When annual reviews and New Year’s resolutions fail, try this

Eric Ho
Table of Contents

Feeling like a failure in the first week of January?

Have you ended up feeling frustrated when New Year’s resolutions don’t work out, and it’s only the 5th of January? 

Or feeling like you’re a failure as you veer off track?

Have you tried an annual review, but the look back to last year and the look forward to the next seem rather formulaic and heavy going?

If they work for you, carry on!

But if they don’t, or you want to try something different, then “This is the year of …” might be for you.

A couple of years ago, I had finished the year with an annual review. It was a great exercise. Looking back at what went well, what I wanted to improve on, and what my plans were for the year ahead. One of the highlights was choosing the photos of 2021 that represented the year for me. 

Yes, I do like going into a new year with that sense of clarity. So 2022 was no different to any other, I set goals for the year ahead in my business and personal life.

But going into the new year, I tried something else as well.

I set an intention for 2022 by paying attention to, and focusing on, awareness for the whole year.

Set intentions, as well as goals, is good for your soul

Setting goals is important so we know what we are working towards, and to measure the gap we need to close.

  • “Our team goal is to double our revenue while reducing costs by X%”
  • “I want to be in bed by 10 pm on weeknights.”

But, in setting goals, the challenging aspect is how we respond to any failure or setbacks.

Even when goals are set up for success by being “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound), they are also set up for failure:

  • “What if we are not on track for our revenue goal by the first half?”
  • “What happens if I don’t go to bed by 10pm?”

Setting goals means continuing the obligation to measure success and calculate losses. 

Setting goals is important, but not the only way to achieve success. 

So, in 2022, I started noticing the qualities of awareness:

  • when was it easy to be aware of what’s going on around me? when was it hard?
  • what surprises did focusing on awareness offer me?
  • what did I learn about paying attention to awareness?
  • how did my awareness change over the year?

“2022 is the year of awareness’: What did I learn?

What I noticed a couple of months into 2022 was that setting an intention for the year had a number of benefits:

  • avoiding the incessant striving towards goals that we encounter in business and personal growth.
  • insights occurred with serendipity –  during moments in the shower, or hiking up Helvellyn. In other words, when I least expected them.

I didn’t need to fret about goals or resolutions that weren’t met: this was an exercise simply in observation.

In fact, it’s an approach to self-improvement that avoids dealing with failure by introducing time, curiosity, and experimentation with a large dose of ‘lightness” that makes it fun.

What were my most impactful insights when I focused on awareness? 

  • “awareness – in all its forms – is a prerequisite for action” – something I’ve spotted in my clients and myself.
  • I became more curious
  • I took more time to reflect on things that entered my awareness
  • I started challenging my assumptions or “the first answer”, to wait for what else came up
  • Focusing on awareness is MUCH more difficult when I’ve donned my expert lawyer hat.

Over to you!

So for next year, I invite you to try this.

“2023 is the year of …”

Finish the sentence by stating what you want to pay attention to and focus on. 

It could be:

  • play
  • presence
  • leadership
  • health

Or something else that is important to you.

Above all, keep it fun and easy!

And if you gain any insights from trying out this approach, I’d love to hear from you!

Feeling stressed? No time?

Sign up for my three top tips to reduce the noise that's making you stressed.
You won't need to find extra time!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Email, text us or fill in the form below.​

We’ll handle your information in line with our Privacy Policy.