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It’s that time of year again. In the week between Christmas and the start of whatever new year it happens to be, most Americans are recovering from over-stuffing themselves with holiday goodies and shopping exhaustion (unless, of course, they to0k my advice and made donations in the name of their family/friends and avoided the mall like the plague). We also tend to use this time to make a list–though it’s usually one that doesn’t get checked once, much less twice.

I’m talking about the infamous list of New Year’s Resolutions. You know, that note-to-self you wrote on a Post-It last year and promptly lost on January 5th, along with all your will to accomplish any of the tasks laid down on it? Yeah, that one.

Why are we so bad at following through on that which we resolve? It’s certainly not the de jureAmerican Way“. Where the hell did the Protestant Work Ethic (that, by the way, built our great nation up from its boot-straps) go? Was it bred out of us? Or have years of advancing technology, designed to save time at all costs, ruined our ability to get anything worthwhile done? Either way, it looks like we could all use a  visit to Ideators Anonymous.

Hi, My name is little girl BIG VOICE and I use all my energy and ingenuity to make endless lists instead of actually accomplishing anything on said lists.

The issue is not that we don’t have fabulous aspirations and innovative ideas. It’s that we’ve put so much emphasis on coming up with awesome ideas that we’ve forgotten how to make them happen. And our culture is suffering a major ideating hangover because of it. One that keeps us from getting much of anything done. We’ve gone from being specific to vague; from focused to overly broad.

And we need to get back to goal accomplishing basics–and away from Resolutions that look like this:

Resolutions That Will Never Succeed

CODE PINK: Resolutions That Will Never Succeed

The biggest issue about this particular list is that it’s impossible to actually DO anything on it. It’s a classic example of that infamous Miss America answer to the question about what they want most in the world: World Peace.

OK, so we all want to contribute to world peace. That’s freakin’ great. But we each need to determine a specific way we can do so. Maybe that means you’ll become a Big Brother or Big Sister to a child who, without a positive adult role model, would have a much higher risk of joining a gang and leading a lifestyle rife with violence. Or maybe you’ll join the Peace Corps. Whatever. The point is that no single person is going to accomplish world peace on their own, but we can each find a way to contribute to that idea. Once we’ve determine the what, we can start on the how.

Work-flow/Productivity guru David Allen says that the key to accomplishing our goals is to take the next step. Don’t just create the goal and then walk away from the table. We have to get specific about our long-term goals and then map out the short-term tasks that will get us there. Now, don’t freak out on me here, but I’m gonna use the “R-word” in just a sec. Figuring out how to accomplish your goals is going to require <wince> RESEARCH.

I’ll give you a second to recover…

OK, bring it back now.

Sorry, but if you thought that after graduation, you’d never again need to bust out those knowledge seeking skills, you were sorely mistaken.

Most things in life worth doing take prep-time and deliberate intention. That reality can be hard for us to stomach. We are used to instant results. We live in a culture of convenience. But goals aren’t anything like the fast-food industry. You can’t compromise quality for efficiency or speed. If you do, you’re left with a lot of resolutions without a line through them.

Doug Beghtel (The Oregonian)

Photo Credit: Doug Beghtel (The Oregonian)

Example: If you want to run a marathon, you don’t just start running. You’ve got to train your body in a way that won’t leave you in the back of an ambulance at mile 15. That takes a training program designed by experienced professionals (and adapted by you to meet your body’s abilities). There are different methods out there, so finding the one that works for your skill level is crucial. You’ll also need to figure out your time-line. If you wait until two weeks before the race to start training, your dream of running your first marathon will probably end up on next year’s Resolutions. It takes a good three to four months to be adequately prepared to run 26+ miles–even for experienced runners.You can’t McDonald your way out of training time–unless you’re Kenyan and graced with the other-worldly ability to run really fast for really long distances (sometimes without shoes!). Maybe then you could squeeze training into a shorter time frame. The rest of us have to live with the fact that marathons are a grueling process–albeit one that leaves us with the feeling that having conquered this mountain, we are capable of most anything.

Last November over half of the American voters bought into the idea that, “Yes. We can.” It made us feel good. We got that rush of adrenaline that comes when stumbling across an amazing possibility!

Many people think the mere act of subscribing to that idea was the big test. They’re wrong. That was just the mid-term people. We’ve still got a final exam to prepare for and it’s going to be a doozy. The good news: Getting an A on it is far from impossible. But it will take specific goals and a dynamic roadmap of how to accomplish them. And finally, there has to be room for error. We’ve forgotten how to do that as well. Cushioning your goal process enhances the ability to navigate adversity and still successfully cross your 2009 New Year’s Resolutions off that list one by one. I recommend purchasing a big black Sharpe for the task and doing it with a lot of drama and flair. Ah, the triumphant feeling of crossing something off of your list! It’s half the reason I even make them in the first place!

Happy Listing! May your New Years Resolutions for 2009 ALL be realized! Manifest that shit!!!

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