While many people spend December and January hyping up their New Year’s resolutions, the fervor seems to taper off once February rolls around. Why is that? I think it might have something to do with the fact that 35 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions can’t keep them past January—and only about 23 percent ever go on to accomplish what they originally set out to do.
This is especially troubling considering that the New Year represents a time of fresh starts and forward-thinking, and we’re confronted with such harrowing odds right out of the gate. After all, it’s hard to imagine what the next best version of ourselves will be when getting through just one month of change is already a struggle for so many people. But there is a silver lining to these statistics: they can help us face the reality of what it really takes to be a part of that exclusive 23 percent, the ones making a successful journey toward an improved future.
I’ve written about goal setting and personal growth before, and many of the same tenets ring true when you’re thinking about your upgraded, 2.0 self; this evolution is more about perspective than process, but commitment is vital. And just as effective software never sees a final/best version (it’s always adapting and improving to address and meet new challenges), the same is true of businesses and the people who lead them—it takes an ongoing commitment to hard work and a keen understanding of what’s at stake if one can’t (or won’t) embrace change. Here are a couple of ways to look at it.
It’s often easier for people to understand transformational change and evolution as it applies to businesses rather than ourselves as individuals. Just look at the brands we know and love: Coca-Cola, in its 130 years of existence, has been through numerous rebrands and more than 40 taglines, many of which (“The Great National Temperance Beverage?”) no longer resonate with our current sensibilities—and that’s exactly the point! Great brands are always changing and evolving because they realize that people, environments, values, and technologies are also always changing and evolving; in order to stay connected and maintain any level of success, change is essential.
This “evolve-or-die” dynamic is definitely something I’ve experienced firsthand. For the past 18 years, through sheer will and determination, my team and I have taken the necessary steps to help guide our company toward its next self: developing and adopting new platforms, overhauling and hiring for culture, letting go of old technology, even tearing down the walls to boost collaboration and productivity—all of these actions represent small steps that contribute to the long-term forward momentum of the business. Without these changes, we wouldn’t be able to continue evolving to remain competitive, and an inability to adapt and evolve—especially in the tech space—is a death sentence.
We tend to associate that “evolve-or-die” mindset with something companies need to achieve long-term growth and improvement, but the same principles also apply to personal evolution; change is inevitable and necessary for reaching your next best self. In my case, I experience my company’s evolution and my personal evolution as a business leader simultaneously, because success for one is dependent on the success of the other.
But this experience has taught me that the easiest way to envision your own change is to think of yourself as a brand. Your inputs are things like education, experience, and skills; your outputs represent salary, professional recognition, and experiences that improve decision-making. Once you’ve identified these factors, you can take an honest look at where you are now versus where you need to be, and ask yourself which of these inputs/outputs need to evolve to match the marketplace—more education? More experience? A new environment? A new set of skills? Do you still use the phonebook, listen to 8 track tapes, or hail a taxi? Weed out the things that hold you back from being relevant, focus on the things you can change, and commit to changing them bit by bit. Keep in mind that evolution takes time and never truly ends. If you approach your 2.0 self from this perspective, it will be easier to focus on how each small step takes you that much closer to your next level.
Whether you’re talking about a business or your own personal growth, real transformational change is a journey; it takes introspection, determination, and a commitment to the long haul. Those who understand and embrace this truth have an easier time of sticking with it and achieving the success they’re looking for. And it matters because, for most businesses and their leaders, failure to evolve is not an option—it’s do or die. In an environment where 77 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions can’t see them through to the end, it definitely takes individuals and teams who understand the stakes and are committed to the vision and the purpose of change to move forward.
So—what does your 2.0 self look like, and how do you plan to get there?