The beginning of a new year seems like the right time to reflect on where we are at this stage of our life and where we are headed. Many people use this time of year to make course corrections as it relates to health, career, family/friends, and financial security. It is estimated that around 40 percent of Americans make these corrections in the form of New Year’s resolutions.
It would be great if the reason the other 60 percent didn’t make New Year’s resolutions is because they had goals they were tracking and tweaking on a regular basis. The sad reality is that many people act like a nail that is constantly being pounded on and impacted by other forces rather than the hammer that impacts those around them. They reach the end of their career and wonder why they didn’t live up to their dreams and expectations.
The good news is that we have an option — we can choose to be either the hammer or the nail.
New Year’s Resolutions come in many shapes, sizes and forms. People vow to stop smoking, lose weight, make more money, spend more time with family and friends. Sound familiar?
According to research cited by Forbes magazine, 92 percent of the people who make New Year’s Resolutions will fail to meet them. Even more amazing, 25 percent of people will drop the goal after the first week and less than 50 percent will make it six months.
Part of the problem is that people are too focused on the “what” or the “how” of their specific goals and not the “why.”
In Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why,” he shares that in organizations everyone knows “what” they do; they know “how” they do it, yet few people know “why” they do it. He argues that if you look at companies with long term success, they tend to be focused on “why” they do what they do. For example, Apple challenges the status quo and makes cool products (the “why”), they happen to make computers and phones (“what” and “how”).
When you look at individuals who are successful, the same logic applies. For example, a smoker could say, “I want to stop smoking because I want to be a good role model for my kids and be able to play with my future grandchildren.” Creating a vision of playing with the grandkids becomes a powerful image that drives us forward and commits us to the “what” and “how.”
As we begin looking at 2018, let’s start with a clear picture of what is important to us, why we do what we do, how we are going to accomplish these goals, and what it is that we are doing. For example, if a person wants to increase their income, their goal might be making 10 percent more money per year. That is the “what.” Instead, they should focus on the “why,” which could be finding financial freedom, having three months of living expenses in the bank, thus reducing the stress of living hand to mouth.
The “why” in this case goes beyond one single measurement and requires the person to consider income, expenses and perhaps even money management skills.
Health is another example. Often, people will make goals that state a specific weight-loss amount like 25 pounds. The reality is that they could create a plan that would cause them to lose weight, but they could actually become unhealthier in the process. Drugs, malnutrition and severing appendages would all reduce a person’s weight. The real goal is becoming a healthier person and the “why” might be to see their kids get married and give them grandchildren, to enjoy traveling or to live a long life where they are healthy enough to accomplish the activities that make them happy.
Michael Altshuler once said, “The bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.” We are in charge of our destination.
As we begin 2018, I urge us all to consider what is most important to us and figure out the “whys” of our life. Why is money important? Why is health important? Why are family and friends important? Let’s figure out where we are headed, and pilot our lives in a way that leads to success, however we define it.
–Peter Johnson is the Director of both the Westgate Center for Leadership Development and the Institute for Family Business in the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific. He welcomes your feedback at [email protected] or (209) 946-3912.