December 26, 2020
The last few days of the calendar year can be an interesting time. For me, it’s a soul-searching space where the past 365 days and the next year intersect. There’s a wide range of feelings and emotions that circle these critical crossroads.
All the reminiscing, reflecting, and regretting might anchor one down if it weren’t simultaneously uplifted by the potential that next year might be better. Hope brightens the horizon. The past that you can’t change is only overcome by a future that you believe you can. Last year’s lessons learned inform even more meaningful, viable paths forward. That’s valuable.
Then, like a weight lifted off the shoulders, a new year begins. New starting lines emerge. What was once resolved to do has now come to be.
Making Resolutions Last
I’ve heard it said that the average New Year’s resolution only lasts about three weeks. By about January 20ish, things are “back to normal.” Why don’t our most sincere, heartfelt resolutions stand the test of time?
I believe New Year’s resolutions don’t last because they’re:
- Too general. You can’t improve what you can’t measure.
- Too idealistic. No personalization, no commitment.
- Too big. The longest journey begins with one step.
I believe New Year’s resoltions can last if they’re:
- Extremely specific and specifically measurable.
- Differentiated by you, for you.
- Segmented with small win opportunities.
This year, I’m really focusing on that last one–small wins. Although a lot has been documented on this theory, I might never have believed it if I didn’t see it first-hand, myself.
Small Win Opportunities
One shelter-in-place, silver lining for me has been having a lot more family time over the last ten months. On Labor Day, an Easter Egg Hunt with our two-year-old grew into more than I could have imagined.
What started out as one, mid-morning round of hiding-and-seeking Easter Eggs grew into NINE more rounds of hunting.
“Daddy! Hide ‘Em! Hide ‘Em Again!” was the theme of the day.
Why was Easter Egg hunting so much fun for him? Surely, he would tire of it all after this round, or the next round, right? And what about his attention span? I mean, how could one two-year-old stick to a game that was seemingly so repetitive, and for so long?
Foraging for Feedback
While Easter Egg hunting with our two-year-old son most of the day, I was reminded of this theory about small wins, again. Here were some things I noticed, wondered, and tried:
- Out of 25 eggs, hide a few in plain sight. Finding the first few eggs with little effort will build confidence in the process.
- When I walk to one side of the yard, he follows me. Therefore…
- Once the hunt begins, say nothing. Stay out of his way. Let him own it.
- As the hunt progresses, pay attention to all the verbals and nonverbals. What is he communicating about his progress so far?
- Be present in the moment so that you can ebb and flow with him.
- When he asks for help, differentiate feedback at the appropriate level:
- Too easy? That minimizes his ownership, challenge, and opportunity to win and be better than last time.
- Too hard? That minimizes his interest, confidence, efficacy, and likelihood that he’ll want to continue the game, go another round, or strive for the next level.
- Don’t point him in the right direction. Strategically scaffold support with challenging clues that will help him find his own way.
- In the trying times, encourage him with varying phrases, actions, and support. What does he need in these moments?
- In successful times, praise him in order to specifically reinforce the positive behaviors you want to see repeated, to boost his confidence, to make him smile, and… to celebrate every small win along the way.
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
I think it’d be super helpful if they’re specific, measureable, and personalized. I’m striving to craft mine with several small win opportunities. Yet, I’m most excited about planning my small win celebrations. Will they be once a month? Once a week? Daily?
For even the smallest win in a long journey, how will you celebrate? Maybe that’s where planning New Year’s resolutions should begin.