Weiss Advice Issue: 160, January, 2017
The following is from my Balancing Act Newsletter, and while I rarely use things twice, I thought it very appropriate for consultants going into 2017:

New Year’s Resolutions are just an excuse to pretend that we’re cognizant of our flaws, eager about improvements, and willing to take accountability for positive change. If this were an “over/under” bet in Vegas, the number would be 1 and I’d take the under. (Talk to your gambling friends if this is too obtuse.)

We all have the habit of confusing the identification of a problem with the resolution on that problem; with the creation of an aspiration as the achievement of that aspiration. More recently, we hear people proclaiming intent in public, as though that proclamation in front of others embodies a volitional force. The Cleveland Browns could chant in unison in the middle of the city all day long that they’re going to beat the Patriots, but that’s not going to happen unless the Browns get a new and brilliant general manager, an innovative coach, and 45 decent players (of which they have none of the aforementioned at the moment).

Minatory prospects of others holding us to our word possess little persuasive power (since we’re often reciprocally weaseling out of resolutions). Of course, we feel better having made the resolution—”I’ve finally decided formally that I will lose weight,” “It’s good to have acknowledged that I have to spend more time with the family”—but that is more than offset a month later when we’re depressed at our utter lack of progress in achieving it. (This is why February is such a short month. People can’t stand another couple of days of self-flagellation and need to hurry spring along.)

On a more localized basis, this is why garages are never cleaned out, bulbs not replaced, and cars not washed. (“I need to clean out this garage. Okay, that’s a great acknowledgement, I feel better already, I think I’ll go walk the dog.”) A lot of people trying to walk barefoot on hot coals in the attempt to “master their fears” merely burn their feet. It’s not because they’re insufficiently motivated or haven’t chanted the right mantra, it’s because the fire was made too hot relative to the perspiration on their feet.

My message to you is STOP IT AND GET SERIOUS. I’m slightly more verbose than Bob Newhart. Identify not merely what you need to do or accomplish, but when, where, and how, then put that on a calendar or in your electronic whatsis.

You’re better off doing something imperfectly than merely perfectly identifying it. Take a look at this column. You probably think you could improve it.

But I got it written.