About Those Resolutions

By: Jeff Cowart, MAH | jcowart@barlowmccarthy.com

The beginning of a new year, the launch of a new goal, a significant change in direction – all of these are opportunities for reflection on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Usually, this reflection is accompanied by resolutions, declarations of new direction, and a burst of new energy.

Too often, however, this process quickly devolves into disruption at the hands of the mundane, the heavy tug of the status quo, and the loss of traction toward our new goals. Then the malaise and disappointment of failure starts to hover and nag.

Why is this cycle so familiar? The truth is, the cycle has nothing to do with our good intentions nor our self-worth. More often, it relates to the artificiality of the catalyst that prompted us to make the resolutions or the declarations in the first place.

True change is not driven by something framed up as a resolution just because the calendar happens to be about to roll over to a new year. To be successful, change must be rooted in pragmatic deliberation, intent that is driven by longer-term strategic vision, and commitment that can be sustained beyond the constructs of cultural moments or pressures of perception.

There is nothing inherently wrong with using year-end or other circumstances to spark reflection on the need for true change.

As John Kotter, one of the most thoughtful leaders in achieving positive change, writes: “the problem is complacency. With complacency, no matter what people say, if you look at what they do, it is clear that they are mostly content with the status quo.” He also faults false urgency where there is “lots of energy around activity that is less focused on winning and more driven by pressure that creates anxiety and even anger.” Kotter concludes that only “true urgency is driven by a deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing.”

So, the individual who wants to create true change – personally or organizationally – must set goals that are grounded by a deep determination to advance. Moments in time, reflection, a crisis, or anything can serve as a catalyst for true change as long as the action moves beyond the catalyst itself and into the realm of sustained achievement, built on a foundation of resolve rather than the anxiety of losing.

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