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  • Writer's pictureIvan Yong Wei Kit

What I Have Learned from 10 Years of Making New Year’s Resolution

2020 marked the end of a decade and for me 10 years of making and failing at keeping New Year’s Resolution. Needless to say, I,like most of us who makes the effort to come up with New Year’s resolution did it with the utmost sincerity of keeping them. But how spectacularly have we failed these attempts time and again, unlike the swing of the pendulum; strong in the beginning, dull in the middle and with last minute effort to end strongly.

Yet, we still sit down on New Year’s Day, every year without fail, making these resolutions, hoping that this round we can keep them or at least more than half of them. The same sentiment applies to me but for this year I have resolved to find a way to keep my resolution once and for all.

An opportunity had fell on my lap without my knowing. I have with me a record of 10 years of New Year’s Resolution and as I glean through them, I began to see a pattern emerging; there are some resolutions which I kept repeating year after year but still failed to keep them but there are those which I managed to achieve either in the same year or the year after.

The engineer in me begin to look for the root cause for this new phenomenon. That question which stayed with me throughout the holiday period was,

”What was the differentiating factor between those two sets of resolutions? What are the elements in those resolutions which I had managed to keep and can I repeat them ?”

New Year’s Resolution I Failed to Keep

I have in the past 10 years, drafted resolutions based on the advices that I read in most of the motivational and self-help book. The format are usually what is known as S.M.A.R.T. Goals. For the uninitiated SMART stands for;

S-Specific M -Measureable A- Achievable R-Realistic T- Timely

So most of my goals would look like this;

“Develop 5 new clients with a combined revenue of X amount by June 201X”

“Pass the Japanese Level N3 by December 201X”

If you had postulated that these are the goals that I have no problem achieving then you have put your money in the wrong corner. These are the gaols which I had failed and failed again to keep throughout the year.

There is nothing wrong with those goal and they meet all the criteria of a SMART goal. Technically, these are the goals that would prompt you to action to achieve your goals.

In fact, this is the same type of resolution set by President John F. Kennedy before a joint session of Congress in May 25, 1961.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. (Space, 2019)

Then for the curious you, why we can’t keep goals like that in our resolution. What then were the resolutions that I managed to keep?

The Hidden Gems

Now before I go into details about the hidden gems that I have somehow managed to achieve, I would like to highlight the concept of finding your “why” to motivate you to achieve your goals. This is widely written and is accepted quite universally in psychological motivational theories that it would motivate one to achieve his goals if he knows what the expected reward would be; his “why”. One such theory is the Expectancy Theory.

“Expectancy Theory proposes that people will choose how to behave depending on the outcomes they expect as a result of their behaviour. In other words, we decide what to do based on what we expect the outcome to be. At work, it might be that we work longer hours because we expect a pay rise.” (Contactzilla, 2019)

In the statement above, the pay would be the workers “why” and it’s highly individualistic. Finding one’s why would definitely increase the chance of achieving one’s resolution but that did not work for me either.

Surely, that must be it, you might have thrown your arms up into the air by now. I assure you when I looked back to those 10 years of resolution writings, it still misses one final piece of puzzle.

The puzzle which completes the grand picture of a victorious army marching into a captured prized city. is the question ‘Who?”

President John F. Kennedy answered the “who” in his speech as well.

“Now it is time to take longer strides — time for a great new American enterprise — time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.” (Space, 2019)

President Kennedy’s “who” for the goal to put a man on the moon was the individual American’s at that time and for the future to come. To give them hope and lead them to a new era of achievement, putting America in the front again. The rest was history as Astronaut Neil Armstrong went to the moon and came back. NASA is now the leading authority in space travel and the Americans such as Jeff Bezos are attempting bigger feat in space.

My successful goals were not as lofty as that of President Kennedy but shared the common trait of specifying the who. I would like to share two of them here;

To finish writing and publish “The Department of Startup. Why Every Fortune 500 Should Have One” with a publisher by December 2018 so as a gift to my wife for believing in me.

I, until the publication of the book, never had a blog or written for any columns, what more a book. However, my wife was so confident of the idea in my head and my writing that she cajoled, charmed, pushed, and pull me to get it started. The book was written within the stipulated time, 35,000 words, and published by Business Expert Press, New York. I couldn’t be more grateful.

To learn conversational Korean by December 20XX so that I am able to watch Korean Dramas without the distracting subtitles.

A fan of the Korean dramas, I always felt I did little justice to the great acting as I am almost always half distracted by the need to read those subtitles. In this resolution, the “who” is no other than my future self who would then be able to watch the Korean drama in peace.

Lastly, if you had guessed that I had achieved the resolution which involved another person (my wife in this case) much faster than the second one which is about my future self; you have hit the home run.

Somehow, when I turned my resolution to a promise to someone, I held myself accountable to that person. And it intrinsically motivated me to wake up early every day for 6 months at 5 a.m. to write 300 words a day.

With that I bid you the best of luck in your 2020 New Year’s Resolution.

Originally published on Millennial Leadership

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