Changing Your New Year’s Resolution Lexicon

What New Year’s resolutions have you set?

Did you make New Year’s resolutions this month? Perhaps you want to lose weight, save money, learn a new skill, or get a new job. Eating Healthier 37%, Get mor exercise 37%, Save (more) money 37%, Focust on self-care (e.g. get more sleep) 24%, Read more 18%, Make new friends 15%, Learn a new skill 15%, Get a (new) job 14%, Take up a new hobby 13%, I don't plan on making new year's resolutions 32%.

New Year’s resolutions and goals are driven by motivation and tend to follow the common threads of health, wealth, and time. However, despite the best intentions, a lot of us fail at our goals. Is your resolution too general? Is it exciting or daunting? How have you worded your resolution? Unfortunately, the way many of us word those resolutions and goals have a fundamental flaw–they are external motivations that require self-control. Often these fail from negative connotations. If you’ve already written your resolutions, don’t worry! You can increase your success by learning the difference between external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic) motivation and the SMART goals method. With these tools at your fingertips, you will be able to change your resolution’s lexicon.

To quote Susan David, psychologist, “When we double down on discipline and willpower, this rarely leads to the best results. You may drag yourself to the gym, but how often does that lead to you sticking with an exercise routine? You may call up your relatives out of obligation, but how often do you have a meaningful conversation? When we’re compelled by a wagging finger instead of a willing heart, we end up in an internal tug-of-war between good intentions and less-than-stellar execution.”

Motivation: External (Extrinsic) and Internal (Intrinsic)

So what is the difference between types of motivation? Really, it comes down to how you feel and how you frame your goal with appropriate wording: “I have to” versus “I want to.”

Image of a set of weights on a simple scale. The text on the weights say: “I have to do that” vs “I want to do that” Original Design Inspiration from Designed by Cornecoba / Freepik

External (Extrinsic): External motivation requires self-control to be successful. We have to exert our will to get down and work at the task as intended. When we say, “I have to do that,” it becomes an external direction, because it is expected of us to complete the task, either because it is a part of our job or a societal norm.

Internal (Intrinsic): However, if we change the statement to “I want to do that,” it feels more personal, and becomes an internal motivation. When we say “I want to,” it really feels like it is a part of our being and we have a genuine interest to succeed. When we say “I have to,” it feels like a chore or an outside criticism of who we are. You can apply this trick to any resolution you have set your heart to. So now, let’s think of the example of getting a new job.

New Job
What we say: “I have to get a new job!” “I want a job in…”
Similar statements: “I need a job!” “I really enjoy doing…”
How we feel: stressed, doubtful, self-conscious inquisitive, excited, eager

Regardless of the circumstances leading to this goal, the job seeker has to choose their approach to getting a new job. Searching for work can be either a taxing or invigorating experience. By rephrasing and asking yourself about your desires, it draws you toward behaviors and stimuli to achieve your goals.

Applying the SMART Method

To take this even further, solidify your resolution by applying the SMART method. (Here’s a handy step-by-step guide.) The SMART method takes your resolution or goal and breaks it down into manageable measurable pieces with a target date in mind.

Initial Goal I have to get a new job.
Restated Intrinsic “I want” Goal I want a new job.
The Letter S Specific
(What, who, when, and why.)
I want a new job as a business analyst this spring to fit my education.
The Letter M Measurable
(How can I show progress?)
I want to research positions and refresh my resume by January 31st. I will set a calendar reminder to search for business analyst positions twice a week starting February 1st and will apply to relevant positions within 2 days of a successful search.
The Letter A Achievable
(Do I have the skills, or can I obtain them?)
I will brush up on my Excel skills by watching three video tutorials a week.
The Letter R Relevant
(Why am I setting this goal now?)
I have reached the ceiling of my current position in customer service and I want a better schedule and financial situation.
The Letter T Time-bound
(What is my deadline and is it realistic?)
3 months to apply is a good start.
Your Intrinsic SMART New Year’s Resolution for 2018: I want to apply for a business analyst job by February 1st. To accomplish this, I will watch three video tutorials a week to improve my Microsoft Excel skills, as well as research positions in the area and tailor my resume by January 31st. I will set a calendar reminder to begin February 1st to search for positions twice a week and apply for relevant work within 2 days of my search.

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to find a new job? America’s JobLink can assist you with our resume writing tool; access to career and training information from Career OneStop, O*NET, and more; as well as a tailored job search experience. Are you a workforce professional? Try using some of the techniques in this article to help job seekers make internally motivated goals and see if you notice a difference in their rate of success. Happy New Year from AJLA and best of luck with your 2018 goals and resolutions!


School’s In Session: Continuing Education for Professionals

If you read our post about New Year’s professional resolutions, you know that the goal of learning something new can benefit your career. By learning a new skill or topic that’s relevant to your work, you are advancing your skill sets, building your career portfolio, staying current and relevant, improving your confidence, and adding value to yourself as an employee.

Laptop and desk graphicNot sure where to start? Explore free online education sites like Udemy, Coursera, or Khan Academy, or take advantage of free course from universities like StanfordMIT, or Harvard. Here’s just a handful of course topics that can make you a more valuable and knowledgeable employee:

Once you’ve chosen a course, make sure you’re prepared to succeed. Here’s a few tips to make the most of your online learning experience:

  • Be realistic: Know what you have the time and energy to complete.
  • Identify your learning objectives and goals: Decide what you want out of the course and how you will use your new knowledge at work.
  • Make a study plan: Schedule time to complete coursework.
  • Seek support from your employer: Tell your employer what courses you’re taking and how you think your organization will benefit from your learning.
  • Participate in online discussions and forums: Get more out of courses by interacting with the instructor and other students.

Ready to learn more? Check out our Online Education Pinterest board for a collection of resources and articles about online professional education.