The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
-Saint Bernard of Clairvaux-
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley.
It has been about two weeks since the sun arrived at its southernmost reach over the Tropic of Capricorn and headed back our way. Hail the return of the light! Not far behind came January 1, 2016. Unlike the lunar years in many cultures, the Gregorian calendar gives us an arbitrary starting point for another journey around the sun and brings with it the annual rite of the New Year’s resolution.
Webster tells us that a resolution is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. Decisions are great, but actions speak louder than words and New Year’s resolutions are notorious for not achieving the desired outcome, typically behavior change of some sort. Why is that? The answer lies in the extent to which we are successful in forging effective correspondence between statement and action. Resolutions are statements of intention and intentions are aims and plans (schemes).
In crafting resolutions we’d like to see become reality, we can turn to the IEP process for guidance. A goal on an IEP is the New Year’s resolution… Sounds good, but how are you going to get there? The IEP breaks down each goal into operational objectives (the step-by-step increments of behavior change to reach the goal) and also articulates the actual conditions that need to be in place for behavior change (AKA learning). Consider the ubiquitous New Year’s resolution/goal: “I’m going to lose weight in 2016”. If that’s really going to happen, you’ll need objectives to meet: pounds per week/month. You’ll also need articulation of how to get there: count and document calories, exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a minimum of four times per week, walk by the refrigerator instead of opening it between meals and scheduled snacks… moreover, document these procedures so you can self correct when you are not meeting your objectives (pounds per week/month).
By all means, make a resolution, but be also prepared to do the necessary support work to make it happen. Will power is an illusion; it is only actualized through action, accountability and reinforcement. In the wise words of Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try”.