Ever experienced going to the gym and having to skip working out on your favourite machine because it was never free?

If you have, and are a long time gym regular you sigh and shrug because you will know this: just a few weeks and all these people are gone.

Because I bet this was in January. The month where people en masse decide to change their lives. And then February happens to be the month where people en masse go back to their unchanged life after just a few weeks of living the change. Regular gym visitors are patient with the newcomers because they know how the pattern goes.

This raises two questions.
Why is this January/February pattern predictable?
How to do bring about change ?

Why do new year’s resolutions very often fail?

Let’s skip the tension building and go straight to the answer:

New years resolution often fail because they are motivated by conflict.

Here is how this goes, and everyone knows this from their own experience:

  • we feel bad about some change in your life not happening the way you want it ->
  • we resolve to do better and make a new year’s goal->
  • we take action on the goal (for  hours, days, weeks) ->
  • we feel good about having taken action ->
  • the experience of emotional conflict reduces ->
  • and with it the driver of our motivation: the conflict ->
  • we revert back to pre-conflict behaviour.

If the conflict that drives the action is a real conflict, as in, something that is actually harming us (smoking, overweight), sooner or later you will find yourself here: you can’t stand it anymore and feel the urgent need for change.

And off we go again, into the New year’s loop, mentioned above, which of course can take place any time of the year. But the 1st of January feels special to us. Special in a way that it might help us finally do this thing that we want to do but have never before been able to?

Sweet old magical thinking.

The New Year's resolution loop

I remember doing this quite consciously when attempting to quit smoking, not understanding the predictable outcome I was setting myself up for. I would decide to wait for the next moment of being totally over smoked and thoroughly sick of it before I jumped on the quite-game. I would even tell myself stuff like, it’s no use trying to quit now because at this moment I mostly feel like the happy smoker and I can’t quit from that.


Making something go away

Here is another way to answer the question of why New year’s resolutions very often fail:

They are based upon wanting to have something go away. A problem. The extra weight, the bad health, the poor fitness, the tight money situation and … the stress and anxiety around this all. The problem has two sides: the actual thing and the emotional conflict around the thing.

So you hop onto the New Year’s resolution waggon and the action you take is successful pretty soon: something is going away. Guess what it is? The thing itself or the emotional conflict around it? Yeah, you guessed right. When we take action to solve a problem we feel good, no matter of the problem has been solved yet or not. Taking action upon it is a balm in and of itself. And out of the window goes our drive to act.

Action motivated by conflict will always be temporary and thus, is not sustainable.


Making something come into being

Now imagine someone deciding to not solve a problem, not focus on making something go away but create something, making something come into being. Good health or fitness, sound finances, new career chances. Let’s say we are this person and we also wrapped it into a New Year’s resolution and started acting on it on January the 1st.

We feel good because we take action, just like the problem solvers because taking action on something we want simply feels good. And then what..?

Well, nothing much really besides what we did already.

We have a clear understanding of our goal and our current reality in relationship to our goal. We see we are not there yet so we keep acting on our resolution.

We move towards something and that means that if we feel good, chances are we will keep moving forward. And if we feel bad chances are we will keep moving forward also.

Did you also spot what I just saw? That if we make New year’s resolutions from a problem solving orientation our actions are driven by our emotions. And if we make the same resolution based on a creative orientation, we can keep moving forward, riding the waves of the good and the bad feelings but are not ruled by them. We instead are driven by our fluency in reality. (Here is a whole article about this: Head or heart? Or reality?)

Our society has, for some reason, put problem solving on a pedestal. It is a highly valued skill which ups your value in the market place. Marketing gurus tell us to attract our clients by telling them which problems you will solve for them. Media know they can get out attention by reporting about the juiciest problems. Of course, problems are part of life, as is fixing them. But you can solve all the problems in the world and still not have created what you want to create. Solving a problem is not ’the problem’. Coming at everying from the orientation of problem solving is not a problem either. It just doesn’t get us the best results by far. It seems we are a problem orientated society. Our minds our problem oriented.

Or are our minds simply not focussed in the right direction?

Rosalind Fritz (which is wife and business partner of Robert Fritz, the one who came up with all this) is famous for having said this:

The mind is like a really smart dog. If you don’t give it a job to do, it will get into trouble.

Rosalind Fritz
The New Year's resolution loop

We have not given our mind the right job to do. Which is creating!
So it gets into trouble by focussing on the nearest problem at hand. The nearest emotional conflict.

And that’s why it is highly predictable that every year many, many people start acting on making a change and a large percentage of that reverts back to their old life within just a few weeks. They are in a problem solving orientation which is a structure with a high predictability of not leading to success. It might be that these people also have a creative desire, for health, fitness, whatever. But they are not aware of the difference between the two orientations and thus have no tools to switch gear.

