New Year, New Habit

Jan 2, 2019 | Strategy

Do you notice how crowded the gym is in January? This may be because people are returning from holidays, or couldn’t resist themselves at family feasts, or – what is most likely – following through on their New Year’s resolutions. The New Year creates a natural sense of a fresh start, and many feel excited and empowered to stop old habits or create new habits. But then, as February approaches, why do some lose motivation and are back to Netflix and chilling?

In our view, the reasons why so many people struggle to follow through on New Year’s resolutions are very similar to why approximately 70% of change initiatives fail in organizations. My colleague, Christi Mertens, wrote an excellent blog titled Change is a dish best served individually. She describes how large-scale change is a result of individual behaviour change, multiplied across an organization. Today, I want to go deeper on what drives successful individual behaviour change. At MacPhie, we believe this is a function of three core ingredients.

  1. Articulate A Big Goal

Before you identify the change you wish to see, take a step back and very clearly, and precisely articulate the goal you are trying to achieve. The goal should be one that is personally meaningful to you and rooted in your core values and beliefs. Consider your aspirational personal brand – what goals can bring this brand to life? When you internalize the bigger goal for your change, you develop a real commitment to that change, which can serve as a sustainable source of motivation.

So rather than saying, “I will go to the gym three times a week”, articulate, “I want to improve my health to become more focused, energized and high performing in my day to day.”     

2. Break it into Small, Highly Tangible Steps

While big goals can be meaningful and motivating, they can be overwhelming to implement. Take writing a novel for instance: experienced writers will attest that this is a multi-step process, requiring patience and multiple streams of planning along the way.  Achieving big goals is more likely when individuals identify small, highly tangible steps over time. Research studies and conventional wisdom tell us it takes anywhere from 21 to 66 days to completely break an old habit, and much longer to master a new one. Understanding changing habits takes time and effort, we encourage individuals to break down their big goals into small steps that are highly specific and tangible – and of course be patient as you tackle these steps a few at a time.

Going back to the New Year’s resolution – your big goal to improve your health may look like 20 minutes of cardio for January. If we were to make this more specific and tangible, we would say 10 minutes of the treadmill and 10 minutes of the ellipticals, every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, right after work.      

3. Ensure Accountability

We know from experience that setting big goals and small steps may not be enough. The reality of the day to day can often lead you to fall back into familiar routines – and that’s the power of routine, hard to break and even harder to create. We believe the third ingredient to drive successful individual behaviour change is accountability. Part of this is accountability that comes from within and the reinforcement of your core values and beliefs, which is also related to being authentic to one’s aspirational personal brand. The other part is accountability that comes from others – family, friends, colleagues, or mentors. The American Society of Training and Development tell us that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. We see this manifested in strong microcultures, where team members understand what motivates each other and support them in their self-directed change.

Accountability may take shape in many forms for the New Year’s Resolution. One may choose to have a partner or friend hold them accountable for their big goal focused on maximizing health. For the small, highly tangible steps, this may include having a gym buddy or hiring a trainer. The key is to find what works best for the individual.

Whether it is a New Year’s resolution or a large-scale organizational change, we believe the same core ingredients are fundamental to driving successful change. In our view, an organization that has mastered this recipe is <Actionable> – their <Habit Builder> combines technology and behaviour science to create powerful change in teams and organizations.

As you’re reading this, there is currently some change initiative happening at your organization, which relies on individual behaviour change. As a leader, how are you supporting individuals in articulating their big goal, breaking the goal into small, highly tangible steps and ultimately being accountable?   

By: Srusti Pandya

 

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