It’s that time of year. The weather is (finally) cold, at least here in the mid-Atlantic states. The holiday season is officially over. The gym is more crowded than usual at 5:30 in the morning. A new year is here.

Everyone is friendlier during the change of years. People I don’t usually talk with are wishing me a “Happy New Year.” People I talk with but don’t know that well are offering me hugs. And everyone is asking me what my New Year’s resolutions are.

I generally don’t make resolutions on the New Year. I watch the gym get more crowded for just a few weeks with resolution-makers, and as they drift away I relish my brilliance for not making promises I can’t or won’t keep. I listen to others’ promises to go to bed earlier, or get up earlier, or eat healthier, and I often self-righteously know that if they haven’t done any of that so far, a simple change of the year will most likely not compel them to do anything differently.

But this year, as many times before, I’ve realized that I’m about to eat my own words from the past. That whereas I was certain that New Year’s resolutions were a waste of time, maybe my certainty was misplaced. That maybe there is a reason, and a way, to successfully use the New Year as an opportunity to change behavior.

Because this year, actually in the last few days, I’ve really noticed something I do that I’d like to stop doing. Something that each time I do it, I have a twang of remorse, a desire to set the clock back and do something else, a voice in my head reminding me that I know better. Something I think can get in the way of my relationships with other people.

I’m not going to tell you what it is, but I am going to tell you that I decided the change of year was a great opportunity to stop the behavior. Or to at least to start to stop the behavior. I don’t think it will necessarily be easy for me to stop immediately and completely, but I know that I am now filled with an incredible willingness to stop, and a determination to do so as well.

So, doing my best to be a Thoughtful Leader, I decided to think through what will help me succeed at my resolution. What will support me to make this resolution different from the ones that aren’t kept – and here is my list:

  • Fuel my willingness and desire to change – remind myself of why it’s important and What’s In It For Me to make this happen
  • Fuel my determination as well
  • Make my resolution public – whereas I won’t announce my desired change here, I need to find someone (or someones) I can tell about it, so that they can support me in my changes and call me out when I fall short
  • Be gentle with myself – we teach that human behavior is difficult to change, so I need to be able to give myself time to make this change
  • Reward myself for a job well done (when I get there) – a special treat can often ignite further determination to stick at something difficult
  • Recognize little steps along the way

So, this year I’ve made a resolution – one that is important to me. I’m going to do my best to stick with it, and I’d love to hear what helps you all stick with yours.

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