a stone statue holding an umbrella next to a tree

#50: New Year’s Resolutions

Bob Ewing
January 7, 2022
a stone statue holding an umbrella next to a tree

Talking Big Ideas.

“Commitment is an act, not a word.”
~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

I do. I love it. Natural transitions like the changing of the year are an ideal time to reflect and assess. To review the year before and figure out how to make the year ahead even better.

Many people push back on New Year’s Resolutions. They may have heard about research suggesting most resolutions fail. Exercising at the gym provides a vivid illustration. Gyms get flooded with people every January. And by March they’re back to nearly empty.

A quick search in my Google Drive uncovers many lists of old resolutions. In 2013 alone, I resolved to read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy along with the Harry Potter series, become an early bird as well as an email-organizing expert, and run a 17:30(!!) 5k.

I failed to do every one of these.

The problem with resolutions is getting them to stick. It’s easy to be involved in the fun ritual of picking a bunch of goals. And it’s even easier to then forget about them. What’s hard is commitment.

As tennis icon Martina Navratilova says, “the difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.”

Creating commitments begins by carving out time to think deeply about what matters most. I started blocking off a full day for this – and in 2018 I was inspired by Michael Pollan to spend a weekend alone in a tiny cabin in the woods.

I consider the various aspects of my life. The bestseller Designing Your Life explains how our lives have four primary pillars: health, love, work, and play. To live well, we must make time for all of them. I subdivide these pillars into ten categories:

  • Health: mind, body
  • Love: partner, tribe, community
  • Work: career, projects, money
  • Play: leisure, adventure

For each category I ask myself: what is the one most important thing for me to accomplish this year? My 2022 Commitments look like this:

They are specific and measurable. They are written as positive statements. With effort, they are achievable. I then use these commitments to help build my Mountaintop Card.

This is a one-pager that clarifies my professional commitments for the year. I pick one commitment as a primary focus. It sits at the top of the page in large font. At the bottom are a handful of additional commitments. I also include a Big Hairy Audacious Goal – an aspirational, hallmark achievement as a guidestar for my career.

Here’s my Mountaintop Card for 2022:

(Here’s 2021.) My Mountaintop Card will be printed up and hung in my office. So I see it every day.

Next comes accountability and skin. As the Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie says, “once you have the commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.”

To keep myself on track, I take a three-step approach:

  1. Share: My commitments with family, friends, colleagues, and newsletter readers.
  2. Follow-Up: Meet weekly with Maryrose, bi-weekly with my Indistractable group, and monthly with my Mastermind Group. During each meeting I clarify what I need to achieve to make progress on my various commitments.
  3. Skin*: Hold myself accountable by paying money every time I fail to achieve my agreed-upon progress.

Yesterday my Indistractable group met. One of the members, Weifeng, joked that he’s in the group solely to make money off me.

Sharing and meeting create accountability. Skin adds real pressure. Together they build discipline to help ensure progress.

As I said last week, I struggled to set clear priorities in 2021. But I did better than in 2020. And I keep learning, tweaking, and improving my system.

I’m confident this coming year will be my most organized and productive yet.

What do you want to accomplish this year? How can you best set yourself up for success?



Commitments bring life into focus. Accountability and skin help make commitments a reality.

What is one commitment you are willing to make in 2022 to aid in your professional development? Try this approach:

1. Identify: At least one commitment for 2022.

2. Share: With friends, family, or colleagues. Please share with me as well!

3. Meet: Pick someone to update regularly on your progress. Every time you chat, review your commitments and clarify next steps for each of them.

4. Skin: Hold yourself accountable. Any time you don’t achieve your next step towards your commitment, pay skin.


*My skin is money. Maryrose’s skin is watching a movie of my choice and giving a short summary of its best parts. Feel free to be creative with your skin, just make sure it’s painful enough to help you stay on track.

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