Setting goals is a common practice for businesses and individuals alike.
Inside the workplace, revenue and performance targets, completion deadlines, and a variety of other objectives are commonplace to ensure accountability and focus. Similarly, as employees, we are often asked to set priorities for the upcoming quarter, season or year.
Outside the office, many of us start each year with our “New Year’s resolutions.” Perhaps we commit to a new workout routine, a change in eating and/or drinking habits, getting a new job, finding a date, or to just be a better person. The tradition dates back thousands of years, but are we any better at meeting these goals? According to a study published by the Economist, fewer than 10% of us keep our resolutions! And yet, we set them year after year - often only to laugh about how quickly we “forget” about them shortly after.
One of the most important things I’ve learned working with entrepreneurs and innovation leaders is the power of reflection and making adjustments based on what you learn from both successes and failures. This means questioning the status quo and not being afraid to change and try something new. One recent example is Facebook. The company recently announced a change to your newsfeed, testing a new idea to improve the customer experience. Whether you think it’s a good idea or not, they will learn from this and continue to make adjustments moving forward.
So, I have to ask… is there a better way to approach our New Year’s resolutions?
As much as the New Year is about setting new goals and looking ahead, the end of the year is often about reflecting on the past 12 months. Both are important, but often done separately. Like me, you’ve probably seen various posts and articles with titles like “The Year in Review” or “The Best of 2017.” But, it’s not enough to just write a list of accomplishments – though it might feel satisfying! The real value comes when you link that reflection with action.
Similarly, it’s not enough to make New Year’s Resolutions without looking at what you’ve learned or what you’ve tried in the past. What did or didn’t work last year? Why or why not? For example, take JetBlue. Their blog post “A look at What We Learned in 2017 and What’s Ahead” highlights 2018 goals informed by a reflection on what happened in 2017. It’s about connecting what you learned with what you are going to do next.
So, how does this impact your New Year’s resolutions? Instead of reflecting on 2017 and coming up with your “New Year’s resolutions” separately, try bringing them together. Here are some questions to consider:
- What did I accomplish in 2017? How?
- What didn’t work well (or at all!) in 2017? Why not?
- What did I learn?
Based on what I learned, what should I...
- stay focused on?
- change or stop doing?
- start doing differently?
Don’t be afraid to continuously reflect and adjust these goals as you go throughout 2018, and plan to revisit them every few weeks or months.
Recognizing success and accomplishments is important. It’s a critical strategy and, let’s be honest, it’s nice to give yourself a pat on the back sometimes! But, if you do that in a silo you may miss an opportunity to learn, improve, and achieve your goals. Don’t forget to include your challenges, where you failed, the lessons learned, and what you’re going to do about it in 2018.
Happy New “Learning” Year!