Happy New Year!
Well, I am sorry to start 2016 off with such a miserable sounding title, but you’ve probably seen enough optimistic articles on new year resolutions and setting new goals for the year ahead. I don’t need to add to those. Besides, if I did, I’d be yet another person missing the real challenge. It’s one thing to think and say and share what you’re going to do differently this year. But it’s another to become the person who manages to pull it off.
In this post, I’d like to steer your focus towards that. The bit that happens after you’ve boldly stated your intentions. What really goes on in the months that follow.
This post applies fully to those in sales roles, or non-sales roles, but also applies to your husband, wife, colleagues, and friends. We all operate under these same forces that I’m about you share with you.
So let’s begin at the beginning and take a look at how the start of this year could pan out for the average person…
I don’t know what drugs they put in turkey, but each year January proves to be an unusual month when normal, smart, sensible people, without any warning, turn into a cross between Tony Robbins, Conor McGregor, and Popeye after he’s eaten a can of spinach. They talk their year ahead up as if they’re unstoppable (usually defining their ‘new selves’ between mouthfuls of wine and cake).
I find it hard to take seriously, but wouldn’t want to be a party pooper, so I smile politely, and take a moment to wonder what their calendar is likely to look like in February and March…
Let’s be honest here, many people (at least those in Australia or the UK where I do most of my work) spend February being either too hot or too cold and telling everyone about this.
They lose their Popeye/McGregor/Robbins persona, forgetting they ever had this strange ‘turn’ and, whilst constantly talking about their temperature, begin taking steps towards the hard reality they are trying to change.
They push on the ‘system’…
…and the ‘system’ pushes back.
Ah, March! If only they used the word ‘march’ to remind and inspire them to boldly put one foot in front of the other through the inevitable tough part of their journey of change. Maybe then they’d make it through to SPRING which gives everyone a lift.
But they don’t.
Instead, after the slog of February and trying to become a new person (someone they are naturally not) they decide that they didn’t have enough time to make the changes they said they would or to do the things that were outside of their comfort zone. Interesting that they had the time to do the things they were comfy with.
They say they were too ‘busy’ or that ‘now isn’t really the right time on reflection’. Anything to get them off the hook.
Most people, by the end of March, are back to who they were the previous year. The real them. They’re back. Phew. They’ll need to conserve their energy anyway for next January’s annual energetic burst of new year resolution nonsense.
The problem here
This pattern repeats yearly for too many people. I see it with many in sales, and people in general (apart from my friend who two years ago told me sincerely that his new year’s resolution was to ‘get into and drink more whisky’ which he managed just fine).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m fully behind good intentions to step up, improve and change. I love to see people make big bold changes.
It’s nice that people have the strong, positive intentions. It’s great if they get clarity and priority on these and make a decision to act on them. It’s great if they write them down in the form of goals or targets, and tell others (which can absolutely increase your chances of committing but equally, they are just words, and being a clever old stick you can also later come up with new words to get yourself off the hook for when you don’t make your changes). Ahem.
But the problem I see is that people don’t know HOW they (or human beings in general) are wired up and how they best make changes. They don’t know how to navigate what they’re up against.
It’s that invisible barrier between where you’re at, and where you want to be (and I don’t mean the step by step plan or strategy to get there — the logical plan is the easy bit, I mean the psycho-logical barrier that people don’t know how to navigate).
It’s the soft air cushion that bounces you backwards as you try to run at it, and you don’t know why, so you just blame ‘lack of time’ or some other external factor. It’s those feelings you get when you push on the system and it pushes back. It’s those feelings that build as the change you’re trying to make feels all too hard. And so your mind tries to protect you from this temporary hell by convincing you that perhaps it’s not so necessary to change in this area after all…
Some hidden challenges to learn about and navigate
Even if you have intentions, clarity and a plan of attack, you are still up against many challenges:
- remembering to take new actions that don’t come naturally. Memory alone trips half the people up.
- advancing towards fears or areas of discomfort when your brain is trying hard to keep you feeling safe (don’t do this! you don’t actually have to!) Everyone has fears that tie them down if they let them.
- habits – fighting and breaking the old ones where your behaviours are hard-wired and purposefully developing new habits that eventually automate your new behaviours. “Defying gravity” I call this. You can learn how to do it.
- managing and growing your locus of control (didn’t know you had one? Get yourself up to speed! This alone will change your diary entry for March. There’s always something you can do about absolutely everything, even if that thing is simply to think about it differently. But people can influence many more things than they realise.)
- managing your thoughts so that you habitually think in a way that gets you to behave how you want to and are able to eliminate the thoughts that threaten your approach
- keeping actions and behaviours aligned with your bigger picture purpose (it’s very easy to lose a grip on this)
- understanding and leveraging your ‘self-image’ correctly, rather than realising when it’s too late that “I am just not the sort of person who does this new thing”. You could’ve seen that coming if you prepared up front and worked out ways to avoid this common trap. We act in alignment with our self-image. You either need to sell yourself a new self-image or renovate the one you currently have to serve you better in behaving how you want to this year. (Maybe a post for another day..)
And those are just a handful of things you’re up against. There are plenty more reasons why people don’t change, why sales people don’t improve, and why non-sales people give up on doing something that they are perfectly capable of doing well (and should be handsomely rewarded if they do).
Slay the monster that will ruin your plans
So, by all means, set your goals and resolutions. Build your plans and strategies too. And know, as you do, that it’s about actually ‘doing it’ to make it happen.
But mostly, don’t forget that this is still not enough. You’re up against an invisible force that’s going to try to stop you, and will probably win because that force has been growing for many many years (it’s evolutionary) unless you learn to slay the monster, and work both hard and smart to do so!
The majority of people out there will be beaten by the psychological challenges between them and their goals.
If you are serious about making big changes, making more sales (or serious about those in your team doing so) I recommend you learn not just sales techniques and best practice, but how to make behavioural changes and consistently apply those winning behaviours.
Let me know if you want help with that.
Enjoy the year ahead…