Have a love-hate relationship with the New Year’s Resolution? Yeah, me too.

The idea of a fresh start is exhilarating and motivating. The reality of some absolute idea that holds us hostage is suffocating and demotivating.

Resolution by its very definition is something firm and committed. Not that we shouldn’t be committed to our goals, but as humans we’re fallible and only the very fewest will stick with a personal improvement plan 100%.

Down with the resolution; up with the theme!

Create a scenario where you can win and feel successful all year long. Instead of a resolution, try setting a company theme for the year. Themes can become extremely effective for developing long-lasting changes in behaviors.

Get your team together and go through this exercise for selecting your own theme. Group ownership of the idea is paramount. You want the whole team thinking about and acting on this universal idea all year long to garner significant results.

Set up fun session of ideastorming, conversations of possibilities, and "what ifs". Make it fun, keep it moving, and you'll get great participation and an excellent end result.

Get down to business: How to select a theme

1. Post the Big Goal you've set as a company. Maybe it's a revenue or retention number, maybe it's a goal to adopt a new selling system, or maybe it's a goal to make changes to your value proposition.

2. Ask the group: "Visualize us all sitting here this time next year and reviewing the hugely successful year we just finished where we blew the top off our goal. Describe what the year looked like and what we did to make it so spectacular."

3. List all the ideas that people start throwing out. If this isn't a typical activity for your group, you'll probably need to ask some leading questions to get the ball rolling and prod people to think deeper. Be sure to get ideas on each of the following:

  • Actions – “What actions did we take that created the new achievements?”
  • Behaviors – “How did we behave that made the new success possible?”
  • Thoughts and beliefs – “What thoughts did we have that allowed all of this to come to fruition?”

4. Group the ideas into natural categories. You'll start to see connections. Actions, behaviors, and beliefs will start telling you a story and giving advice on what needs to happen. What do these groupings have in common? What do you see as the obvious or emerging ideas the company needs to make the year successful?

5. Select a theme and include examples. When you see the ideas from everyone all in one place, it will hopefully become apparent what you need to do as a company this year.

  • Do you need to stop living in the past?
  • Do you need to develop a sense of urgency?
  • Do you need to begin working as teams rather than as silos?
  • Do you need to take control of your business?
  • Do you need to have the confidence that you're capable of making the changes?

As you decide on and document your theme, be sure to include example ideas from the groupings so you remember what motivated this theme in the first place.

6. Write the theme in extra-large font and give a copy to everyone to hang at his/her desk. When faced with a decision, refer to the theme. Remind one another of the theme in company/team meetings and one-on-one coaching sessions. Ask yourselves what you've done in support of the theme. Share your stories.

You'll be amazed at the type of decisions that get made and actions that take place when you put questions through your new theme filter.

How a theme influences decisions and behaviors

I started selecting themes a while back. My first was Action 2010, which to me meant “Hustle, be passionate, take action, grab it, say it, do it. Make it happen!”

It encompassed whatever I wanted it to, and I used it as a reminder to just get things done and tackle indecision and procrastination. By sticking with this theme for a year I developed positive behavior patterns and thought processes of doing rather than wishing that will last a lifetime.

We’ve taken this on as a company and begin each year with a new theme to systematically instill new ideas and behaviors into the organization.

Some themes from the past few years:

  • Take action – Time to stop thinking, wishing, and dreaming and just do it. This is a great one for a little extra motivation when you're getting something new started.
  • Execution and results – Focus on taking the right action and following it through to see the results. This is good if it's time to get serious rather than just being busy.
  • Confidence – Rightfully having and instilling in everyone else that you've got the confidence to take control of your own situation. This is very necessary for moving forward with new ideas and not allowing yourselves to slip backward into the comfort of what worked in the past.
  • Simplicity– Trim back the complexity that can take over systems, process, and ideas. While it might feel impressive, complexity often just overwhelms people to the point of inaction. Simple inspires action because it feels possible. This is a great idea when you’ve grown and you, your employees, or clients are feeling a little overwhelmed.
  • Relevance– Everything has changed so much in recent years about the way we manage our personal and business lives. It’s imperative for companies to ensure they are offering products and services that are relevant to consumers of today. This is a very necessary idea for most companies to spend an entire year doing a reality check on how they’re influencing their clients.

Try out a theme this year and see what happens. Use it as your filter for individual work and company-wide decisions and actions. Work with what you’ve got and where you are today and make your new year inspiration work for you instead of against you. You’ll feel bits of success along the way, which we all know inspires more success!

Photo by Atmosphere1

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