As we turn the calendar from one year to the next many of us spend time thinking about what we are going to do differently in the coming year.  We set goals and make resolutions; we vow that this year we are going to do things differently.  We will exercise more, eat healthier, learn something new, and enjoy more time with family and friends.

All admirable goals, but studies have shown that most New Year’s resolutions are broken in a matter of weeks.  Countless articles (over 14.5 million according to Google) have been written about strategies to help us keep our New Year’s resolutions.  Yet falling short of our resolutions seems like an annual ritual signifying that another year is upon us while comforting us that nothing much has changed.

Why is this?

As I look back on 2020, it is easy to see how people and businesses alike can lose their way as “life” happens.  After all, I doubt many people were planning for how they would manage their way through a global pandemic when they made their New Year’s resolution last year. But why are some people and businesses able to find ways to keep moving forward despite the unexpected challenges they face?

Could it be that they are not focused on doing things differently, but rather on doing things better?

When you focus on doing things better you are embracing a mindset of continuous improvement.  It is a mindset that can be used at any age and stage of life, it can be adopted individually or as an organization.  If you take a moment to think about it, I believe you would be hard pressed to find a circumstance where its application would not make sense.  At times, to get better we must do things differently, but too often we do things differently as a means of avoiding the work necessary to get better.

Having a “get better” mindset is not easy.  It is difficult and even uncomfortable at first.  However, like most things, when approached with discipline, focus, and intentionality it becomes easier over time.  As you build the skill and the mentality necessary your planning and execution become easier and more efficient, and with time the effort required becomes less and the results improve exponentially.

Reflecting on the goals set and plans made, both personally and in support of clients, for 2020 I can honestly say that we made progress almost universally in all areas.  In some cases, the progress made was less than what we had planned, in other cases, we exceeded the goals we set. Some took longer than planned, and others we had to re-calibrate our expectations based on the new realities we faced, but we kept moving forward and working to get better.

I share this as an insight into what I have observed over the years.  The most successful people and businesses I have had the opportunity to get to know, and in some cases work with, had a “get better” mindset.  Their improvement was a self-imposed discipline, they focused on achieving small wins, and measured success incrementally not as a zero-sum game.  The primary focus wasn’t on doing things differently, it was on continuous improvement.

Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth”. 

What I found most interesting about this group was that they were their best when things were the most challenging.  Yes, they all had plans, but they were masters at adjusting their plans when they got “punched in the mouth”.  They maintained their discipline, remained focused, and took incremental steps to get better never losing sight of their end goal.

So how will you respond when “life” happens this year?

Consider this, it is never too late to embrace a “get better” mindset.  Before 2021 gets away from us and we break our newly minted resolutions, take a minute to think about how you can apply this approach to your personal and business goals.

  • Start by making sure your goals are written down.
  • Think through how you can apply a disciplined, focused, intentional approach to working to achieve your goals (and write that down).
  • Make time to review your goals on a regular basis. This could be a few minutes each week, or it could be a few seconds each day.  As you develop the skill to “get better” you will figure out the cadence that works best for you.
  • Do not over complicate the process.  Stay focused on the end goal.  If you have a setback that is alright, make an adjustment, and keep moving forward.

Remember, this is not a zero-sum game, it is about small wins measured incrementally, and when accumulated over time will help you successfully achieve your goals, even when life “punches you in the mouth”.

About Jeff

Jeff has over 25 years of strategic planning, business development, and business transformation leadership experience. Having worked with mid-market, closely-held and family-owned businesses his entire career Jeff has a unique understanding of how these enterprises operate and the challenges they face.

He is passionate about working with business leaders to build strong cultures while developing and executing strategies that deliver exceptional results that benefit all the company’s stakeholders. Jeff’s hands-on approach to working with companies begins with a commonsense approach to strategy development.

With extensive experience in organizational turnaround and growth Jeff follows a defined process (disciplined, focused, intentional) to guide clients from strategy to execution. His experience covers a multitude of industries, with an in-depth understanding of automotive manufacturing.

Jeff holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the Capital University School of Management and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Management from Ohio Dominican University.