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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > Don’t make resolutions, make action items

Don’t make resolutions, make action items

December 31st, 2010

Career Opportunities podcast logoI am writing on New Year’s Eve here in Los Angeles as celebrations of the New Year have already started in other, distant parts of the globe. We will be attending a party tonight to bring in 2011 ourselves, as will many others. One big topic of discussion at all these celebrations will be New Year’s Resolutions. The beginning of the calendar year is always a good time to reflect on the past year and plan for the next, but I want you to think about this new year in a new way. This New Year, instead of making resolutions, make action items. Instead of trying to make things happen, make them happen. To quote Yoda from the Star Wars movies, “Do, or do not. There is no try!”

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The trouble with resolutions is they are a waffling way to approach change. There is already an assumed “try” in them and I think this is what allows us to abandon them so easily. There is also a bit too much thought and too little action involved in resolutions. We think and think on what we want to accomplish, but unless we take some direct action towards our goals they will always remain dreams.

Let’s look at how we could better form some resolutions that might actually lead to change in the New Year. Here is a big one that is on many people’s lists including my own — I resolve to lose weight. While that is a fine and admirable goal, I think it would be better to create some action items towards that goal.

  1. I will walk 2 miles every day
  2. I will eat 1 portion at meals instead of 2
  3. I will stop eating fast food as a convenience

Here are direct, actionable items that can be reviewed and monitored each and every day. Ben Franklin kept a checklist of actions he wanted to take or avoid and then reviewed them at the end of each day, noting his success or failure. I used an online tracking tool, Joe’s Goals, ( for a while and this might be a good place to start. Constant, daily review of your action items is a great way of “doing” instead of just “trying.”

One important reminder, though. Your daily review is not designed to beat you up about not achieving your action items. We all slack on occasion. Life intervenes and takes us away from our goals. Take each day as it comes. Take pride on those days you do well, but only use the bad days to remind you to do better tomorrow. Change isn’t about guilt. Change is about accomplishment. Don’t let your action items and goal tracking be another guilt-inducing, mind-weighing stress creator in your life. That is counter productive and can be worse than doing nothing at all.

So, sit down today and start creating your own action items. Remember, action is the key word here. Each item should be phrased as actively as possible. I will do…, I will NOT do. I find that phrasing things in the positive also helps. Avoid too many NOTs. They create negative thoughts that are also counterproductive to achieving your goals. Try to keep things as positive as possible. Point out the behaviors you want to achieve rather than those you want to avoid.

As we launch in to the New Year, let’s all determine to pursue our lives actively. Let’s not “try” this year, let’s “do” as much as possible. I think you will find that this mindset will help you pursue change more directly and therefore the changes will last longer than any previous year.

Sharing your action items can help, too. Post your action items as comments to the blog or on the Career Opportunities Facebook Page. Let me know what changes you are going to accomplish in 2011. I am sure everyone would be interested in hearing them and maybe adopting a few of them as their own.

Wishing you great success in building the career you deserve in 2011…now let’s get started!

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