• Wendy Castleman

Resolution or Restrategy?



Every year is a new start. Every day, hour and moment is too, but with new years nearly half of Americans make “resolutions” for the next year.

And every year the majority of them give up on their resolutions, only to come dust them off for the next year. They aren’t really resolutions, they are desired outcomes, like “lose weight” or wishful thinking, like “go to the gym everyday”.

The reason most people bail on their resolutions is that they don’t have an effective strategy for achieving them.

A strategy is a plan or approach for how you are going to attain a vision. Strategies like FORCE YOURSELF to abruptly change your behavior through willpower generally do not work. If you have tried a strategy that failed, learn why it failed and adapt the strategy.

Strategies that are flexible and directional help you learn and adapt without giving up on the vision (forever, or just for another year). The strategy must be based on what is going on in your own life, and in the world around you. A good strategy will be able to align to your vision and help you prioritize actions and tactics to attain it.

How do you craft an effective strategy for attaining your "resolutions" for next year?

Narrow your list. You and I both want a hundred things to change between now and next year. But, if you try to change everything at once, you will likely find yourself pushing back and longing for the past - and ultimately will probably stop trying to change most of the things anyway. So why not narrow intentionally down to the critical few things that you REALLY want to have happen this year. Choose 1-3 things.

State your resolution (desired outcome or goal) in VERY SPECIFIC terms with measurable outcomes. So, instead of "lose weight" (which might mean 1 pound or might mean 100 pounds, and doesn't indicate whether that will be in 1 week or in 100 years), write it so it is specific and measurable: Lose 20 pounds by June 30th. Now take a look at the goal. Does it seem ambitious or attainable? If I said, "Lose 20 pounds by the end of January", the goal would probably be too ambitious. If it is too ambitious, adjust it now. If it doesn't seem attainable now, at the beginning, it certainly won't seem attainable in 3 weeks, when you have only lost 2.

SCAN for elements to inform your strategy. What is your motivation? What are conflicting motives? Who are your allies? Who are your adversaries (in this effort)? What are the environmental things that will support or detract from your efforts? What trends or patterns can you identify? Do you know anyone who has achieved your resolution in the past? What can you learn from how they did it? What does your typical schedule look like now (before any changes)? What will need to change in order to support your effort? Who can help coach you? Who are your cheerleaders?

SYNTHESIZE for your strategy. Looking at all of the elements you've collected, look for deeper meaning, patterns and possibilities. Craft "How Might We" (or "How might I") questions for yourself until you find one or two that resonate strongly. Then, remove the How Might We from the question and restate it as a sentence.

For example, if in my scanning I was able to identify that my family and I eat out 5 times a week, and I tend to eat more when eating out AND I identified that my daughter wants pizza on Wednesdays because she likes pizza and routines, AND I recognized that my commute brings me home right at dinner time, when I'm always exhausted and hungry... I might come up with the recognition that we go out for pizza every Wednesday where I eat five slices of pizza, which is 1000 calories (at least). So my "How might we" questions might be "How might I limit the number of slices of pizza I eat?" or "How might we eat at home more often during the week?" or "How might I eat less while still supporting the family in our weekly pizza outings?"... then, dropping the question, I end up with the following statements:

(1) Limit the number of slices of pizza I eat

(2) Eat at home more often during the week

(3) Eat less while supporting the weekly pizza outings

List out your list of sentences and narrow down to the 1-2 that are most flexible yet specific, ambitious yet attainable. Restate as a strategy.

My strategy for [goal/resolution] is to [statement] and [statement]...

For example, "My strategy for losing 20 pounds by June is to limit the number of times we dine out to 1-2 nights a week and to eat 3 or fewer slices of pizza when we go out for pizza."


Finally, in order to actually execute your strategy, you'll need to communicate your strategy to others and act on the tactics aligned to your strategy. Treat the actions as a chance to experiment and see if you can follow your strategy, then learn if your strategy actually works. If it doesn't -- CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY, not your vision.

If you want to learn more about how to be more strategic (including at work) and to show up as more strategic in your life and work, join me in my How To Be More Strategic In Work and Life Workshop in San Francisco on January 19th.


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