Every year on New Year’s Day, we pledge to be better – maybe we hope to lose weight or gain financial stability or make a job change or just be more loving, kind, and thoughtful as we go about our daily lives. Studies show that most New Year’s Resolutions fail miserably, often before the first month of the year has passed. Why is it so hard to do what we say we will?
My theory on this matter is simple. I believe that most of us set unrealistic expectations. We feel we’ve failed if we don’t achieve complete, one hundred percent success. And at the first sign that we cannot achieve that one hundred percent, we simply stop trying. So one doughnut undoes our resolution to lose weight, and we feel justified in giving up.
I often see this same phenomenon at interpretive sites. Setting goals and objectives amount to the same activity as New Year’s Resolutions. The problem is that goals are often too vague to allow us to measure success (“I want to be a better person” sounds an awful lot like “we want to be the best museum/park/nature center in the world.” Objectives may be more specific, but often to the point of being so restrictive in terms of measuring success that “success” is unattainable.
I’d like to see us all take a kinder, gentler approach towards our selves and our facilities. Recognize that sometimes the attempt at achieving objectives (or resolutions) is a win in and of itself. If you’re not used to working by objectives, you may or may not be able to set reasonable measures. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed if you get eighty percent of the way toward your desired result. It just means you need to rethink your strategies . . . maybe there’s a simple tweak that will get you where you need to be. Or maybe you were reaching for the stars when the mountaintops would have been high enough.
Having personal resolutions and setting measurable objectives in the workplace are both useful tools to motivate us to attempt constant improvement. Use the tool as a prod and a measuring stick, but not as a bludgeon, and you may just find that this is the year you achieve whatever success you crave.