Successful resolutions require a look at your whole life

Most common resolutions. Picture source: Huffington Post

Most common resolutions. Picture source: Huffington Post

It’s that time of year. My gym is full of people I’ve never seen before, the produce section of the grocery store is full of people buying vegetables. My feeds are full of posts and blogs about new year resolutions (like this one!).

New year resolutions a cultural artifact for so many of us, for making choices about changing our lives. I was surprised to learn that people who make life changes at new year are likely to be more successful than people who make change at other times of the year — check out this TED Ed video for some quick insights.

While I’ve been reflecting on the journey of 2017 taking stock of where I’ve been and planning where I’m going next it has occurred to me that identifying actions to take in isolation to the whole of my life doesn’t work. It makes those goals transactional, rather than connecting them to the larger framework of what makes me whole, authentic and fulfilled. Shouldn’t choices about change connect to what matters most to you?

I like to think about goal setting and making resolutions as a Brave, Honest Conversation with YOURSELF.

I came up with this easy exercise that allowed me to connect my new year goals to the whole of my life.

  1. Picture a tic tac toe board. Imagine that your life is the game board — you won’t play all squares every turn, and different squares will be winners during different games, but you need a complete game board in order to play. If you’ve got a board with 3 or 5 squares instead of 9 you can’t play the whole game.


2. Now, name the squares on the board. The squares on the board are the things you need in your life to keep you whole, centered and fulfilled. Each square will represent something different; for example, exercise or time with family or creativity. Ask yourself what do I need in my life for me to be whole so I can do the things that are calling me? When you have 9 different things identified, they become the board game for your life.

3. You may see themes emerge when you write the squares up. It is likely there are connections between some of the squares and the impact they have when they are present in your life. You won’t need to play every square every day, but over time you will see patterns. You will also find that when you don’t have all the squares in rotation over time you are out of balance, and you can easily see where you need to adjust course.

I’ve posted a picture of my board. You can see I’ve named the 9 squares;

  • creativity,
  • body time / physicality / exercise,
  • nature / outdoors,
  • growth & change,
  • return on investment and adding value in return for $,
  • positive impact on world + those around me,
  • adventure,
  • deep thoughts / time to think, and
  • time and connection with family.

Once I identified those 9 squares I realized I don’t need them all in my life every day, but to make my life whole I need all of them. I began to see there were connections or themes between the columns and the rows. The left column is about living wild and free, steering my own course, exploring life in an autonomous way that honours my deep values of choice and freedom. The middle column is all about growing — growing my business, strtetching my body and growing stronger, learning new things and developing new content. The right column is about the connections that are core to making my life sing; time outside and in nature, positive impact in the world and on those around me, and connected time with those dearest to me.



There are also themes in the squares for each row. The top row feeds my soul, and the source of my authenticity with creativity, movement and time outside. The middle row is about my work in the world, always growing and changing, never static, growing my business and having a positive impact. The bottom row are those things that keep me whole and grounded; adventure, deep thoughts and family. Review your squares and see what connections emerge. Move the squares around so you can link those themes together.

4. Now you can set new year resolutions or goals and tie them to the squares on your board so they become specific and actionable, and connect to the things you need in your life to be whole, centered and possible. For example, I’ve got a goal of increasing my fitness in 2018 so I can hike the Juan de Fuca trail and run a couple Spartan races with ease. So I’ve got a goal of the gym 3 to 4 times per week (depending on my travel schedule) and increasing my running and stair climbing each week. This goal connects to something I already have in my life that I need to be whole and it just requires a shift in time allocation. I’ve also got a bunch of goals around growing my business that connect to the creativity square, the growth and change square and the value added finance square.

Now when I set new goals on an ongoing basis I go back to my board — am I setting a goal that builds on and expands things I already need in my life? My likelihood of success is higher because that choice reflects something that makes me a better person. If the idea doesn’t connect to the board I need to check in and reflect on whether its just a good idea, but not for me, or if I’m wanting to reinvent some part of my life. Which is fine too, I just need to ask the question and do some reflection.

I hope this helps you create new year resolutions that connect to the fabric of your life. Let me know how it goes!