Why Resolutions Fail

The majority of New Year’s resolutions fail for the same reason that so many businesses do – because people let their strategy limit their vision.

Here’s a simple example. Jeremy determines what he will do for his vacation based on the fact that he has only $500 and can’t take more than a week off. This seems very realistic, however it will likely limit Jeremy to futon-surfing around Whistler at friend’s houses. If, on the other hand, Jeremy first spends some time thinking about the kind of vacation he really wants to take without any consideration of his current resources, he might identify that his dream vacation would be a month spent cycling around Europe. If Jeremy is focused only on his strategies (i.e. his current available time and money) he has limited options. If he identifies his ideal vision, he can then identify the financial and time resources he needs and create strategies for achieving them. This might mean that he stays in town for a few long weekends to put in some extra hours at work and sets aside a bit of money from each paycheque to finance his trip, but ultimately having his dream vacation will be much more fulfilling than many little futon-surfing compromise vacations.

The same principle applies in business. We were hired by a textile manufacturing client a few years back to help with their annual strategic planning. They had revenues of about $7 million annually and had grown about 12% each year over the last 5 years. Their strategic planning for the coming year was focused on ensuring another 12% growth. We shook things up by asking not only what their company would need to look like to double or triple their revenues in the next three years but also what it would need to look like to be a place that they were excited to work in. By the end of the day not only did they have concrete realistic strategies in place to grow the company to $30 million, they were crystal clear on where they current bottlenecks to their growth were and how to address them.

Many people would argue that keeping your dreams realistic means you more likely to achieve them. Research shows that the opposite tends to be true. The smaller and more realistic the goals, the easier it is to put off working towards them. Big goals with ambitious deadlines spark people to begin taking action immediately and motivate them to keep moving forward consistently over the long term.

In some cases it may take a bit of time to come up with workable strategies for achieving big dreams, but often it doesn’t take extra time – just the ability to harness some extra creativity. The good news is that when the dream you are working towards is truly compelling, you are more likely to persevere until the creative strategic insight occurs and persist long enough to overcome any barriers that might get in the way of discovering and executing these strategies.

As you are setting your goals for 2013, I encourage you to set aside your strategic limitations and allow yourself to imagine what you really want. Remember that when you allow strategy to follow vision – not the other way around – you will amaze yourself and everyone around you with your accomplishments in the coming year!

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