Don’t Waste Your Time with Impossible Resolutions:
Set Realistic Life Goals with Scrum Instead
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago, and for good reason. According to Business Insider, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. The $11 billion self-help industry suggests humans possess a strong innate desire to become better versions of themselves. It’s the getting there that’s the tricky part. Scrum, a foundation for agility often used in software development, can also be used to tackle personal life goals. The spirit of Scrum encourages an incremental approach to accomplishing goals that are highly effective and attainable.
The problem with lofty goals like New Year’s resolutions is that they often work in a framework very similar to the waterfall model, a sequential design process where progress flows steadily from top to bottom like a cascading waterfall in a linear fashion. Progression to the next step can only occur when all the requirements in the previous step have been met. With so many internal (i.e. stress, low self-esteem, depression) and external (i.e. limited resources, education, time) variables, it’s no wonder goals like losing 20lbs or finding a new career are abandoned within the first 4 weeks of setting them. Essentially, the ability to move to the next “phase” is virtually impossible if no visible progress is seen in the first 4 weeks.
We are often met with disappointment and frustration when resolutions and goals don’t pan out the way we hoped or even worse, get overwhelmed with the daunting task of turning life-changing goals into a reality. Psychologist Susan David writes in her book, Emotional Agility, “Traditional self-help tends to see change in terms of lofty goals and total transformation, but research actually supports the opposite view: that small, deliberate tweaks infused with your values can make a huge difference in your life. This is especially true when we tweak the routine and habitual parts of life, which, through daily repetition, then afford tremendous leverage for change.” [If you’re looking for another good book to read, I recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg who digs deeper into why creating healthy habits are so powerful.]
Ambitious goals require smaller, realistic and attainable goals very much like in Scrum. Scrum is a framework for developing and sustaining complex products and employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. While Scrum was created to help address the complexity of software development in a rapidly changing environment, the core principles behind Scrum can help anyone achieve personal goals.
Boost Your Confidence
Taking an incremental approach, starting with tiny changes and a shift in mindset can help boost your confidence, become less overwhelmed, and minimize the stress and risk level of changes in larger investments like a new career. Quitting an unsatisfying job to return to school requires financial, time, and mental commitments that can be paralyzing. This can be terrifying with so many uncertainties ahead in an unknown future and too extreme for anyone responsible for paying bills, rent, and food.
A Scrum way of thinking would be to commit to attending at least 2 networking events (like the People Side of Sofware meetup) a month around a field of interest or industry. Follow up with people you meet and offer to buy them coffee to ask them what they love about their job, the challenges, and perks. You’ll soon get a better understanding of what you’re after and learn how to get there; if and when you are ready to dive into that new career, you will have some safety devices set up to keep you afloat.
Take the Stairs
The idea of losing any amount of weight may seem impossible to some. Instead, take David’s advice and make small tweaks to your daily routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator every day or get off one stop earlier from your actual train stop so you get some extra steps in your day. According to David, tiny little adjustments in our mindset, motivations, and habits add up in huge ways with profound, lasting changes to our lives.“The ultimate goal of emotional agility is to keep a sense of challenge and growth alive and well throughout your life.” You will start to slowly feel better and gain confidence to take the next step towards achieving your goal. Whatever your goals and New Year’s resolutions may be for 2018, may it be filled with abundant opportunities and success!
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