How to Not Give Up on Your Professional New Year’s Resolutions.

It should come as no surprise that 40% of people stop pursuing their New Year’s resolutions after January. And by the end of the year, only 10% of people ever feel like they are successful in fulfilling their resolutions. We seem destined to break our own promises to ourselves – but why?

Your brain is wired for survival, not success, and so it has a nasty habit of conserving energy by telling you that it’s safer not to try. Professional goals can be particularly sticky because they are more drawn out and strategic than losing a few pounds. However, being able to identify and disarm your mental roadblocks is the key to keeping your resolutions intact.

Here are three big ones – untruths your brain tells you to survive, not thrive. We’ve also provided the tools to disarm them so you can hopefully count yourself among the 10% at year’s end.

Roadblock #1 – “Real change happens overnight”

Instant gratification describes an emotional incentive to take the easiest reward, and often times it overrides the logical parts of our brain. When people are offered the choice of $10 today or $11 tomorrow, they more often choose the $10. However, when people are offered $10 in 365 days (one year) or $11 in 366 days (one year + one day), they more often choose the $11. The difference is subtle—a reward you can experience now triggers an emotional response, and logic goes out the window. But remove instant gratification from the equation, and your brain defaults to choosing the higher reward with a longer wait.

We crave instant gratification in our professional lives, too. Say you launch a new website and it doesn’t get clicks, or your rewards program doesn’t bring in return customers. If it’s not successful overnight, it feels like a failed project.

You have to remember that time itself is a resource, as important as money or effort. Expecting instant results is the same as not investing time in your projects, which is the same as slashing the budget or twiddling your thumbs. So before you axe that marketing campaign or quit updating your blog, first ask yourself, did I give this enough time?

Roadblock #2 – “Success is the opposite of failure”

More and more it feels like we are defining a culture of winners and losers, where one cannot be the other. It’s too easy to use that first failure as a justification for not trying again, but “making it” almost always means stumbling along the way. Blogs love writing about Steve Jobs as a paragon to be emulated, without ever discussing his track record of failures and mis-steps.

Allow me to offer some perspective. Outside the US, past failures are a scarlet letter for an entrepreneur. Investors and funding evaporate in the wake of a past failure, and the would-be innovator shoulders a heavy social penalty for having lost face. Attitudes like these are significant enough to stifle innovation across science and business within an entire country. Businessman and capitalist Nick Hanauer said in a recent TED Talk, “Many entrepreneurs thrive in the U.S., but in other countries they would be selling fruit by the side of the road.”

Success is not built on success. Success is built on failure. You need to be the curator of your own second chances.

Roadblock #3 – “Willpower is something you have or don’t have”

Sometimes we just don’t feel like we’re disciplined enough to get stuff done. You might judge yourself harshly for setbacks, or simply for being tired and needing rest, thinking that it’s something inherently wrong with you. This is all based on the misconception that willpower is a character trait, something you have or don’t have, rather than a resource that can be used up.

In a 1998 study (and subsequent research has backed this up), a group of people were subjected to the aroma of freshly baked cookies and then offered a choice of snack: a plate of cookies or a bowl of radishes. Half of the group chose cookies, the other half chose radishes. Then the group was asked to solve a complex puzzle. Those who refrained from eating cookies gave up on the puzzle after 8 minutes. However, those who ate the cookies continued working on the puzzle for 19 minutes, more than twice as long.

Because the cookie eaters hadn’t used up their willpower, they were able to spend more effort on the puzzle. Now I’m not advocating that you trade your dietary goals with your business goals, far from it. Your job is to appreciate your willpower as a depletable resource. Don’t set yourself up to face big challenges that requires lots of perseverance, one after the other. Give yourself time to recharge.

Three more resolutions

I wonder how many people include “my resolution is to keep my resolutions” on their list. Most of us expect our resolutions to fail, and that’s part of the problem. So in the spirit of actually getting stuff done in 2017, let’s add three more resolutions to your list:

  1. Give your projects time.
  2. Give yourself second chances.
  3. Give yourself rest.

The ultimate goal here is to build yourself a framework of resiliency. There is one final roadblock that we haven’t yet discussed: “Broken resolutions can’t be unbroken.” The truth is no resolution is truly dead, they’re just in a state of reprieve.


– The Setmore Team

What are some of your resolutions this year? Let us know in a comment below!

by Cassandra @ Setmore

Writer, editor and scheduling product expert at Setmore Appointments.

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