THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Skip resolutions: Work on things you can see

I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions. We know that people keep less than 5 percent of them, and I think a big reason is that anything we are trying to change in our lives is really about self-discipline. It's the act of saying, "I want to make a change, but I'm going to do it in January." That's not self-discipline, that's procrastination. If you want to make a change in your life, you can start right now.

1. Start small

Solving problems is a snowball thing, which might be the most transformative research I have come across in the last five years because it has given me the encouragement to get started on lots of personal changes that look hard. For example, if you go tell yourself you have to drive to the gym every day, you can change your life. You don't need to force yourself to workout; you can sit in the parking lot. You probably will go inside, but you can tell yourself you just need to drive there. So reorganize your day so you can do that. And if you actually go inside, then you will eat better. So you don't need a goal of working out more or eating better. You just need to change your daily schedule.

2. Think in increments of three weeks

And, more good news: Your New Year's resolution really takes only three weeks to complete. Because if you force yourself to change your behavior for three weeks, your brain will start to develop more dopamine in response to the behavior that you are trying to change to, according to Monika Fleshner, a neuroimmuno-physiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. For example, after three weeks, your brain will start to release dopamine when it thinks about going to the gym instead of when it thinks about ditching the gym.

3. Get the wording right

The biggest source of poorly worded goals is the urge to do something to please someone else. It's hard to write a clearly worded goal if it does not come from inside you. "Live up to my potential." That a great example of a terrible goal. I mean, what is potential? How do you know it? How do you know if you are there? What does it look like? If you say "I need to go to the gym more," just forget it; it'll never happen. You need to break down the steps. You should say, "I need to drive to the gym at 4:30 every day, and I cannot drive out of the parking lot until 5:30."

4. Visualize what you will look like

Research reveals lots of tricks for getting you to stay on your path to your goal– tying success to money, telling friends, etc. But there's a guy, Jim Fannin, who coaches professional athletes like Alex Rodriguez. He says that the key to making these guys great is visualization. He teaches them to visualize what success looks like. If you can't do that, it doesn't mean that it doesn't apply to your goal. It means your goal is bad. Psychologists understand that people are unlikely to reach any goal they can't visualize. 

5. Forget New Year's day– start now.

Pick one reasonable thing you can change in your life for three weeks straight. Just to practice self-discipline. Don't even worry about the other, big stuff you want to change. Start off 2010 by creating this small path to big success.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.