Today’s post is the featured article from the December 2010 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newMany years ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution to give-up making New Year’s Resolutions! It’s not that New Year’s Resolutions are a bad thing. In fact, one study shows people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. The same study showed the percentage of people who maintain their resolution as time goes on:

Past the first week: 75%                  Past one month: 64%
Past two weeks: 71%                        Past six months: 46%

So it seems New Year’s Resolutions do produce some results. Almost half the people who resolve to change something seem to make the change. It’s not that New Year’s Resolutions are a bad thing.

The question becomes … are they the best thing?

While some New Year’s Resolutions are made as a part of a larger overall plan, most often that is not the case. Usually, these resolutions are a band-aid fix to a problem or a bad habit. In other words, they are not grounded in anything deeper. If 46% can stop a bad habit, that’s not a bad thing! For some, these resolutions are about starting to do something positive. In many of these cases, it is based on a feel-good emotional motive. If 46% can start doing something good, that’s not a bad thing either!

If 54% fail at achieving a long-term change in behavior, it must mean it is not easy. It takes work, effort, focus and commitment. I guess you might say it takes resolve! But with all that … do you really want to put all that into something that is just not a bad thing?

Or would you rather put it into something that is the better thing?

Resolutions serve a purpose … as do band-aids. However, resolutions, grounded in a deeper strategy, serve a better purpose. I would suggest these resolutions, grounded in a deeper strategy, would also have a better chance of long term survival. This deeper strategy isn’t sophisticated, but it isn’t easy either. It is about first figuring out what you really value. What are the core values that drive you? In the years leading up to writing GOOD to the CORE, as well as the time since, I have found how difficult it is for smart successful people to really pinpoint what sits at their very core. Rather than making random resolutions, it would serve us better to resolve to do the work of discovering the core values that drive us.

Understanding our values isn’t a New Year’s Day sudden change approach. But it is as good a day as any to begin! Resolving to know your core values begins with a sense of discovery. Then it becomes a way of life.

Once we understand our core values, then the evolution of change that needs to begin becomes strategically clear.

I always recommend starting with a blank sheet of paper to brainstorm words that come to mind when you think of what you really value. If you quickly begin to find yourself at a loss for words, you are having a bad case of normal … and just beginning to discover how difficult this process can be. I have then found it helpful to look at a list of options just to get you thinking. If you think you would find that helpful, you can download a complimentary brainstorming list of core values from my website. This list has been complied from the responses of hundreds of audience members when asked to brainstorm their core values.

Change, not grounded in a foundation of core values, typically creates short-term band-aid solutions. As individuals, we might do this as New Year’s Resolutions … as organizations, we typically do it with “flavor of the month” initiatives. Either can create short-term benefit. However, any resolution or change-effort is far more powerful when it can be tied to a core value that it is supporting. These kinds of changes begin to change the cultures of organizations. As individuals, grounded resolutions not only move us beyond bad habits, they move us a step closer to who we really want to be.

If you already have a New Year’s Resolution in mind, don’t let me be the one to stop you. It is not likely a bad thing … and you have a 46% chance of succeeding. But before you start, ask yourself, what core value sits inside of you driving you to want to make this change. In answering this question, you may have just started your list of core values! What I hope, is that you resolve to continue building the list! And I hope you have a New Year that is nothing short of being good to the core!

Happy New Year!