From Resolutions to Goal Achievement: Building Capacities for Success During IYOTSA 2014

Have you made resolutions to avoid certain temptations, or achieve particular goals this year?

Now that we’re into the second week of this new year, hands up if you’re among the many who have made resolutions for 2014.  Next, if you’ve developed a plan to achieve those resolutions, use one or both those hands to pat yourself on the back; you deserve it. For, while resolutions generate great attention each December, it’s a disciplined approach to habit formation that supports the success of such resolutions – or, in other words, the achievement of goals.

Think about this in the context of any job search you’ve undertaken; it’s likely that you did much more than simply resolve to secure such positions. Many assistants who work their way up the ladder to EA, MA, PA or Office Manager roles do so by mapping out and then acting upon career plans that involve a series of incremental goals, discipline and good habits.

So, how to move from a resolution or goal to incorporating habits that increase the likelihood of success?

There are many theories related to successful development and maintenance of habits; some suggest that commitment to a new or modified routine for x number of days leads to effective development of a habit. As you sift through various approaches before deciding what works for you, it may be worth considering business coach Tom Bartow’s thoughts, below, on three phases of habit formation.

The honeymoon: Riding a positive wave of intention or inspiration, perhaps at the beginning of a new year or following a conference with peers, we begin work on making positive life changes.

The fight-through: After the first blush of inspiration, we may find it difficult to block the return of former habits and  maintain new practices. How to work through this stage? Be prepared; anticipate that there will be struggles and choose how you respond to them.

  1. Acknowledge that you’re in such a stage. The theory is that, each time we make a conscious choice to resist temptation or revert to an unwanted habit, we’re also setting the stage to win the next such struggle. Each time we choose to let ourself lose a particular round of this stage, though (“It’s only one session I’m missing”, “I deserve a break” and so on), we’re making it easier to lose the next round.
  2. Bartow suggests bringing emotion into the fight. Ask yourself, How will I feel if I do this/if I don’t do this? If you find your motivation waning, you may want to project what your life will look five years down the road if you don’t continue with the changes you’ve begun making.  Take a cold, hard look and ask yourself whether you’ll be satisfied with such a future.

Second nature: While we may encounter disruptions (holidays, illness) that can imply a temporary return to fighting through struggles,  daily commitment leads to development of habits. Be aware of the potential for seduction of success (“I’ve got this!”) or discouragement; here Bartow suggests reverting to the successful strategies tapped into during phase two.

Assistants’ Spring Training for Mental Strength

No Whining copyright Shelagh DonnellyWith IYOTSA 2014,  the International Year of the Secretary and Assistant, also now underway, are you finding validation of goals you may have, such as ensuring your position description accurately reflects the scope and level of your workplace contributions?

We’re back to habits here, as Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and author identifies healthy habits as key to mental strength in her List of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do .

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do  …

  1. waste time feeling sorry for themselves
  2. give away their power
  3. shy away from change
  4. waste energy on things they can’t control
  5. worry about pleasing others
  6. fear taking calculated risks
  7. dwell on the past
  8. make the same mistakes over and over
  9. resent other people’s success
  10. give up after failure
  11. fear alone time
  12. feel the world owes them anything
  13. expect immediate results

How can you apply Morin’s approach to the workplace, given 2014’s focus on empowering assistants as professionals? I suspect that, for many assistants I know, the fifth item on Morin’s list may be the most challenging. Our professional roles are often centred around supporting others’ success, and accommodating their needs or wants. An exceptional assistant who is mentally strong, however, will acknowledge that it’s not necessary – or realistic – to anticipate that we will please everyone around us, in every interaction.

In fact, it’s the exceptional assistants who are also able to back up a myriad of other skills with the ability to diplomatically deliver unpopular news, and mouth that two-letter word – “no” – when appropriate, who typically command the greatest respect in the workplace.

Whatever goals or resolutions you may have established for 2014, all the best for success in this new year.


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