New Year's resolutions, it seems to me, set us up to fail. There was the year I swore off chocolate ... and the year I vowed never to be...

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New Year’s resolutions, it seems to me, set us up to fail. There was the year I swore off chocolate … and the year I vowed never to be less than loving to my sisters … and the year I swore that I’d bake every loaf of bread I ate from scratch.

Defeat always has been swift, believe me. Failure seemed to be the common denominator of my resolutions, and I felt crummy about it, even when the resolutions were unrealistic from the start.

Let me share a different approach that’s worked for me: Life lists.

Life lists are things you intend to do sometime in your life. They can be as lofty or lowly as you like. After all, who besides ourselves can put a value on what’s important to us?

So far I’ve combined both. When you’ve achieved one of your goals, cross it off your list. Thus, the list is an organic process not bound by time, place or resources.

For example, rowing in a regatta was on my list, having taken up sculling at age 40. My time: pathetic. My sense of achievement: immeasurable.

Get the idea? Maybe you’ve always wanted to give a dinner party and prepare every single food yourself. Maybe you’ve wanted to grow orchids. Maybe, like me, you want to learn to make pie crust.

Will all these things happen this year? Probably not. But so what?

Write your goals on your life list. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Research tells us that underachievers say “try” eight times a day. Achievers say it once, if at all.

This year, set yourself up to succeed. You deserve it. And enjoy even the smallest triumphs. Life is too short not to.

Mary Mitchell is a Seattle-based corporate trainer and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Etiquette.” E-mail questions to Mary@themitchell.org.

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