New Year’s Career Resolutions Are Stupid. There’s a Better Way

Year after year, January 1st comes with a bunch of irresistible, lofty ideas. Dropping several pounds, getting some exercise, spending more time with your family. Does that sound like you?

So far so good. But let’s fast-forward to February. Science says it takes over two months to break an old habit, let alone master something new, but you gave up even before that could take place. So you’re back where you’d started — except for an extra load of disappointment and an awkward sense of failure.

This pattern may have you thinking you’re simply one lazy, unmotivated individual unable to live up to your own intentions. But nothing could be farther from the truth. You just belong to 90% of Americans that make New Year’s resolutions but are unable to follow through.

The dawn of the New Year is when things start to get emotional and you tend to revisit everything that makes you upset. Speaking of your career, there are many things you may feel tempted to do.

However, making career-related New Year’s resolutions is a tricky business that can backfire in ways that we don’t even realise.

Many people commit to them expecting a career boost. But often the opposite is often the case — they may lead us down the wrong path and end up as a bittersweet spot on one’s career trajectory.

Let’s now explore the most frequent turn-of-the-year scenarios and dispel any doubts that New Year’s resolutions are relics of the past.

New year, new career? Hold on for a bit.

Calling your boss up on New Year’s Eve and leaving an abusive voicemail about where they can stick their job is one of the worst New Year’s resolutions you can ever make. You’re led solely by negative emotions, leaving sound judgement out of the game.

Whichever method you choose to say goodbye to your employer, quitting your job over the festive period is definitely not a good idea. Especially if you don’t have a new job to go to in January.

It’s a real challenge because you’ve spent a lot on Christmas presents and your bank account is probably looking rather empty. Also, there’s going to be thousands of people looking to change jobs after the Christmas period, which means the competition for virtually any position is going to be tougher than ever.

Even if you’re really frustrated about your current job, don’t throw away everything you’ve got. It takes time to figure out what’s best for you and avoid constant job hopping at the same time.

Avoid replacing informed decisions by impulsive behavior. Explore new career paths in a systematic manner, weighing the pros and cons of each.

New Year's resolutions

Are you sure you deserve a promotion?

Don’t get me wrong. Striving to get promoted is a positive thing. But turning it into a career resolution won’t get you anywhere.

Why? If you get one, it might be just a coincidence. And if you don’t, you might see yourself— once again — as a failure.

Here’s what to do instead. In the real world, changes happen in small steps over time. Set attainable goals that will help you advance your career and get more recognition in a natural way. Take on more responsibility, network with other industry professionals and get some specialised training.

By building up your arsenal of skills and experience, you’ll become a better candidate for that promotion. This may sound boring, but just keep doing what you’re doing and be proud of your work.

You’re right on track to get promoted — in due time. Just wait for it.

My best tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions… Don’t keep any, let them go. Time is not like a pizza that can be sectioned off into pieces; it’s the whole uncut pie.

Dan Hensley via Quora

New Year's resolutions

More money or else you quit?

Maybe you think the New Year is a good reason for a better salary. But chances are your employer doesn’t. So why risk staining your relationship when you can do better?

When it comes to salary negotiations, timing is everything. It can influence whether you’ll be rewarded or not. Salaries usually change only once a year and the negotiations need to take place before that happens.

If you feel you need a pay rise, get ready to talk to your boss first. You’ll need to back up the claim why you want more money for what you do.

Generally, there are only two situations when it’s safe to ask for an instant paycheck bump. You must either be an outstanding performer or work in a highly competitive industry like finance or tech that are particularly raise-friendly.

New Year's resolutions

Specific goals can make us miss the bigger picture.

Here’s the story:

Back in the 1960s, Ford Motor Company noticed that small and affordable vehicles were beginning to boom in popularity.

Naturally, they wanted to capitalise on the trend, which made the company’s CEO come up with a daring resolution. By 1970, Ford would manufacture a car that must weigh less than 2,000 pounds and costs less 2,000 dollars.

Ford’s engineers and designers were sweating their brains out to meet this goal and by 1970 they rushed to the market with the company’s latest innovation — Ford Pinto.

The promise was kept, of course, both the weight and the price were low enough. There was just one tiny problem. Ford Pinto could ignite upon impact.

As a result, over 50 people died in Ford Pinto fires. And a few years later the vehicle become the largest product recall in history.

Why did this have to happen? The company’s goal was too narrow to be able to take other aspects into account. Failing to take other critical issues like quality or safety into account, it overlooked a serious design flaw related to the position of the fuel tank.

Ford’s management focused on a goal that was too specific, blinding themselves to the bigger picture. And their reputation suffered long after the scandal was over.

Be S.M.A.R.T. — or maybe not.

Most career blogs will tell you that any goal should be S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Let’s throw in a couple of examples that meet these criteria:

  • “I want to earn $8,000 a month by April.”
  • “I want to shed 100 pounds by December.”
  • “I want to become the CFO of this company by August.”
  • “I want to make a car under 2,000 pounds and under $2,000 by 1970”

Now, Ford’s resolution that “I want to make a car under 2,000 pounds and under $2,000 by 1970” is a textbook S.M.A.R.T. goal example. But did reaching this goal result in success?

Nope. The story of infamous Ford Pinto has become a cautionary tale instead. It includes a moral telling us that when we set specific goals, we narrow our attention and risk overlooking something important.

“Goals focus attention. This intense focus can blind people to important issues that appear unrelated to their goal.”

Goals Gone Wild, a Harvard research paper

New Year's resolutions

So is there a good New Year’s resolution at all?

Most resolutions fail at making our lives better because they are egocentric.

We have this bizarre ability to become temporarily obsessed with our bodies, reputations and salaries, leaving our long-term goals aside. But when we focus on ourselves, we often — inadvertently — subvert or destroy the very things that can improve our health and happiness.

Surprisingly, the best New Year’s resolutions include throwing away our self-improvement lists and focusing on accomplishing things at work or school, with friends and family, and in our local communities.

New Year’s resolutions that emerge from conscientious involvement with causes beyond yourself often work magic in creating a more fulfilling and healthy life. So focus not on calories or cardio workouts but on contribution and community and next year you may not feel like making any new year’s resolutions at all.

The reason most people fail their New Year’s resolutions is because of their perception of time. The pressure that comes with a time-frame, the pressure that comes with the expectations from others by announcing your goals to the world.

Dan Hensley via Quora

Don’t be a slave of the calendar.

Time knows no limitations. And neither does your personal growth and development. Throw away the mistaken idea that a magical clean slate is only available first few days of every year.

Banish the idea that the start of a new year must suffer the weight of majestic resolutions. January 1st is not unlike any other day in the year. Big things can happen on March 28th the same way they can on September 14th.

Years, months and days are just part of a man-made system of marking time. You should feel empowered to change things anytime be it spring, summer, fall or winter. The drive and determination come to those who want, not to those who wait.

New Year's resolutions

Cheers to a hassle-free 2019!

Ditch all your New Year’s resolutions. Stop putting yourself under pressure. There’s nothing more artificial than letting a date in a calendar tell you what to do and when to do it.

Take a deep breath and relax. Real change takes time, effort and patience. Show respect the feebleness of self-control instead and spread your resolutions out over the entire year.

Look at your life from distance and reflect on what’s natural and possible at the same time. And change your career — and life — for better, one step at a time.

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