We are less than two weeks into the new year, gyms are crowded, and the air is filled with the buzz of promises we make to ourselves to change, improve, and transform our lives. New Year's resolutions often come with good intentions, but studies show that many of them fail by February.
In years past, my executive coaching clients have found me waving the flag of the new year encouraging them to select a word that symbolizes their intent for this year. Not this year. This year is about taking ownership and accountability—backing up intent with meaningful action.
What if we challenged the tradition of setting resolutions and instead took a moment to reflect on our own accountability in the outcomes we seek?
Author Elizabeth Gilbert shared the apropos observation: "I've never seen any life transformation that didn't begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit."
Here's the invitation: this year, instead of making a resolution, own up to your bullshit.
I was in a coaching session last week where one of my deeply creative clients had an epiphany about his own contribution to an unfavorable situation. It led him to the powerful question:
"How am I complicit in the results I don't want?"
The question acts as a mirror, reflecting to us our own agency and responsibility.
To own up to your own BS, ask yourself:
Where am I choosing comfort over change? It's easy to stay within our comfort zones, but growth and transformation happen outside of them. Identify areas in your life where you've opted for comfort instead of embracing change or doing the “hard thing.” Are you choosing the “devil you know” over the thing you actually want? Keeping the peace over setting boundaries? Staying small over amplifying your voice? Whether it's in your career, relationships, or personal habits, acknowledging these choices you are making is the first step toward understanding your role in the outcomes.
Where do I have agency? Recognizing where we have agency empowers us to take control where we can. There is much we cannot control, like others’ reactions or situational constraints, but we often overlook the power of what we can control. Evaluate the areas where you have the power to influence outcomes. Aligning what we can control with our values is one way to stay in integrity with ourselves. Over the years, I have had several clients stay in the same job (often one that is comfortable in one domain such as pay or benefits) and make themselves miserable trying to control the “uncontrollables”—how their manager treats them, the company values—rather than exercising their agency to look for a new position. And, sometimes, we need to look a little harder for our own agency. For instance, if the results you don’t want include low confidence, consider the “controllables”—who you surround yourself with, efforts you are making to rewire your limiting beliefs, and the time you spend engaging in activities that contribute to lower confidence (i.e., social media).
What is one thing I need to do consistently to get the results I want?
Consistency is often the key to success. Identify a specific action or habit that, when done consistently, can contribute positively to the results you desire. Ironically, this leads us back to the more traditional New Year’s activity of resolving to do something new. But the self-reflective route we’ve taken to get there creates a stronger linkage to why we are doing it and what is on the other side of change. The psychology of habits indicates a fresh start like a new year is the perfect time to adopt a new habit. But consistency is what leads to transformation. How do we become more consistent?
Tell the others. Declaring or “signposting” what you’re doing to other people adds a social element to your accountability. We will silently let ourselves down time and time again but we tend to exhibit greater follow-through when we’ve shared our plans with others.
See it and be it. Set up a visual reminder. The simplest, most common visual cue I see and recommend is a Post-It Note on the computer monitor to remind us of the habit. Trying to provide more recognition at work? Write “what was good?” on a Post-It note. Calendar invites to yourself are also a great way to reserve the time for habits that require it.
Whether it's as moving your body regularly, shifting your mindset, or improving your communication, committing to one small change—applied consistently—can lead to significant transformations.
By identifying acknowledging our complicity in the results we don’t want and taking accountability for what we can control, we pave the way for meaningful transformations that last far beyond February. This approach invites us to step out of the feeling that life is happening to us and become active participants in shaping our lives, which is the first step in lasting and positive change. Need an accountability partner or some help designing the change you seek? That’s what I am here for.