The New Year is here, and many of us in North America will note the start of the year with resolutions, a legacy of being informed by the European side of the immigrant family tree. The Romans gave us January 1st as the marker for the new year, and Pope Gregory promoted it with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar , something adopted by the Western / Christian world in 1582 and used as a loose business default calendar globally.
While other calendars are widely observed – Chinese New Year will roll in on February 3rd to bring us to the year of the rabbit, and nightfall of September 28th will bring us the Hebrew new year of Rosh Hashanah – it is the Gregorian calendar that shapes much of my day-to-day scheduling life.
While the Romans did not give us US college football games to be played on New Year’s day (and now the 2 weeks surrounding that date), part of their influence – a byproduct of worshipping a mythical two faced god named Janus – was the tradition of making new year resolutions. Janus – looking backwards into the past with one face and looking in the future with the other – implies not only introspection and remembrance, but also anticipation and resolution.
While the background of New Year’s resolutions has its own unique history, the story behind most resolutions that we make is more checkered. Some 80% of adult Americans who make resolutions will give up on them in 2 months; 52% of resolution makers were confident going into their resolve that they’d be successful – only 12% reported succeeding. There is a better way to achieve your resolutions.
That more effective way to make change – something that I utilize in my coaching work with business executives – is the Mahatma Gandhi (pictured above) approach. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” Gandhi suggested, and you’ll have a profound effect on yourself and the people around you. While “Be like Mahatma” lacks the sexiness of something like “Be like Mike” of the original Michael Jordan Gatorade commercial, the thought is the same.
Setting your resolution in the future – “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – and using it to pull you instead of pushing you turns out to be a more effective way to achieve change – and success with your New Year’s resolution than the incremental approach of taking each small step at a time moving forward to some goal. It’s front wheel drive versus rear wheel drive mechanics in-motion; while not as great for sports cars, the pull toward approach is far superior for change in day-to-day living. Jack Hawley, one of my favorite mentors, gave me a gift of that suggestion decades ago (“Act and behave as the person you want to be“) and that wisdom in practice with my clients never ceases to amaze or perform.
So try to be like Matatma with this next year. Be the change you want to see in the world. And here’s to hoping you have a great New Year!
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.