Welcome to 2023!  This is the time many of us make new year’s resolutions to improve, reflecting on the past year and looking forward to making a fresh beginning in the coming year.  Let’s explore how this relates to court administration.

It is important at the outset to realize that the majority of resolutions do not have lasting effect.  Think of resolutions to lose weight, to exercise more, and so on.  Although people may start off modifying their behaviors, as time goes by commitment and actions often wane.  Why is this the case?  We naturally have a sense of optimism at the beginning of the new year, and thus we over-estimate our ability to follow through and under-estimate the time and effort needed to succeed.  This has been called the “false-hope syndrome.”  This happens to us at both a personal and professional level.

That being said, it has been shown that the timing of making resolutions makes a difference.  At the beginning of each week, month, and year we have an optimistic sense of a new beginning.  Thus, now is a good time to make resolutions and set goals – but what can we do to increase our chances of success?  Let’s explore some actions to make our resolutions and goals come true in 2023.

First, reflect on the last twelve months – how did 2022 go for you, personally and professionally? 

  • Start by taking time to write down[i] the positive things that happened, such as fulfilling goals you set a year ago.  What made you happy about your work?  What went well for you and your work? These positive things do not have to be grandiose; it is healthy to recognize small things that happened along the way, too.
  • Next, write down what did not turn out well.  Did a court project fail?  Were there unexpected personnel problems?  Did a health problem occur?  Again, document even smaller things that were suboptimal and got in the way of achieving your goals.  Look over this list and forgive yourself for what happened, which enables a fresh start.
  • On balance, how do the two lists compare?  Hopefully, the positives outweigh the negatives, yet no matter what, you should treat this information as a baseline to moving forward in the new year.

The next thing to do is analyze why things turned out the way they did.  There is a lot of truth to the saying that “we learn from our mistakes.”  Did you do a good job of forecasting the future, or not?  Were you overly optimistic?  Were there unexpected factors that helped or hindered you?  Were there things you could (and should) have done to make things turn out better?  What can you do to avoid the mistakes you made?  It may be helpful to consult with someone you trust about all of this and ask for their thoughts and recommendations. Based on this information and analysis, move on to planning for the new year and reset your goals.  This may be just refining prior goals or establishing new ones.  It is critical to adapt to the current reality and do your best to project what may happen in the future.  What alternate realities might happen, depending on how different scenarios turn out?  Incorporate these into your goals – in other words, set yourself up to nimbly adapt to what eventually happens.  Include a cost-benefit component to your analysis – will this goal really achieve the desired result?  Make sure your goals are concrete and SMART:  specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

Challenge yourself and your organization with your updated goals.  Firmly commit to doing better to achieve your preferred outcomes.

Goals alone are nice, but you must transform them into reality.  Develop updated action plans incorporating regular check points that assess valid performance data to stay on top of your progress.  Make sure your plans build in necessary, updated allocations of time, effort, and resources.[i]  Incorporate incremental achievements  to build momentum, and do not fall into the trap of trying for perfection.  What support will you need to stay on track?  It is also important to align your goals with your fundamental values, which will help ensure long-term commitment. 

To help you and your workforce stay committed to personal and professional growth, it is important to incorporate self-care.  As a leader, it isn’t enough to do your best to ensure the well-being of everyone around you.  Make sure your goals include time for continued reflection, a healthy work-life balance, and things like regular exercise and self-growth.

One of the most profound lessons I learned in my career was the concept of creating the future.  Leaders do not “go with the flow,” they develop a vision of where they want to be in the future, then create the conditions for that to happen.  Thus, be proactive in setting goals! It is not surprising that the above advice mirrors the classic strategic planning cycle that we are all familiar with:

The point is, in these rapidly changing times successful leaders take a rigorous approach to making resolutions and setting goals in their  personal and organizational lives.  Here at the beginning of 2023 I urge everyone to take time to be more formal in setting your new year’s resolutions and goals.  You and your organizations will enjoy a much better year as a result.

All of us at Court Leader wish you the best for a happy, prosperous, and successful new year.

[i] Change management is part and parcel of making your goals real!

[i] Yes, write them down – the act of doing so enhances the thought process and helps with later analysis.

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