How to Make Your New Years Careers Resolutions Stick

by Jobbatical January 15, 2015


It’s that time of year again, and now that the first hangover of the year has abated, the resolutions, made with the aid of egg nog, and in the flush of Christmas enthusiasm, have been ditched already. The resulting self flagellation carries us through the first half of January, and by February it’s all back to normal, back in a happy groove until November, then the realisation dawns that nothing really changed the last year.

Or maybe that’s just me.

But this year, for you, as well as for me, it is most definitely going to be different.

Apply a little science

You probably know the apocryphal tale about a study carried out in Harvard (or maybe Yale, depending on who is doing the telling), in which researchers found that only 3% of graduates in the given year had specific written goals. When revisited some years later, it was found that those who had their goals already set upon graduation earned ten times more than the others.

It’s a great story. When I first encountered it in my induction to my grad scheme, it truly put the fear of God into me. But it is, also, just that: a story. There never was such research at either Harvard or Yale, although the idea of setting and writing down goals seems to be so intuitively appealing that even without any actual proof, the principle was accepted.

Some significant time after the story become rooted in management myth, the research to prove the theory was, actually, carried out by Dominican University, and the findings may hold the secret to sticking to your New Years Resolutions from this year onwards.

Write those resolutions down

The Dominican research asked five different groups to take different approaches to their medium term goals. One group simply thought about them, another wrote them down, a further group wrote action commitments based around their goals, and the final groups took these steps but also shared their goals with others in different ways.

The research found that writing goals down, resulted in significantly better achievement over the time period than the first group who thought about their aims in only vague terms. Somehow turning an idea for a resolution into a tangible, written, goal, is incredibly useful in crystallising ambition, so before the egg nog wears off, grab a paper and pen and get writing.

Share, share, share alike

The second factor for success was found to be that sharing goals increased your likelihood of achieving them. This weight-watchers effect is unsurprising, but how often do we draw on the support of our friends to achieve other goals? Choose a supportive friend, partner or family member — or find and develop a relationship with a mentor — to help you stick to your New Years Career Resolutions.

Give yourself a hard time

The research concluded that the most successful group were those who agreed to send in weekly progress reports detailing their achievements. This accountability helps you to retain focus and momentum when working towards goals. To replicate it for yourself, self assess your progress on a regular basis. Set a calendar reminder and treat the thinking time as an appointment, and go right ahead and give yourself a hard time if you’ve been slacking!

So, that is how I’m planning world domination in 2015. Best of luck to you too, whatever the year holds.

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References:
http://www.dominican.edu/academics/ahss/undergraduate-programs-1/psych/faculty/fulltime/gailmatthews/researchsummary2.pdf

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