A Thought Psychology of New Beginnings Context: New Year’s Resolution
“97 percent of us don't set goals. However, the three percent of us who do set goals are more successful than the 97 percent who don't! The lessons of life tell us that if you want to be successful, you should set goals.” - Dick Zalack
It is a global trend. Many are doing it. And many do it every 365 days. Why do we have personalized New Year’s Resolution? Why do we set goals in the beginning of every single new year? Is the new beginning of an era a point of a “second-wind”? Why do we set goals in the beginning of new stages? Is “accomplishing” highly linked with “newness”? Are we not satisfied with where we are in our lives? Are not satisfied with the things we have? Are we individuals who are constantly seeking to challenge ourselves? Are we individuals who tend to seek change to be happy? These questions and topics have crowded my thoughts in the past few weeks; and I imagine further exploring and sharing my thoughts on this has potential to be helpful.
Let’s first establish the meaning of “resolution.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language puts it this way:
“A firm decision to do something; firm determination; a course of action determined or decided on.”
Don’t you love the clarity this definition brings to light? Thus, applying the definition to the concept of New Year’s Resolution, we have something like this: “I have firmly decided to ‘grow my skills and talents’ as a course of action for this new year of 2017.” There is an entire strategy on how to accomplish this course of action, or any course of action as a matter of fact. However, understanding the nature of the why we make New Year’s Resolutions seems to be the next deeper layer.
To understand the “why” of things is to understand the “how” of things. Once you understand the “how” of things, you can be more conscious of the entire process, which in turn will allow you to have a higher chance of success than you would have in the first place. Thus, understanding the “why” we have a personalized New Year’s Resolution list, we first need to understand the process that takes us to the point of making that list. With this in mind, we shall then explore the questions from the first paragraph backwards.
Are we individuals who tend to seek change to be happy?
Change is highly, and if not primarily, influenced by one’s current situation in a given environment. If we are not happy or satisfied with our environment or situation, we’ll start thinking, planning, and sometimes even acting on it so it is changed. If you sense that you have exhausted your job, learning all that you needed to learn, provided as much help and expertise as you could have, and have been stuck in the same position for 3 years, it is likely that you will seek a change. Will you look for another position within your department, company, or industry? The chances are, especially if you are a millennial, that you will look and act for that change to take place. By changing jobs, companies, or industries, you will be thus changing your environment, giving you the satisfaction that has been absent from your life in regards to your career.
Change is less needed and perceived when you are happy and satisfied with your current situation and environment. If your outsourced marketing team is providing you, month after month, with record numbers of traffic, leads, and clients, will you fire the team and hire another marketing team? It seems to be a fair statement that if you are satisfied, no change will take place.
Sometimes, however, change is sought after when we simply want more. I want to change careers because “x” career pays more. I want to get my MBA because I want to expand my knowledge in the business world. I want to volunteer because I want to make a bigger impact in my community. Wanting more will change your current situation, and many times your environment. If you change careers, if you get your MBA, and if you volunteer, change will come and reveal itself in all sorts of ways.
Are we individuals who are constantly seeking to challenge ourselves?
Growth seems to be a constant topic all around us. At our jobs, we need to produce better results as the weeks pass by. The imposition from our companies on ensuring we continue to grow professionally through professional development opportunities are eloquently enforced on us. At home, we are constantly challenged to develop our skills on being better listeners, spouses, parents, or even human beings. We seem to be pressured to get better every single day from every angle of our lives. Thus, consciously or subconsciously, we are primed, prone to, and induced to challenge ourselves.
Besides, challenging ourselves to grow can have several positive results. We become better at our skill and expertise. We become more efficient and effective in our processes. We get more validation and praise from those around us. Because of all of these positive results, we stay motivated to keep pushing to get better. Naturally, we have this innate drive to overcome. When we overcome something, it gives us a sense of accomplishment. When others see our accomplishment, they will praise us for it. That praise makes us feel good; thus we keep pushing to get better and better.
