The Real Reason Your Resolution Failed

Most adults started out this month determined to become better in 2021.

According to, the top categories for this year’s resolutions were health, self-improvement, money, family, love, and career.

Did you start the year planning to make a change in one of those areas?

The sad reality is most resolutions that are made at the start of the new year don’t end up helping. Most are forgotten within a few months.

Here, at the beginning of February, many of those new resolutions never inspired any effort at all. And most of those that did have already been snuffed out by the stress of everyday life.

What about you? You’re reading this now because, like me, you’re working hard to be the best manager and leader you can be. How has it been going? If you could use some extra motivation or a fresh start, you’re in the right place.

Why resolutions fail

This is why so many people fail at making improvements no matter what time of year they try to make them — they focus on the wrong things.

But that doesn’t have to happen to you and me.

Behavior change experts like BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, and James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, have something interesting to say on the topic.

As you might’ve guessed from the titles of their books, both agree — the best chance we have at changing our behavior is to focus on making small changes.

In fact, most resolutions are far too vague. People say they’re going to get healthier, lose weight, find love, be a better wife, husband, mother, father, or in our case, a better manager.

But they don’t go any further.

Don’t get me wrong; just deciding you need to get better is a huge step. And if you’ve had the courage to openly admit (even if just to yourself) that you need to get better, you deserve to be commended.

But if all you do is decide to make a change, it’s probably not going to happen.

If we’re going to make real progress and become better managers, we need to focus on small, specific actions.

We need to be crystal clear on what exactly we need to do to get better.

And if we’re going to permanently change who we are, there’s really no way for our new action step to be too small.

How it works

Here’s an example. Saying, “This year I’m going to be a better manager,” doesn’t actually help you to be a better manager.

If you want to be a better manager, you have to start by thinking about what being “better” means to you.

Let’s just imagine that it means you’ll be a better communicator.

When specifically would you like to be a better communicator? In meetings? Which meetings? Meetings with your boss? Or with members of your team?

Let’s say it’s the meetings with your boss that you’d like to focus on.

In that case, I’d invite you to think about what being a better communicator in meetings with your boss would be like.

You get the idea.

I’ve personally done some coaching with myself on this exact topic.

And when it comes to an area that you want to work on, you can do exactly the same thing!

Next time make it small

Focusing on making tiny changes to our behavior helps us to know precisely what success or failure looks like.

For me, I knew what I needed to do to speak up in my meetings with my boss. Getting clear on this helped me to be prepared for those meetings ahead of time.

Being specific about the actions that I wanted to take also allowed me to reflect back on the meetings after they were ever and evaluate how things went. Then I could make adjustments and make more improvements in future meetings.

Keeping attention on something small also helps us to stay motivated.

When we accomplish taking one tiny step toward being better, we naturally want to take more steps in that direction. And we learn new skills that support us along the way.

Going back to my ‘communication-in-meetings’ example one more time, once I started practicing in meetings with my boss, I gained confidence to give better feedback to people on my team.

As a result, I now have some of the most enjoyable relationships at work that I’ve ever had.

And I’m sure it’s no coincidence, we now have one of the most productive and successful teams ever.

Taking small steps is the best way to make big changes.

If you’d like to start designing some super small steps that will get you moving in a big way to being the superhero manager you want to be, check out the exercise at the end of this post.

When you do, you can be sure you won’t be just setting another resolution that’s doomed to fail.

If you’re ready to take your self-coaching to the next level, check out my newest product for managers. Click the Start Coaching Now button above.

Set aside some private time to write-out your responses to the exercise below. Turn off your phone and computer notifications or put your devices away completely. Find a place where you can spend a few minutes without being interrupted.

For you, what area of your work or performance might be the best one to focus on? If you’d like help in deciding, use the free worksheet I created HERE.

What times throughout the week would improvement help you the most? Choose the one that feels most important.

Brainstorm as many different small actions as you can that might help you to make a shift at that time. Of all of those ideas, which one(s) seem to be the ones that would make the biggest positive change? Which ones would be the easiest to do?

Choose at least one of those small actions to take now or to incorporate into your routine.


Nate Sleger is a career manager, management coach, and author of The Manager’s Self-Coaching Guide. His course Show Up At Work Like A Superhero has been taken by hundreds of managers worldwide. He currently lives and works in Wisconsin, USA.

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