The Management of Dreams

The Management of Dreams

December 16, 2015

As we look at the New Year approaching and experience a sense of hope – a vision for a different quality of life, health or financial security — it’s easy to forget some of the basic tenets that help us succeed in our professional lives.  Even smart business people seem unable to take their basic business knowledge to the realm of resolutions — even when the resolutions are about their business results!

According to research done by a University of Scranton psychologist (John Norcross), up to 66% of resolutions languish and fail within 6 months.  That’s really a staggering number of failures considering that so many of us do make promises and intend to alter something important on January 1st every year.  Why that failure rate is so high is part of the impetus for this research I’ve been doing, and improving the rate of success is the goal of providing my findings to you!

Every business person knows the adage “what gets measured gets managed”. Yet, when we make our New Year resolutions, most of us do not bring that wisdom to bear. Instead, we make generalized commitments:  Lose weight, get fit, find a mate, have more fun, travel more. These are all understandable aspirations, but when they are articulated so non-specifically their fate is largely predetermined, and that fate is disappearance.  After all, if you look back on your resolution after 6 months and recall that the goal was to “lose weight” you have no real way to know whether to put a check in the box of success, so to speak.  Without specificity and measure-ability, the goal is empty.   And determining whether you accomplished it is really the final problem. But the deeper issue with generalized resolutions is that they do not lend themselves to any kind of ongoing structure.  They are like the great idea you had before bed, interesting and forgettable.

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The phenomenon of “measurement leads to management” is well-known.  But we resist applying this wisdom to our personal dreams, hopes and aspirations. It feels too “real”, too much like pressure, or, dare I say, reality. But if you truly want your hopes and dreams to be reality, you need to treat them that way — treat them as though they are realistic and achievable. And the only way to do that is to measure them and manage them.

So as you craft your own resolutions for 2016, consider each one from the standpoint of the future first.  What will the landscape look like when the goal is accomplished, in measurable terms. In other words, “lose weight” becomes a two part goal. It requires first determining where you are beginning. Yes, that means weighing yourself today or on December 31st or whenever the project begins.  And as confronting as that may be if you haven’t weighed yourself for a while, it can also be freeing in that it puts the goal into perspective.

The second part required for an achievable resolutions is to specify how many pounds you plan to lose.  Do the math and figure out the number. Whatever the goal, resist the urge to create goals that use the terms “more”, “less”, “a lot” or any other comparatives or superlatives. Instead, approach your New Year resolution with the notion of measurement in mind– how many, how few, what number in addition, and so forth.

If the goal is “exercise more” that too can be measured by determining your baseline (how often and intensively you exercise now — in actual numbers of days a week or hours a week) and then setting a specific goal for how frequently you want to exercise. The principle can be applied to anything.  Even if the goal is seemingly qualitative like “have more fun”, it can be measured. Start a journal and record how much fun you have each day with a rating, say 1-100. Average the evaluation over some time frame — a week, a month — and then extrapolate to the goal.  You can further reverse engineer how to have more fun  and structure life to include those components (this is where a coach can really help).

The Basic Points:

  • Be specific
  • Avoid superlatives and comparatives: Don’t stop at “more”, “less”, “very”, a lot” and so forth
  • Measure where you are now — that’s the baseline
  • Set your goal in the same numerical terms as your current status

If you apply these basic principles to crating your New Year resolutions you are setting the stage for a much more successful 2016!

To learn more about how coaching and consulting can improve your success in keeping your 2016 resolutions contact me for a free consult!


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