Seth Kahan
Author, consultant

Seth Kahan

Change expert and author who has advised executives in 50-plus organizations, including Shell, World Bank, Peace Corps and NASA. He can be reached at


Power of reflection

Q: Why do most people abandon their New Year's resolutions so quickly? How much of a role does goal-setting play in achieving success? What are the most effective resolutions you have made?

What is the primary activity that separates those who influence their own future from those who cast adrift on the winds of change? Reflection. A simple, yet profound task -- most people feel they don't have the time to think upon what has happened and make strategy to push the future toward their chosen ends. Yet, this very act separates those who take the reins of destiny from those who leave them alone.

The New Year is a perfect opportunity to reflect for three reasons:
1. There is peace and quiet to reflect, surrounded by the natural splendor and equanimity of a spiritual holiday: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or simply the solstice. It is a beautiful period to turn inward and unlike the hustle-bustle of the business day there is generally time.

2. The calendar's end is the most natural time to look back and forward. Simply pull out your calendar, electronic or written, and take a visual review. If you don't use a calendar, run through the months one-by-one and do your best to recall the significant events of the previous 365 days.

3. It is nature's pause, coming as it does between the seasons. North or south, the new year is in sync with the earth's transition in relation to the sun. Taking time to pause and reflect on the past is easier when the whole world is ready to begin a new revolution with you.

There are a lot of jokes about New Year's Resolutions unfulfilled, the imminent failure. This is simply a result of a lack of skill ... a competency that is mostly not taught and so it is no wonder many are frustrated. Here are three simple guidelines to keep in mind, to help you ensure next year is a better year than the last:

1. Build upon your hopes and dreams rather than confront your weaknesses. Instead of saying, I won't eat high fat foods this year, try, This year I will achieve and enjoy the health that is my body's potential.

2. Reflect first, resolve second. Review the year and note your successes. In your resolutions, take your most valuable achievements and augment them by increasing your efficacy.

For example, I broke ground with a whole new set of clients this year -- CEOs in Washington, DC. I offered two symposia that were great successes: one on Leading in a Challenging Economy and the other on Global Expansion and International Partnerships. In the year ahead I will do four symposia, doubling my program and expanding my services to CEOs in the metro area. Over the holidays, I will review these two events from soup to nuts, then plot my course forward.

3. Write your resolutions. Do this for three reasons:
a) You have to draw a line in the sand. Writing your intents down makes it clear what you plan to do. This will allow you to measure your success or lack of it, either of which is helpful for learning as you go.
b) Next year you can review where you started this year. It's a perfect origin for your annual review.
c) Keep a collection of your resolutions over time and you have a wonderful journal of what you value year-to-year.

By Seth Kahan  |  December 30, 2009; 4:06 PM ET  | Category:  resolutions Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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