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New Year’s resolutions: one step at a time

09 Jan 2018 |

New Year’s resolutions: one step at a time

By Deon Wassermann – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

It is that time of the year when we reflect on the story we wrote in 2017, and start thinking about what we could do better next year. It’s usually quite easy to come up with a whole list of things when you are in the middle of your holiday. Free time leads to thoughts wandering, which leads to ideas, to goals, and action, which in turn leads to a better life.

Or does it..?

The reality is that humans are terrible at following through with New Year’s resolutions. In February we start getting cold feet and begin to ponder… “Who was that ninny sitting on the beach sipping mojitos two months ago who thought it would be a good idea to quit smoking and train for a marathon?”

Imagine how long it would take us to become better at life if we waited until the end of each year to think about improvement. Our annual struggle – holding ourselves to a list of tough goals to achieve the following year. Yet some still devotedly follow the tradition of setting up New Year’s resolutions each year.

Breaking up New Year’s resolutions

The Japanese word Kaizen means “change for better” or some might say “continuous improvement”. (Borrowing from Robert Maurer’s book The Spirit of Kaizen). Radical change sets off our brain’s fear response and shuts down our powers to think clearly and creatively. A more effective path to change begins with the small steps of Kaizen. These quiet steps bypass our mental alarm systems, allowing our creative and intellectual abilities to prosper. The result is lasting change.

How can you give yourself a better chance to follow through with your New Year’s resolutions? Why not break them up into small weekly or daily goals that you are certain you can realistically achieve? By doing this you will bypass your mental alarm system and allow your brain to think clearly and creatively about the next small step you want to take.

Since you will experience less stress with such small steps, it’s certain to become easier to form lasting new habits. Reaching goals through habitual behaviour helps you mislead the part of your brain that causes you stress. It feels like a smaller burden, even if you know you still have a long way to go, because you can easily remain focused on the current small step.

Kaizen in Agile teams

Kaizen can be applied to the 12th principle of the Agile Manifesto: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly. Agile teams create lasting excellence through continuously finding ways to improve. Ways to improve that is based on small and realistic goals.


In order to achieve something truly meaningful in 2018, think small steps, and celebrate every small win.