It is not a big hairy step to switch from problem solving to creating. When asked this same thing recently Robert said:

It is not difficult to change your orientation. It simply does not occur to people.

Robert Fritz

So, now that is has occurred to you, let me tell you how I focus the smart dog in my head into working for me instead of against me.


How to do bring about change?

Stepping into a creative orientation instead of a problem solving orientation is pretty easy. You just need to shift where you place your attention.

And this is how you shift your attention:

  1. You sit down
  2. You take pen/paper or laptop
  3. On the top of the page you write down your goal
  4. On the bottom of the page you write down where you are in relation to that goal, your current reality

That’s because a creative orientation consists of having clarity on two equally important elements.

  1. Knowing where you want to go (DESIRED OUTCOME)
  2. and knowing where you are now in relation to that desired outcome. (CURRENT REALITY)

When you have clarity on these two things, knowing what to do and creating a plan becomes a breeze. It simply falls out of the difference between 1 and 2.

This sounds rather easy. And it is no rocket science indeed. The stunning thing about it though is that we overlook it ALL THE FREAKING TIME. In fancy boardrooms, in government policy making, in our attempts at global change, in our businesses and personal lives.

But once you are reminded of the obvious you just go and do it, right? Not much to it.

Well, it appears, lots of people do welcome my, Robert’s or the guidance of other consultants when they go after their goals.

And I think the reason why they welcome facilitation is in these key words: clarity and equally important.

Equally important -> when we have a goal we tend to jump straight into the action. This happens from the biggest corporate goals to the most mundane of personal goals. We might give a bit of time to getting clarity on our goal but fluently understanding the reality we are working with to get where we want to go is very often skipped. We need to honour vision and reality in equal measures, is what Robert says. And he doesn’t say it because it sounds poetic and enlightened, which it does, but because it is undeniably true which you will agree with once you start doing it or see where you have already been doing it. Yes, it can feel like a bore, like administration, to write down all the details that matter of our current reality but I keep doing it for one simple reason. It works. It at least doubles my chances of creating the thing I want.

Clarity is the other keyword. We need to get clear on our goal and our current reality on a level which is rare in our society these days. And why is it rare? Because it takes time, and thoroughness and objectivity and some more … time. You know the difference between making do with your high school German when speaking the language abroad and being fluent in German. We need to get fluent in our current reality and in our desired reality or our vision. That’s the level of clarity I am talking about.

And this clarity can be gotten by anyone with a working brain when we invest some time.

And I guess that’s where a lot of people have trouble.

Taking the time to design

It seems people experience a space like my consulting sessions as a permission slip to take the time to create that clarity. The structures of our society don’t allow for a whole lot of space and room to do things slowly and thoroughly. To take a moment to think before we act. To take time to design before we execute.

There are more benefits to being consulted then just the permission slip aspect of it but let’s keep those for another article 🙂

Over the course of the last years I stepped away from the eternal hurry and have carved out time, four times a year, to thoroughly think, to redesign, to create clarity. Four times a year, aligned with the changes of the solar cycle, I take half a day, a day or even a couple of days to think things through. To realign the whole sweet dance of head, heart and reality. I call these moments redesign sessions. And the whole yearly pattern of it, which I cycled 2,5 times now, the Redesign Cycle.

These redesign sessions have changed me into being a very effective creator of my entrepreneurial goals. And that is because of this one simple thing. I keep recreating clarity. I spend regular and quality time with my goals and it the realty in relation to it, apart from executing my way towards them.

In working with you guys and other people, I realised people do welcome being able to join me in this quarterly space of redesigning their plans. So I decided to create a group for that. The quarterly 2 hour sessions will bring you :

  1. renewed clarity around where you want to go
  2. and where you are in relation to that
  3. as well as the emergence of the best possible UPDATED action plan from that.

And you won’t have to do it alone. You can just hop on board of the redesign structure that I designed for myself over the last years. You simply join the zoom link, roll with me through the process and walk out of the door re-clarified. Ready to roll on by yourself with increased chances of creating the outcome you want.

Yeah, increased chances. Remember the smart dog? The one that you need to give a job, otherwise it will get into trouble? The Redesign cycle sessions are my way of reminding the smart dog in my head of its job. Which also happens to be the job it loves more than anything else but it gets distracted easily.

And in case you think you don’t have the time for this: you do have the time. And this is why I know this. If your kid or old parent gets sick and you have to spent half a morning on that, your life won’t fall over backwards. Precious tackling-my-to-do-list time gets snatched up by life’s glitches and burbs all the time. And we survive. So instead, let’s take the time to redesign. The time you invest gets right back to you in the fact of having to deal with less glitches and burbs. Less trouble the smart dogs gets into which you then have to recover from or smooth over. I didn’t do a scientific research on this but I am very sure it is true!

Here is all you need to know about the redesign sessions and how to join them.

You can also click the nose of the dog.

The New Year's resolution loop
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