Resolutions, No. Planning and Objectives, Yes.

Christian Knutson | Comments | December 26, 2012

It seems appropriate as we near the start of a new year for me to post about resolutions.  At this time every year many highlight the resolution, or resolutions, that they’ll embark on come 1 January.  We view the resolutions as a line in the sand intended to change or improve some aspect of our life.  For many the resolution regards diet or exercise; for others a career-focused resolution.  The theory behind the resolution effort is great, however, only about 8% of those who embark on a new path in the New Year actually achieve their goal.

In any profession, those leading do not embark on an endeavor if there’s a 92% chance of failing.  One can’t imagine Eisenhower choosing to go ahead with the Normandy invasion if he and his staff knew they had only an 8% chance of success.   And one can’t contemplate NASA, and the engineers behind the Apollo program, sending men into space if they knew there was a 92% chance of catastrophic failure.  To increase the odds of success in these, and every endeavor, the odds of success were increased through planning and by having objectives.

Increasing the Odds:  Planning + Objectives

In both examples above, the odds of success were increased through two specific actions:  detailed planning and established objectives.  These two ingredients are all that’s necessary for changing a resolution from having a slight chance of success, to a fact.   Yet apparently most people don’t invest the time at the front end to plan how they’ll achieve their resolutions, accepting failure as the default mode.  Not good.

To make your resolution’s a foregone conclusion:

1.  Define Your Resolution in 8-Words or Less.  Being general about your resolution isn’t good enough.  You need to be clear about what it is you seek and state this concisely.  I suggest distilling this down to 8 words or less as this cuts out all fluff.

2.  Apply the S.M.A.R.T. Rules of Engagement to Define Your Resolution.  Make your resolutions Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  Talking about any goal in general terms or picking one that is completely unachievable is the quickest way to failure.  Ensure you apply each specific step of this acronym to your resolution concept, and answer each step honestly.

3.  Commit Your Resolution to Writing.  Re-write your resolution statement and the answers to S.M.A.R.T. in a notebook or on a piece of paper you carry with you constantly.  The fact of carrying the words with you every place you go serves as a reminder that you have an objective that must be achieved.  Even if you don’t look at the writing every day and see only the paper, you will be reminded that you’re embarked on a mission.  Eventually, the resolution statement and details become lodged in your sub-conscious where the real work gets done…and the internal motivation is stoked.

Resolutions are supposed to be firm decisions to do something.  If this is the case, then make a firm decision by planning it and going after objectives.  Anything less isn’t worth your time and shouldn’t be labeled a “resolution”.  Call it a “vague idea”

“You may be whatever you resolve to be.”  Thomas Stonewall Jackson

Chris Knutson, P.E., PMP is a leadership and strategy coach, practicing engineer and program manager. He is co-founder of The Engineering Career Coach, a company providing engineers and engineering companies core skills, leadership, and lifestyle design services enabling them to execute their vision. Chris is a retired U.S. Air Force civil engineer officer with over two decades of active duty service leading engineering organizations and multi-million dollar programs around the globe. Learn more about his work and access more resources at The Engineering Career Coach.