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How to (Actually) Accomplish your New Year’s Resolutions: The Five Keys to Success

By Shawn Tolleson

It’s a new year. You’re rested, well fed, and got your batteries charged up over the holidays. You’re excited, darn it, to get going on with those infamous resolutions.

So, what are they? Lose ten pounds, stop biting your nails, exercise and meditate? Right. Now let’s talk about your career. Sell a script? Write every day? Get your work in front of an agent? Get that A-list producer/director/star onboard? Get the financing?

But let me ask you this… Did you have any of these same resolutions last year? If the answer is “yes,” you’re not alone.

What’s going to make this year different? It may sound surprising, but there are actually strategies that can change your repeat New Year’s Resolutions into achievable results. Read on for tried-and-true keys to actually accomplishing your goals.

The Five Keys to Successfully Accomplishing Your New Year’s Resolutions

Whether or not you accomplish your goal is related to five things:

  1. How you articulate it
  2. The plan you have in place to support the goal
  3. How you share it
  4. The structure you have in place (This is different from your plan)
  5. The team you have supporting you (Structure and team go hand-in-hand, but they are different)

Key #1: Your Articulation

Have you ever been to a party, asked someone what they do, and heard them talk for five minutes only to wonder what exactly they said? If you’re cringing right now, you might have even been that person!

This is a very common problem. We know what we want, but we haven’t really honed it, articulated it, road tested it. Or, worse, we are letting it stay vague so that we avoid failing. You can’t lose if you don’t play, right? Well, here’s news for you. You also can’t win if you don’t play!

So, articulate that goal. Confront your fears. Say it loud and proud at the next cocktail party. Make it as specific as possible, and then make it more specific. Set a timeframe around it and get feedback on it. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be to accomplish it.

Key #2 Your Plan

Every successful business has a business plan. Your writing career is just that, a business. No plan = no success.

What does a plan look like, you ask? I’m a writer, not an MBA, you say. It needs to have a timeline, milestones and an action plan. One common problem is having a goal and a to-do list but nothing in the middle. Your to-do list is today and tomorrow. Your goal is 3 months or a year from now. Your timeline and milestones are the road map that’s going to get you from today to 3 months or a year from now.

Key #3 How you Share It

Your accomplishments happen in the world. Despite the fact that you spend a lot of time writing alone (and I acknowledge you for that), movies don’t get made alone. Producers don’t come on board when you are alone. Money doesn’t arrive in an escrow account by being alone. If you have a spiffy articulation and brilliant plan but you don’t share it, it will stay just that, a goal and a plan.

More to the point, you have to be great at sharing it. Why should your script go to the top of the pile? Why should your project get financing? Why should a producer devote years of their life to getting your film made. I know, I know, because it’s great. But how will they know that if you don’t share it with them in such a way that drives them to read it, drives them to get back to you, drives them to sign on?

So, see it and share it. Every day. Print it up and put it in your workspace, even your car. Share it with at least one person every single day. Get feedback on how you share it and work on your share. Actors don’t just go onstage without rehearsal, why should your share be any less prepared? If you put it out there and you do it powerfully, it will come back to you.

Key #4 Your Structure for Accomplishment

Accomplishments happen in structures. Think about it. The gym is a structure for the accomplishment of fitness. School is a structure for the accomplishment of education. Writers groups are structures for the accomplishment of great writing. Why would your resolutions, your goals, be any different?

Similar to your accomplishments not happening alone, they don’t happen without structure. So, join a structure or create one! You could join a career coaching class, or put together a group of dedicated “accountability buddies” that meets once a week.

A word of caution in putting together your own group: Be selective! Choose people that really share your commitment, are accountable and truly supportive. Also, put some “structure” in your structure. A group of friends can quickly become a gossip-fest if your time isn’t properly scheduled.

Key #5 Your Team

Raise your hand if you think of yourself as the Lone Ranger. (I know you’re alone, but do it anyway.)

Now, think about the Lone Ranger. Who was always by his side? Tonto. You betcha. And his horse. And Tonto’s horse. Four mammals on that team.

My point? Nothing of any scope or magnitude in life happens alone. Your career and your goals are no different. In addition to accountability partners, you need to work with your representation as a team, you need a mentor (or 2 or 3), a coach, the support of your significant other, and more. When you bring that director, producer and star onboard, you’ll need to work with them as a team, too. So, it’s critical that you work on the skills of leading a team now!

Something else to think about: Every team has a coach. Kobe Bryant had Phil Jackson and now has Mike Brown. Barack Obama has coaches. They are at the top of their games. How are you going to see the flaws in your game, both as a writer and as the CEO of your career, without a coach?

In summation

You can’t get where you want to go without a clear articulation of your goal, a strong plan to accomplish it, being a powerhouse at sharing it, a structure to support you, and a team working with you.

Most people are good at only a couple of these things. They are great with articulation and plans, but bad at sharing. They are great at getting people excited, but don’t know how to put a structure in place once people are on board.

What to do? Analyze yourself, get honest feedback from people who really know you and want you to succeed. Get some support so that you are at the top of your game, every part of your game. Do all of this and you’ll make 2012 the year your accomplishment was actually accomplishing your New Year’s Resolutions!

Meet the Author: Shawn Tolleson

Shawn Tolleson is the premiere career coach for entertainment industry professionals of all disciplines. She has coached actors from being on the outside of the industry, looking for a “break,” to being working professionals who book TV, film and commercials regularly and earn six figures as an actor. She has coached writers to landing TV staff writing jobs, directors to attaching star actors to their projects, and producers to securing financing for their projects. Recently, her clients have booked jobs working with James Franco, Julia Roberts, Tarsem, Peter Berg, Ray Liotta, Jay Mohr and on shows for AMC, TNT, Discovery, USA, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, ...