Top Tips For Sticking To Your Personal Holiday Commitments Now You Are Back At Work

How was your summer holiday? I hope you are feeling rejuvenated and positive. What promises did you make to do something different when you got home? How’s it going?

Committing to change

Photo by Ian Britton

I always get that ‘back to school’ feeling in September. For me, September always feels like the start of something new. Perhaps you have already bought your new autumn to winter wardrobe and packed away your summer clothes for another year – along with your summer promises because its easier than trying to commit to making a permanent change.

So why is it SO difficult to make a change? One problem may be that we are motivated too often by a sense of guilt, fear, or regret when attempting to change a behaviour. In October 2006, the Economic and Social Research Council, released findings on 129 different studies of behaviour change strategies. Their research confirmed that the least effective strategies were those that aroused fear or regret in the person attempting to make a change.

With this in mind here are some tips for successfully changing behaviour:

1) Goals need to be positively motivated
Looking at your goal.  Are you filled with optimism or pessimism? Behaviour change experts agree that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking.

2) You need limited goals
The trouble with commitments, New Year resolutions or promises is that they are often negatively focused and we make too many. Studies show that it is best not to have too many goals because it limits the amount of attention and willpower you can devote to reaching any single goal. What is the most important commitment for the next quarter?

Fewer goals

photo by Ben Sutherland

3) You need a plan to achieve your goal(s)
Another recurring theme is that it’s not enough to have a goal. You also need practical ways to reach it. You need to get specific. For example, if you wanted to increase your network of key influencers you need to set a specific goal, for example “I want to have extended my network by 20 people this year”. Next you need to break that down into a quarterly or monthly target i.e. 5 people per quarter. Then you need to define who you really need to meet.

You know that nothing focuses the mind like a goal. Your organisation has a PDR process which aligns the business delivery needs with every staff member. Yet few people are as structured with their own personal needs. I know it sounds simple, but the thing I see time and time again with my executive coaching clients is they have ambitious goals but they often overlook their personal development goals leaving much to chance. So if you want to get home once during the week to go out with your spouse or to tuck the kids in bed, what’s your plan?

4) Learn to acknowledge and celebrate your successes – however small
Talking to a chief executive recently he commented on how important this is. He ensures that all annual operational plans have an upfront section outlining a person or teams successes in the past year. It  makes for remarkable reading as people always achieve more than they thought. Celebrating your progress in the moment too, focuses the brain positively. Today, I’m celebrating making an 8am Pilates class! What can you celebrate right now?

5) Get accountability
Find a person – or many – and tell them what you are wanting to change and ask them to be your “accountability buddy” so that you can share your successes and wobbles. Yes this means being vulnerable but leaders need to show their vulnerability to allow others to do the same. The great thing is you can chose your buddy! The support and encouragement of others helps us keep our promise to ourselves.

You can do it

photo by Steven Depolo

6) A Positive Attitude – You can do it!
Be kind to yourself. If you wobble, write the moment off and recommit to your challenge immediately.

Research says it takes 21 days of trying to do something new before it begins to start to feel ‘normal’ and six months until you are in a ‘maintenance’ state where you are less likely to slip back into an old pattern of behaviour. The expert conclusion is that any effort you make in the right direction is worthwhile, even if you encounter setbacks or find yourself backsliding from time to time.

So what is the one thing you want to commit to in the next quarter and what specific actions will you be taking to achieve this? If you would like some accountability. Leave you commitment in the comments box or email me and book an executive coaching consultation.