Resolve to Make Resolutions That Get Results

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Gary Izumo is an instructor in the Moorpark College business department and has managed his own consulting practice. He is a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and practice leader for the strategic management consulting practice of Price Waterhouse

The Dow breaks 6,500. Interest and unemployment rates are at their lowest in years. Southern Californians finally dare to believe the recession is over.

These are some events, among many others, that we might be contemplating as 1996 comes to an end. As we celebrate the holidays with family, friends and colleagues, it is a good time to reflect upon our experiences and accomplishments of the past but also to look forward to a new year. This is also a time for resolutions.

Many of us make those new year's resolutions, but most of us aren't very good at keeping them. We tell ourselves that we will be more organized, but we aren't specific as to what this means. We say that we are going to lose weight, but we are overambitious as to the amount. We want to start saving, but we don't say when we will start or how we will measure our progress.

Does this sound familiar? Well, here are seven ideas that could help you keep your '97 resolutions.

First, a good resolution is relevant. Success in achieving a new year's promise requires a personal commitment that we want to keep so we'll be willing to make the effort required to accomplish it. With this internally driven motivation, we gain satisfaction from progress toward our resolution.

A resolution motivated by other people's expectations is a resolution that is not going to be kept. We need the inner drive, the conviction that will carry us through the inevitable difficult times. A relevant resolution creates motivation and commitment.

Second, a good resolution is specific and measurable. Compare these two resolutions: "I will improve my performance at work" versus "I will increase my monthly sales by 10% while maintaining at least a 90% customer satisfaction rating." The general nature of the first resolution makes it difficult to know what to do or when progress has been made. The second resolution is clear and focused. We will know when progress is made or the goal attained.

Third, a good resolution is put in writing. We clarify our thinking and our commitment through writing. Put the resolutions where you will see them every day, perhaps in the front of your pocket calendar. By writing down your resolutions, they are no longer just ideas or words. They become tangible. They become tools for your use and support.

Fourth, a good resolution has a definite beginning and an end. We all procrastinate, so getting started is perhaps the biggest challenge. By establishing a completion date along with our Jan. 1 starting date, we create a reason to begin, a sense of urgency for our resolutions.


Defining a first step, an initial activity that can be accomplished in a short time, also helps. For example, a simple first step for a resolution related to understanding the Internet could be accepting an invitation to a management training class on learning new Internet applications. By establishing start and end dates as well as a first step, we can overcome our resolution inertia.

Fifth, a good resolution is attainable--that is, realistic in terms of your ability to achieve the targeted result in the established time frame. When goals are created that are too difficult, we become frustrated, demotivated, and we stop trying.

Think about how crazy we'd get if we tried to change numerous old habits by resolving to do all of the following at once: being on time, increasing work output by 20%, saving 10% of our income, getting a 10% return on investments, spending more time with family and friends, taking a class to learn about the Internet, improving our diet and exercising more to lose weight.

Habits take time and effort to develop and they take as much time to break. As you develop resolutions, take into account the effort required and how many resolutions make sense to add to your list of personal and work challenges.

Sixth, a good resolution is periodically reviewed. Revisit your commitment. As time passes, we tend to forget about the meaning of the resolution. When that happens, we lose our enthusiasm to expend the effort on our resolutions and we stop.

Set time aside. Reflect on your choices and think about why you established a particular resolution, the excitement you felt when you created it or the anticipated satisfaction you imagined for achieving it. This will help sustain your commitment.

Seventh, establish professional as well as personal resolutions for 1997. As you do that, think about how your professional resolutions fit with departmental and organizational goals. For example, you might consider defining a resolution that recognizes your role in contributing to a positive company culture, or enhancing your skills in managing upward, or one that improves your team-building capabilities.

Think of 1997 as a fresh start. Your resolutions can help you make the most of this year and better your progress toward longer-term goals. So here's a cheer for success. Best wishes for a joy-filled and meaningful 1997!

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