Here it is the first week in January and we are being bombarded by ads on the telly, in magazines, newspapers, Facebook, etc., urging us to quit smoking, lose weight, get fit - BE A BETTER PERSON for goodness sake.
Wouldn't you think by now that people would just give up on setting New Year's Resolutions?
Granted, they have been going along in some form or another for centuries so they did have some genuine purpose at one time.
Now they seem to be primarily about punishing yourself with guilt because the impossible goals you set are unattainable for at least 88% of people who set Resolutions.
Most Resolutions centre around losing weight, stopping smoking, cutting down on the booze, getting fit - all very self-focused and not a lot about contributing beyond the self.
If you have already set a Resolution or two how about changing them right now to ones like smiling more, resolving a long-standing conflict, being kinder to the grumpy neighbour. All ones that do contribute beyond the self and connect with other people.
The thing about those self-improvement resolutions is that for most people, they represent big changes - big physical changes, big psychological changes, big emotional changes.
And big changes are just too hard to be sustainable for most people. Of course there are those who shrink during the diet of a lifetime, have healthier lungs because they've beaten the habit, have muscles that have muscles when they work out at the gym.
Just not most of us. Most of us charge full steam ahead on January 2nd, determined to stick to 'it' (what 'it' is) this time, only to fail either right away or about three to four weeks in. That's the average, because sustaining big change is hard.
The journey of a thousand miles may start with the first step, but it's usually step 10,023 that causes us to falter.
Small changes work better. Here's an example. Years ago my co-Director Robin would answer the phone and write messages on little pieces of paper that would then get lost. The 'normal' thing would have been to berate Robin for losing the pieces of paper and then to try to get him to be more organised. That would have been a hard change, a big change.
What those of us working with him suggested was that he have a brightly coloured large notebook that he could spot across the room when he was on the phone and write messages in the notebook.
Hey presto! That worked.
Fast forward quite a few years and I had the same problem with my husband - messages on little pieces of paper that just got eaten by the house. So I tried the large, brightly coloured notebook thing and that was a dismal flop; what worked for Robin most definitely didn't work for Fred. So I tried something else, which was to have stacks of large colourful post-it pads dotted around the house near the phones. He'd write a message, tear it off the pad and stick it on the kitchen table where they could be easily spotted.
Hey presto! That worked.
In each case, the solution was a small shift in what they did rather than expecting they would be able to sustain big shifts. Not only that, like all the work we do at Impact Factory, each solution was right for the individual, rather than one solution being right for both.
This is how we work: small changes tailored for each person.
So once again, if you've already set your New Year's Resolutions, make some new ones: small goals that once you achieve them will make you feel ever so much better. In addition, make sure that any you set are right for you and not simply doing what you think you ought to do.
By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory