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How to win in 2017 (Hint: Start keeping score.)

New Year’s resolutions don't work. They actually make things worse. How? If you feel the need to make one, it’s probably to create a big change in your life, and that's not easy. If you don’t prepare yourself, put a system in place to change your behavior, and have the support to sustain your commitment, you’re likely to fall short. Then you'll feel like a loser, even more helpless to make the kinds of changes you want in your life or your business. Yet the self-improvement instinct still shows up this time each year. We have four fresh seasons ahead – this year, can we get closer to what we really want? Well, instead of making a grandiose, high-pressure resolution that's likely to backfire, what if you committed to making a small change that could actually transform your outlook every day? I’ve been thinking about gratitude since Thanksgiving. Last week I was looking for something to listen to while working out, and I stumbled upon an interview with UJ Ramdas on The Bulletproof Executive podcast. Ramdas publishes The Five-Minute Journal, which prompts you to write down your thoughts every day around a few specific ideas (I’m not giving away anything that wasn’t covered in the podcast.)  It was a thought-provoking interview and it spurred me to make a different kind of resolution for 2017.

Bring your gratitude into focus

Ramdas outlines a simple discipline that requires you to focus, for at least a few minutes every day, on the people and things that bring meaning to your life. Here’s how it goes: Every morning, you take pen to paper and:

  • List three things you’re grateful for.
  • Ask yourself “How can I make today better?”
  • Ask yourself “What kind of person do I want to be today?”

Every evening, you:

  • List three wins from the day.
  • Ask “What could I have done better?”

Again, write these things down. You can do this in The Five Minute Journal, which looks ideal for this purpose, or of course you can do it in your own notebook, as I have already been doing. That’s it. I’m doing this, making it a habit to set my intentions in the morning and recount my wins at the end of the day. What constitutes a win? My standards are deliberately low (though not quite as low as Charlie Sheen's, and a little more wholesome). I’ll probably be farming my wins from these domains: my health, my family, my clients, my town, state and country. The fact that I'm walking this beautiful Earth in this day and age. These are things I'm grateful for off the top of my head. Do I find fault with any or all of these at different times? Sure. I can be very critical by nature. But when I view my relationships with people,  organizations and things through the gratitude filter, my expectations soften a little. I'm a little more forgiving. A little more OK with things as they are, and less fixated on what's "wrong." What do you think about acknowledging your small, daily wins? Does it help create positive momentum? Or does it take the edge off your ambition? Does it budge you off negativity, if you are prone to dwell there at all? Or is it too Zen for you? (Seriously, I’m really asking, please let me know in the comments.) I’m eager to see what 2017 brings.  How about you? Is it worth a few minutes per day to bring your gratitude into focus? Are you with me? Do New Year's resolutions work for you or your clients? What do you think about a daily gratitude check?