Try a different way of managing New Year’s resolutions

I have begun most of my years with resolutions, and some have been more successful than others. But even when my list of commitments has been forgotten by February, the process has been worthwhile. There were periods in my life when I didn’t devote much time to self-reflection, so starting out a year by taking a close look at myself was a good thing.

As I often do in December, this month I asked some of my clients about what they would like the next year to bring. And I really want to know: what will success look like in 2010? Where do they want to focus their energy this year?

I don’t always frame my New Year’s questions in terms of resolutions, however. I’ve found that the concept of “resolutions” makes some people feel defensive. There are so many responsibilities to juggle already, that the idea of taking on new rules or promises may feel like an unnecessary burden.

Instead I may suggest the approach that works for me, and for others as well. I mentioned in the last post that I use a multi-tab notebook for this process, but different people like different approaches to logging or journaling. Here is what I do:

— I list the spheres of my life – like healthy eating or professional development — where I would like to grow or change.

— For each area I list some standards, commitments or “todo” items. The specifics will vary according to the topic. For example, regarding diet I typically have a list of principles, like “eat the rainbow” and “avoid sugar”. But for something like “upgrade my technology” I might list actual tasks. I don’t assign myself hard deadlines or rules. Instead, my resolution is to remain mindful of the areas where I’d like to do a little better or move forward.

— Each time I take a step, make progress or experience an insight, I make a note. This note taking turns out to be great positive reinforcement. (Sometimes I feel like I’m training myself in the same way I train my yellow lab, with a series of tiny treats.)

— I take a few minutes to look at my notes for each area at least once a month, and often much more frequently. I carry my notebook around in my bag, and look at it when I have a few minutes to kill. If I see that I’ve neglected an area, I don’t worry about it. I let it go, and think about some small step that I might take in the near future.

This week I’ve been looking at the notebook I created early in January 2009. I didn’t transform myself overnight, but I did at least a little something in each sphere. Instead of kicking myself for falling off the wagon in February, I’m feeling good about the steps I did take, and working on my list for 2010.

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Bev, a former lawyer and Fortune 500 executive, is an executive and transitions coach, and a leadership consultant with a broad and varied practice.

Posted in change management, New Year's Resolutions, personal growth Tagged with: , , , , , ,
One comment on “Try a different way of managing New Year’s resolutions
  1. Sherry says:

    Bev – I love this idea of tackling new year’s resolutions. I am currently working on a list of not just the goals….but also the to do list so that I can incorporate that that into my daily schedule. Thanks for the ideas !

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