everything curriculum | January 2018

resolutions fail, but failure most frequently comes down to poor planning and implementation in one way or another.

There are usually several reasons unbeknownst to most resolutionists and goal-setters as to why

So what goes wrong?

Well, as I mention to teachers on my YPO CPD courses (such as ‘Wellbeing for Teachers’ and ‘Coaching and Mentoring for Teachers’), there are usually several reasons unbeknownst to most resolutionists and goal– setters as to why resolutions fail, but failure most frequently comes down to poor planning and implementation in one way or another. Heard that before? A particularly big problem is that people often don’t think through all the obstacles, barriers and hurdles they will encounter along the way to achieving their goal, and what they can do about each one to get over or around it.


One highly effective, novel and little– known technique you can use to help here is what’s known as ‘Doublethink’. Aye? What on earth is ‘Doublethink’, I hear you think? Well, ‘Doublethink’ was first mentioned by George Orwell in his dystopian masterpiece ‘1984’, where he describes it as: the simultaneous holding of two apparently opposing beliefs or ideas in your mind and yet accepting both as true. Make sense? Well, scientific research suggests that adopting this seemingly paradoxical mind–set helps people achieve their goals, so worth telling you about here, I reckon.

Get smart

So how do you use ‘Doublethink’? Well, first you need to set a SMART resolution goal, which means that your goal needs to be as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to you) and as Time–Framed as possible. Remember to write all this stuff down, too; that’s really important. Next, after spending some time vividly fantasising about achieving your goal, write down a list of all the specific positive consequences, value or benefits you will personally get from achieving the goal – elaborating as much as you can on how it will make your life better and more enjoyable – and then numbering each item in the list in order of importance or significance to you. Still with me?

Now onto using ‘Doublethink’. Go back to reflect again deeply and vividly on your very first listed benefit of achieving your goal. Really immerse yourself and get emotional about it if you can. Immediately after, and while still feeling emotionally high, reflect deeply on the biggest hurdle or obstacle you might encounter to achieving that benefit, focusing in particular on what you will do to overcome the obstacle.

Overcoming obstacles

As a useful aside here, one of the very best, scientifically–proven ways of overcoming some obstacles is to use what’s called ‘if–then’ implementation intention planning. This is where you make a strong assertion along the lines of: “If <insert obstacle here> happens, then I will <insert what you will do about it here>”. Scientific studies suggest that the most effective thing is to imagine and word your if–then plan in such a way that you say what you will do and not what you won’t do, keeping the imagery positive. You then repeat the same process for the second most positive benefit of achieving your goal and the greatest potential obstacle; then focus on the third benefit and greatest potential obstacle, and so on.

So if you have set a New Year’s resolution or two, studies show that applying these techniques may well make all the difference to your success in achieving them. Good luck!

Dr Mark Biddiss (PhD) is a science and maths education consultant, as well as a cognitive-behavioural coach and mentor, with a particular passion in researching and teaching effective, often novel, evidence-based tools and techniques people can use to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. He has been a regular and popular trainer for YPO every year since 2005.


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