Resolutions that succeed: You can be different!
One week into the new year: How are your new year’s resolutions coming along?
If you are honest, you will probably agree with me: not only do the vast majority of the promises you make to others or yourself at the turn of the year dissolve into nothing just a few days after the New Year’s Eve fireworks. This short half-life is generally valid for all your good intentions to change behavior – be it more sport, less wine, more quality time with the family, less tantrums, more consistency, less conflict avoidance, etc.
Let’s take an example that I often encounter in coaching: a department manager comes to me dejected and desperate. When asked, he opens up: “This week I have again worked until 10 pm every day. Again, I corrected and reworked all the tasks I had delegated. I already have the reputation of being a perfectionist and always doing everything myself. I had set myself the goal of no longer doing this, but I simply can’t help it. The quality of the work delivered by my employees is simply not sufficient.” My answer to this was: “Of course you will continue to do this as usual. You will not change your behavior through good intentions, no matter how determined you are to do so.
What really triggers a mental shift and thus the possibility to change behavior is a seemingly paradoxical step: the search for the so-called secondary benefit for the previous harmful behavior?
Self-sabotage – what is your secondary benefit?
What is meant by this “secondary benefit”? Well, there must be a subjectively “good” reason for you to hold on to the behavior that has been identified as harmful despite your rational insight. The secondary benefit usually results from the satisfaction of unconscious needs: persons who repeatedly undertake to do more sport and then end up with chips on the couch often avoid the perception of their own body and contact with themselves. Those who, despite all their good intentions, keep yelling at their employees, are stunned by their own fear that the mistakes of others could endanger their own success. Those who continue to avoid conflicts, contrary to their good intentions, and sacrifice their own interests remain “Everybody’s Darling” and escape their fear of arguments.
If you want to have more success with your good intentions in the future, it is first of all necessary to recognize such secondary benefits and the unconscious needs on which they are based, and – very importantly – to accept them.
Now you know the reasons behind your harmful behavior – you know what’s at stake when you change it. This is precisely the obstacle that your mind has unconsciously placed in your way over and over again, and which you have always failed to overcome: the fear of loss. Now you can also turn this situation around. Ask yourself: What will you lose if you continue with your previous behavior? Your employees, your health, your marriage? In this way you create more urgency for your behavioral change.
Visions create realities
After you have fathomed the deeper reasons for your previous behavior and have seen what losses you are threatened with if you continue as before, there is still one building block missing to ensure that your good intentions really take effect in the future: a strong vision, an image of the attractive future that you will create with your new behavior. Take a picture that triggers emotions in you and inspires you. If you want to start with regular sport, it doesn’t have to give you a six-pack. Maybe the idea of sprinting up the stairs without getting out of breath is enough for you. It doesn’t have to be the vision of the boss leaving the office every day at 5 pm. But perhaps of someone who delegates in a relaxed manner and chooses which tasks really need one hundred percent quality. Choose a picture that’s right for you.
These simple steps will turn your good intentions into real successes. Try it out for yourself. It’s worth it!