New Year Resolutions or Every Day Rituals?
New Year is the time when people make strong, fearless resolutions, determined to change their lives for the better. It’s when we all decide to become stronger, fitter, healthier, more organised, kinder, more sensitive and, well, more like the people we want to be. It’s also when many people finally decide to get engaged, tie the knot, or in some cases, finally get that divorce rolling.
Rituals and MOTs
Of course, it’s important to have the ritual of New Year to remind us about the importance of checking in on ourselves, as well as the fact that without an end to the year, life would be just one continuous trek up a very steep hill!
Any sort of personal ritual can act a bit like an MOT (Irish: NCT) – a writing down of what needs doing in order to be where we want to be, or give the performance that we want to give. A ritual can also be a symbolic burning of what no longer serves us and can free us up to put all of our energy into what really matters.
Just like a car or motorcycle, all individuals and all companies need this self-check from time to time in order to function effectively. Without it, we may suddenly find that we’re wearing ourselves into the ground, that something needs changing and we haven’t done it, and perhaps we’re not living the life we planned, nor managing processes as they need to be managed.
In many ways, though, it’s a shame that we wait for the MOT/NCT date to come around before we start planning to make such necessary changes in our lives or our businesses. If only every day were as symbolic as the New Year, perhaps our lives would be less chaotic, more harmonious and more conducive to our ultimate goals.
It is perhaps this build-up and waiting for symbolic times, dates and reminders, that makes our resolutions to ourselves so grandiose and so destined for failure. If we don’t say it now, then will we say it at all?! I’ve seen countless ‘new year bucket lists’ on Facebook in 2017, as well as hearing things like ‘it’s the year I’m getting pregnant,’ ‘I’m planning on turning over 100k this year,’ ‘it’s the year I visit such a place,’ ‘it’s our last chance to be successful,’ ‘I’m going to lose 3 stone,’ ‘I’ll finally get my dream job,’ or ‘I’m finally going to buy a house in the country and move up north!’
In 2013, Dan Diamond from Forbes told us that only 8% of people achieve their NY resolutions, due to both the number and the extreme nature of the resolutions they set. I would add to this that the reason so many resolutions fail is that they consist of great, huge promises that really could be re-framed as simple everyday changes.
Results Hidden in Simplicity
Back to the MOT. Something big and expensive might need changing in the car in order for it to pass the legal test. But it’s the way we drive the car every day that has the most impact on what is going to need changing. If we’re accelerating then hammering on the brakes every two minutes, or driving with the handbrake on, it’s going to have an effect!
If we want this year to turn over a decent profit, then we need to change our everyday habits to make that happen. If we want this year to see better working relationships within our organisation, then we need to start creating better relationships ourselves (as well as with ourselves!), and if we want to lose weight, then we need to change our diet long term in a way that suits us and will make us happy in the long run, instead of depriving ourselves for two weeks only to put the weight back on a month later!
Individuals are not unique in creating rituals that don’t serve us in the long run. Rituals can also be observed in companies who, for example, ‘use up’ all of their market research or marketing budget at the end of the accounting year on ‘any old focus groups’ (usually calling it something different!) or those who only get things in order when an audit happens, or when a new manager is arriving!
Obviously, these actions do serve the company in many ways, but what if market research were used optimally throughout the year to create real lasting change? Or if procedures were smooth throughout the year and the right people immediately knew how to answer auditors, all of the time?
Creating Rituals, Every Day
The secret to success is in the everyday habits, rituals and relationships that you create for yourself or your company. Make this year a successful one, by creating daily habits that serve you in the long run, instead of grandiose resolutions that may be setting you up for failure.