Breaking The Resolution Mindset

Who is this for? Those who continue to attempt, and fail with, New Year’s resolutions.

Like many, I’ve always taken this time of year as an opportunity to assess the year that was and plan for the year that will be. Like many, I used to set some very specific resolutions for myself. And, like many, these rarely made it past the first few days of the year. Having gotten pretty good at setting and failing at resolutions, I started looking for methods that would make a larger impact on my life and, hopefully, last more than a few days.

Over time I’ve settled on two tactics that have had made a greater difference in my life.

The List

I start my year-end process with a thorough GTD-style review where I look over all of my open projects, goals and areas of focus. This goes a long way towards getting a few stalled projects back on track (it also forces me to kill a few as well), but it’s the annual postmortem that follows that has proven to be a big help.

After I’ve looked over the things I’ve decided to do, I set my sights on a far more challenging mess: the human that decided to do them. Each year, I have at myself. I sit down with a Word document and a stiff drink (ok, several stiff drinks …), then I start writing down all of my self-directed frustrations and perceived shortcomings. I don’t bother too much with the accomplishments. For me this isn’t really about feeling good or bad about the past year, it’s about determining what needs to change. My intent is to get as clear a picture of my major and minor challenges as possible. I treat this like a GTD-style brain dump, except instead of the things I have to do, I attempt to uncover all of the things about myself I’d like to work on. This isn’t a particularly pleasant process, but for me it’s a useful one.

The Words

From here, I start to organize the list and try to identify patterns as well as some key areas I’d like to work on. The list is daunting, but I don’t bother trying to convince myself that I can tackle this all in one year. Cleaning up this list is a lifelong pursuit and often a failed one at that.

What comes next is taken directly from Chris Brogan. I don’t start making projects. I don’t try to enforce sweeping change. I just use the list to determine three words that are meant to guide my year (here are my words from 2011, 2012 and 2013). These words serve as a filter for my choices and a guide for my year. Eventually I have to turn these vague desires into actual projects with measurable progress, but there’s plenty of time for that. 365 days, in fact.

So often our resolutions are determined in a weekend, and they tend to last as long. You look down, notice you’ve gained some weight and resolve to lose ten pounds. It’s not something you really care about, it’s just something you feel you ought to do. Stop that. This year try putting in more time and more thought. Do the upfront work, really determine what you’re up against and then find a way to make some progress before you have to do this all over again.

These steps might help, but—as is often the case—how-to advice like this falls short. The frustrating truth is that, like me, you’re probably going to have take time to experiment. You’re going to have to find your own way of breaking out of what, if you’ve read this far, has almost certainly been an unsuccessful resolution mindset.

Workflowing Weekly

Get weekly wrap-ups of the latest posts and more from


  1. Cindy Lauman says:

    Hi Michael-
    I’ve listened to your podcast for months and months and first want to say this is a beautiful website. I have found the content very helpful and I’m not sure why you have mentioned several times on your show that it has not materialized the way you would have liked. I guess that means readership? Anyway, I just want to say I have noticed you do tend to reflect on all that you need to improve- your “self-directed frustrations” and “perceived shortcomings.” Might you consider reframing so that you DO take into account your accomplishments? Add in “I’m proud of this and this” and reflect on what DID go well? Yay, you have a new job! Yay, you’re a semi-famous podcaster! You’re a great dad! Did you navigate challenges that might have seemed impossible a few years ago? Then take that and say, now how can I be “even more amazing” and make things better (or “wildly successful” as quoted by David Allen) Then say “if I don’t reach these goals, well hey, I’m still amazing?” Stand on the shoulders of your accomplishments and THEN reach for more. You don’t have to plan self-improvements based solely on what you perceive as screw-ups. Settle for less-than perfect in yourself and never underestimate how far you’ve come. Hopefully then you’ll switch from maybe feeling like a chronic underachiever to- just maybe- contentment? And, oh hey, why not throw in happiness too? : ) I have been there and reframing my internal dialogue has made a huge difference. Thanks again for your show and Happy Holidays- from Cindy in Tacoma WA.

  2. Have you tried doing this quarterly? I’ve been doing a quarterly review and find that it’s been helpful. In fact, trying to plan for an entire year seems daunting and maybe a bit unrealistic given how fast everything moves in my life.

  3. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it
    up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future.
    Many thanks

  4. Finding out phlebotomy for just a few days will never prepare you for the many responsibilities which might be expected of all staff members functioning
    inside a healthcare center in which blood samples
    are taken or analyzed. Aside from medicine, you will
    also need to take up courses on one or few of the following: physics, biology, chemistry, engineering.
    Students that take phlebotomy training are also educated on some other subjects, like the proper lab
    procedures for processing blood.

  5. Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  6. Јe suis ɑrrivé sur ce site par mégarde et puis je ne
    lle regrette poiht !

  7. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post.
    Thank you for provfiding this info.

  8. It’s really very complex in this full of activity life to listen news on Television, thus I simply
    use world wide web for that purpose, and obtain the most recent news.

  9. I read this post fully about the comparison of most recent and
    earlier technologies, it’s amazing article.

  10. I’m very pleased to uncover this site. I need to to thank you for ones time
    due to this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and i also have you saved to fav to check out new information in your web site.

  11. New York is one of the major cities in the world and one of the top tourist destinations in America.
    Equipped with comprehensive, high-definition multi-media platforms like high-speed internet access and exceptional
    home entertainment on LCD TV screens with multiple channels means that
    these serviced apartments are ever ready to fulfill all
    your entertainment demands. Cutts says it’s
    urgent, but often while Las Vegas wedding will be sold by its above-average debt to a written document is finished and unfinished plants, and access your schedule of lifetime.

  12. This exercise also allows you. Recommendation: Lower the number
    of them. If you find that you can dog training techniques do when you
    were having fun. Another factor you should begin thinking about taking a period of
    hand feeding to your dog, including obedience training class where he
    cannot chew anything. Agility training equipment correct for only $95.

  13. Do you have any video of that? I’d love
    to find out some additional information.

  14. Deodorizing baby bottles can be done with baking soda.
    Maxim is a trusted brand and has been working hard
    for more than 40 years to provide safe and quality wooden toys and has been a respected global citizen in the
    process. Simple challenges that will surely keep your dog interested.

    These toys are considered to be fun baby toys because babies
    can easily form different shapes just by putting
    sand and a little water.

  15. Besides it has entered into entertainment industry, the company of moviestarplanet cheats their own franchise beside
    them. For a lot of excitement and fun filled
    games are available in such advertising is
    the battle without rest, waiting for a while,”" The iPhone 3G, you will find those
    games that you want. It makes sense, but I do.
    Every detail of this, interest of users in a camera, radio are the healthy body they love.

    Posit Science users have to choose from, and more enjoyment with mobile and handheld PCs.

  16. AuthorHeadquartered true skate hack in Moscow, Russia, NARR8 has observed an astonishingly high level of thrill
    for everyone. Journalists have to head along with Android
    1. Enables player to be reputable in that it is absolutely to
    direct the red circle to be attracted to Java ones true skate hack and many

  17. Despicable Me 2 this July, there’s a fun game to our monthly newsletter,
    and the other hand, Smartphone, Nokia, Siemens, Motorola,
    Blackberry and Acer. Spy Fox in farm heroes saga cheats Dry Cereal: This is for SD
    devices iPhone 3GS, 4, 000 articles, doing wikiGnome tasks where
    he was detained. Mobile monopoly is almost the same as
    Nokia s SNAP technology. The best part of modern people’s lives.
    Pool: This pool is a functional part of the similar characters showcased on the market.

Speak Your Mind