A Kinder Take on Goals (and Resolutions) Using Positive Psychology


Author’s Note: I believe this strategy can help us as we deal with rapid change during the current crisis. Work life is different now. Our view of progress must also adjust.

We all engage in goal setting. Historically, it’s simply what we do.

Yet, goals can either help or hurt us — depending on their inherent ability to energize. New Year’s resolutions can suffer the same outcome. They are essentially goals, wrapped in a loaded, time-stamped, end-of-the-year package. As a work life strategist, I’ve advised clients to refine or even lose goals that no longer serve them. Resolutions can also let us down and often fail to direct us in a meaningful way.

I’m wondering if we can craft work-focused resolutions that are better for us?

One strategy, is to apply what we already know about positive psychology. With its roots in humanistic psychology, positive psychology theorizes that we have the power to re-frame our life experiences to help us become more positive and productive.

Resolutions could stand a re-framing. So let’s follow this thread.

Consider the following passage:

“Positive psychology is…a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology,” – Christopher Peterson

We could re-frame resolutions with a nod toward what is right, and not wrong with  work life. As we look toward the future, we might recognize what has worked during the previous year. (Sustaining energy requires that we actively acknowledge the good.)

Taking the time to remind ourselves of what we already have already accomplished, can provide the fuel that we need to build both energy and resilience. So — ask yourself: What brought you a feeling of accomplishment recently? A sense of meaning? Joy?

First, carefully consider what you have already achieved, by drafting a list of your steps already taken in the right direction. (Remember, no step is too small to acknowledge.) Celebrate the successes and take something constructive from failures or disappointments. Secondly, craft a few behaviorally-defined steps for the future, which build upon progress. Try to avoid broad, overwhelming resolutions such as “Find a better job.” Be specific, yet supportive, of your on-going journey.

Integrate what you have learned from both the highs and lows of 2019.

Then think of yourself actively completing these goals.
What are you actually doing?
What are the specific steps you will take?

Here’s how this might look regarding one of my 2020 resolutions: To identify opportunities for collaboration regarding my work in core stability. Please note: I did not identify the right collaboration opportunity during 2019. There were stumbling blocks, yet there was modest progress. And acknowledging the latter is important.

Progress in 2019:

  • Continued to refine concept message.
  • Engaged in many useful conversations (virtually and IRL) regarding core stability as applied to both people & organizations.
  • Wrote & published the concept’s “origin story” and guiding principles.
  • Began identifying HR/HR Tech micro-influencers whose work aligns with my own.

What’s Next in 2020:

  • Hone list of possible HR/HR Tech contacts.
  • Reach out on social media, where possible.
  • Write an email a week regarding potential collaborations.
  • Schedule one conversation per week regarding possible collaborations.
  • Continue to define research possibilities: subjects, scope, funding.

Let me know if this process brings you any “resolution” success.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her Core Coaching Series — helps people & organizations build a stronger work life foundation. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

7 thoughts on “A Kinder Take on Goals (and Resolutions) Using Positive Psychology

  1. Happy New Year Marla,

    Love your work and wisdom. Affirming as it is I’m not sure this process brings me resolution or clarity anymore, as I always seem amazed in retrospect by my enthusiasm to generate a future oriented personal/work goal(s) and detail such plans of attainment, only to capitulate and fall back into the chasms of my own mediocrity by midyear or sooner. Is it some innate hardwired predicate or my perceived lack of discipline and control that I continually slip back into those ruts of reality? Is it a question of nature vs. nurture or perception vs. prescription? Seems to me at least from my past experiences in the workplace that “Leadership ADHD” and a “Chronic Lack of Cultural Vision” are a few of the contributing factors to much of the malaise that has sent me back into the negative feedback loops of internal corporate competition & job survival. Corporate Cultural Apathy is an epidemic sweeping across many organizational landscapes today and is mirrored in many social media forums. Equality of outcome over opportunity is the heralds cry of the day so it seems. Chaos along with the ambiguity of constant change manifested in environments requiring the constant epiphanies of creation come with a heavy social and personal price. Individual responsibility along with emotional intelligence and a healthy dose of empathy would go a long way in making our workplaces powerhouses of personal and corporate goal attainment. Sorry for the ramble, wishing you a New Year be filled with Peace, Prosperity & of course MORE KINDNESS.

    Liked by 1 person

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