In just about every trade publication this month, you’ll find something written about setting New Year’s resolutions and getting back to the basics — each touting a “fresh start” message. These articles certainly catch our attention, and why not? They come at a time when we’re reflecting on our shortcomings from the past year, so we pause and read in hopes of changing for the better. Good for us, right?
Well, I’d like to take a different tack with my New Year’s column. It just seems like the same promises appear on my list year after year: treat people better, stop smoking (I love my cigars) and lose weight. The problem is, we tend to fall back into the same old habits after a short few weeks or months. Hey, we’re creatures of habit, aren’t we?
See, unless we have some sort of epiphany, it’s often difficult to convince ourselves to endure a behavioral change. The truth — whether we accept it or not — is that we are limited by our own desire to improve.
Consider the common flea. This tiny, fragile critter thinks nothing of biting creatures thousands of times his size. You might think he was determined not to allow anything to get in his way. A simple experiment, however, proves otherwise.
See, it is common knowledge that a flea, after having been sealed in a jar and after having made numerous attempts to jump out, will not leap beyond the height of the jar’s lid — even after it has been removed. It only takes a few knocks on the head before the flea begins to realize that jumping into the lid only leads to pain. The experience engrains in the flea’s mind that he can only go so far.
Now, if you really want to be amazed, try adding fleas to the jar that weren’t part of the original experiment. The new additions will jump right out, but, incredibly, the flea from the original experiment won’t follow his kin, even as he watches them leap to freedom.
If his friends are able to escape, why can’t he do the same? The answer is simple: He doesn’t believe he can, so he remains a prisoner of his own self-imposed limitations. Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Some of you began 2010 with a renewed vigor to improve your profit per retail unit, so you made a resolution to change. However, somewhere between then and now, your vision started getting cloudy and your numbers fell back into the same rut — or worse. What happened? Did the lumps on your head cause too much pain to try again?
Listen, I’ve been there and fully understand what you’re going through. Like the flea, I’ve believed something couldn’t be done while I watched others leaping right past me. I was convinced by my self-imposed limitations that that’s the way it was, which meant I kept falling short of my abilities.
During the course of our lives, we become accustomed to staying within certain parameters. We do that because moving beyond those checkpoints would require us to risk a little pain. So, we stay in our self-imposed ruts to avoid leaving our comfort zones.
It’s easy to stay where we are because there is no suffering when we’re in our comfort zones. But ask yourself, are you satisfied with where you are? Are you okay with not rising to the challenge in this new economy? If you’ve made it this far in the column, my bet is your answer to those questions is a resounding “No.”
If that’s the case, then, right here, right now, analyze what you want to accomplish this year and beyond and determine what behavioral changes you need to make to get there. Don’t make another silly New Year’s resolution. Be brave and make a promise to yourself to truly improve. Don’t do it because I’m challenging you — do it because you deserve it, your family deserves it, your dealer deserves it, and, Lord knows, it’s about time you did! So, stop bumping your head and leap out of your jar.
Marv Eleazer is the finance manager at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. E-mail him at email@example.com.