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Leadership Skills: How to Keep Resolutions You Desire

It is especially frustrating after deciding to change a behavior to find yourself violating your own decision.

Suppose, for example, you’ve decided to stop using the words “right” and “wrong” — substituting them instead with “works” and “doesn’t work.”

Now, what do you do if you slip and use the word “right” or “wrong?” Do you get upset with yourself? Do you blow it off? Do you even notice?

What I’ve noticed about resolutions is that we often give them up if they are hard to follow, not because we want to give them up.

We have a very strong human need to be internally consistent. It’s more consistent to maintain the habit and give up the resolution than it is to act inconsistently by maintaining both the old behavior and the resolution.

So what we need is a consistent response to habitual behavior that will support us in making the transition from the old behavior to the new one.

4 Tips That Will Help You Stick With New Resolutions

1. Catch yourself engaging in the old behavior. When you decide to change a behavior, realize that the behavior is imbedded in all your mental models, scripts, and muscle memory. Your old behavior will likely show up even though you are committed to changing it. So the first step is to become aware of exhibiting the old habit as soon as possible anytime you engage in it.

2. Forgive yourself. Hopefully, this is self-explanatory. However, we often have such high expectations of ourselves and become frustrated with our own lack of perfection. Just today I heard the story of life-long over-achiever who committed suicide, probably because he hadn’t lived up to his own expectations of achievement. Self-forgiveness might have saved his life, and it can save yours.

This is where the “consistency principle” kicks in. If we can forgive ourselves instead for our imperfection and inconsistency, we can continue to give the change a chance.

3. Correct your path. As soon as possible, demonstrate the resolved behavior.

4. Vow to catch yourself sooner. This is the potent part of the process. All you have to do to ensure that you eventually change from your old habit to your resolved way of being is catch yourself engaging in the old habit sooner each time. The sooner you catch yourself, the faster you forgive and correct. This way, you never have to worry about the old behavior continuing to show up. Instead, you can be certain that it eventually will disappear.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Stretch

Consider an important resolution that you made and gave up on or are having some trouble following. Take greater responsibility and apply the resolution process by starting right now with Step No. 2 (forgive yourself).

Write and tell us about your resolution and how you intend to apply this process in a comment!

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

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3 Responses to Leadership Skills: How to Keep Resolutions You Desire

  1. Great stuff Christopher, especially the point about forgiving ourselves. Solid scientific research backs you up here. When we beat ourselves up for our little failures, it leads to more failure. See the “what the hell” effect for fascinating studies of people eating more candy because they beat themselves up for eating some candy, for example.

    Forgiveness–of ourselves and others–brings more happiness, which brings better brain function and success.

    Keep up the wise work. 🙂

  2. christopher says:

    Thanks Scott. I appreciate you backing me up. And it is fun that brain science is adding to the enourmous social science literature.

    My own conclusion is based on my 20+ years studying the Responsibility Process. I’ve watched success guru after success guru tell people to “hold themselves accountable” when they miss their goals. That usually means some sort of self-punishment, and that sends us to Shame on the Responsibility Process. Only forgiving oneself for falling short of ones intentions can allow for the acceptance of Responsibility and the awareness, learning, and change available from that mindset.

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