectives are meaningful, and our hearts are engaged with them that we are much more likely to succeed.
May 11, 2013