Resolve to Act
Perspectives 3: One month into 2020 and New Year's resolutions are falling by the way side. Veganuary is over. Gyms have emptied out. It doesn't have to be that way though. Discover the simple way to keep your resolutions, and what political, #nextgen and academic leaders are committed to this year.
February – one month into 2020. How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?
A poll cited by one of our partner universities, Columbia Business School, said that while nearly half of all Americans will have made a New Year’s resolution this year, one third will fail to keep it. Gita Johar, the Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business has advice for how to stay steadfast: make it painful to break your promise. By self-imposing penalties for failing to keep resolutions, you can noticeably increase your likelihood of following through on them according to her new research. “In general, associating a negative outcome with giving in to a temptation should help people to resist temptations” says Johar. Richard H. Thaler, author of Nudge Theory and Misbehaving echoes that. He suggests tactics such as donating money to a cause you truly abhor, or paying a forfeit to a friend, if you fail to keep to your resolution whether it be to lose weight, do more exercise, get your thesis in on time or anything else.
We have three challenges for each other: one sporting/health related; one focused on personal development and one career related.
Many years ago, my lovely Scottish high-flying lawyer friend, disrupted a New Year’s Eve dinner party round table declarations of resolutions by saying that we should scrap them altogether; nobody stuck to them and they were always so negative. They were typically about giving things up or doing things that we didn’t really like to do. Instead we should have challenges – ones that are specific, measurable, inspiring and sustainable. So that’s what we did. Every year since, she and I have proposed three challenges for each other: one sporting / health related; one focused on personal development and one career related. In a nod to Thaler, the person who succeeds in all their challenges, is taken out to dinner by the one who doesn’t .
I challenged her to getting 7 hours sleep a night.
One year she challenged me to 140 instances of exercise a year. I used a spreadsheet to monitor my activity. Another friend found this totally hysterical. I am with Peter Drucker though in terms of what gets measured gets managed. It works for me at least. Having added 10 to the goal each year, this year’s target is 180. I challenged her to getting an average of 7 hours sleep a night and a vacation every quarter. Successful lawyers are in danger of burning out. Because of the challenges, I am a better cook (challenge: learn one new dish a month), have been on a poetry course that I loved (challenge: develop one of your creative skills), have taken part in the Swim Serpentine event twice (challenge: swim a mile in under 45 minutes), do a job that inspires me (challenge: embrace a third career) and much more.
Asked in genuine horror: what on earth I was doing.
Last year I was shamed into adding a couple resolutions. My younger brother told me that he had not bought a single cup of coffee unless he had a keep cup with him. How could the need for a caffeine fix override the need to be environmentally aware? I resolved to do likewise and now carry a reusable coffee cup everywhere. The super smart and all round delightful teenage daughter of a great friend of mine, asked, in genuine horror, what on earth I was doing when I bought a bottle of water at the petrol station at which we’d stopped. Once I realised what she was so appalled about, I resolved never to buy single-use plastic bottles of water again. I now carry a water bottle too. My bag is heavier but my conscience is lighter. It seems a fair trade off. I also now rarely stop at petrol stations - I drive an electric car.
He darted off into the trees... reappearing with an empty water bottle, a beer can and a sweet wrapper.
Between Christmas and New Year, I was walking in Epping Forrest with my litigation lawyer godson/nephew (I am a very lucky - proud and doting - aunt, I have six amazing nephews, two of whom are lawyers, one in London, one in Switzerland). All of a sudden, in the midst of a conversation about where he and his beautiful new bride planned to live, he darted off into the trees. Slightly bewildered, I waited for him to reappear. When he did, it was with an empty water bottle, a beer can and a sweet wrapper. This continued throughout the walk. By the time we returned to the carpark, he was carrying an armful of rubbish. Who knew that I could admire him still more? Instead of talking about tackling environmental pollution and making the world a better place, he was doing it, one piece of litter at a time.
Leave every place better than you found it.
For many summers, I was a counsellor at the Aloha Camps in Vermont, USA. They have a motto, drilled into every camper before any hike, bike or canoe trip: leave every place better than you found it. If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution to commit to still – or want to swap one in because one hasn’t worked out quite as planned – you could do worse than this.
You have two ears and one month for a reason.
A Sales Director I knew liked to tell her sales team that they have two ears and one mouth for a reason. They should listen more and speak less. Typically, we also have two eyes, arms and legs. That means, it is generally 8:1 in favour of looking, listening, and acting versus talking. Ironically (I realise) you can put writing into the same bucket as talking.
It is not so useful to talk (or write) about how shameful it is that e.g. Starbucks, don’t pay their taxes or that Facebook knowingly promotes disinformation, and cheerfully carry on buying from them. It is really not ok to publish white papers on diversity if you have a board full of middle-aged white men or happily partner with companies that do. We absolutely have the power to change corporates' behaviour by voting with our feet (or keyboard) and wallets.
Cory Booker planned to be more conscious with his consumer choices.
In one of my favourite Podcast’s this year, PodSave America, Tommy, Jon and Jon ask some of the Democratic presidential hopefuls about their New Year’s resolutions. I love the fact that Cory Booker said that last year he planned to be more conscious with his consumer choices, particularly in relation to food choices and how they impact regenerative agriculture. This year, he is going to extend that to fast fashion and the consumer choices he makes about clothing; noting that his choices should empower the values that he promotes. He quotes Gandhi: be the change you wish to see in the world.
A couple weeks ago I met with the completely inspirational Edward Fidoe, Founder and CEO of the Interdisciplinary School. He is someone who acts. Concerned that traditional university educations were no longer fit for purpose, he set up a new university “for those who want to shape the world, not just fit in.” Opening in September 2021, it is already wildly oversubscribed. Serious kudos.
It is a powerful reminder of the dangers, idiocy and shamefulness of swallowing nonsense propaganda wholesale
I am on my way to the US to meet with some wonderful universities who believe as we do that it is deeply disturbing that so many of today’s leaders brazenly lie and are rewarded for their dishonesty. I just watched the film JoJo Rabbit. It is an extraordinarily beautiful, original, funny, heart-breaking, heart-warming, searingly-truthful, award-worthy satire. I urge you to watch it if you haven’t seen it yet. It is a powerful reminder of the dangers, idiocy and shamefulness of swallowing nonsense propaganda wholesale; of how terrifyingly easy it is for good people to be swept up in hate. It made me laugh, wince and cry. And made me surer than ever, that developing a new generation of leaders for whom moral leadership is an ethical imperative, is critically important.
Next time I will tell you about my journeys around N.E. America.