As the calendar turns to March, most of us are in a pretty good groove for 2019. We’ve stopped accidentally writing 2018 on checks and other documents, and we’ve got a set direction for the year.
For some, this is a very good thing: they’ve effectively looked at the changes they needed to make at the beginning of the year, and made adjustments to help them reach their 2019 goals and beyond.
For others, it’s not so positive: instead of cementing the good habits they talked about in January, they’ve fallen back into old cycles of behavior.
If you find yourself in the latter group, you’re certainly not alone. By February and March, most gyms are back to ghost towns, and most companies have abandoned their noble changes and initiatives. Sure, the poster for the big new initiative is still on the wall, but the facility has moved on.
So, why is it so hard to keep these changes? The simple answer to this, that I can attest to personally, is that change is generally uncomfortable.
For me, I’ve run my company, and my recruiting desk, with more or less the same mindset for 22 years. This year, I’m working to change that and become a more efficient and effective leader, but the change hasn’t come easy. It’s been very natural, at times, to slide back into old, familiar habits.
The reality, though, is that resolutions and changes are made at the beginning of the year for a reason: uncomfortable or not, companies and employees have to find a way to stick with them. If they don’t, the result at some companies can be disastrous, and if it’s just one employee that has failed to get on board with positive change, that can lead to a good, long-term employee losing their job.
So, what tricks do I use to stay on the path and make my positive changes permanent? Here are a few things I try:
1. Tell Everyone About the Changes You’re Making.
If you share your goal with everyone, it adds a certain level of accountability, and shame if you should fail to reach your goal. Now, I’m not one that is easily shamed, it’s just not in my wiring, but if I know that my team was counting on me to make a change, and I’ve let them down? That gets my attention.
So, when I roll out a new change, I try to tell each member of my company what we’re doing differently, and why, and then we all hold each other accountable to these new goals and changes.
While we have lots of positive reinforcement in our office for when we do things right, we also have a pretty funny way of holding ourselves accountable: a traffic cone that says “CONE OF SHAME” in giant letters.
When a member of the team fails to complete a protocol or system correctly, my Director of Operations puts the Cone of Shame on their desk for a little while. It’s a funny, well-intended reminder that we all need to be accurate with our paperwork and protocols.
And this system works for us: we don’t have people making the same mistakes on paperwork and whatnot over and over again. No one wants the dreaded Cone of Shame to make an appearance in their part of the office, but everyone loves the cookies and other fun stuff we get delivered when everyone is successfully pulling the same direction.
Pavlov would be proud.
2. Make a Plan.
This step shouldn’t surprise anyone; it’s a pretty common theme across my newsletters. Giving yourself protocols and systems to reach your goal, and turn even the smallest changes into long-lasting habits, makes life much easier.
For example, our company has instituted new paperwork protocols for some of our most basic functions, one of which is setting up interviews between our clients and candidates. This change was a hard one for me, because I’ve been doing interview slips basically the same way since I started the company in 1996.
So, with the help of my team, I made cards with step-by-step directions for each interview. I won’t need the cards forever, eventually it’ll become a habit, but these cards make sure that I don’t miss any of the steps as the process until then. It’s uncomfortable, but the more I follow the cards, the easier it becomes.
These two tricks help me turn resolutions and goals into habits and reality.
However, at the end of the day, you have to want to make the change.
If you’re trying to make changes for someone else, but have no internal drive to do so, you’re never going to be successful. As corny as it is, real change starts from within.
So, if you’re struggling to hold on to your 2019 resolutions and goals at the end of February, it’s time to ask yourself: is this something I really want?
If not, what is it you actually want to achieve? If it is what you want, maybe give these two steps a try to keep yourself accountable.