How do you make Resolutions that Stick?

Do you ever go through a burst of inspiration and motivation, where everything seems to ‘click’ and you see exactly what you need to do to attain your goals?

You sit down, crack open your journal, put everything together and write out your game plan. With your intentions set and your plan sketched out, you confidently venture forth into the future! Then, a few months later, after you’ve accomplished your biggest goals, you live the dream!


Not so much.

A couple of weeks after that burst of motivation (maybe a month later if you’re lucky), you start to falter. If there was a daily routine involved (and there usually is) you might miss a day here or there at first. Eventually a few missed days morph into a week… and then a month! Slowly but surely you get completely derailed from your original plan.

Sound familiar?

Every year during the week between Christmas and New Years, I find myself reflecting on the past year and planning the next one. Inspiration and motivation seems to be in the air. I crack the journal, set some solid intentions and venture forth into my new bright future (supposedly).

Lo and behold, a few weeks later (maybe a month or two if I’m lucky), I find myself completely off track.

And then I find myself asking questions: what happened to my motivation? Why can’t I achieve my goals? How do I firmly establish new habits and routines to take the actions I know I need to take? How do I become more self-disciplined?

Over the years I’ve experimented with a number of approaches to this conundrum, and today I’d like to put them all together for you into a “system” you can try out when the motivation strikes you, and in the days that follow from this flash of insight. Whether that time is at the start of the new year, your birthday, at a major life transition, or whatever. I, for one, aim to crack the spine on these pages of my journal every quarter: it keeps my thinking fresh and more adaptive to life’s varied circumstances. That being said, some of the exercises below are special and shouldn’t be repeated mechanically.

But why do all of this? It seems very self-centred. How does this tie-in with the challenges of working together and solving problems with groups of people? Well, aside from your own mental clarity that comes with the work of reflection and planning, there is also power:

“If you don’t have a plan, your actions will be determined by someone else. By refusing to make the effort to move in the direction you think is best, you’re ceding Power to those who do have plans.” (Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA, 309 and in part, here).

Having a plan doesn’t mean that you are calculated and manipulative, but it does mean that you are venturing forth into your day from a place of power. Just like Carlos Castaneda described his tortured experiences finding his “spot” on Don Juan’s porch at the start of his initiation, the sessions below help you work outwards from a place of power and strength. Which is another way of saying from a place where you are not weak and fatigued. Coming at your life and work from a neutral or strong position gives you calm and purposeful strategy and tactics, as opposed to stressful and chaotic “hair on fire” busywork.

Let’s begin with a few suggestions/ground rules:

  • First off, I structure these reflection/visioning sessions along the lines of David Allen’s Horizons of Focus, so readers familiar with his approach will see an affinity. Readers unfamiliar with this should have a look and compare.
  • Second, try not to do all the sessions at once. If you can spread it out over a few days that’s best. By sleeping on it, you gain more insight into your work.

Now, go forth, dear reader!

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

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