Are we not satisfied with where we are in our lives?
If you are a human being, the chances are that your answer to this question is, “No, I am not satisfied with ‘x’ part of my life.” Optimists will say, “I am mostly satisfied with where I am in life, but I do see an importance in focusing more on ‘x’ part of my life.” No matter which one you are, you are still not satisfied with something in your life. It could be in your personal or your professional life.
From coaching clients, friends, and even family members, I’ve learned that there is always one major topic we are not satisfied with in our personal lives. “I am not happy with my relationship”; “I wish I could find a better way for my child to finance college”; “I have slowly been less interested in my career”; “I cannot retain my employees”; “I am very disorganized”; “I find it hard to be an effective and personable leader”; these examples are indicative of dissatisfaction.
Although our personal lives are the drivers for the things we do and pursue, we spend ⅓ (and some even ⅔) of our precious time on our professional lives. “I am not making as much money as I am worth/need”; “I am not being challenged at work”; “My boss still has not offered me a leadership position”; “I feel like I am not making an impact in this company”; “I wish my company had a better culture”; these questions clearly indicate our dissatisfaction.
Given the high probability that we are not satisfied with where we are in our lives, whether personally or professionally (or both), should we not make it a priority to make the proper changes? How much longer are you willing to be unhappy, depressed, and unaccomplished?
Is “accomplishing” highly linked with “newness”?
Although I do not think that in order to accomplish something the concept of “newness” and freshness need to play a role simultaneously, I do believe that the idea of a “fresh start” has major positive psychological implications on the individual. As an example, think back to your first job in your career. Let’s say your job title was Sales Representative. After two years of hard work, you were promoted to Sales Manager. Fast forward three more years, because things are now getting old and jaded, you were now looking for a Sales Manager position with another company. After your three interviews, you got the job! You were extremely enthused and more than ready to give it your best. But wait a minute, you were still a Sales Manager. Why in the world were you feeling so different from your previous job? Well, the concept of a “newness” is present and you want to outperform.
To retain its highly talented and ambitious 39,000+ employees, Eli Lilly and Company understood and applied the linkage between “accomplishing” and “newness.” I have several friends working for this company, and I noticed that every 2-3 years they accept a new position within the company. For the individual, he/she gets a new challenge, a new work environment (although likely still in the same complex), a new leadership, and a new overall experience. For the company, they get to retain their talent while discovering their potential within other areas of the company, saving Eli Lilly and Company billions of dollars on an annual basis on recruiting and training new employees.
Why do we have personalized New Year’s Resolution and Why do we set goals in the beginning of new stages?
The answer is simply that we want to be better, accomplish more, and be happier. Generally, we set goals as New Year’s Resolution and in the beginning of new stages because we want to increase our knowledge, increase our level of expertise on given skills, better communicate with our spouses, children, families, and colleagues, be healthier, be a better person all-around. We want to be more valued at work. We want to know that we make a positive impact in the lives of those around us and in the communities that we live in. All of these points and more are the drivers of why we set goals.
Your turn. Are we individuals who tend to seek change to be happy? Are we individuals who are constantly seeking to challenge ourselves? Are we not satisfied with where we are in our lives? Is “accomplishing” highly linked with “newness”? Why do we have personalized New Year’s Resolution? Why do we set goals in the beginning of every single new year and Why do we set goals in the beginning of new stages?
The simple reality is that if your very essence (you as a human being) is naturally constantly developing and growing, should it also not be your conscious decision to continue grow in all areas of your life? Understanding the why will facilitate and optimize an efficient and effective start of a New Year. It’s up to you to making a difference in your own life and those around you.
Happy New Year and may this one be your best yet!
What other thoughts would you add to this post? I am interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the Author
Mike Sprowl is becoming the most sought after Readiness & Flourishing Coach and Consultant in the coaching community. He is famous for helping clients find a direction, implement personalized pathways, and facilitate flourishing and growth so that their lives are meaningful and purposeful without being negative.