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2012: Making New Year's Resolutions That Last

Making New Year's resolutions that last requires a smarter approach. Too often they are set in a few moments rather than giving the process the serious attention it deserves -- or, better said, that you deserve.
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Although your intentions for 2012 are strong, you may realize that your past New Year's resolutions haven't delivered the results you want and need. Obviously it's not a lack of desire because I believe you truly want to make change, but life gets in the way, doesn't it? Nevertheless, I believe you have all that you need to succeed, but like most of us, you need a path to get through the obstacles to your success. As Peter Drucker said,

The problem in my life and other people's lives is not the absence of knowing what to do, but the absence of doing it.

Making New Year's resolutions that last requires a smarter approach. Too often they are set in a few moments rather than giving the process the serious attention it deserves -- or, better said, that you deserve. Successful businesses set goals and plan ahead. They know that in order to generate the kind of important changes and growth they're looking for, they must learn from the past, identify priorities and then focus their energies in a way that these goals are achieved.

To find the path to your best year yet, take the time to answer the 10 questions that lead you through a process of personal transformation as well as the creation of a one-page plan for 2012. The best news is that these are questions you already have the answers to -- the gold is in the process of answering them. Doing so may take 90 minutes or several hours, but it's the best possible use of your time -- your New Year's resolutions will last this time!

The first three questions provide a review of your past year and the distillation of the lessons you believe are key to your success in the next year.

1. What Did I Accomplish?

Although answering this question takes thought, it's necessary to write down your responses. So grab a pad of paper or open a document and get ready to capture your answers. Just one rule:

Write down everything that occurs to you -- don't dismiss anything. You are filled with wisdom, so learn to trust what it tells you.

Go ahead -- brag about yourself -- no one's looking! Especially note those times when you did something right, and no one noticed or took the time to thank you. But everything counts. Capture it all. What you're doing now is celebrating the good things that happened and building your confidence by reminding yourself that you do know how to produce results in your life.

Keep writing until you can't think of anything further; you can always return and add anything you forgot -- as happens to me every year.

Tim and I took a good chunk of New Year's Day answering these questions and making our 2012 plans -- the 33rd straight year for us. Every time is a revelation and another personal transformation. Here are a couple of my responses:

  • Birth of our third granddaughter -- Ruby Kate

  • Sale of the Best Year Yet business
  • Became a The Huffington Post author
  • Found and stuck with a weight training class
  • As you can see, it's a mixture of profound milestones as well as everyday improvements and successes. In my book I end the chapter on this first question with a reminder:

    Praise and appreciation for the good news make all the difference to us. We feel stronger and more naturally motivated, and there's less of that needy part of us always trying to prove ourselves and hoping someone will notice.

    2. What Were My Biggest Disappointments?

    So, what were your failures and disappointments in the past year? Remember the times you let yourself down or didn't do what you'd hope to do. Also write a note about times life handed you unwelcome news, and others let you down. If it occurs to you, write it down.

    Although your responses here might not be as inspiring as your answers to the previous question, there is enormous value in telling yourself the truth about the bad news of the past year. As you move through each disappointment, imagine that you're letting it go. It's in the past, it's over, and there's nothing you can do now to change what happened. Telling the truth to yourself provides a release and forms a part of creating the next 12 months as it begins to show you the path ahead.

    A couple of my responses:

    • Didn't stick with writing a HuffPost article every week -- far from it!

  • Still spending too much time at my computer
  • Gaining back the 10 pounds I lost the year before
  • Didn't meditate every day
  • 3. What Did I Learn?

    The purpose of answering this question is to find the most important lessons you need to learn in order to make the next year your best year yet. Start by looking at your answers about your accomplishments. What strengths, skills and qualities did you use in achieving them? What behavior did you demonstrate?

    As you write your answers to this question, avoid explaining the entire story. Take a moment to find the lesson, that kernel of advice and guidance you have for yourself. Just a few words are needed to remind you about every bit of the background and what you mean by each lesson. For example,

    • Ask for help.

  • Listen more.
  • Stick with it.
  • Now move to your disappointments to discover why they happened. What didn't work and why? What advice do you have for yourself so you would have had a better outcome? Sometimes it helps to pretend that you're reading about someone else's failure -- we always know the advice we have for others, don't we? For example,

    • Plan ahead.

  • Do first what matters most.
  • Relax.
  • Make as many guidelines as you want, keeping them no longer than one to five words. Once you're satisfied with your list, choose three that will make the most difference to you in the next 12 months. Once you've done so, take a moment to imagine how 2012 will enfold, following this wisdom as it's revealed itself in your own guidelines.

    Here are my guidelines for 2012:

    • Know where I'm going.

  • Prepare fully.
  • Be joyful.
  • With the creation of your guidelines, you've now completed the first part of your one-page plan. Take a fresh sheet of paper or new document, giving it a title such as, "My 2012 Best Year Yet Plan." Then enter the first part of your plan -- your lessons -- under the heading: "Guidelines."

    I'll be writing in the next few days about your next step: how to discover the biggest obstacle to your success. The titles for all of the articles in this series will begin with the words 2012: Your Best Year Yet.

    Please leave a comment or question below. Let us know how you're doing. By doing so you'll inspire the rest of us. Or you can email me at

    P.S. If you want to get started sooner, there are a number of ways you can do so:

    1. Read Your Best Year Yet, which includes a workbook for making your plan -- also available in the Kindle format.

    2. Get the Best Year Yet Online software package, cloud software for making and tracking your plan.

    3. Find a Best Year Yet Coach or tell your own coach about this process.

    P.P.S. Over the next few days the purpose of my articles is to give you everything you need to make 2012 your personal best year yet. I'll be talking about:

    1. Finding out whether you're ready for a great year (12/30 article)
    2. Identifying your key lessons (this article)
    3. Answering the 10 questions that make up your one-page 2012 plan (begins in this article)
    4. Discovering the biggest obstacle to your personal success
    5. Setting your top 10 goals, and
    6. How to make sure you stick with your plan throughout the year

    For more by Jinny Ditzler, click here.

    For more on New Year's 2012, click here.