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The Lawyers Life Coach Guide to New Year's Resolutions (December 2005)

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The Lawyers Life Coach Guide to New Year's Resolutions

Issue # 41
December 2005


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: A month-by-month guide to New Year's resolutions for 2006 is provided to enable you to set specific goals and take concrete action steps consistent with your most important values.

As a Washintonian, I always looked forward to reading Dave Barry's last, retrospective column of the year, one he wrote annually for many years until he retired from the Washington Post.

Besides his outrageous humor, what always struck me was how little I remembered of the year's events as he chronicled them month-by-month. "Did this really only happen just last fall?" I'd ask myself. "How could I have forgotten that?" Like many of you, I felt as if each year flew by.

How much of the past year seems like a blur to you? How often did you find yourself so focused on the present moment that you can recreate these moments in your mind now?

And what about our New Year's resolutions? The new year is a calendar-defined opportunity to stop, examine the status quo, consider who you are, what you value most, and determine how you can live in a way that's consistent with your values.

Do you even remember last year's resolutions? All too often, the pledges we make to ourselves in January are forgotten by February. Buried in piles of work, we lose track of our good intentions. By now, you may have resolved to stop making New Year's resolutions! Thinking of the ways in which you failed to be your best self can be painful.

Don't blame yourself. It takes courage to review the past year, and the typical New Year's resolution is a set up for failure. Intentions never help us accomplish objectives: they're too vague. They don't specify what actions we'll take, they're not time-bound, and there's no accountability except to ourselves.

For 2006, we offer you a month-by-month guide to New Year's resolutions. By setting specific goals for each month, you'll commit yourself to taking actions consistent with your most important values. You'll know exactly what you're going to do and when you'll do it.

Keep in mind that we create change one step at a time. Try following the guide - for one month or more.

Please write to let us know the results. We'd love to celebrate your successes with you. Your accomplishments, as well as the obstacles that blocked you, may be very useful to others. And, of course, we'll protect your privacy if you allow us to share them with the Lawyers Life Coach community.


Take out your calendar for January. Right now, block out one hour/week to spend with the most important person in your life. (You can break the time down into briefer periods or spend it all at once.)

Make a commitment to yourself: this time is no longer available for anything else; it must be protected. Ask yourself what could be important enough to make you change this plan. Then ask yourself if you really value that intrusion more than you value the relationship. Write down your decision and put it at the top of your January 2006 calendar.


Schedule one 30-minute appointment with yourself. Write it in your calendar. This will be an opportunity to reflect upon important questions: "What needs to be different? What one small change can I make that would make a significant difference in my life? What is one thing I keep telling myself to do or stop doing?"

For example, many of the women attorneys I coach recognize that they make time for everything and everyone but themselves. As a consequence, they often feel depleted, have difficulty focusing, are less patient than they wish, and are not as happy as they could be.

Now translate the change you'd like to make into a specific behavioral goal. For example, you might translate "taking more time for myself" into meeting a friend for lunch twice/month or going to the gym for 45 minutes two mornings a week.

Immediately write these dates into your calendar. Then decide what you have to do to make sure that you keep them. For example, write down when you'll call your friend to schedule your lunch.

Consider what support you'll need. Perhaps your partner will have to take your children to day care on your gym mornings. Schedule a time for making these arrangements.

If your goals involve commitments to others, you have built-in accountability. If you're the only one involved, make yourself accountable to someone else. Tell someone about your gym schedule and ask her to check in with you to congratulate you for going, or to remind you of your commitment if you failed to go.

Plan for obstacles. What might side-track you? Decide how you'll keep this from happening. Certainly work could distract you. Do you really value work more than you value your well-being? What would you need to tell yourself if something threatened to compete for this time? Maybe you'll need to remember that taking this time for yourself will enable you to be more focused and efficient when you work. Write this reminder in large, brightly-colored letters in your calendar where you've scheduled your lunches or trips to the gym.


What is unfinished that wakes you up at night? It might be a work project or a promise you made to someone to schedule some time together. Whatever it is, write down all of the action steps required to complete it. Now assign each step a specific time and write it on your calendar. Imagine how good you'll feel when it's completed.


On the first day of April, commit to a gratitude exercise. Select a time once/week, preferably before going to sleep, during which you will write down, perhaps in a special notebook, three things for which you are grateful. They should not be general things like good health or a thriving practice. Instead, select three specific events: Perhaps you got a call from that client you've been courting. Maybe you had a particularly good conversation with your teenager. Remember to include that client who expressed gratitude for your decisive action or wise counsel.


At the top of your May calendar, write down: What am I doing too much of?

Schedule one half hour to decide on the answer. Write down your conclusions. For each item, decide if it can be reduced or eliminated. If it's really necessary, decide to whom you'll delegate it. You'll need to decide on specific times for delegating these tasks - write them down now.


Make an appointment with yourself to consider when you have felt creative, energized, productive, "in the zone." What were you doing when you experienced this? What would happen if you created more opportunities to spend time feeling so focused and inspired?

Schedule three times between now and the end of the year for engaging in the activities you've identified.


Schedule one half hour to ask yourself if you are behaving like the kind of parent, partner, friend, and child that you want to be. If not, choose one change you'd like to make. Make it very specific. For instance, commit to spending 20 minutes a day entirely focused on your child with her taking the lead. Or commit to a 15-minute conversation every night during which you listen to your partner describe his or her day and you do the same. Schedule these times in your calendar. Tell that person about your plan. If you're genuinely committed to this, make this time inviolable.


Block out one half hour during the first week in August to ask yourself to what extent you are being reactive vs. proactive with respect to your career and your practice. Is there anything you'd like to be doing differently?

Decide on one change you'd like to make. Consider things like offering to be a mentor, or seeking out work you'd like to be doing, or setting aside time each week for business development. Write down the steps required to make this change and put them in your calendar immediately.


What are you not doing enough of? Schedule two times this month to do it.


Choose a de-stressing activity to add to your life. You can sign up for a yoga class or schedule a mid-day 10-minute break to slow your breathing or take a walk. Either involve someone else in the activity or tell someone else about your goal. Ask that person to hold you accountable.


Choose one new ritual to add to your life. This is a specific activity that you will engage in at a regular time every week. It can be work-related, such as a weekly time to recognize the contributions of people on your team, or something personal, like a weekly dinner out with a friend or significant other. Add the ritual to your calendar. Go public with your commitment.


Schedule one hour to review the year. To what did you commit yourself? If you accomplished your goals, celebrate your success. If you didn't, ask yourself what interfered with achieving your objectives. How might you plan more successfully next year? Treat failures as opportunities for learning.

If you had difficulty, don't give up. Hiring a coach might help because you're committing to set aside a time each week to focus on your goals. This act alone clears a space in the busy-ness of life during which you can take control and not be driven by external circumstances. With your coach, you can plan one small step toward your goal each week. Both support and accountability are inherent in the coaching relationship. If trying on your own wasn't sufficient, working with a coach may be the solution. Remember, this is what many successful people do to accomplish their most important goals.

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